EXCLUSIVE: The Wellington Phoenix’s A-League season is nearly here.
Bet you didn’t know that huh? Well, in fact they play this Sunday against the Perth Glory! Better go sort out how you’re watching that one. Someone alert the Yellow Fever that the season is about to begin, they should probably be given the heads-up.
What goes hand in hand with the lead-up to a season? Predictions and rankings by complete shmucks! And since I fit that category perfectly, I’ve decided to create some Phoenix player POWER RANKINGS!
Now, these player POWER RANKINGS! are based on solely on the player’s importance to the Nix this season. I’ll make it clear – this isn’t a “Who is the best player?” ranking, it is all about which players are the most vital to the success of the team this season.
Besides, these POWER RANKINGS! are incredibly arbitrary, so remember that when you have undoubted complaints. Let’s get into it.
1. Albert Riera
As I noted in my earlier post on the Phoenix’s dodgy defence, the defensive structure fell apart without Riera late last season, conceding 30 goals in 10 games. Riera played 48% of all minutes last season, with the team conceding 16 goals when he was on the pitch, and 35 goals when he was sidelined. His importance is likely to be slightly less notable this season due to midfield reinforcements, but he’s still deserving of top spot on the ladder
2. Michael McGlinchey
One of Phoenix’s undeniable class signings of late, McGlinchey is a proven A-League commodity. His presence will more than likely help Ernie Merrick’s squad retain possession, while his creativity should result in more quality shots created. While Gorrin and Bonevacia have the alluring unknown element, McGlinchey’s high status is ensured on these shores.
3. Jeremy Brockie
All those chances which are going to be created by the new, reinforced midfield? Someone has to finish them, and Brockie’s likely to be leading the line to do so, both literally and metaphorically. The departure of Stein Huysegems leaves a goalscoring hole in the squad, and Brockie, who it is fair to say had a poor year last season, is crucially required to step into the fold.
4. Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund
I cheat here, but at this stage of their careers they are like two peas in a pod, and both face similar narratives this season. They will likely be the first to tell you that the Phoenix’s defence wasn’t up to scratch last season, but are both capable of another season of top-quality defending? Or, looking at the Nix’s woeful defensive record over the past two seasons, are they already on the decline? The Phoenix will have to hope it’s the former, not the latter.
5. Alejandro Gorrin
Alejanddrrrrro! I’m quite excited for the Spaniard to have a big season in the A-League this campaign, not least because it means I can annoy people all season by refusing to call him by the baseball-player-who-shall-not-be-named nickname. Someone who can contribute in all areas and facets of the midfield, if he can make a smooth transition to the A-League then we could be in for some fun.
6. Roly Bonevacia
A similar case to A-Gor (Ok, now I’m just trolling), in that he’s a highly promising yet untested A-League recruit, Bonevacia’s slightly different style of play provides another nice touch to the midfield. A utility man, who will undoubtedly end up playing fullback for an extended stretch of time, could bring a nice dimension to the side needed a bit more bite and athleticism than what was providing last season by the likes of (my dude) Jason Hicks and Vince Lia respectively.
7. Kenny Cunningham
The Phoenix will need plenty of goals from the Costa Rican this season, as well as some dangerous balls from wide areas as he looks to link up with Brockie and the new midfielders. After an up-and-down starting campaign, Cunningham has the ability to be a key player in the attack force – Brockie can’t do it all by himself.
8. Tom Doyle
Thrust into the fire, Doyle needs to [insert Phoenix/fire joke here]. I love Doyle’s game having seen him with Team Wellington and in various Phoenix reserves/A squads in the past, but it’s a big step up to the A-League for the untested youngster. He needs to be a solid stable left back and a step up from Reece Caira, if not, then the Phoenix’s defensive foundation will again have an attackable leak.
9. Glen Moss
Quality and reliable, Moss had a pretty decent season last year, not really being at fault for many of the goals conceded late in the campaign. 31 is definitely still young enough for a keeper to be productive, and I blandly expect more of the same from Moss this season. No hot takes here.
10. Nathan Burns
Burns may be the most interesting case for me. On one hand, he’s in his prime, a former/borderline Socceroo and has proven he can do it in the A-League before. On the other hand, he hasn’t stuck at his big clubs, and didn’t set the world on fire with a short stint with the Newcastle Jets last season. Can Burns be a star, or will he find himself benched? And are his potential contributions as crucial as those in the middle of the park? I’m certainly intrigued to watch it unfold.
Manny Muscat – At this stage, we know what we’re getting from him.
Roy Krishna – There could be a sneakily effective campaign from Krishna upcoming. Wouldn’t be surprised if he knocked home more than five goals.
Hamilton raised, Niall Anderson now halves his time between university studies in Auckland and catching up on all things Waikato football in the Tron. Having covered Waikato FC and WaiBOP United in the ASB Premiership, Niall is also the lead writer at nzhoops.co.nz. Find him on Twitter @NiallGunner.