Where to now for Wolves?By: DJ | February 22nd, 2013
Just over a year after the sacking of Mick McCarthy for not making progress up the Premier League table, and three managers later, Wolves stand on the precipice of dropping into the third tier of English football for the first time since 1992. It’s a prospect that few saw coming even after a poor first half to the season that lead to Solbakken’s sacking. And there has always been that feeling that surely at some stage the players would prove to be too good to be in this position. But it hasn’t happened, Saunders is still looking for a win after 7 games in charge, and the mood has changed quickly from a disbelief that things could be so bad to a growing realisation that relegation is more probable than possible.
There is certainly a large queue of people in the firing line for blame from the supporters for the predicament the club find themselves in. Chairman Steve Morgan for making some poor decisions around the managerial position and for deciding to invest in the stand and academy facilities when more was needing to be spent on the team. Moxey who as Chief Exec is seen as being too tight on the purse strings when speculative investment would have put the team on a stronger footing. McCarthy for sticking with a playing squad that had stagnated. Connor for the end of season collapse that saw Wolves lose their top tier status with a whimper. Solbakken for talking a good show but demonstrating no ability to implement what he talked about. And so far Saunders is not showing that he can find the results that are needed. And through all that a playing staff that have not played to their capability for a long time and have turned being in the habit of losing into an art form.
But what is more important to the club and the genuine supporters is not who to blame but how Wolves arrest the slide and firstly avoid relegation and then get the club back heading in the right direction.
And that first priority of avoiding the drop is not going to be easy to achieve. Current form is very poor. No wins in the last 11 games. And only a blip of three wins in four games in December stands between that current bad run and an autumn run that saw no wins in 9 games. And yet amidst that there has been some encouragement in the recent performances under Saunders. Wolves were worth a draw at Leicester 4 games ago, it would have been a travesty if they hadn’t got a last minute equaliser against Leeds, they showed some new found defensive solidity in the goalless draw at Derby and looked the more likely team to find a winner, and were by far the better team in the first half at Barnsley. So there is some hope that if one win could be found that the foundations are there to achieve some improved results.
Having said that the next few games look eminently losable. Top of the table Cardiff are at Molineux on Sunday and then the following Friday Watford come to town as the division’s best team on current form. With Wolves already two points adrift of safety and with the three teams above them all having played a game less, the league table isn’t going to look very healthy if they don’t win either of those next two games.
Saunders has changed the defence in moves that many felt were well overdue. Danny Batth has been outstanding, Gorkss looks a solid no nonsense partner for him and Robinson a promising full back. And with Foley looking more like his old self there is hope of less goals being conceded. But can the team score enough? Danny Batth’s goal against Leeds was the only time so far in 2013 that Wolves have found a second goal in a game.
In the midfield there seems to be automatic places for Sako and O’Hara who offer the most hope of some creativity. But none of the other large number of midfield players at the club are stamping themselves on games. Skipper Karl Henry has not looked as effective a player since being persuaded to change his game after a series of incidents in the Premier League left him with the unenviable image of public enemy number one. Doumbia has been in and out of the team through injury and has looked everything from a star to a passenger at different times. Davis has shown glimpses of promise as has Peszko but not enough to seal a permanent place in the team. And Edwards is one of many tried on the right of midfield to no great effect.
Amongst the strikers, Kevin Doyle has struggled for goals for a long time and that has finally shot his confidence and his all round game has looked shot in recent games. Ebanks Blake has found a few goals but his overall game has not been great and the goals look to have dried up for him too. Sigurdarson has promise and his pace would always make him a threat. Whether he has the strength to battle through against defences in the english league is at question but he is the most worthy of persevering with on current form. While Cassidy after being a great success at League One level with Tranmere is probably worth more chances given Batth’s success in the team after a successful loan at the same level.
You would have thought amongst that lot there is enough ability to make a mark at this level but the evidence of the results is proving otherwise. And maybe Saunders needs to take the breaks off a little and have faith in the attacking ability in the team rather than focusing on trying to be harder to beat. Wolves have scored the first goal in 16 games this season and only gone on to win 7 of those games. That may well be in part due to Saunders, like Solbakken before him, looking like he is prone to protecting what he has rather than killing teams off. And that was more than evident at Barnsley in midweek when they outplayed their opponents first half and then surrendered the initiative after the break.
One way or another Saunders has to find the solution to winning games quickly. Because a difficult position could become impossible very soon if he doesnt.