Stats aside, Wellington Phoenix fail to deliver

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
Wellington Phoenix stats graphic
FAIRFAX NZ

The stats for the Wellington Phoenix this season make for some sorry reading.

Ernie Merrick
CAMERON BURNELL/ Fairfax NZ
FRUSTRATED: Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick can't figure out how his side have yet to notch a win.

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The numbers don't lie.

Despite playing a more attractive brand of football under coach Ernie Merrick, the flaws of the winless Wellington Phoenix are exposed in the A-League's official statistics.

Languishing in ninth place after nine games, the Phoenix also rank a depressing ninth in a raft of categories, including shots on target (41 per cent), goals to shots (8.6 per cent), big chance conversion (25 per cent) and duels won (49.4 per cent).

Surprisingly, for a team that is working hard at playing possession-based football, the Phoenix's pass completion rate also remains comparatively poor: at 76.6 per cent they rank eighth of 10 teams.

And interestingly, the Phoenix remain "cross heavy" as they were under previous coach Ricki Herbert.

Despite having played one less game, the Phoenix have hit the third most crosses in the league (196).

The difference is that Merrick is encouraging players to deliver crosses to feet, rather than aerially.

The statistical verdict on star signing Carlos Hernandez is mixed.

He broke his duck with a penalty in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar but while his 30 shot attempts rank equal-second in the league, only four of them have been on target.

The Costa Rican playmaker is doing his best to provide for his profligate team-mates however, having created more goalscoring chances than anyone bar Brisbane's German gun Thomas Broich.

It will surprise few that Manny Muscat has conceded the most fouls (18) of any Phoenix player, while Louis Fenton - learning the ropes at right back - is shown to be sturdy in the tackle, winning 71 per cent of his "duels".

Merrick believes the most important and relevant indicator of a team's progress is shots and the number of chances created.

On that score the Phoenix are doing OK: their 105 shots ranks fourth while they have had 16 "big chances", sixth in the league.

The problem has been conversion, with just one goal per game.

"The boys are playing well without anything to show for it," Merrick said.

"It's a continual work in progress, we're creating chances, we've got to score them. I think it's all confidence, composure, momentum, all those things.

"It's not skill and it's not just one player ... Everyone has to take a turn, to get in the box, to get into goalscoring positions and as you've seen from some of the ones we've missed, it's not skill. It's confidence, it's mental skills ... I don't think there would be many teams having 20 scoring shots against the Roar, in the last couple of years."

The players were working hard on finishing at training yesterday ahead of tonight's date with the Central Coast Mariners at North Sydney Oval.

Jeremy Brockie is symbolic of the club's goal-scoring woes.

The All Whites striker scored 16 goals last season to finish second in the golden boot.

This season he has just two to his name and produced a howler on Saturday.

"Missing open goals doesn't help, does it? We'd be more disappointed if we weren't creating the chances but we just need to work harder on getting more numbers into the box," Brockie said.

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"Obviously when you're not winning as a player and a team it can get a little bit frustrating and the confidence can take a little bit of a blow."

Merrick said he would stick with the same starting XI but freshen up his bench.

In come Tyler Boyd, Leo Bertos and Matthew Ridenton, while Michael Boxall, Jason Hicks and Josh Brindell-South drop out.

The defending champion Mariners are stinging from a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Adelaide United and wary of a Phoenix ambush.

"At the moment I'd say they are a very unlucky club," said Mariners defender Trent Sainsbury.

"They've been playing some decent football and the results just haven't been going their way."

- Fairfax Media

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