Paul Ifill is at a loss to explain his quiet start to the A-League campaign.
Wellington Phoenix’s playmaker has managed just one assist in six games so far and has struggled to impose himself on opponents.
His muted performances have mirrored those of Jeremy Brockie who has also found it tough going playing as an outright striker alongside Stein Huysegems.
After scoring 18 goals in pre-season in that position – when his combination down the right flank with Ifill flourished – Brockie didn’t get on the score sheet until the fifth-round loss against Melbourne Victory.
Ifill is unsure what the answer is to getting out of the current slump.
“Do you swap us around? Is he a striker? Am I a striker?” he mused.
“Both of us are very similar in that we’re probably better having a free role. But you can’t have two in a team having a free role. That’s the conundrum for Ricki (coach Ricki Herbert).
“We’ve got to find a way of getting us in the team and getting us playing.
“At the moment it doesn’t seem to be happening and I don’t know why,” admitted Ifill.
“Brocks has been making good runs. Sometimes I haven’t been able to find him. Sometimes I’ve not been getting on the ball enough.”
Ifill had a disrupted pre-season with groin and ankle injuries but doesn’t believe that is playing any part in his current malaise.
“I don’t put my lack of form down to any injury. I put it down to just a lack of form. It happens,” he said.
“In season two I had a little bit of a bad time for one reason or another … it just happens in football. I’m sure I’ll come out of it again. I did then.
“I’m pretty fit now and it’s just not happening. I suppose you go away and look at videos and work out what you need to do better.”
The English-born, Barbadian international has been pouring over the videos in the search for answers.
One thing that has been noticeable to him is that there are more attacking options available this season with the introduction of youngster Louis Fenton, who likes to run at opponents, and Huysegems, who is a good target man up front.
That means Ifill is not being given the ball by his team-mates as much as he was in previous years when he was the only real playmaker.
“Maybe I’ve got to go and get the ball – but in better positions,” said Ifill.
“That’s one thing I have noticed, I’m going and picking it up in front of the back four and off the fullbacks. Last year I was probably picking it up most of the time in the final third where I can go and do damage. It’s just tweaking little things.”
But after three successive losses and just one win in six games the Phoenix need to find the solution. Ifill however, remains pragmatic about his situation and the run of results which has left Wellington ninth on the ladder heading into away games against Newcastle on Sunday and Perth the following weekend.
“When you go three losses on the bounce everybody gets a bit excited and it has to be fixed straight away. Everybody gets a bit worried,” he said.
“But I know where we are. I know what football is like so I’m sure we’ll bounce back.
“You look at last year and we were in the same sort of position and everybody was saying it was pivotal. You’re going away, you’ve got two games, you’ve got to go and win now and we did.
“You look back at that and look at the video and work out how we did it and how we went about our business. I don’t see any reason why we can’t go there (Hunter Stadium) and win.”