Danny Hay and Ross Aloisi believe Sunday's 3-1 loss to Adelaide United is evidence that Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert can implement a more attacking style.
Herbert's tactics have been under the spotlight since owner Gareth Morgan went public with his desire for a more attractive approach.
Former All Whites captain Hay said Herbert had to be given "the opportunity to try and change things."
But although the second half in Adelaide was encouraging, Hay added the hosts had "taken their foot off the pedal" and the Phoenix had no other option but to attack.
Hay was excited about the potential of Kiwis Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd and called for Herbert to give them both a prolonged run in his starting XI.
Herbert's contract expires at the end of the season but the owners have signalled a two-year option will be triggered - either as coach or director of football.
Former Leeds United defender Hay said it was dubious whether Herbert's record warranted such confidence but "they've made their bed and they've got to lie in it."
For all the talk about attack, the club's defence is now under increased scrutiny after copping some soft goals at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Left back Tony Lochhead has been struggling for form, while Hay reckoned the back four as a whole were "not the quickest or the most mobile in the league."
"A balance needs to be found. There's no point saying let's attack, attack, attack - they're not a squad that can really afford to do that."
Former Phoenix captain Aloisi, now coaching in Adelaide, said Herbert had been unfairly pigeonholed as a defence-only coach.
He instead pointed the finger at underperforming senior players.
"It's not their system, it's not the way they play because it hasn't changed since I've known Ricki and at times he's been very successful," Aloisi said.
"At times certain players aren't performing."
But Aloisi argued Herbert's loyalty to players was a strength, not a weakness.
"Look at Melbourne Victory and Ange Postecoglou, he's got senior players that aren't performing at all. He's doing what most top coaches do and he persists with those players because he knows that sooner or later they'll turn that corner."
Meanwhile, a Phoenix spokesman said captain Andrew Durante (calf) and leading goalscorer Jeremy Brockie (hamstring) were both confident of being fit for Saturday's home game against A-League leaders Central Coast.
The Phoenix are seventh of 10 teams after 11 rounds.
- The Dominion Post
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