Much was expected from Wellington Phoenix last season after the double swoop on Melbourne Victory stars Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler, but the team struggled to get into the six all season and finished six points adrift of finals qualification.
New Dutch coach Darije Kalezic has been appointed to change the club’s fortunes but has to deal with a swag of experienced, quality players departing.
2016-17 finishing position: 7th
Coach: Darije Kalezic
INS AND OUTS
Ins: Scott Galloway, Goran Paracki, Dario Vidosic, Daniel Mullen, Andrija Kaludjerovic, Ali Abbas.
Outs: Roly Bonevacia, Shane Smeltz, Jacob Tratt, Glen Moss, Kosta Barbarouses, Alex Rodriguez, Vince Lia.
STAR PLAYER – Dario Vidosic
Wellington will be Dario Vidosic’s fourth A-League club, after stints at Brisbane Roar, Adelaide and Western Sydney, but there is definitely no doubting his quality.
The 30-year-old’s career has stagnated in Asia over the past 12 months and he has decided to return the A-League to play under his father and Phoenix assistant coach Rado.
Vidosic is a creative attacking midfielder, who specialises in arriving in the box at the right time to score goals.
The hope will be that he can form a lethal partnership in the final third with Finkler, and the duo can provide quality service to Serbian striker Andrija Kaludjerovic.
BREAKOUT PLAYER – Sarpreet Singh
Sarpreet Singh made his debut for the Phoenix as a 17-year-old last season in a 5-1 defeat against Melbourne City.
His impressive form at youth level earned a three-year professional contract with the club in June thiis year.
The talented playmaker still has plenty of development to come, but possesses a great range of passing, and should be eased into the action by Kalezic.
The club was seemingly stagnating under previous coach Ernie Merrick and will hopefully be reinvigorated by the appointment of Kalezic.
New striker signing Kaludjerovic has been prolifiic at times during his career, including scoring five goals in 10 A-League matches for Brisbane Roar in 2015.
If the Serbian can form a partnership with the pacey Roy Krishna, the Phoenix could possess a decent strike force.
Full-back signings Ali Abbas and Scott Galloway will also strengthen the club’s flanks.
The off-season has seen the departure of player of the year Kosta Barbarouses, who has returned to Melbourne Victory, while experienced stalwarts Shane Smeltz, Roly Bonevacia and Vince Lia have also exited.
While the club has plenty of attacking midfield talent, they seem to be lacking players to do the dirty work in the engine room.
There will also be a settling in period under the new manager which could mean a slow start to the season.
FINAL PREDICTION – 10TH
The Phoenix’s season will hinge on the contributions by their new signings but the concern is they haven’t replaced their departures well enough.
Time will tell but it could be another long season for the team across the ditch.
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