Ever since Wellington Phoenix’s creation in 2007, they have been a big part of the A-League.
Whether it has been controversy surrounding their license, their radical changes in coaches or the occasional run of form, they have always been trusted by the FFA, and suddenly their performances on the field have increased extremely.
After nearly doubling their points from the 2017-18 season last year under Mark Rudan, they have yet again excelled from an underdog level where many pundits and fans predicted a disappointing last-place finish.
But what is separating Wellington Pheonix from being one of the heavyweight teams in the A-League, and what can they do to increase to that level?
1. Develop a winning mentality
Melbourne City have played some great football this season but have consistently been criticised in their race for the premiership against Sydney FC for not establishing a winning mentality around the club.
It helps that Ufuk Talay has come from the success-orientated Sydney FC, and if he is planning on staying long term, a massive part of his project will be developing a winning mentality.
Wellington have played some beautiful football to lead them to great results against some of the top teams, but they have also shown an ability to grind out results against some big rivals, such as a 1-0 win against Melbourne City last weekend, showing they have already gone a long way in forming that winning mentality.
2. Keep the majority of their starting team
Last season, Wellington Phoenix lost 15 players, with eight of them considered starting players. Out of the known starters in Mark Rudan’s squad, only Louis Fenton, Liberato Cacace and Steven Taylor remained at the club ahead of the start of the current A-League season.
One of the main reasons so many players left was because of the departure of head coach Mark Rudan, which is something that Wellington won’t have to deal with this season, but it is still important that they keep the majority of their starting team.
Players like Cameron Devlin, David Ball and Ulises Davila need to be kept. Although their contracts run further, overseas clubs may likely show interest in some of the Phoenix players, Davila in particular, but they mustn’t sell more than three or four because all of a sudden Ufuk Talay would have another rebuild on his hands.
Reno Piscopo and Liberato Cacace may likely leave in the summer, provided the right kind of transfer fee comes in, but it is vital that Ulises Davila and David Ball, in particular, stay with the side, as they are at the age where clubs won’t be willing to pay a high transfer fee.
3. Gain squad depth
Something that will be vital to Wellington Phoenix next season is squad depth, especially if they are to make it into the Asian Champions League.
When you look at the current heavyweights of the A-League this season, they all have a thorough squad and have players who can come in and fit the style perfectly.
Perth Glory is the best model of this, signing players who can play in multiple positions along with signing experienced campaigners as well as nursing frustrated youngsters, with Chris Ikonomidis being the biggest player in that category.
Perth currently have 30 players in their squad, which is enough for two starting teams with eight players left on the bench, which shows how planned they are when playing multiple fixtures in a week.
Wellington Phoenix has 25 players in their current squad, but they don’t often rotate players. Allowances can be made for the fact that they don’t need to rotate because they play one game each week but if they want to be aiming for a Champions League position, they need to have the team to do it.
Tactically speaking, Wellington Phoenix are up there with A-League’s heavyweights but they are new to the finals scene, having last qualified for the finals twice in a row in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
Wellington Pheonix have a promising young squad, but could fans start labelling them as one of the A-League heavyweights in the next few seasons?