As a statistically-inclined writer, one of the things I like to preach is to look at the larger picture when evaluating performances. As enjoyable as it is to get swept aside in the joys of a quality performance, it is always worth casting an eye to the sustainability of a display, and whether the showing is repeatable, rather than random.
On first glance, the Wellington Phoenix’s 5-1 win over Melbourne City seems to fall under the latter category, being a perfect storm of clinical finishing to create a flattering scoreline. Melbourne had 15 shots to the Phoenix’s nine, narrowly edging possession and territory statistics, while also swinging in 21 crosses, and forcing the Phoenix into making 19 interceptions.
However, if we go deeper into the numbers, and more simply – take a look at the tape, there’s sufficient context to prove that for all City’s creation in the midfield, their defence badly let the side down, while their speculatory attacking mindset artificially boosted their supposed parity.
Although Melbourne had 15 shots, nine of them came from outside the box, with the visitors happy to speculate. Compare to that the Phoenix, who had eight of their nine attempts at goal come from within the penalty area – chances which they proved were much easier to convert.
After being run over by the Phoenix’s five goal display, Melbourne now have conceded 19 goals in eight games, and their flimsiness at the back was well documented, with the hosts tearing them apart with a mix of decisive off-ball running and precision passing. And if they weren’t creating chances that way, City were handing the ball to them on a plate, with Nathan Burns’ first goal and Roy Krishna’s effort both coming about due to Melbourne’ defensive deficiencies.
Having high-quality chances at goal has been a running theme for the Phoenix this year – it just happened that yesterday was the day their shooting boots came to the party.
When I made an appearance talking about the Phoenix (amongst other things) on Radio Sport’s new show “The Good Chaps”, I put forward the prognosis that the Nix were a side capable of putting plenty of goals past a squad on their day, but inconsistency may halt them from being a side pushing for the top four.
Now they need to prove that they can do similar things away from home, and although City’s porous defence won’t be around to help them out, the signs are positive for the Phoenix, provided they can keep their successful midfield and attacking combinations together for a clean stretch of games.
1. Albert Riera completed 65 passes out of 71 attempts, and Alejandro Gorrin wasn’t far behind, completing 46 of 50. Having two excellent ball retainers in the centre of the park is huge for Ernie Merrick’s tactics, allowing Bonevacia to get forward and join the attacking trio with less trepidation than he otherwise may have. Their ability to intercept, clear, tackle and win duels is also the underrated aspect to the Nix’s success.
2. Nathan Burns has played just nine games for the Wellington Phoenix, yet is already the ninth highest scorer in Nix history.
3. The average field position graphic for the game makes for interesting viewing. While it shows how deep Riera and Gorrin play compared to the likes of Muscat and Doyle, of note is the bizarre formation of the City’s attacking quartet (shown in black).
Why are they so close to each other? Whether it due to incessant swapping of sides, or simply a lack of width, it does hold with the perception that Tom Doyle had quite a cruisy day on the left-hand side.
Can the Phoenix put on a similar display against the Newcastle Jets? An away win is on the cards, and I’ll be back next Monday to reflect on how they go.
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.