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September 21, 2009 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Flight Potential: The A-League Season So Far

A few weeks ago I wrote for this fine publication a preview of the upcoming A-League season and an analysis of how our own Wellington Phoenix were shaping up for the competition. I concluded that despite a lack of big-name signings like those made by other clubs, we could be quietly confident that the Phoenix staff had addressed last season’s major flaws and put together a balanced squad with every chance of making the playoffs.

Six games in though, and the Phoenix sit down in ninth position and just one point ahead of North Queensland Fury, the unfortunate heirs to Perth Glory’s old title as the league’s whipping boys. However, while the league table rarely lies, it doesn’t always tell the full story and I have to say that I maintain my earlier optimism for the Phoenix this season.

Indeed, on the whole the Phoenix have played rather well so far this season, and can count themselves unlucky to have picked up just the one win (at home to Perth). Draws against Brisbane and Adelaide could, and probably should, have ended in success for the Wellington side were it not for below par refereeing, which allowed Brisbane to kick our boys off the park and spared Adelaide with an appalling offside call to disallow a late Paul Ifill winner.

There has in fact been only one really poor showing so far this season, with a generally listless display in Sydney getting what it deserved: a 2–0 defeat. Otherwise though, the only real criticism to be made of the Phoenix so far this season is a tendency to start slowly, as we’ve conceded inside the first twelve minutes of four out of our six fixtures so far.
On a couple of those occasions the Phoenix have shown great character to come back from such an early blow and dominate games, eventually earning a couple of draws, and that will be promising for Ricki Herbert, as he will know that if he can get his players going from the word ‘go’ then those draws will quickly turn into the wins that have so far been hard to come by.

Let’s not forget too, that four of our opening six fixtures have been away from home, and trips to Australia are never easy for our band of intrepid heroes, especially in the early phases of the season when the squad is still settling down and learning to play effectively as a unit due to the relatively late completion of the playing squad for this season—indeed ex-Melbourne playmaker Adrian Caceres has only recently signed on and begun training, suggesting there are further improvements to come.

So though it would be easy to glance at the A-League table and write off this season as another in which Wellington will struggle—don’t count them out so soon. By the time you read this they’ll have faced bottom club North Queensland at the Ring of Fire and will be preparing for another home game against Central Coast the following Sunday. And given that they are only 2pts away from a playoff spot and 4pts behind Sydney in second place, two wins and six points from those two clashes could make a big difference.

After all, last season saw the Phoenix get off to an absolutely shocking start, failing to win in the first five matches and generally playing boring, hateful football. This time around, although things haven’t gone quite to plan, there are plenty of positives and plenty of potential for improvement. So don’t judge the Phoenix too soon, there’s plenty of time yet for this Phoenix to rise from the ashes.


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