How are the Wellington Phoenix shaping up for the 2021/22 season?

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With the start of the A-League Men’s season just a few weeks away, we wanted to take a close look at the Wellington Phoenix and their chances for the season ahead.

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One thing that the Phoenix will be keen to avoid is the slow start that arguably cost them a place in the finals last season. With only one win in their first eight matches last season, they were behind the eight-ball from very early in the season and they will be looking to start this season off on a much stronger footing this time around.

Another season away from home?

Despite the slow start to the season, the Phoenix managed a seventh-placed finish, just one point out of the top six and only four points off third place giving them plenty of encouragement as we head into the new season.

They also ended the season with an 11-game unbeaten run, although that did include five draws which ended up costing them that top-6 finish.

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Last season also saw the team ravaged with a mid-season injury crisis that left them short of numbers and missing some of their big names. Combine that with the fact that they had to play most of their games last season away from home, with travel still restricted between Australia and New Zealand and things could have turned out a lot differently for the Phoenix.

It has already been announced that the Phoenix will play all of their games in NSW until at least January as part of the new season and this undoubtedly goes against them, as they miss the support of the passionate Wellington crowd.

New signings and outgoings

The biggest story of the off-season for the Wellington Phoenix has been the retirement of captain and club icon, Steven Taylor. Taylor announced his retirement from professional football in September, citing a desire to return to the UK to be closer to family His retirement was surrounded by some controversy and the comments that he subsequently made about the reasons for leaving the Phoenix and these were later addressed in an official club statement.

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Taylor will be missed by the Phoenix, however, the club moved quickly to find a replacement and have brought in Melbourne Victory centre back Matthew Bozinovski on a season-long loan to plug the gap left by Taylor at the heart of the defence.

Bozinovski has recently signed a new two-year contract with Melbourne Victory and will be making his debut in the A-League when he first runs out for the Phoenix. At 195cm tall, he fits the bill for a centre back and has already been called up for the Macedonian Under-21 national side. Whilst he may not have the experience of Taylor, he is an exciting prospect and a good addition to the Phoenix squad.

Another good looking addition for 2021-22 is talented midfielder Luka Prso who signs from one of Croatia’s biggest clubs, NK Osijek. Prso has signed on a one-year contract and played on-loan for the Newcastle Jets last season, making 14 starts and 17 appearances.

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20-year-old Prso is 6’3” and is a product of the Dinamo Zagreb and Bayern Munich academy systems and was part of the Australia U-23 squad over the winter.

Both signings should excite the Wellington fans and there could be further additions before their opening game with Macarthur FC on 21 November.

Can they keep their run going?

When the season kicks off, the Phoenix will be hoping to pick up where they left off, carrying on that unbeaten run for as long as they can and getting off to a much stronger start than last season. They open the season against Macarthur FC and Betway has them at 3.00 for the win and 3.30 for the draw. Macarthur are favourites for the win at 2.30 but given the Phoenix’s form from the end of last season, it may be worth a punt on an away win.

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After a hugely successful season in 2019-20, when they finished third in the league ladder before falling in the elimination finals in the playoffs, they would have been disappointed with their seventh-placed finish last time out and hope to build on previous success as we head into the new season.

In their 14 year history, 3rd place is their best finish in the league ladder and third is their best result in the playoffs. With a bit of luck, an injury-free season and a better start, you feel like this could be the season for the Phoenix to make it to the playoff final match and possibly go all the way.

Sit back and enjoy the ride Phoenix fans, you’ve earned it.

Feature image credit: Speed Media

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