Taking stock of Wolves’ new eraBy: DJ | September 5th, 2012
After all the changes of the summer we can now sit back and take stock of where Wolves stand to attack the new season, with no more games until September 16th due to a break for International games. The departure of McCarthy seems like a long time ago now and we also have to get used to life without the likes of Fletcher, Jarvis and Kightly who we will have to remember last being on the field together in the second half of the pre season friendly at Bray Wanderers when Wolves knocked in 4 goals in 45 minutes. And now we also have seen the departure of long term coach Terry Connor which seems to symbolise the final step of the complete change that started straight after Wolves lost 5-1 at home to Albion in March.
Connor’s long service at the club will sadly be remembered mostly for his failed period as a manager at the end of last season and that will overshadow his role in helping a bunch of young and hungry players signed from lower league and non league teams to take Wolves to a three year stay in the top flight. In truth fans dont really know whether as a coach he is good, bad or indifferent at his job but a succession of managers at the club had faith and the players speak highly of him. But 13 years of hearing the same views and methods must have started to sound like a cracked record and the time was probably well overdue for a change. No surprise if when McCarthy finds another job he will be on the phone to Connor to join him as his right hand man.
For Wolves now its very much the Solbakken era thats in place along with his right hand man Johan Lange. They are being entrusted to return Wolves to the promised land but Chief Executive Jez Moxey has ominously warned fans that things may get worse before they get better. Four games into the new season, Wolves sit in 19th place in the league having lost both away games and got a win and a draw from two home games. It’s a start that has left the impression that it’s going to take a while for all the new faces to find their feet. Patiience may prove to be a key word over the coming months, and that is something football clubs and their supporters are not renowned for having. And although most supporters were recognising that they need to give the new manager and players time to find their feet, it will be interesting to see how many retain that attitude if Wolves remain closer to the wrong end of the table for a while.
The revised squad looks very different compared to last season and for that reason alone will take time to be at its best. Dorus De Vries was expected to be the main man to cover for the injured Wayne Hennessey for the first few months, but at the start of the season he was linked with a possible transfer to Liverpool and Solbakken decided to give a chance to Carl Ikeme. Although there were a couple of dodgy moments at Cardiff at the weekend, Ikeme has generally been excellent, and with Hennessey looking to be back in November the goal keeping department looks well covered.
It was a surprise during the summer transfer window that more changes were not made to the defensive line given that the goals against column has not been healthy in recent years. Whether Solbakken felt the players would be ok at Championship level, or whether he was not able to attract the right quality of new signings we dont know, but Georg Magreitter was the only new face and he has yet to make his league debut, after a League Cup debut at Northampton that evidently came all as a bit of a shock to the Austrian. Roger Johnson has had a good start to the season and seems to have put his poor first season with the club behind him. Berra replaced Stearman as his partner in the centre of defence after a couple of games and has been an improvement. Stephen Ward is prone to poor positioning defensively but is the best of the back four on the ball and is better than sometimes given credit for in defence. But Ronald Zubar has had a poor start to the season and with Foley still unfit his place may come under pressure from Stearman. Danny Batth and George Elokobi provide the other cover defensively and it may be that this is the part of the team that Solbakken might look to get in someone from a Premier League club during the loan window that exists for Championship teams for the next couple of months.
Midfield is where the Solbakken revolution is most evident. Doumbia, Sako, Boukari and Peszko have provided a multi national new look to this part of the team and along with Henry, Edwards, Davis, Forde and, when fit, O’Hara provide enough faces there. It is yet to be seen whether the new men will adapt well to the English game and will be able to make Wolves one of the better teams in the division. What we have seen from Doumbia and Sako certainly provides hope and it is too early to say with Boukari and Peszko. But the main issue will be to find the right blend to protect the defence and open up the opposition. Henry was certainly missed at Cardiff last week and Davis is the player most likely to be used as his cover, with Wolves looking too open without at least one of them. But the flair brought by the new players might turn out to be the main asset to the club and therefore the new players need to be given their head. So far Solbakken has been opting for a 4-4-2 formation but a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 line up might be the option if the new men prove to be successful and are to be found a place in the line up. A 4-2-3-1 line up with two from Henry, Doumbia and Davis playing deep, and then 3 from Sako, Boukari, Peszko, Edwards and O’Hara in the attacking positions looks one that could form a good balance.
In attack it has been Doyle and Ebanks Blake in all the league games so far. Doyle remains the most talented of the forward players but also does not look likely to score many. While SEB is the best finisher at the club but contributes less in the build up. We are yet to really see what Sigurdarsen can offer, while Nouble also looks a good finisher but doesn’t offer as much in his all round game. Whether a two man attack remains the formation of choice for Solbakken remains to be seen, but if he moves to one up front then the midfield players need to add their share of goals to compensate for the reduced strike force.
Predicting where Wolves will sit in the League table next May is certainly not easy right now. There will be some that believe there is enough quality in the players and have enough faith in the new manager that a promotion challenge can materialise. There are some that fear Wolves have made a huge mistake and that its all going to go pear shaped. Somewhere between those two positions is probably the most likely but it really could go anyway at all. There are six league games between the current international break and the next one in October;
Leicester at home September 16th
Ipswich away September 19th
Peterborough away September 22nd
Sheffield Wednesday home September September 29th
Crystal Palace home October 2nd
Blackburn away October 6th
Four wins and promotion will be well back on the agenda. Three wins and it will be mid table and we will all still be undecided. Less than that and the gloom merchants will be sharpening their knives. Time will tell but at the moment we are all waiting for that moment when as the club motto says, ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’.