Wellington Phoenix are enjoying their most successful season yet in the Hyundai A-League, partly based on their obdurate performances away from home – but are these the tactics that will take them to a grand final?
Wellington Phoenix are enjoying their most successful season yet in the Hyundai A-League, partly based on their obdurate performances away from home - but are these the tactics that will take them to a grand final?
There-s no doubt Phoenix have ability in attack, especially when Paul Ifill-s firing, but some commentators have criticised the Kiwi side for being too defensive away from home. Is this right? Have your say below...
Yes, Phoenix can go all the way
Attackers win games, defenders win titles, or so the cliché goes. I would argue Wellington Phoenix and coach Ricki Herbert would agree.
Few would have predicted Herbert could take the All Whites through a World Cup finals campaign undefeated, but he did and managed to turn the Phoenix from a club in crisis into a genuine championship threat.
How has he done it? By parking a big jet at every opportunity he gets.
Forget parking the bus, Wellington travel so often you may as well call it “parking the jet” and they do it with skill and aplomb, especially away from Westpac Stadium.
It may be “winning ugly”, but it works and has done wonders for the Phoenix.
Phoenix have scored the least goals of any team in the top eight, so should they get ahead in a game, parking the jet becomes a necessity.
They also have a solid enough defence to be able to have confidence in their ability to sit back and knock the ball away.
Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Manny Muscat and Tony Lochhead have experience and skill and with the dominating presence of Mark Paston in goal you get a solid unit that has had seven clean sheets throughout the season.
Phoenix have often parked that jet in the middle of the pitch; this year, they have beaten Gold Coast, Newcastle, Adelaide and Sydney by a solitary goal.
Odds are, if they play away in the finals they will park the jet - and it will work yet again.
No, Phoenix can-t win it
Garbage. Phoenix might be conservative away from home, and rightly so, but they are no more defensive than the next A-League team.
Wellington are currently enjoying their best season in the competition, partly based on their success on the road - something they haven-t been able to manage in the past.
There may be occasion for Herbert-s team to be defensive but claiming they park the bus is short-sighted at best. Four wins, three draws and six losses - that-s pretty average as A-League away form goes; it-s only unusual because Wellington haven-t been able to do it before.
True, nine goals scored suggests they don-t get forward very often - but if they-ve conceded 16 goals in 13 games away from home, I reckon they-ve left the bus in the wrong car park.
Compare that to the 24 goals they-ve scored at Westpac, second only to Brisbane Roar - Herbert-s men look set to make the most of their home final.
But then it would most likely be a trip to Perth, the longest single trip in world football and a ground where Phoenix haven-t won since November 2010.
I don-t know about you, but I wouldn-t be betting on them to be very happy about making that trip.