2017/18 A-League season preview: Wellington Phoenix

It’s that time again.

It’s the moment that us football fans in NZ emerge from rugby saturated pubs, we turnoff our midnight to early morning premier league streaming, put aside our national team woes (we might have to play Argentina for a shot at the World Cup?!) and watch our professional footballers play once again. Winter has gone, club football is over for most of us.

Now it’s time to spend the next five months hoping against hope we make the grand finals.

By the end of last season there was little to cherish.

The club was anything but solid, as we became more of a revolving door than the solid foundation fans have craved for 10 years.

Not only have the Nix lost two coaches (Ernie Merrick to Newcastle Jets, Des Buckingham to England), but they also waved goodbye to foundation player Vince Lia, club stalwart and number one keeper Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets), mercurial midfielder Roly Bonevacia (to Western Sydney) local lad Louis Fenton (albeit to Team Wellington on ‘loan’), promising signing Jacob Tratt and any chances of a playoff spot with the usual inconsistency over the season.

Shane Smeltz returned and left. Kosta Barbarouses came home to huge fanfare, was named Nix player of the season and then promptly went back to the Victory. Even Alex Rodriguez has packed his bags and headed to pastures new.

Without the continued outstanding contributions of Roy Krishna or the man recently voted the A Leagues greatest defender – Andrew Durante, the Nix might have finished the season lower than the seventh spot they ended up occupying, six points behind Western Sydney in the final playoff spot. It was a season of toil and injury. A season of departures. One to forget.

The clubs strength is on paper, but as a unit there needs to be some serious coming together under new coach Darije Kalezić. In fact, with a new coaching staff, a raft of new players and a new black and yellow striped kit, this season the clubs strength may be in its sudden change of the status-quo.

Ironically, in the departure of some of the senior All Whites players, the side has a distinctly more international flavour to it. Perhaps the foreign influence of coaches and players will finally cause the kiwi side to win?

The latest duo of attacking players to come into the side bolsters the current star trio of Krishna, Michael McGlinchey and Gui Finkler – Dario Vidosic, son of new Assistant coach Rado Vidosic and Andrija Kaluđerović are both experienced front-men who have played in the A-League before. They have also gained valuable football-nous at numerous clubs overseas. Other new signings include Ali Abbas, Goran Paracki and Daniel Mullen, which continues the trend of tried and true over youth for the international signings, with the players 31, 30 and 27 respectively. The only youthful addition is Full-back Scott Galloway.

The weakness has been the same for the past three seasons of playoff-less play: Inconsistency. The fact that the Nix will turn up one week and put five past a decent side, but then lose two or three on the spin against lower rated opposition. It’s players flirting in and out of the squad and form like moths in front of a flame. It’s goals drying up at crucial moments, and partnerships not being formed due to injury. It’s even (I’m looking at you FFA) fixtures being played through the international break when half of the squad is missing.

Predicted Starting XI

(3-5-2) Italiano, Mullen, Rossi, Durante, Doyle, Paracki, McGlinchey, Finkler, Abbas, Krishna, Kaluderovic

Subs: Sail, Fox, Rufer, Ridenton, Vidosic

Do you agree this is our best XI? If not then who?

Other potential lineups

(4-1-3-2)
Italiano
Galloway, Rossi, Durante, Doyle
Paracki
McGlinchey, Vidosic, Abbas
Kaluderovic, Krishna

Or

Italiano
Galloway, Rossi, Durante, Abbas
McGlinchey, Paracki
Krishna, Finkler, Vidosic
Kaluderovic

Prediction

Sixth – Surely this is the season the Phoenix finally make the playoffs?!