The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers take on Wellington Phoenix this Sunday in a pre-season friendly. Here’s what both clubs have done in the off-season.
Members will receive 200 WSW Rewards Points for attending the first match at Pirtek Stadium since the new stadium announcement when Western Sydney Wanderers take on Wellington Phoenix on Sunday 13 September. Kick-off is 6pm and tickets are available here.
Quiet across the ditch
In terms of player recruitment, last season’s fourth place finishers have enjoyed a settled off-season. Outside the departure of Johnny Warren Medalist Nathan Burns, the most significant alteration to Ernie Merrick’s Phoenix comes in the form of a change in formation with Merrick considering a switch to three at the back.
Having only played bit part roles last season, the likes of Jason Hicks, Josh Brindall-South and Tyler Boyd have been moved on whilst Burns himself will ply his trade for FC Tokyo in the J-League.
Despite his excellent form at the end of last season, defender Michael Boxall has jetted off to South Africa with SuperSport United and Costa Rican livewire Kenny Cunningham, who made just one start from 16 appearances last season, has returned home with CS Herediano.
Having removed most of the deadwood from his ever-improving outfit, Ernie Merrick has brought in a signing of genuine quality in a bid to challenge for top honours this season, and his name is Jeff.
Phoenix fans will hope dual Ghanaian/Dutch national Jeffrey Sarpong is the man to fill the attacking void left by Burns. No pressure for the former Ajax and Sociedad man – Burns contributed to almost half of the Phoenix’s Hyundai A-League goals last season in the form of 13 goals and seven assists. Both sets of fans might get a glimpse of one the biggest captures of the off-season Sunday.
Merrick has also added further depth in the forward positions with the signing of former Sydney FC striker Blake Powell, who signed from APIA Leichhardt in the NSW NPL.
Ch-ch-changes at Western Sydney
In comparison to the Phoenix’s relatively stable off-season, we’ve seen an exodus of mass proportions at the Wanderers.
With 17 names heading out the door, Wellington will face a shell of the Wanderers side that defeated them 2-0 at Pepper Stadium last February. Only three players from the starting eleven that day remain – Mark Bridge, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamill.
Whereas the luxury signing of Sarpong is almost the sole highlight of Wellington’s transfer business, Tony Popovic, faced with a huge rebuilding task, has turned to both Hyundai A-League know-how and European flair.
Newcastle duo Jacob Pepper and Scott Neville were brought in to add versatility and depth whilst Scott Jamieson and Andrew Redmayne have already put forward strong cases for the starting eleven.
Mitch Nichols returns to the Eastern Seaboard after a stint in Japan and Perth whilst Italian forward and marquee Federico Piovacarri arrived down under to add experience and goals.
But undoubtedly the story of the off-season for the Wanderers has been an influx of Spanish recruits – the Spanish acquisition, if you will – in the form of Andreu, Alberto Aguilar, Dimas Delgado and assistant coach Andres Carrasco.
Full list of player arrivals/departures
Blake Powell (APIA Leichhardt)
Jeffrey Sarpong (NAC Breda)
Michael Boxall (SuperSport United)
Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimaraes)
Jason Hicks (released)
Josj Bindall-South (released)
Kenny Cunningham (released)
Nathan Burns (FC Tokyo)
Western Sydney Wanderers
Andrew Redmayne (Melbourne City)
Scott Jamieson (Perth Glory)
Scott Neville (Newcastle Jets)
Jacob Pepper (Newcastle Jets)
Andrea (Racing Santander)
Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka)
Federico Piovaccari (Sampdoria)
Dimas Delgado (Recreativo)
Alberto Aguilar (Ponferradina)
Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown)
Ante Covic (Perth Glory)
Yusuke Tanaka (Cerezo Osaka)
Jason Trifiro (released)
Nick Ward (released)
Adrian Madaschi (released)
Yianni Perkatis (Blacktown City)
Nikita Rukavytsya (Beitar Jerusalem)
Sam Galloway (released)
Kerem Bulut (Iraklis)
Tomi Juric (Roda JC)
Nick Kalmar (released)
Antony Golec (Perth Glory)
Steve Kuzmanovski (Melbourne City)
Yojiro Takahagi (FC Seoul)
Iacopo La Rocca (Adelaide United)
Mateo Poljak (Newcastle Jets)
Labinot Haliti (Newcastle Jets)