Any A-League team expecting an easy ride against the Wellington Phoenix this season is in for a nasty surprise, according to born-again defender Tom Doyle.
Two games into a season is usually too early to judge a team's pedigree but Doyle insists their opening 2-1 win at home to Newcastle, followed by a 0-0 draw away to Brisbane aren't one-off results from the perennial strugglers.
In fact such are their expectations under new coach Mark Rudan, they came away disappointed not to get three points against the Roar.
It starts with a formation of three at the back not employed by any other team but which Doyle says suits their approach.
The formation will be employed again when they host Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.
The introduction of former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor has been critical, forming a sinewy trio alongside Doyle and captain Andrew Durante.
Most of Doyle's 70 Phoenix matches have been as a more traditional left back but he is thriving alongside two of the league's most venerable figures.
"There were a lot of things that were missing last year. A fella like Steven brings a lot to the changing room, the culture and obviously off the field," Doyle said.
"It adds a bit of comfort to your game when you've got someone like that next to you.
"He's been to places we want to go so I'll try to learn as much as I can from him this season."
Taylor attracted most headlines in Brisbane for his howling miss when presented with a close-range open goal early on.
While the Englishman was later distraught at butchering his team's best chance, the team had moved on.
"He played a great game and it was one kick of the ball. You'll always hear about that but you'll never hear about the 30 things he did right," Doyle said.
The winless Wanderers are unlikely to take anything for granted against the rejuvenated hosts but Doyle wonders if are there are teams, and pundits, who still think the Phoenix will be cannon fodder in 2018-19.
He said he has become used to such talk, which was potentially justified during last year's shambolic campaign but is wide of the mark under Rudan.
"What they don't realise is we've got a whole different environment, different players and a different community at this club.
"If they're going to come preparing for the team they played last year, they're going to be in for a big shock this year."