A-League mid-season report card: Wellington Phoenix

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We are at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 A-League season, so it’s about time The Football Sack takes a look at the performance of Wellington Phoenix.

Semester summary: Man, what a turnaround it’s been for Wellington.

At the start of the season, the Kiwi club looked dead and buried – they had their worst ever start to an A-League campaign with just a single point from their first five games.

That singular point was in their fifth game, a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory and it was the moment things started to get properly going.

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Since then Ufuk Talay’s side has been undefeated. This undefeated run feels deserved, it feels earned because even when they were constantly losing the Phoenix were still playing good football.

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Talay’s team never lost belief in themselves and given their current position, they were certainly right not to. On a string of good results, Wellington are getting deserved praise as one of the best sides in the competition.

Area of excellence: The way they attack. So often you will see Wellington burst forward on the counter and watch as a string of great passes result in a shot on target.

For most of the season, Wellington have been nothing short of fantastic when it comes to breaking down defences.

And for most of the season, they have been without marquee striker Gary Hooper.

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What is more, there is no one player that you need to watch out for when the Nix attack.

Ulises Dávila, David Ball, and Hooper are the main threats but they are far from the only ones – Callum McCowatt, Reno Piscopo, Jaushua Sotirio, Steven Taylor and Liberato Cacace have all also chipped in with goals.

Wellington have no shortage of threats.

Area in need of improvement: The Kiwi club could be better at putting games to bed.

The Phoenix have won just two of their games by a margin of more than one goal and in one of those – the 2-0 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers – the second goal did not come until the 88th minute.

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Their worst half of football this season came when they were holding onto a 2-1 win against the Central Coast Mariners. The club were lucky to escape with the win as only the Mariners’ inability to finish saved them in a sub-par second half.

There have been plenty of other games this season where the ending was tight and could have easily resulted in Wellington dropping points.

However, perhaps it’s another mark in favour of the Phoenix –  they always hold on in the closing stages.

Top student: Dávila.

The 10 has been one of the shining lights throughout the whole A-League, with nine goals in 13 appearances putting him third on the golden boot leader board.

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His link-up and set up play has been nothing short of phenomenal and he has got a 100 per cent record from the penalty spot, something Wellington historically have been bad at.

The 28-year-old has deservedly put himself in the Johnny Warren medal conversation and his brilliance highlights another fantastic part of Wellington this season. Their recruitment game has been top-notch.

Class clown: Going into this season, Talay had just seven players to build a squad upon – yet every signing he’s made has been right on the money.

Luke DeVere, a defender who could not shake off injury woes has played every minute of Wellington’s season. Tim Payne has become a ready made replacement for injured right back Louis Fenton.

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Since breaking into the starting XI, Cameron Devlin has been a monster. The 21-year-old won player of the month for December, as well as winning three man of the match awards in a row.

I could go on and on about almost every Phoenix player, but you get the idea.

There simply is no class clown.

Grade: A+

Outlook: The Sky Blues are the limit for Wellington. Sydney are so far ahead of everyone else that it’s inconceivable the Nix will catch up to them, but beyond that Wellington does look like a real contender.

The Nix have just equalled their longest ever unbeaten streak and with the way things are going, it’s hard to see where that streak will end.

For a side that most tipped to take home the wooden spoon, Wellington has blown all of those predictions out of the water.

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.