Football Season Guide

Wellington Phoenix


Oskar Zawada (att), transfer from Stal Mielec, Yan Sasse (mid), transfer from America Mineiro, Lucas Mauragis (def), loan from Newcastle Jets, Steven Ugarkovic (mid), transfer from Western Sydney Wanderers, Kosta Barbarouses (att), transfer from Sydney FC, Bozhidar Kraev (mid), transfer from FC Midtjylland.


Louis Fenton (def) (sp), retired, George Ott (att) (sp), transfer to Knights, Jaushua Sotirio (att) (r), transfer to Newcastle Jets, Reno Piscopo (att) (k), transfer to Newcastle Jets, James McGarry (def) (sp), transfer to Newcastle Jets, Luis Toomey (mid) (sp), transfer to P-Iirot, Gary Hooper (att) (r), transfer to Omonia Nicosia, Matthew Bozinovski (def) (sp), loan ended, Walter Gael Sandoval (mid) (k), loan ended.

As ever, New Zealand was hardly a hive of activity pre-season. Financially speaking, Phoenix struggle more than most in the A-League so either leave their signings as late as they can, or simply don't make any, instead favouring their academy produce (which has done them proud over the years e.g. Surman was excellent last season). They were glad last season ended when it did; they had too many injuries to contend with. Most of those players have now recovered though. Ins - have made some intriguing signings. Kraev is the pick of the litter; always looked very good in Denmark when played but struggled to establish a permanent place. Somewhat surprising he opted for New Zealand over another European club as he should really be too good for this level. Sasse looks another inspired recruit from the Americas, something that Phoenix are known for nowadays. He brings a spark to the final third, just like Sandoval last season, and Davila the season before him. Mauragis should give some cover for Sutton on the left. Zawada is supposed to be the new Hooper but has a questionable goal-scoring record. Ugarkovic is a good midfield controller and will help to offset the absence of Rufer somewhat. Barbarouses is the big name addition but honestly hasn't been a good player for a couple of years now. His pace is waning, his finishing poor, and confidence levels low. Still, if anyone can get him back to his best, it's Talay. Outs - the headline departure was mainstay Fenton, who was forced to retire from A-League football early in his career due to injury, although it's rumoured he will continue playing at a lower level. Mostly it was spares that they lost. Hooper was struggling with injuries and ageing rapidly so he's not a huge loss. McGarry looked good at LB when deployed there but had lost his starting berth to Sutton anyway. Piscopo and Sotirio are the big losses; they brought dynamism to the Phoenix attacks in wide areas, and afforded them a dangerous counter threat. Hard to imagine Barbarouses being able to help out in their stead nowadays, although Kraev and Sasse potentially could. It's going to be another tough campaign for Phoenix. At least time they'll get to play all of their home games in New Zealand, which has not happened for at least two years now. The big problem with this club will always be their lack of depth, and the same applies for this season. Their starting eleven is strong, and they've got a fantastic tactician in Ufuk Talay leading them, but if they lose any of their regulars then they're in serious hot water. They're already without Captain Rufer, who carries an injury from last season into this one; chances are good he won't play until March 2023. There are also fears that wonderkid Ben Waine will move to England; they had to reject a bid for him in late August. Likely to defend well but attack ineffectually. Plucky, but limited. Slow start possible despite battling nature. Likely key players - Sail, Wootton, Rufer, Ball.


Would consider it a good season if they made 4-7. If they keep regulars fit, they'll manage it. If not, 8-10 is more likely.