The Wellington Phoenix have lost their past three games and
have only one win from their first six outings this season.
APNZ's Daniel Richardson looks at why there's no need to hit
the panic button yet.
1. Stein Huysegems
The former Belgian international is a quality signing who has
come at a bargain price. Huysegems is rumoured to be on about
one-fifth of what Newcastle's Emile Heskey is getting paid,
and the 30-year-old has netted three goals in his first six
games. The Phoenix have lacked a reliable finisher during the
past couple of years but Huysegems appears to fit the mould.
He missed a great chance to score during the 1-0 loss to
Central Coast on Sunday but, other than that, has ticked
every box so far this season. His work ethic off the ball is
2. Their fitness will improve
Paul Ifill is still good for only about 70 minutes and looks
a touch off the pace following a couple of injuries he picked
up in the pre-season. The former Barbados international isn't
far away from being back to full fitness and being a
90-minute player again. Huysegems, who experienced a huge
lay-off before joining the Phoenix, is also still one step
behind the eight-ball. When both get up to speed, they will
be an even bigger force in the A-League.
Four players in the Phoenix's regular starting XI - Andrew
Durante, Tony Lochhead, Manny Muscat and Leo Bertos - have
all played more than 100 games for the club and Ben Sigmund
has notched up 95 appearances since 2008. That experience is
invaluable and will be crucial during the next few weeks as
the team look to burst out of their mini-slump. When the
chips are down, teams need their old heads to come to the
fore, and Sigmund and Durante must take greater control at
the back so they can shore up a defence that has leaked a
couple of soft goals this year.
4. They have been here before
Last season the Phoenix won only one of their opening seven
games. Sound familiar? It's how this season is shaping up
considering this week's tricky away trip to Newcastle. Last
summer the Phoenix rebounded to finish fourth in the league
and did their best to make waves in the playoffs, too. The
club have the class on the field to get back to the
post-season, but need to put it all together and harness the
energy they played with during their opening night 2-0 win
over Sydney FC, when they played the Sky Blues and Alessandro
Del Piero off the park.
5. Westpac Stadium
The trip to Wellington to play the Phoenix at the Cake Tin
used to be the most-feared away trip in the A-League. As
Brisbane Roar coach Rado Vidosic pointed out, even the grass
at Westpac Stadium is different to what players from across
the Tasman are used to treading on. But in the past year
Australian sides have played with confidence in Wellington,
and the Phoenix need to return to the mentality that they
simply never lose at home. They famously went undefeated
through 24 games at Westpac during a near-two year stretch
from 2008-2010, and they need to build a similar run during
this campaign to ensure they don't drop points at home.