Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick has hailed the influence of new signings Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler and believes his side now boasts a greater attacking force than last season.
Phoenix secured the duo from Melbourne Victory towards the end of the 2015/2016 season and they have formed a formidable strike-force alongside Roy Krishna and Roly Bonevacia.
“Up front Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses has made a huge difference to our attacking line-up,” Merrick told reporters on Friday.
“And it’s pulled everyone else into a more organised bunch that seem to relate well and know what each other’s doing.
“Those little passes in behind the defence and the is movement very quick, so not only are we a better strike force but I think we’re defending better.”
Merrick admitted bringing foreign players to the club is always a risk but said players with proven A-League success are far more reliable options than visa players from other parts of the globe.
“If you know how good they are and what to expect and you know their personality’s because they’ve been in the league for two or three years and they’ve won a championship, it’s a much safer signing,” Merrick said.
“We signed last year Jeffrey Sarpong. We flew him over here but really he never got off the plane. Technical as he was, he never did a job for us.
“These boys [Finkler and Barbarouses] are doing a job for us.”
Wellington head to Townsville on Friday for a seven-day training camp which features a friendly against Melbourne City before traveling to Sydney to tackle the Mariners on September 17.
Merrick says the trip will be used to help the team acclimatise to warmer conditions ahead of the new season and also to help the players understand the club’s vision.
“Part of the reason is our second match is against Perth and we wanted to acclimatise somewhat. So it will be pretty heavy training with a couple of matches,” he said.
“And [it gives us] a chance to talk about our values, standards, culture and what our goals are.
“When you get away you can also have not only team meetings but one on ones with all the players just to make sure there is a clarity around our roles and expectations of the club and where we want to go this year.”