HOW TO BEAT: Wellington Phoenix

Welcome to this week’s ‘How To Beat:’ – a weekly tactical preview of Western Sydney Wanderer’s opponent and how they can be beaten.

This week – Wellington Phoenix. Let’s get right into it.


Wellington Phoenix – Round 3 – Saturday 3rd November 5:35pm (Westpac Stadium)


HAL Round 1 – Wellington Phoenix 2 – Newcastle Jets 1
HAL Round 2 – Brisbane Roar 0 – Wellington Phoenix 0


HAL Round 1 – Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets

The first 45 minutes was a typical opening round season affair. Neither team looked as if they’ve played consistent matches and that showed.

The second half; only one team came out looking like they were ready to take the match and that was the Phoenix. The second half was a marked improvement for Wellington – Rudan organised and eliminated the frantic nerves from his squad and they responded in fashion.

The Phoenix will not be a team that we will write tactical love letters in the years to come but what they do exhibit is their strengths in their ability to slow the play down to avoid their own structure from losing shape.

We noticed that Phoenix enjoy a structured and well organised shape when defending in a 5-2-3. They want you to explore their wings and they want you to take your time doing it.

In attack, a lot of work is made between the talents of Sarpreet Singh, Roy Krishna & Liberato Cacace. Those three boys enjoy pace and are given free license to create opportunities when they are countering the opposition. Their first touch is above standard.

One aspect of the Phoenix that you have to give attention to is their set pieces. In this match against the Jets – they crowd the goalkeeper. In fact, they didn’t give Glen Moss any respect – they crowded the box to force an error.

What they do give up though is copious amounts of space behind the front three when defending in their own half. The front three act as a shield to force the opposition to play the ball to their wings – the Phoenix want you to do that – and they will happily give up possession in order to frustrate.

But, there are opportunities behind this front three as the space behind them and between the two defensive midfielders is copious. I will discuss this more in the Brisbane game and how we should attack.

They’re organised – a common theme that I hope is coming to the surface – a team that understands their strengths and plays to them.

HAL Round 2  – Brisbane Roar vs. Wellington Phoenix

The first 20 minutes of this match was all Wellington Phoenix. Brisbane Roar could not get in the match – they couldn’t pass out from the back and they had a difficulty getting out of their own half.

It’s fair to say that Rudan wanted to nab an early goal and they should have with Steve Taylor (an apt pickup for the Phoenix) hitting the post early on.

This match also started less frantically as it did in comparison to the Jets. The Phoenix wanted to come out and control the tempo – this is a very important facet of their tactics. The moment that action begins to get end to end – the Phoenix lose their shape and they can not keep up with the momentum and are often caught out. This was exhibited more often later in this match. Wanderers, take note.

I can’t stress enough that the Phoenix should’ve been at least a goal up in the first 20 minutes – they really caught Brisbane napping. Brisbane were conceding fouls very close to their own box, chasing players and generally being pulled out of shape. Both commentators, Brenton Speed & Nick Meredith, were correct in saying there was a lack of communication.

The Roar did eventually get back in to the game – the Phoenix backed off to save some energy and Bautheac was the initial point of call for Brisbane’s attack. Though – early on this was not successful – if you build up slow against Phoenix who are in a defensive transition – you will find they want you to explore their wings – they’re happy to choke you out there. This was done well by the Phoenix as Bautheac (who favours his left quite a bit) was caught trying to cut back and cross to find lone-man Adam Taggart – it was ineffective.

Roar did wise up though – they began crossing the ball from within their own half against an overcommitted Phoenix – this worked. They avoided the Phoenix’s defensive structure and they had copious amounts of space to roam.

Another straw in the hat for Brisbane Roar is that they figured out to go directly through the middle when breaking down the Phoenix in a defensive transition. The Phoenix REALLY do not want you to go through the middle. The Roar eventually exploited that and pulled players out of position to find that final pass that eventually eluded the game for both teams.


First things first – we can not give up so many fouls inside our own half, let alone outside the box. As we notice on the weekend against Sydney FC; the two goals conceded were due to fouls conceded near our own box. We also have an extra added incentive not to do this as we are poor against organised set-pieces.


We can not overcommit going forward. Sarpreet Singh is more than capable in playing a long ball forward and finding Roy Krishna who has pace and a nice first touch.

As mentioned earlier, the Phoenix front three are given creative license – this opens Pandora’s Box for us. It gives the parameters to the Phoenix front line to create opportunities as they see fit. On the other hand, we are a team that panic in defence and are unsure of ourselves (passing out vs. clearing the danger).

We need to genuinely work on our defence regardless of opposition as it is abysmal in shape when playing out. Elrich & Risdon are often caught too high up and aren’t options to pass to as the channel is easily defend by the opposition.


We need to find Baumjohann in this match – whether that be via our full backs or our defensive midfielders. Going centrally against the Phoenix seems to create opportunities. Going wide – will not.

That being said – we can exploit the width but cut in earlier (like we did against Sydney FC) to find Baumjohann and create that link-up play. Doing that in this match may be tough as Phoenix are organised and can grab three players from each side to defend this.

Therefore we need to exploit pace and force the Phoenix out of shape. I would advise counter attacking in this match.

As mentioned earlier, we can’t do the slow build up against the Phoenix – they’re organised and have better cohesion defensively and will aim to frustrate us. All things that Wanderers at the moment can not deal with.


There was some improvements in the match against Sydney FC, though not defensively. We need to organise that defence regardless of opposition if we’re to have a chance of getting in the finals later in the season. At the moment, we’re too slow, lack a quality touch and have a general lack of understanding between the players and where they should be.

The Phoenix, from what I’ve seen, seem to be one of the more organised teams. They’re honest and they play to their strengths effectively. If we can force them to play football at a pace that they need to chase – we can create opportunities.

So long as we don’t concede any further fouls in our own half.

NEXT WEEK: Brisbane Roar – Round 4 – 5:35pm Saturday 10th November, Mudgee’s Glen Willow Oval.

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