Half time in Solbakken’s first Wolves seasonBy: DJ | December 24th, 2012
Wolves have now played 23 of the 46 league games this season and sit just below half way in the league following a good start, a serious slump and a recent improvement. And when we sit back and say ‘what do you think of it so far’ with regard to the Solbakken era, I think the majority would say it has been ok at best, while being of the view that the jury is still out.
He inherited a team that had been through three years of relegation battles and one that had ended 2011/12 on a real low so had the problem of picking up a team that had got into the habit of losing football matches. On the positive side he was joining a club in a good financial position that had the luxury of being able to fully compensate for the reduced income resulting from relegation by selling only two players, Fletcher and Jarvis. Add to that the sale also of players like Kightly and Guedioura and it meant that Solbakken had a significant transfer budget for a Championship club that enabled him to bring in Sigurdarson, Sako, Doumbia, Boukari, Peszko, Nouble and Magreitter.
It is interesting to compare that starting point with the time that McCarthy started with the club. At the time the best players had also just left with the likes of Lescott, Miller, Camara, Cameron, Ince, Kennedy and Oakes departing and leaving the club with a first team squad of around 14 players. And McCarthy had to bring in players from the likes of Gillingham, Luton, Scunthorpe, Bohemians and Grays before taking Wolves to the play offs in his first season.
Solbakken, as well as spending considerably more in his first transfer window, also inherited Premier League signings Johnson and Doyle, plus O’Hara and Hunt when fit. And a series of players that had proven themsleves well capable at a Championship level like Foley, Ward, Berra, Henry and Ebanks Blake. So the ingredients were there for him to start off from a much better base than his predecessor.
To be fair to Solbakken, we dont fully know yet how much his new players will bring to the team. Sako has been an unqualified success and Doumbia started well before struggling with the pace and regularity of games. Peszko was ok early season before getting injured, and Boukari was hardly seen before too getting injured. There has been plenty of promise recently from Sigurdarson while Nouble and Magreitter were always like to start off as squad members only. Added to that Hennessey has been out long term although Ikeme’s progress has meant he has not been missed, and O’Hara and Hunt are yet to play this season although it’s not easy to see where they will fit in to the current team shape. Edwards is another to have picked up a long term injury.
The recent run of 3 wins in 4 games has improved the league position and with some players now returning from injury and the prospect of a couple of new additions in the January transfer market there is reason to believe that more points can be picked up in the second half of the season than the first half. But if we looked at what has happened in the first half of the season it would be difficult to argue that much has improved under the new man’s era. He has not got the best out of the group of players he has had available, the team look not much more secure defensively despite playing with two defensive midfield players, are no more creative and are not scoring many. The modern passing game that seems to have been an expectation has been little in evidence so far. And from an entertainment point of view it has often been pretty dull to watch with a slow pace to the games and little attacking goalmouth action. Even Friday’s win at Blackpool was achieved against a backcloth of 24 attempts on goal by the home team and only 5 for Wolves.
There are two more games to go in 2012 and they look to be winnable home games against Peterborough on Boxing Day and McCarthy’s Ipswich on Saturday. And good results in those games could see Wolves start 2013 in the top half of the league and in a good positon to launch a play off bid that would tip the season into a positive for Solbakken. But that is something he is in need of doing if he is to retain the faith of the supporters that he is the right man to lead Wolves back to the top flight.
A more positive style of play, and at least a push towards the top 6 are what most supporters want to see in the new year. And the two home games this week look like a good chance to set that up.