Poor team unity undoing the Wellington Phoenix
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The Wellington Phoenix are again struggling in the Australian A-League in the 2016-17 season.
Their recent trend of being far too inconsistent has continued, and a team that are capable of reaching the playoffs on paper looks like it'll need an absolute miracle to do so.
So, how can a team that looks good on paper be so inconsistent? Especially considering their 10-year licence extension came with certain protocols they had to meet - on-field performances being one of them.
The most obvious thing to look at is team unity. After their 3-1 loss to the Wanderers, goalkeeper Glen Moss not-so-subtly told the Fox Sports commentator on the sideline that "certain players just kind of do what they want and don't stick to the game-plan and it shows".
Ernie Merrick, a coach who won two A-League titles with the Melbourne Victory, departed part way into the current season. It seems obvious to me he was so frustrated with the team not listening to him that he decided he'd had enough and left.
Even now, interim co-coach Chris Greenacre has sort of agreed with Glen Moss' frank assessment following on from the loss to the Wanderers. He has called on the players to take more personal responsibility for the rest of the season.
One of the things that is a hallmark of successful teams around the world is their team unity. The All Blacks, for example, set high standards within the team environment and that is a big reason why they're so successful.
The Phoenix have had team unity in the past, particularly in the 2009-10 season where they went all the way to the preliminary final before losing to eventual champions Sydney FC.
They were almost unbeatable at home and Westpac Stadium gained the nickname "the ring of fire" as a result.
There's no doubt the Phoenix are handicapped with more travel than most of the Australian sides, except the Perth Glory.
There's also the ludicrous situation around playing while a sizable chunk of their squad is on All Whites duty in an international window.
Being an Oceania-based side playing in a league in the Asian Confederation means they can't qualify for the Asian Champions League if they were to ever win the A-League, so can't tap into the money on offer there.
If the Football Federation of Australia were to ever realign themselves with Oceania, or Oceania was merged with Asia then this wouldn't be a problem for them.
In seasons where they don't click as a team and can't make the playoffs as a result, they tend to lose interest during games. This often leads to the floodgates opening, and the team leaking like a sieve at the back.
As a result the crowd numbers, aside from the loyal Yellow Fever followers, dwindle markedly, and empty yellow seats become even more of a regular feature.
Dwindling crowd numbers could force the FFA to revoke their licence, and the players don't appear to be coping with this added pressure.
Personally, I think the team needs to take a good, hard look at how they operate and what they need to do to turn their fortunes around.
There's no doubt they're capable of consistently making the playoffs, but I think they need to learn how to gel better as a team.
Unless the team unity improves, the current status quo will continue and they risk their licence extension being revoked.
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