At the mid-way point of the 2015/16 season, the Wellington Phoenix have won just four of thirteen matches, including only one of their last seven. What do they need to do to kick-start their stuttering A-League campaign as we enter 2016?
While the rest of us have been enjoying barbeques and beach-time, the football staff at the Phoenix should have been furiously working the phones to find an answer to their front-third conundrum. Six goals in the last seven games (half of them from Roy Krishna) tell the story of a team desperately in need of someone else to find the net.
That search shouldn't be limited to just home-grown players. While the import quota is full, Jeffrey Sarpong hasn't shown anywhere near enough to suggest he can solve the problem. Ernie Merrick needs to think seriously about cutting his losses and replacing Sarpong with someone who can revitalise his strike-force, and soon.
After just thirteen games this campaign, there have already been 40 yellow cards issued to Phoenix players. In the whole of last season, the Phoenix collected just 43 bookings and lost only one player to an accumulated yellow-card suspension.
Tom Doyle has already missed a game after getting his fifth yellow (in just seven matches), while Roly Bonevacia and Alex Rodriguez are suspended for the next game after receiving their fifth yellows against the Mariners. Furthermore, Andrew Durante, Vince Lia and Albert Riera are all perched on four yellows, meaning impending bans for some or all of them are also likely.
Rediscover the secret to winning away
Last season, the Phoenix boarded international flights with expectation rather than hope. It was justified too, with wins over seven of the other nine sides in the league on their home turf. It's been completely different in 2015/16, with just a solitary road victory and none in their last seven trips away from Wellington. Whatever the magic formula was in the last campaign, it needs to be remembered and revived to make the Phoenix a side other teams welcome with trepidation, not anticipation.
Get Siggy back in the team
The shortly-to-retire Ben Sigmund hasn't featured in the last four matches, which have resulted in three losses and a last-gasp draw. While Manny Muscat has done an admirable job in central defence, Sigmund brings a much-needed passion and commitment that will be crucial if they're to feature in the top six. His return would also allow Muscat to fill the troublesome right-back spot. While injuries have hampered Sigmund's season, Merrick and the medical team need to find a way to coax his body into one last hurrah.
Roly Bonevacia has become one of the most watched men in the A-League and - not surprisingly - the most fouled. Opposition teams have quickly worked out that stopping the Dutchman is the key to containing the Phoenix and have set out to do that using fair and foul means.
To combat that, a new approach may be needed, perhaps with Bonevacia receiving the ball in different parts of the field. While he's most dangerous in the pockets in behind the strikers, those areas are being clogged by opposition defenders, so Bonevacia may have to drop deeper or drift wider to collect the ball before unleashing the attacking weaponry he undoubtedly still possesses.