After taking a solid hiatus over the Asian Cup timeframe, the “Phoenix Prognosis” column is back in action as we get into the second half of the season. Today I cast my eye over the entertaining encounter against the Roar, which ended in a 3-2 loss – while also dishing out some hot takes in my five takeaways from the game.
Overwhelmed In The Midfield
The Phoenix are usually one of the strongest sides in the A-League when it comes to dominating a game through the midfield, with the usually reliable forces of Albert Riera, Alejandro Gorrin, Roly Bonevacia and Michael McGlinchey dominating possession, touches and passing stats.
That makes last night’s affair so strange – with the Roar having 63.4% of possession, and attempting 580 passes to the Phoenix’s 338. The Phoenix’s usually high passing accuracy was well down also – at 71.3%.
From both watching the game and checking out the stats, it was evident that Vince Lia and Bonevacia both were not at their best. Lia could complete only 63.6% of his passes, while Bonevacia only attempted a paltry 14 – which Gorrin nearly matched in 32 fewer minutes on the park. With half of the central midfield combination not firing, it was always going to be a tough battle against the classy Brisbane midfield, and you have to wonder whether Gorrin will slot back into the side in the next encounter.
Roar Show How It’s Done
The Roar’s first goal was a ripper of a set-piece, with a towering header from James Donachie that was pretty hard to blame on the Phoenix defence. However, the well-executed Roar set-piece is a worthwhile reminder that the Phoenix are nearing three years without scoring a header from a corner.
Second Half Scoring
When the Phoenix went ahead early in the second half, Yellow Fever podcast engineer and reportedly dodgy goalkeeper Dale Warburton said what many people were thinking
Despite eventually conceding three goals in the second period, he had every reason to think that.
So far this season, the Phoenix have scored eight goals in the first half, and 20 in the second. Add in goals conceded – just seven in the first spell and seven in the second – and you have a +1 net difference in the first half compared to a colossal +13 in the second.
Although Merrick has also put this discrepancy down to the fitness of his team, I think it is fair to suggest his tactical changes have been a big part of the Phoenix’s second half successes as well. Although it eventually didn’t pan out to be true last night, there’s still a very good argument to be made for Merrick’s tactical prowess.
Hot Sports Take Of The Week
Necessary Disclaimer: This is SATIRE, and representative of what your average internet commenter would say. Take this into account before you charge into the comments section.
Kenny Cunningham showed everyone last night how a REAL professional conducts his business.
Despite being on the bench for the majority of the season you didn’t once hear Cunningham complain, with the team-first player instead gratefully accepting his role and showing coach Ernie Merrick his true colours with some superb hustle to score the Phoenix’s second goal.
There’s a reason they don’t call him Kenny Naïve-ham guys and that’s because he’s as cunning as a fox on the pitch.
Compare that to departed money-chaser Jeremy Brockie who I like to call Jeremy BrockME because it’s all about himself with that guy. Brockie didn’t want to sit on the bench on a winning team, instead moving his young family to South Africa just because he wanted to chase the green glow that money provides.
Some people say it’s the best thing for his career but you know what he could have done? There’s a certain team out there which is the third best in the world who could have done with another striker.
Although the football police will probably say that Auckland United didn’t sign Brockie because he’s not Spanish, are SuperSport United (who I thought was a team of NZ Herald journalists but apparently not) the third best team in the world? NO, but because Brockie is so unpatriotic it never crossed his mind, no wonder his All Whites record is so poor, just saying.
Anyway, there’s a reason why the Phoenix are better with Cunningham on the field I don’t care what the stats say, I’m all about FACTS and this is just the truth.
Glen Moss’ Punditry Career
Glen Moss’ career in the media is off to a flier. Already creating full columns around meaningless buzzwords like “momentum”, he pulled one out of the hat by saying that momentum is key in World Cups. Now maybe it’s just me but I think that playing well would be the key in big tournaments, and that you could apply confirmation bias after the fact to label any winner as having “momentum”, but let’s apply what he was saying to his own squad.
“You can be trudging along with average results and then, bang, you get a few wins on the bounce and start to feel like you’re the best team in the world. The players feel confident, the passing gets crisper, the finishing improves and the results keep flowing.”
“My own team, the Wellington Phoenix, have been on a great run of late. We’re now sitting second in the A-League on the back of winning our last four games and going unbeaten in seven. The confidence is flowing through the team.”
How did that momentum work out for the Phoenix? Oh yeah, a 3-2 loss. And before you point to the break as a potential reason why, I don’t see Sydney, Adelaide or Melbourne City having any problems at finding their feet again after the spell on the sidelines.
So, when it comes to spouting buzzwords and cliches which are then proven to be nothing more than gabble, it’s looking like Moss is set to have a long and successful career in the football media industry. I just hope he remembers to tell players that they “Have to hit the target with that one” and remind us about “Going for the ball” and “The last man”.
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.