A-League mid season report card: Wellington Phoenix

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As the A-League season rolls on, the Football Sack takes a moment to look at your A-League side’s season so far. 

Semester Summary: Given that almost everyone – including many Nix fans themselves, saw the kiwi outfit as destined for the wooden spoon – a likely spot in the top six is a massive achievement for Mark Rudan and the Phoenix. They currently sit in sixth place, equal on points with Adelaide but behind on goal difference after fifteen games, having won six, drawn five, and lost four.

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The Nix have played some scintillating football at times and fans have been rewarded with some classic matches including the 3-1 win over Sydney FC and the 3-3 draw with Melbourne Victory. They’ve also shown some true grit and a never say die attitude such as when they came from 2-0 down against the Mariners to win 3-2, or when they beat the Wanderers by the same scoreline despite being drawn level twice before scoring an 89th minute winner.

With that in mind however, the 3-1 win over Sydney has been one of only two wins over a fellow top six side this season, meaning their chances for a top four finish are up in the air.

Area of excellence: What Rudan has perhaps done best with this Wellington Phoenix side is making them very tough to beat. As mentioned earlier, the Phoenix have come behind twice to win against the Mariners and the Wanderers and have also survived late onslaughts to gain credible draws against Perth, Victory and Adelaide. The Nix have lost just four times this season, a record only bettered by the top two.

Area in need of improvement: Lack of depth in midfield. Alex Rufer and Mandi are both brilliant and have been key to the Nix’s season so far, but beyond that there’s not much. Michal Kopcynzski is better suited to centre back, and playing Sarpreet Singh there means moving him out of the attacking midfield where his creativity is sorely missed.

This lack of depth was on full display during the first half during the Nix’s 3-2 win over the Mariners where a midfield of [former Nix player] Mitch Nichols and Kopcynzski were almost unable to connect passes to the attack. While the Nix did come back to beat the Mariners 3-2 in an amazing second half, it relied on the help of two penalties and a Central Coast red card as well as Sarpreet Singh dropping back into the midfield role.

Top student: Roy Krishna. The flying Fijian is having the best season of his life. Earlier in the season he eclipsed Paul Ifill’s record of 33 goals for the Nix to become Wellington’s all-time top goal scorer. He currently sits equal first in the golden boot race, is a contender for the Johnny Warren Medal, has became the first A-League player in history to score two or more goals in three consecutive matches, and is two goals away from his best ever goal scoring season. Holy hell, that’s quite the list.

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Class clown: Mitch Nichols. The ex-Perth Glory midfielder came to Wellington to revive his career after struggles on and off the pitch. We’re still waiting. Nichols made just three starts, got only 232 minutes, and found himself far down the pecking order with youngsters Sarpreet Singh and Max Burgess preferred. His Wellington career was summed up during the first half of Wellington’s 3-2 win over the Mariners. He made a mistake that led to a goal, wasn’t able to pass forward, and wasn’t tackling anyone. Apparently, there was debate about whether a couch would be more helpful than Nichols. He was substituted at the break and a few days later he left the club.

Grade: A-

Outlook: With eight points between them and seventh-placed Newcastle, Wellington has finals football all but secured. However, the second half of the season will be defining. With two tough trips to league leaders Perth and many other hard games scheduled against the top six, the Nix will need to show just how good they are. Are they are a team that can challenge for top four or maybe even top two? Or are they are a team that will just make up the numbers in the six?

Featured image credit: Cameron McIntosh

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Dan Moskovitz
Dan Moskovitz
The Football Sack's resident teen kiwi football nut. Loves everything football except defeats.

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