Merrick’s advice to Finkler: ‘Defend less!’

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has revealed he’s trying to get new attacking midfielder Gui Finkler to work less in defence.

Finkler signed for Phoenix from Melbourne Victory at the end of last season and although Merrick has been thrilled with the Brazilian’s progress in yellow and black, the Scotland-born coach has one problem with the 30-year-old.

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Merrick wants Finkler to “cheat a little bit” and stay high up the pitch to help catch opposition sides on the counterattack.

Gui Finkler

“The surprising thing with Gui is he’s been too conscientious in defence,” Merrick told reporters on Thursday.

“I want him to cheat a little bit and not track too far back into our back third, so that when we win the ball, he’s in the middle third ready to play the ball out. 

“His service, particularly to Kosta [Barbarouses], who he’s known for a while, and to Roy [Krishna] and Hamish [Watson] has been first class.

“So I’m trying to get him to work less in defence.”

While few coaches would publicly call for a player to “work less”, Merrick’s demands of Finkler may come down to Wellington’s fitness, which the 63-year-old claims is at the best level he’s seen during his three years at Phoenix.

Wellington have played seven pre-season matches in the lead-up to the 2016-17 A-League campaign and have won every one, with the only negative of the past few months being their FFA Cup elimination in August.

Wellington Phoenix's Gui Finkler, Hamish Watson and Kosta Barbarouses celebrate a goal in the FFA Cup.

“Our level of fitness, our work-rate during matches, has been higher than it’s ever been, and we’re tracking that with GPS,” Merrick said.

“So given the fact that we keep winning games and we don’t concede many goals, we must be doing something right. I’m certainly happy with the pre-season, I feel as so it’s the best we’ve had since I’ve been at the club.”

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