Soccer: Phoenix need to change their style

By Daniel Richardson

Vince Lia (L) and Paul Ifill of the Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.
Vince Lia (L) and Paul Ifill of the Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.

Fans have been calling for the Wellington Phoenix to play a more attractive brand of football and even the owners have got involved saying the club needs to produce a better product.

As the A-League franchise struggles to pull punters through the gate, Welnix consortium member Gareth Morgan said the club were working on changing their style.

"We are trying to go towards what they call 'total football'," Morgan told Radio Sport today.

"Changing the formation ... from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 to make for a more attacking sort of game and that's a big change for the players, particularly the midfield who have to do a hell of a lot more work with only three in there rather than four. That'll take time to adjust but we are going to stick to this because I think it's attractive football."

Interestingly, Wellington's best performance this season, in attacking sense, came when they employed a 4-4-2 formation in a 2-0 defeat of Sydney FC in Wellington during round one.

Since then the club's form has been up and down and there have been few more boring football games seen at Westpac Stadium than Wellington's 1-0 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers two weeks ago.

The Phoenix occupy sixth spot on the A-League ladder after 10 rounds and have made the playoffs for the past three seasons but they've historically struggled to score goals.

Morgan said he was aware of the club's reputation that they were perceived as a boring side but noted the owners, players and coaches had bought in to the idea of changing that. He also reiterated the club's top brass would do what it takes to produce a team they could be proud of.

"We want a style of football that the club is known for and we will essentially hire coaches that give us that style. So in other words, the style of football will be determined by the club, not by the coach."

Morgan's comments echoed those of fellow Phoenix owner Rob Morrison who also said today that the side needed to become a more attractive product to pull in the casual fan.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, who has been at the helm of the club since their inception to the A-League in 2007, said he embraced Morgan's comments and also managed to get in a not-so subtle reminder of what he had achieved at the franchise.

"Good on Gareth. Everyone wants to be positive around the club and we put 32,000 people in a semifinal at the stadium here [against Newcastle in 2010] so I kind of think the football hasn't been too bad," Herbert said.

"But for me the future of the club is starting to evolve now and I think with the growth of the academy it gives us a chance to groom and prepare players in a different way. So if that can help systems, if that can help the team and it produces better players for us then, great."

Herbert pointed out the development of youngsters Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd from the club's school of excellence had been an indication of what they could do and they also operated within the salary cap which put constraints on who they could sign.

Herbert also acknowledged his side needed a creative spark for Sunday's game against Adelaide United in South Australia after they produced a poor performance in last weekend's 2-1 loss to Sydney FC.

Midfielder Dani Sanchez comes in to the selection equation after recovering from a knee injury and could make his first start of the season.

His injection to the centre of the park would give the Phoenix a different dimension in attack.

Striker Jeremy Brockie is in doubt with a hamstring injury but will be given until Saturday to prove his fitness.

- APNZ

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