A-League Men’s 2021/22 mid-season report card: Wellington Phoenix

-

Nearly halfway through the A-League Men’s season, let us dive into how it has shaped up for the side representing all those across the ditch – Wellington Phoenix.

Semester summary:

The Phoenix have turned a horrible start to the season around, thanks to some quality performances over their last four games.

After only managing to secure four points across their first six matches, the Nix have have grabbed 10 more during a four-game span, which means they currently sit seventh on the table.

Embed from Getty Images

Wellington has conceded the most goals in the competition with 17, however, the majority of these came during two separate 4-0 defeats earlier in the season.

On the other hand, Wellington has seemingly found their goalscoring boots as they have recently strung together some impressive wins over top-six teams such as Melbourne Victory and Macarthur FC.

The secret for Wellington and coach Ufuk Talay is a combination of talented youth and experience. At the halfway point Wellington are one of the teams the hottest teams in the competition thanks to one of the biggest turnarounds in the ALM this year. 

Areas of excellence:

Persistence and passing.

This season was never going to be easy for Wellington. The side found out just a few weeks before the season began that they would again need to base themselves in Australia. This announcement also led to the shock departure of captain and star defender Steven Taylor, who left the team just days after accepting the captaincy.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite the difficult circumstances, however, the Nix have never made any excuses. Not only this, but just one week ago Wellington sat bottom of the table but thanks to the quality leadership and their persistent attitude they are now just one point outside the top six.

Passing has also been a standout area for the Kiwis. The quality passing skills and vision of players such as Clayton Lewis, Gael Sandoval, Reno Piscopo mean that most of the side’s chances are created thanks to their passing rather than individual play. For example in Wellington’s recent win over Melbourne Victory, the team completed 90 per cent of their passes during the 1-0 win.

Areas in need of improvement:

Avoiding costly mistakes and defending in the box.

Wellington have been beating themselves all season. Whether it has been a silly defensive mistake or a costly giveaway in their own half, Wellington have conceded a bunch of goals because of their own mistakes. This will need to be a focal point if the side is to make a deep run in the top-six later this season

Embed from Getty Images

Although Wellington have improved their defending in and around the box during the season, it is an area that Wellington has struggled with.

All you need to do is look at their most recent game against Adelaide United. They were up 1-0 at the 90-minute mark and looking like they were about to win their fourth straight, before the Nix defence let an unmarked Bernardo Oliveira grab a free header inside the box to tie the game in the final moments.

This was reminiscent of their games earlier in the season when Wellington’s defence would seem to let teams like Adelaide and Newcastle pass and dribble the ball freely in the box before scoring easy goals. The good news is that the side’s most recent signing, former Premier League defender Scott Wootton, has helped Wellington improve this area over recent games.

Top student:

David Ball.

Embed from Getty Images

Ball has always been the ultimate workhorse during his time at Wellington, and that is no different this season. Not only does he constantly make an impact on attack but the Englishmen is always tracking back on defence to help his side in any way he can, no matter how far through the match is. 

Like many of Wellington’s players, Ball got off to a slow start. But during his sides four-game undefeated streak the 32-year-old has been the best player on the park. Ball practically won the game for Wellington in the match against Victory after his brilliant assist set up Piscopo’s game-winner.

Due to Ball’s overwhelming fitness and work ethic, as well as his skills on the ball, the Englishmen is also never subbed by Talay. No matter the scoreline or how the match is shaping up, Ball is always a constant factor for Wellington and a massive reason why the team has seen so much success recently.

Embed from Getty Images

Needs improvement:

Ben Waine.

After introducing himself as the ‘Waine Train’ last season, the 2021/22 campaign was meant to be the one where he officially cemented his place as one of Wellington’s top strikers. It is safe to say that this has unfortunately not been the case for the 20-year-old.

Waine’s disappointing season may be partly due to a lack of opportunity, but either way the young striker has not performed to the standers fans expected him to whenever he has been on the pitch.

The season got off to a poor start when Waine got into an argument with fellow forward Piscopo over who should take a crucial penalty in Wellington’s second match. Waine ended up winning the argument but missed the penalty, much to the dismay of his teammate and fans.

After a couple more quiet performances the ‘Waine Train’ soon found himself parked at the station and on the bench. With the recent emergence of import winger Sandoval, and the return of Gary Hooper, it seems that even if Waine improves this season, his starting spot may already be well and truly gone.

Embed from Getty Images

Grade: B

Outlook:

Wellington have all the momentum necessary to make a run deep into the top six this season. Not only this, but after struggling to sign players with experience, the side now has some extremely talented imports after signing Mexican Sandoval and Englishmen Wootton. Combine this experience with fellow imports Hopper and Ball, and Wellington now have both experience and youth on their side.

Currently just a single point outside of the top six, a win in Wellington’s next game could launch the side into third place, which would be a shock considering the season seemed lost just a few weeks ago.

Provided the side continues to improve, and coach Talay continues to be the mastermind coach that he is, Wellington could become the biggest dark horse in the league this season.

Feature image credit: Wellington Phoenix 

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Harry Bartle
Harry is a young Journalist based in Wellington. He will be covering the Wellington Phoenix during the 2021/22 season for the Football Sack and has a love hate relationship with Ulises Davila

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required