The Italiano era officially begins at CommBank Stadium on Sunday, when the Phoenix men visit Western Sydney Wanderers in the first round of the new Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Despite reaching the finals in 3 of the past 4 years, Nix is still not ready to challenge for the top 6 this season and many experts are choosing the team as wooden spoons.
“I’m definitely missing something,” Italiano told the media.
“They need to know I don’t have to make those big calls.
“(Talking about) finishing last is something that will energize all players. I wouldn’t say it’s insulting, but I would say it’s very disrespectful, especially considering the quality of the team we have, with foreigners and also good young players who have played a lot international matches at youth level.
“It’s easy to pick on us because we haven’t brought in any senior recruits, but at the same time we have a lot of quality in the squad.
“We have a lot of good young players, the atmosphere in the team is very good and I think the fans will be excited to watch us play.”
It has a relatively stable squad, with 13 players returning from the 2022-23 season, highlighted by the club’s reigning men’s player of the year, Oskar Zawada, who scored 15 goals in the previous season.
“That’s why I think it’s a bit disrespectful for people to think we’re going to finish last with one of the best strikers in the league.
“We have experience and good firepower, so if we can be consistent in what we do and have confidence in the way we try to play, I think the results will come.”
Lukas Kelly-Heald, Fin Conchie, Isaac Hughes and Luke Supyk have all graduated from the club’s academy to earn first-team contracts and Italiano has great confidence in his young players.
“They haven’t been promoted for the sake of being promoted. We’ve spent many hours and had many discussions on who the right fit is and whether they have that quality.
“For me, the most important thing when it comes to young players is giving them an opportunity.
“There are going to be times during the season when we’re going to be tested and things might not go our way and that’s when we’ll see if I have enough belief in them to keep playing them.
(But) that’s what I feel I’m strong at.”
Alex Paulsen (21) is one of those players and has been vying with the experienced Australian goalkeeper Jack Duncan to be the men’s first-choice ‘keeper.
“I have confidence in my two goalkeepers,” said Italiano. “Alex is a promising young player, uses his feet very well, is confident and is really good in the group.
“Same thing with Jack.
Jack is doing great. He has developed very well over the past two months. We feel like we’ve developed it to the point where we’re confident it can fit our system as well.
“There’s a really healthy competition between the two and whoever starts will do a good job for us.”
Unfortunately, Giancarlo Italiano does not have a fully fit squad to choose from in the first round.
Left-back Sam Sutton and striker Oskar van Hattum are both ruled out of Sunday’s match against Wanderers due to injury, while Supyk and experienced striker David Ball are doubts after picking up injuries during the game The team’s final pre-season game against the team.
Win Melbourne. Last weekend.
Western Sydney won convincingly in the last meeting between the two teams in April (4-0) and are looking to win back-to-back games against Phoenix for the first time in five years.