Pre season ending now for WolvesBy: DJ | August 5th, 2012
Wolves played their final public pre season friendlies this weekend and now only next Saturday’s League Cup game against Aldershot at Molineux remains before the league season starts at Leeds on August 18th. New manager Stale Solbakken will now be forming a picture of the team he wants to send out at Leeds and the players will be getting to understand what the new man in charge is wanting from them. There may well be some changes to the squad to come with transfers out and in before the window closes on September 3rd but we can start to form an opinion now on what the new season looks like it might hold in store.
The pre season games saw wins at Bray Wanderers 5-1, and Walsall 3-0, then a 2-2 draw at Shrewbury. And the warm ups were rounded off with a 2-0 Friday night win at Telford with 2 Michael Kightly goals and then a 2-0 defeat at Premier League newcomers Southampton on Saturday. The final round of games saw no participation from Fletcher. Jarvis, Doyle, O’Hara and De Vries who were all evidently carrying minor injuries but these are all players that have been linked with moves away from the club in recent weeks. And with Christophe Berra and Adam Hamill also having been transfer listed there may yet be a significantly different look to the squad by the end of the month.
One of the factors that has become apparent as pre season has progressed, is that Solbakken seems to favour a more solid and compact midfield rather than the wide players we have become used to seeing in the McCarthy era. The early games at Bray and Walsall saw a few goals being knocked in but Fletcher, Doyle, Jarvis and Kightly were prominent in that attacking. But the question marks will remain as to how much goalscoring threat Wolves will possess if some or most of those four players were to leave in the summer. Nouble has knocked in a couple of pre season goals and Sigurdarsen has got a couple of games under his belt but with the best will in the world they dont look as threatening as the aforementioned four players. And at Southampton Solbakken selected a midfield including Henry, Davis and new man Tongo Doumbia, a loanee from Rennes, and that gave the look of a defensive and solid line up with little flair or creativity. That selection may have been driven by players availability with a number of players evidently carrying minor injuries, but it will cause some anxiety from supporters if that proves to be the new Wolves style, even though the will to reduce the number of goals conceded does need to be a priority.
From what we know of the squad at the moment and from what we have seen in pre season we can draw a few conclusions. With Wayne Hennessey out injured until October at least the competition for the goalkeeper jersey rests between De Vries, Ikeme and youngster McCarey. De Vries would almost certainly be first choice but his former manager at Swansea, Brendan Rogers, is evidently interested in taking him to Liverpool. And that rumour has gained further credence with Wolves taking the former Hearts keeper Marian Kello, a 29 year old Slovakian international, on trial. If De Vries sticks around then he will surely be first choice at the start of the season, but if not then opportunity may well knock for Carl Ikeme.
It will be no surprise if Solbakken brings in a defender or two during August but with Christophe Berra having been made available for transfer it all points to Stearman and Johnson being the first choice for the initial fixtures. Thats not a partnership that will inspire Wolves fans based on last season’s form so they will be hoping that Stearman can wipe out the unforced errors that blight his game, and that Johnson shows significant improvement on his poor first season with the club. If Berra goes then Danny Batth looks like the only competition for that pairing although a new face will almost certainly be found.
For the full back positions Ronald Zubar and Stephen Ward appear to be in prime position with Kevin Foley, George Elokobi amd Matt Doherty as challengers for a start. With Solbakken seemingly favouring a narrow midfield, the overlapping ability of Zubar and Ward will likely see them in prime position.
We have been used to seeing wingers in the McCarthy era at Wolves but that looks like it might be changing under the new manager. He seems to favour a solid midfield and with Jarvis and Kightly wanted by Premier League teams, Hamill transfer listed, Hunt yet to show his best for the club with any consistency, and Forde not yet the finished article, it could be a very different looking midfield set up for Wolves this season. Henry and Davis provide a solid line in front of the defence, while Doumbia provides a strong physical presence and David Edwards provides plenty of running but not creativity. So that leaves O’Hara and Milijas to potentially offer some flair from the centre, but the midfield set up looks like being the pivotal area by which Solbakken’s new style will be revealed.
Up front Fletcher and Doyle would potentially be outstanding at this level. but will one of them or even both still be here in a month’s time? Ebanks Blake is still around and although he never consistently looked the part in the Premier League he was the best striker outside the top flight when Wolves were last at this level and it would be a major boost if that goalscoring knack could be rekindled. Nouble is a big physical presence in the Carlton Cole mould and was a prolific scorer in his days as a Chelsea youth player. Wolves will be hoping he can fulfil the potential he showed then, while Sigurdarsen arrived with a big reputation from Norway and we wait to see how well he adapts to the faster and more physical game in England,
So there is a little we have learned and a lot still to learn about what Wolves will look like under Solbakken, and there is still a lot of uncertainty about what players will be staying and who will be leaving in August. Difficult to predict therefore how close Wolves will come to bouncing back to the Premier League at the first attempt. But there is a will amongst the fans for Solbakken to be successful and a mood to allow patience for him to bring his style to the team and achieve long lasting success when he gets it right. Not long to wait now for the new season to start and hopefully it will be a lot cheerier season than the one we are still trying to forget.