Vince Lia has offered a blunt warning to Wellington Phoenix’s Hyundai A-League rivals wanting to stop their rejuvenated attack: ‘good luck!’
Phoenix head into the new season – which starts with a home clash against Melbourne City on Saturday – not only with a point to prove but with a classy front third.
Former Melbourne Victory stars Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler have come on board, joining the likes of Roy Krishna, Michael McGlinchey, Hamish Watson and Roly Bonevacia.
“How do you stop those five? You can’t,” an excited Lia told www.a-league.com.au at the season launch on Tuesday.
“Last year once we lost Roy [Krishna to injury]. Teams knew they could probably double up on Roly and McGlinchey and you stop our threat.
“But this year it’s going to be very difficult for teams to stop us, especially if we’re playing well and to our potential. We’re going to be hard to stop.”
As well as Barbarouses and Finkler, coach Ernie Merrick has added Italian defender Marco Rossi to the squad as well as the likes of Adam Parkhouse and Jacob Tratt from the PS4 NPL NSW.
“There’s a similar feeling to two years ago when we signed Roly and Burnsy [Caltex Socceroo Nathan Burns} and had a good year,” Lia said.
“You need to start well and make top four and get a home final, it then just rolls on from there.
“We’ve worked a hell of a lot on our back four. Pushing up, dropping off and how to concede less goals is the main aim. It’s working well but we’ll see how it goes once the season kicks off.”
But don’t think that means Phoenix will adjust to become a defensive side and alter the attacking style Merrick encourages so much.
“He’s [Merrick] never going to change his philosophy and it’s a good one, it’s what the fans want to see,” the 31-year-old midfielder said.
“Goals win you games and we’ve got that in the squad definitely.
“There’s no excuses now. We’ve got a good team and if we keep everyone fit and on the field, which was an issue last year why we fell away.
“When you lose Siggy [Ben Sigmund] one of our main centre backs and Roy, our main avenue to goal, it makes it hard. This year we have good players and good depth and if you can keep everyone fit you go a long way to doing well.”
While the goal is ultimately making the finals, Lia says it’s important to start the season on the front foot which won’t be easy against Bruno Fornaroli’s free-scoring Melbourne City.
“Home ground advantage for us in the past has been a big thing, we’ve lost that a bit and we want to get it back and make Westpac a fortress again,” he said.
“Round one is going to be tough, they’ve spent a lot of money and signed some very good players. It’s a good challenge for us to see where we’re at.”