Unbeaten in six games, Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano says his men’s A-League side’s impressive defensive record is no accident.
Speaking after his side went two points clear at the top of the table, Italiano gave credit to assistant coach Adam Griffiths and goalkeeper coach Ruben Parker.
He said they had devised a strategy of starving opponents of clearcut chances at the expense of giving up more shots at goal.
“I give them the freedom to work their blueprint, and it’s been working well,” Italiano said.
“I think if you look at the chance creation, even though we do concede quite a number of shots, they’re not clean-cut opportunities where you know, for example, one-on-one or 2v2s.
“They’re more half-chances in the box with a lot of numbers behind the ball, and that’s done by design.”
The coaches behind the blueprint
Griffiths, a former Socceroos defender, joined the Phoenix this year after previously being at Western Sydney Wanderers, who had the best defensive record in last season’s A-League, conceding 27 goals in 26 matches.
Parker is in his first full men’s A-League season as goalkeeper coach, promoted to the men’s first-team staff from the Phoenix academy last December.
How this season compares
Football broadcaster Jason Pine has pointed out it’s taken the Phoenix only six games this season to achieve three clean sheets.
Pine said via his X account:
“Previously, the earliest they’ve reached that many in a season is nine games (2012/13 and 2016/17).
“In the last four seasons, it took 17, 20, 17 and 17 games. In 07/08 and 17/18, they only kept two all season.”