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A League 2012-13 Preview

Michael Wise September 24, 2012

If you didn’t know the A League was starting soon you must be living under a rock! So far we have seen headline after headline sprout from a number of clubs and a ball hasn’t even been kicked yet! The 2012-13 Season is sure shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons yet.

To keep you up with the water cooler banter, The Blog FC is back with our informative season previews and super special fun facts, sure to impress all the babes.

Wellington Phoenix

2011/2012 Result: 4th
Manager: Ricki Herbert

Recruitment

Ins: Ricardo Clarke (Loan – Sporting 89 San Miguelito), Louis Fenton (Team Wellington), Tyler Boyd (Waikato FC), Stijn Huysegems (Free), Glen Moss (Gold Coast United), Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets), Benjamin Totori (Koloale FC Honiara), Michael Boxall (Vancouver Whietecaps)
Outs: Nick Ward (Perth Glory), Daniel (INSEE Police United FC), Brent Griffiths (Central Coast Mariners), Tony Warner (Retired), Tim Brown (Retired), Chris Greenacre (Retired)

Analysis

In typical Ricki Herbert style, the Phoenix’s transfers in the off-season have been understated, solid, and have a distinct Kiwi-flavour to them.

Out goes some ageing stalwarts (Brown, Greenacre and Daniel) and in comes a blend of locally experienced first teamers (Brockie and Moss) and promising youngsters (Boyd, Clarke and Fenton).

Add Solomon Islands international Benjamin Totori, and journeyman striker Stijn Huysegems into the mix, and supporters of the Windy City should be pretty happy with Herbert’s wheelings and dealings.

Key Player: Manny Muscat

WTF we hear you ask. But before you shout us down for having Manny Muscat as the key player, let me explain.

Up front, Jeremy Brockie has been scoring goals for fun in pre-season, Paul Ifill is perhaps one of the best HAL imports ever, and Stijn Huysegems has a bucketload of European experience which will shine through over the course of the season (seriously, mark this down now – Huysegems could well be the signing of the year.)

In defence, the Phoenix have perhaps the most settled backline in the whole league. In Durante, Sigmund and Lochhead, they have a core of first team players that have been playing together since 2008. Add in both All Whites ‘keepers between the sticks and that gives you a very solid defensive platform.

This leaves the midfield – the area where the ‘Nix are a bit thin. Throughout pre-season, Herbert has been playing Leo Bertos at right back, and Manny Muscat in the holding midfield role – screening the back four.

This essentially leaves Muscat as the most experienced player in the centre of the park. It will be up to him to battle it out with the likes of Burns, Paartalu and McGlinchey over the course of the season. Succeed in this, and these perennial dark horses could once again find themselves having a major influence on the finals series.

The Road Ahead

Home form propelled Wellington into fourth spot last season, and this year it will be much of same. If the Cake Tin is turned into a fortress, half of the job is done – all the Phoenix would have to do is pick up a few points here and there on the road and another finals series beckons.

Conversely, as mentioned above, the midfield looks a little threadbare. And perhaps their two most influential players from last year – Ifill and Sanchez ALREADY have injury clouds over them – this is not ideal.

Prediction: 7th. One or two quality midfielders off being a major contender. But with the wily Ricki Herbert in charge, anything is possible.

Likely Formation

——————Paston——————
Bertos—–Durante—-Sigmund—–Lochhead
———-Muscat————-Lia———-
Ifill————-Sanchez—–Huysegems
——————Brockie—————–

Fun Fact

Pencil in a loss for Wellington in Round 2 against the Melbourne Heart. Ricki Herbert and all of his national team players will be off in Papeete playing against Tahiti – leaving the Phoenix with half a squad! Expect multiple debuts for the clubs’ academy players.

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