Hyundai A-League season preview: Wellington Phoenix

The Phoenix have recruited Dutchman Darije Kalezic as their new coach and he produced an early masterstroke by bringing Hyundai A-League veteran Rado Vidosic into his coaching team.

After two disappointing seasons and with constant murmurings about their place in the competition, Wellington need to prove some points both on and off the field in 2017/18.  

Ins and outs

Ins: Scott Galloway, Goran Paracki, Dario Vidosic, Daniel Mullen, Andrija Kaludjerovic, Ali Abbas.

Outs: Roly Bonevacia, Shane Smeltz, Jacob Tratt, Glen Moss, Kosta Barbarouses, Alex Rodriguez, Vince Lia

The burning questions

Can Kalezic and Vidosic oversee a Phoenix revival?

Will the seasoned Hyundai A-League players who have come to Wellington fire at the Phoenix?

Can Wellington Stadium become a fortress again?

Lesson learnt from last season

Find some consistency. A wretched first month during which they collected no points and scored just a solitary goal put Wellington on the back foot straight away.

Results did steadily improve and over the Christmas / New Year period Wellington resided briefly in the top six, but another poor run in late January and February saw the Phoenix fall away.

By the time they found their mojo again it was too late as they finished six points adrift of the finals spots.


Road ahead

The Phoenix open their Hyundai A-League campaign at home against Adelaide before back-to-back away games against Sydney FC and Melbourne City.

They complete the first month of the new season at home to Brisbane Roar.

Expected strengths

Darije Kalezic spent much of his early weeks in Wellington working on the Phoenix's out-of-possession plan.

They'll be well-drilled and hard to penetrate, with every player on the field given defensive responsibilities.

Marshalled by the man recently voted the Hyundai A-League's greatest ever defender, skipper Andrew Durante, along with All Whites team-mate Tom Doyle, classy Italian Marco Rossi and the newly-acquired Scott Galloway and Daniel Mullen, the Phoenix rearguard looks likely to provide the platform for improved results.

Potential weakness

Wellington will again be affected during FIFA windows, one of which falls on the season's opening weekend where they are likely to lose up to six players to international duty.

The loss of long-established midfielders Roly Bonevacia, Alex Rodriguez and Vince Lia will necessitate an engine-room revamp with the likes of Goran Paracki, Ali Abbas and Dario Vidosic needing to find their feet quickly both individually and as a midfield unit.

Tactical approach

Kalezic is a very "European" coach - he likes structure and players who adhere to his well-thought-out game-plan.

Expect Wellington to be much harder to break down this year than previously - they're more likely to win 1-0 than lose 4-3.

To this end, you'll likely see two defensive midfielders sitting in front of a flat back four.

Andrija Kaludjerovic will play as a central striker with Michael McGlinchey, Roy Krishna, Dario Vidosic and Gui Finkler providing the ammunition and the fullbacks pushing on in support when in possession.

Breakout star

Sarpreet Singh. The teenager has signed a three-year contract after impressing during his first foray into the Hyundai A-League last season.

Blessed with rare football intelligence, a sublime first touch and wide range of passing, the kiwi youth international is waiting for an opportunity to take his game to the next level. 

Best-case scenario

Starved of finals football for the last two seasons, the Yellow Fever faithful crave a return to the top six.

The Kalezic / Vidosic coaching duo definitely has what it takes to mould a solid group of players into a side which can challenge for that goal.

Beyond that, there are X-factor players in this team who could drive Wellington deep into the playoffs.