End of 2020/21 season report card: Wellington Phoenix

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It was a story of too little, too late for Wellington Phoenix this season. Having started the season slowly, with only one win in their first eight matches, they were always behind the eight-ball.

An injury pile-up and being located away from home undoubtedly had an impact on their season, however you will not be hearing Ufuk Talay using it as an excuse.

Season summary

Wellington finished the season in seventh place, failing to replicate last season’s success. They finished just one spot outside the top six and only one point behind sixth place Macarthur.

The Phoenix were ravaged by injuries throughout the season which undoubtedly impacted their performances. A struggle to find consistency early in the season was what ultimately hurt the relocated Nix, as their form at the back half of the season was spectacular.

The Phoenix actually went the last 11 games of the season undefeated. However, five of those matches were draws, including in their penultimate match when skipper Ulises David missed a costly 90th minute penalty which would have handed them the win.

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Wellington had the third best goal difference in the competition and only finished four points off third place.

When you consider how slowly they started the season with only one win in their first eight games, and the fact they played all bar two of their games away from home, the Nix were always going to struggle to make the finals.

All in all, the Nix and their supporters will feel they did a season full of what could have been.

Missed opportunities to find that singular extra point they required to make the finals will have caused Talay to lose some sleep. Given their 11-game unbeaten run that they finished the season with, who knows what could have been in the finals for Wellington.

Areas of excellence:

Attack. Their attacking output was excellent, Wellington had the third most goals scored in the competition with 44 in 26 games.

Despite not scoring in his first ten games for the club, Tomer Hemed scored 11 goals, finishing fourth on the goalscoring charts, as well as Davila and Waine both scoring seven a piece.

Although Reno Piscopo, Ulises Davila, Jaushua Sotirio and Tomer Hemed were all out at various stages throughout the season, the Nix found a way to produce some exceptional attacking play.

They also put together arguably the team goal of the season, when Tomer Hemed finished off a sweeping counterattack against the Victory in round 13.

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Areas in need of improvement

Defence In their mid-season report card, the Phoenix had the third worst defensive record in the league. Since then, they have improved that to the sixth best.

Having half a dozen different centre back partnerships in the first half of the season made things difficult. However, they did end up finding consistency with Tim Payne and the re-signed Steven Taylor. They will be hoping the defensive unit, that finished the season so strongly, can carry that form into next season.

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Top student

Oliver Sail and Tomer Hemed. It was a tough task to choose between the two.

Sail had the second best saves per game ratio in the league with 4.35 per game and Hemed came fourth on the goalscoring charts with 11. Wellington would have been much worse off without the input of these two this season.

Some Nix fans would disagree with on this one. If we had to choose one, it would have to be Sail, purely due to his emergence and some of the ridiculous saves he pulled off.

Hemed, however, had an unreal second half of the season and was influential in their unbeaten run.

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Class clown

Stefan Marinovic was one of the league’s best goalkeepers last season. However, a poor start to the season saw him lose out as first choice for Wellington.

Marinovic then did not feature for the Nix after round eight at all. There was little he could do to regain his place however, as Oli Sail well and truly took his chance. It will be interesting to see whether the All-White will remain at Wellington next season or not.

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Grade – C

Outlook:

Talay is seen as the man to take the Nix forward for the foreseeable future. He has given Wellington an identity and made them an exciting project for players to want to join.

Losing skipper Ulises Davila to Macarthur FC will undoubtedly hurt them, however they have signed Gary Hooper for next season already.

The future looks bright for Wellington with Ben Waine finding form in the second half of the campaign. The youngster scored seven goals, which adds to their impressive young players.

Eye-catching displays by Sam Sutton, Cam Devlin and Reno Piscopo along with Oli Sail’s emergence were all positive.

They are already a side that most teams would not be too keen to go up against. If they recruit well in the off-season and can find form early, it would not be surprising to see them challenging Melbourne City and Sydney FC on the scoreboard.

Feature Image Credit: Speed Media

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