Wellington Phoenix 2020/21 season preview

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After a disappointing end to their most successful campaign in the club’s history, can the Wellington Phoenix overcome the adversity of being based away from their home and loved ones to improve on last season’s accomplishments?

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Last season…

A-League: 3rd
Finals: Elimination final loss to Perth
FFA Cup: Round of 32 exit

They’ll win the league because…

The Phoenix will be looking to improve on their result in the 2019/20 season, maintaining consistent performances throughout. Getting off to a better start than they did last season will be crucial to their title push, as they sat bottom of the league after seven rounds with only one win. If they can get going from the off, there is no reason they can’t be pushing the title favourites in the race for the minor premiership.

With 2019/20 A-League Coach of the Season (a remarkable feat for a rookie) Ufuk Talay at the helm, Wellington have a solid captain in charge of the ship and they will be confident in his abilities to continue to improve this young side. An impressive pre-season thus far will give the Nix boys the confidence they need to improve on last season’s result, which was their best campaign since their introduction to the league in 2007.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

The Nix have lost a number of key players who were so crucial to their success last season, and a lack of recruitment to replace these players may prove to be a hinderance on their success. Veteran rock at the back Steven Taylor, German midfield stalwart Matti Steinmann and high-profile striker Gary Hooper have all joined various clubs in the Indian Super League, whilst youngster Liberato Cacace fetched the club a handsome transfer fee by joining Belgian side Sint-Truidense VV.

Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information

Despite finishing third in the A-League, the Phoenix were ineligible to be put forward for the Asian Champions League due to New Zealand’s zoning in the Oceania region, meaning their spot went to fourth-placed Brisbane Roar.

The off season brought

A lot of confusion about where the Phoenix would be based for the beginning of the season. Talk of potential bases included the Central Coast, Tamworth, Canberra and Wollongong emerged, however the settlement on Wollongong came as a result of a successful pre-season training camp at the University of Wollongong’s Sports Hub and High-Performance training facilities. Some much-needed new faces in the squad have come in the form of former English Premier League striker Tomer Hemed, Olyroo Joshua Laws, and Brisbane Roar duo, Mirza Muratovic and the returning Matthew Ridenton, along with a string of young acquisitions from promotions within the club.

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Key player

Ulises Dàvila. With 5 assists to go along with his 12 goals in the league in his maiden campaign, the Mexican’s status as the Nix’s key player will be of little surprise to most. His goalscoring prowess from midfield and ability to make things happen has led to him being considered one of the league’s premier players. His recapturing for the 2020/21 season comes as a massive coup for the Nix considering the vast amount of high-profile departures. The additional responsibility of being named captain is sure to only further motivate Dàvila.

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One to watch

Cam Devlin. Watch this young livewire look to kick on and continue to impress after his breakthrough season. After taking the opportunity afforded to him due to an injury to Alex Rufer, he started virtually every game after that for the remainder of the season. He earned recognition by being regularly selected for the Olyroos and even being likened to N’Golo Kante by former teammate Taylor. His willingness to get on the ball and start attacks as well as linking play, combined with his fearlessness when going in for a tackle and his knack for popping up all over the field makes him a key cog in the Nix machine.

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INS

Clayton Lewis (Auckland City), Matthew Ridenton, Mirza Muratovic (both Brisbane Roar), Zac Jones, Sam Sutton (both promoted), Joshua Laws (unattached), James McGarry (unattached), Tomer Hemed (unattached)

OUTS

Liberato Cacace (Sin-Truidense VV, Belgium), Callum McCowatt (FC Helsingor, Denmark), Steven Taylor (Odisha, India), Matti Steinmann (SC East Bengal, India), Gary Hooper (Kerala Blasters, India), Callan Elliot (AO Xanthi, Greece), Brandon Wilson (Perth Glory, Australia), Walter Scott (Macarthur FC, Australia).

Full Squad List

Goalkeepers: Stefan Marinovic, Oliver Sail, Zac Jones

Defenders: Luke DeVere, Liam McGing, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, James McGarry, Louis Fenton, Tim Payne

Midfielders: Cameron Devlin, Matthew Ridenton, Joshua Laws, Alex Rufer, Clayton Lewis, Reno Piscopo, Sam Sutton, Jaushua Sotirio, Ulises Dàvila

Forwards: Tomer Hemed, David Ball, Ben Waine, Mirza Muratovic, Oskar van Hattum

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Chris Ball
Chris Ball
Football fanatic, supporting some, at times, hard to follow sides.

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