Analysis: Glory’s aerial power a warning for Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix should expect an aerial and physical assault from Perth Glory when they take on Kenny Lowe’s troops in their Hyundai A-League Round 22 clash in Auckland on Saturday.

Glory lead the A-League for goals from set-pieces and are second for headed goals, while no team is more successful in one-on-one duels whether on the ground or in the air.

Perth rose to third in the table last week with a 2-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers and are building momentum towards the finals as they chase a maiden A-League championship.

Hyundai A-League preview: Phoenix v Glory

Lowe’s side finished February alongside second-placed Melbourne Victory as the most successful team in the A-League for that month with 10 points from four matches.

Perth Glory players celebrate Chris Harold's first-half strike in their win over Western Sydney Wanderers.

With the oldest average age (25.88 – based on players used) of any team this season, Glory appear to have the experience, physicality and attacking firepower to go far in 2016-17.

Aerial bombardment

Perth have scored five headed goals this season – behind only Melbourne City – and converted a league-high eight times from set-pieces such as corners, throw-ins or free-kicks.

Take a look at the likes of Dino Djulbic, Rhys Williams, Rostyn Griffiths and Andy Keogh and it’s no surprise that Glory thrive when the ball is in the air, although the delivery from wide areas and dead-ball situations shouldn’t be underestimated.

Glory striker Adam Taggart celebrates scoring his side's second equaliser against Brisbane on Saturday night.

The men in purple lead the A-League for completed crosses (31.6%) and only two teams have attempted more crosses in total.

Glory have won 57.6 per cent of aerial duels, which has also benefitted them in defence as they have conceded a competition-low three goals from set-pieces.

While Perth’s defensive record is poor this season – 37 goals conceded in 21 matches – they have allowed the lowest percentage of headed goals (8%) of any team.

An efficient machine

Throughout the first 105 A-League matches this season, the team with more possession has only won 30 times.

Perth represent a clear example of this trend as they have attempted the fewest passes and have the lowest average possession throughout the A-League but have lost just six of 21 matches.

Glory are efficient when they do have the ball, however, as their shot conversion rate (18.4%) is only behind Victory.

Andy Keogh celebrates one of his two goals against the Reds on Friday night.

Perth have scored 40 goals in 2016-17 to have the third-best attack in the A-League.

Wellington can’t afford to give Perth too many opportunities but on the flipside, the Phoenix can expect to open up the visitors defence on a regular basis at QBE Stadium as the Glory have allowed five shots per game this season – only Central Coast Mariners (6.4) give up more opportunities.

Physical doesn’t mean dirty

While Glory are unmatched when it comes to duels – they have won 53.3 per cent this campaign – they seemingly pick and choose when to use their strength as seven clubs have been involved in more one-on-one contests this season.

For any critics that might claim the Western Australians are on-pitch bullies, Perth have conceded the second-lowest total of free-kicks (282) this term.

For example against Western Sydney last week, Glory won 61.5 per cent of the 130 duels at nib Stadium and made 22 tackles to 16 but the Wanderers fell afoul of the referee more often, conceding 17 fouls to 13.

Thomas Broich gets a pass away ahead of a challenge from Glory skipper Rostyn Griffiths.

In the lead-up to the clash with Wellington, Lowe indicated that Perth’s season will be defined by their desire to work hard and embrace individual contests.

“We’ve got enough quality and enough ability in the team to stay [third in the table] but that’s got to be a personal choice individually, unit-wise and collectively as a team that they make that extra five yards here, five yards there in the game. 

“Whether to stop the ball or score a goal – the choice is theirs,” he said.