Wellington Phoenix 2019/20 season preview

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Wellington Phoenix were victims of their own success last year, with their first finals squad in years being ripped apart by outside factors. As such, it’s an entirely new look squad that will line up in 2019/20.

Last season…

A-League: 6th
Finals: Elimination finals
FFA Cup: Round of 32

They’ll win the league because…

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Quality midfield. New vice-captain Alex Rufer is coming off an excellent breakout season where he earnt his new role as vice-captain, while new import signing Matti Stienmann looks very much like the real deal with his role as the pivot.

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The Kiwi outfit also have solid depth in their squad, with players such as Tim Payne and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi able to step in should Rufer or Stienmann fall victim to injury or suspension.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

Youth. So much youth. Ufuk Talay is launching an exciting youth focused program that is seeing the core of a team built around young and hungry players. With an average age of 23.6 years, Talay is putting his money where his mouth is.

In fact, just a single player in the squad, captain Steven Taylor, is on the other side of 30.

While it’s certainly a project that is building a lot of excitement after all is said and done, it remains a very young squad and young players will make poor decisions. For this new look Phoenix squad, there will be a steep learning curve.

It’s also worth noting that at the time of writing, the Nix are lacking a real star striker to lead the line and score between 10 and 15 goals this season. If the Wellington side can’t find that player before the season starts, then this, rather than youth, is their glaring weakness.

The off-season brought…

“Brought” might be the wrong term here, better wording would be “what the off-season took away.”

Roy Krishna and David Williams both left the club for India after scoring 30 goals between them in 2018/19, and Sapreet Singh left for Germany’s Bayern Munich.

Mark Rudan’s Western United also whittled away at the squad, with Andrew Durante, Filip Kurto and Max Burgess following Rudan to Western United.

But coming through the door were some of the best starlets in NZ and Australia in Callum McCowatt, Reno Piscopo, Cameron Devlin, Walter Scott, and Liam McGing. These youngsters have been joined by more high profile arrivals such as Ulises Dávila, David Ball, Stienmann and Luke DeVere.

Key player…

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Dávila. The ex-Chelsea youth playmaker was signed to be the new spark of creativity in the attacking midfield and the Mexican looks like an exciting player. With experience on three continents, Wellington’s playmaker looks ready to introduce the A-League to some flair. Olé!

One to watch… 

Liberato Cacace. Cacace quietly made his presence known as one of the best wing-backs (if not the best) in the league last season.

With the 19-year-old entering just his second full season, the right side of defences across the league better be on their guard. Keep an eye on this kid, and put him in your fantasy team – he is the real deal.

INS: Stefan Marinovic (Bristol City), Walter Scott, (Perth Glory), Jaushua Sotirio (Western Sydney Wanderers), Luke DeVere (Brisbane Roar), Callum McCowatt (Eastern Suburbs, NZ), Cameron Devlin (Sydney FC), Ulises Dávila (Delhi Dynamos, India) Liam McGing (Sutherland Sharks) David Ball, (Rotherham United, England), Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi (Auckland City, NZ), Tim Payne (Eastern Suburbs, NZ), Matti Stienmann (Hamburger SV, Germany), Reno Piscopo (Renate, Italy)

OUTS: Mandi, Anthony Golec, Filip Kurto, Max Burgess, Nathan Burns, Michał Kopczyński, Justin Gulley, Cillian Sheridan, Ryan Lowry, Roy Krishna, David Williams, Andrew Durante, Tom Doyle, Gianni Stensness, Sapreet Singh

Full squad list 

Goalkeepers: Stefan Marinovic, Oliver Sail.

Defenders: Luke DeVere, Louis Fenton, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Liam McGing, Walter Scott, Steven Taylor, Liberato Cacace.

Midfielders: Cameron Devlin, Ulises Dávila, Callan Elliot, Tim Payne, Alex Rufer, Matti Stienmann

Attackers: David Ball, Callum McCowatt, Jausha Sotiro, Ben Waine

Featured image credit: Cameron McIntosh

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