Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Sanchez can make Phoenix midfield fire

Spaniard could provide some sizzle but he will need reliable help to add impetus in middle.

Dani Sanchez is the man to lead the Phoenix midfield out of the mire. Photo / Getty Images
Dani Sanchez is the man to lead the Phoenix midfield out of the mire. Photo / Getty Images

Dani Sanchez is the point of difference the Wellington Phoenix have in their midfield - he just needs a partner in crime.

As the club strive to find a balance between producing results and playing a more attractive brand of football, Sanchez is the sort of player who can give them both.

The Spaniard has scored twice in his past two outings after returning from a lengthy lay-off with injury and has a useful passing game, and he could develop a decent rapport with promising youngsters Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd.

As Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert persists with Vince Lia and Manny Muscat in a congested midfield, it is Sanchez who offers more.

Lia and Muscat give an honest shift in the middle of the park and Muscat, in particular, has been excellent in a holding midfield role, but Lia seems to only plug a hole rather than give the Phoenix attacking impetus.

With the transfer window looming, another player who can complement Sanchez's attacking flair needs to be added to the roster.

They already need to find a replacement for Mirjan Pavlovic - who was released under curious circumstances by mutual consent - and they could also opt to bring in an injury replacement for Paul Ifill, who is out for up to six weeks after ankle surgery.

Commissioning a front three of Jeremy Brockie, Boyd and Fenton is dangerous but there's no genuine centre forward in that mixture and any one of them would be better suited in the midfield to link with Sanchez.

Belgian Stein Huysegems was dropped to the bench for Saturday's 1-1 with the Mariners but must come into consideration because of his good touch and finishing ability.

Sanchez spent the first 10 weeks of the season out with a knee injury but returned for Wellington's 3-1 defeat to Adelaide United a fortnight ago and he said it was great to be back.

"It was frustrating because I was dying to play," he said. "But now I'm ready and I'm trying to help the team as much as I can."

Wellington's draw with Central Coast didn't solve many of the club's ongoing problems.

It kept the knockers largely at bay as the Phoenix picked up a point against the league leaders but, on the other hand, further reinforced their one-dimensional approach.

The Phoenix are seventh after 12 rounds of the A-League and need to find some momentum to work their way into the top six or even top four, which would lock up home advantage for the post-season.

They host the Melbourne Heart, who sit one place below them on the table, at Westpac Stadium tonight and really need three points.

Sanchez said he didn't think too much needed to change from Saturday's effort against the Mariners.

"I don't think we have to do much else. I think we created chances against the best team in the league. We just need to put the ball in the net and keep going. Hopefully we can get the three points - that's the target. It's a home game, we have to be strong here."

Phoenix v Heart
Westpac Stadium, 7.30pm, SS2

- APNZ

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