Now that the 2016/17 A-League season has come to a close and Sydney FC have completed a record-breaking season with a grand final win, we can reflect on yet another disappointing Wellington Phoenix showing.
What went right
This was a season of arrivals and a season of departures. Manny Muscat went to Melbourne City, Ben Sigmund retired. Shane Smeltz returned and left again before the season was complete. Young Australian Ben Litfin came and went. Jacob Tratt was stellar throughout, but made the tough choice to leave Wellington and return home to Sydney for personal reasons. Kosta Barbarouses returned home and brought Gui Finkler with him. Ultimately, a treasure trove of young Aussie talent was unearthed and that was the highlight of the Phoenix’s season. Adam Parkhouse, Ryan Lowry, Dylan Fox and the rediscovery of long-term backup goalkeeper Lewis Italiano all turned a bright light on an otherwise dark season.
What went wrong
Consistency of performances will never be a Phoenix staple – and this season has been yet another prime example of the NZ side’s inconsistency week in, week out. The most telling departure of them all happened halfway through the season, with coach Ernie Merrick departing after a horror 6-1 loss to old side Melbourne Victory and a 2-0 surrender against struggling former champions Adelaide United. There were decent moments, but the Phoenix would ultimately not live up to the hype at the beginning of the season, made to pay for their Jekyll and Hyde form.
Roy Krishna. Again. Without his 12 goals and eight assists this season and his mercurial influence in games, the Phoenix would not have been in the play-off picture at all come the end of the season. His pace and eye for goal were crucial to his side week in, week out. A special mention must go to the other consistent player for the Nix this season, Vince Lia. As the final foundation player remaining, the last of the old guard rolled back the years and played arguably the best season of his career.
Offseason recruitment for the 2016-17 season was this seasons highlight. Barbarouses, Finkler, Tratt and Parkhouse made their way to Wellington for the start of the campaign and all were successes. All that talent and promise never quite lived up to expectation and did not really gel, but at least the fans were treated to a future post Ben Sigmund and Muscat that was not a complete disaster.
And so it came to pass that another Phoenix season ended with the play-offs narrowly missed and so many promises left unfulfilled. If only the Kiwi side could have revived its form earlier. If only injuries had not struck at the worst moments possible. If only someone other than Krishna had scored some goals. If only, if only, if only. Where to from here for Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre? Over to you Welnix board, time for you to scheme and come up with a solution to overcome the club’s greatest nemesis: inconsistency.