Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay: ‘We’re good enough to make the finals’

Ufuk Talay says he hasn’t considered that Saturday’s season-defining game at Macarthur could be his last match in charge at Wellington Phoenix.

“I haven’t looked at it as our last week,” he says, as the Phoenix try to halt a form slump to qualify for finals football with a draw or better against the bottom-placed club.

“I know that the group is good enough to get themselves into the top six and then we’ll have a game after that and hopefully a home game and an away game in the finals series.”

The Phoenix visit bottom-of-the-table Macarthur on Saturday evening, knowing a draw will secure Wellington a place in the top six of the 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League.

Points have been hard to come by for the Nix in recent weeks, with one draw and four defeats from their past five matches. It’s the team’s worst run since the first five matches of Talay’s inaugural season.

‘It’s about sticking to the processes’

“We strongly believe in our processes, and that’s what got us through that first year when we lost those games,” he told media on Friday ahead of the team’s flight to Sydney.

“It’s about sticking to the processes and what we believe in and how we should play the game.

“If we start to be afraid that we’ve lost a few games in a row and we move away from our beliefs, it really makes life a lot more difficult.

“We need to stick to our processes, our principles, our beliefs and what we need to do, and we just need to execute a lot better.”

Talay has made it clear they’re “not going there to play for a draw”.

“I always want to finish on a high. The great thing is that it’s still in our own hands to make the top six.

“We’ll go with a positive mindset. We’ll go to try to win the game, and we’ll adjust accordingly as the game goes.

‘We must have a winning mindset’

“I know they will not be happy with where they’re sitting at the moment, Macarthur. I’m sure they don’t want to finish bottom of the table and end the season that way.

“I’m expecting them to come out and try to play and try to win the game as well, so it’s very important we go out with the mindset of trying to win the game.”

Three points would also give the Phoenix a confidence boost heading into the finals.

“It’ll be nice to get a win leading into the playoffs, but the reality is the year we didn’t make the top six we beat Macarthur 3-nil [in the final round] and they ended up getting through to the semis.

“Finals football is different. It’s a totally different mindset; the way that you set up and the way that you plan.

“[But] it’ll be great to win the game and go into the finals series with a win under your belt.”

‘We need desire and passion’

The Phoenix were held scoreless for the first time this season last Friday night, but most of the concern has been at the other end of the pitch, where the team has conceded 17 goals during their five game winless run.

“I think the group are smart enough to comprehend what we need to improve on.

“What I heavily rely on is our structure defensively and I think that’s been poor and that’s something we definitely have to improve on.

“At times, we’ve let ourselves down in one-vs-one moments. Sometimes the opponent has got the better of us.

“It’s not about being technically gifted. It’s just the desire and passion to get through games.”

Despite the form slump, Ufuk Talay is convinced the Nix are a top six side this season, and he hasn’t considered the possibility Saturday’s game could be his last match in charge.

“I don’t look at it being my last game. I know the group is good enough to get us to where we need to get to.

“For me, this is a nice rehearsal leading into finals football. It’s an important game that we need to get a result from, and finals football is the same once we get to that.”

Attacking midfielder Ben Old remains the only Wellington player unavailable to play Macarthur.


Game to be played on Saturday April 29, 2023

Macarthur v Wellington Phoenix
Campbelltown Stadium, NSW, 7pm (NZT)

How to watch

The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Past meetings

Most recent A-League meeting: 12 February 2023 – Macarthur FC 2 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 3W, Macarthur 2W & 2D.



1. Nick SUMAN (gk), 2. Jake McGING, 5. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6. Tomi USKOK, 8. Jake HOLLMAN, 9. Bachana ARABULI, 11. Kearyn BACCUS, 12. Filip KURTO (gk), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 14. Moudi NAJJAR, 17. Craig NOONE, 19. Jesper WEBBER, 20. Jason ROMERO, 24. Charles M’MOMBWA, 27. Jerry SKOTADIS, 31. Lachlan ROSE, 35. Al Hassan TOURE, 36. Ali AUGLAH, 41. Oliver JONES, 44. Matt MILLAR.
Unavailable: 7. Danny DE SILVA (injured), 10. Ulises DAVILA (injured), 99. Daniel ARZANI (injured).

Wellington Phoenix

3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. Nikko BOXALL, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).

Unavailable: 8. Ben OLD (injured).


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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