Blake Powell (APIA Leichardt), Jeffrey Sarpong (free), Troy Danaskos (Sydney Olympic), James McGarry (youth team), Logan Rogerson (youth team), Oliver Sail (youth team)
Led by outstanding performances from Nathan Burns, Wellington vastly improved in their second season under Ernie Merrick. The Nix jumped from 9th to 4th on the table, winning 7 more games than in 2013-14. While they increased their attacking output by scoring 9 more goals, the defence was much tighter than in the previous campaign, conceding 16 less. However, the season came to a premature end when they were upset by Melbourne City 2-0 at home in the first week of the finals.
The challenge in 2015-16 is to at least maintain their position on the ladder. While Wellington’s game plan and first choice line-up is fairly settled, they have lost their star man – with Burns leaving for J.League side FC Tokyo – and questions remain over the depth of the squad, should key players such as Roy Krishna and Roly Bonevacia suffer injuries, while Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante aren’t getting any younger at 34 and 33 respectively – with no clear replacement ready to step into the heart of defence.
The pre-season has been mixed for Wellington, with 6 wins and 4 draws from 13 games. Against A-League opposition there have been wins against Sydney FC (3-1), Western Sydney (3-1) and Central Coast (1-0), while there was an alarming 5-1 hammering suffered at the hands of Melbourne City in the FFA Cup. Goals don’t appear to be an issue for the Phoenix, as they have scored in each of their 13 outings. However, keeping them out may be – only in the aforementioned win over the Mariners in the FFA Cup and against local side Miramar have they kept a clean sheet. There have also been defeats to a New Zealand ‘A’ side and Wests, along with draws against Auckland City, Petone, the Fiji national team and a Capital Select XI.
Kwabena Appiah (MID, $175k) has been the clear standout in preseason with 8 goals, including the winner against the Mariners. Perhaps tellingly though, this has been his only strike against an A-League team; it’s highly doubtful he will have a spot the starting XI. Former Sydney FC striker Blake Powell (FWD, $150k) has 5, which promisingly included 2 goals against his former club and another against Western Sydney. Like Appiah, however, he will likely start the season on the bench. Krishna and Bonevacia have chipped in with 4 each, with Krishna scoring against Sydney FC and Melbourne City, and Bonevacia netting a brace against the Wanderers.
Wellington Phoenix likely first-choice XI (4-3-3)
You should consider…
Jeffrey Sarpong (FWD, $225k), because he is the direct replacement for Nathan Burns in the Wellington line-up. With the Nix likely to continue their attacking style under Merrick, expect the goals to continue to flow. Do not expect Sarpong to match Burns’ output, however – even if he scores close to Burns’ 13 goals, as he is a forward his goals are worth 1 point less. Sarpong also has a fairly meagre strike record, with just 4 goals in 58 games for previous team NAC Breda. It is worth mentioning though that both Burns and Roy Krishna were struggling in front of goal before reaping the rewards of Merrick’s system last season.
Also worth considering is Roy Krishna (FWD, $250k), who could build on and should at least maintain his output of 9 goals and 5.3 points per game from last season. He’s probably a safer pick than Sarpong for just $25k more, however Sarpong may have greater upside given he has played at a much higher level than Krishna, with stints for several clubs in the Netherlands and Spain including Ajax Amsterdam.
You should avoid…
Wellington’s established defenders, given both the concerns over their ability to keep out goals and their awkward prices – Andrew Durante is $225k, Ben Sigmund is $200k, Manny Muscat is $175k and goalkeeper Glen Moss is $250k. As the pricing in the Fox Sports game is much tighter this season with little value in general, it’s worth considering the strategy of going cheap in defence in order to pack quality into the forward line and midfield. Louis Fenton is the cheap link into the backline at $150k, but there are better and cheaper options out there at other teams.
Others to avoid include Albert Riera (MID, $200k), who is an important player for Wellington but as a defensive midfielder he is irrelevant in fantasy football. His output of 3.3ppg last season shows this clearly. Fellow starter Alejandro Rodriguez (MID, $225k) will cost you $25k more yet scored only 2.7ppg last season. Roly Bonevacia (MID, $300k) too is important, and he can score well (5.5ppg last season); however that price makes him almost unselectable given superstars like Gui Finkler (7ppg) and Aaron Mooy (8.6ppg) are only $25k and $50k more expensive, respectively.