Wolves looking to move on from promising startBy: DJ | October 14th, 2012
The International break from Championship fixtures is always a good time to take stock and Wolves can be more than contented to be lying in 3rd place in the league table after the first ten games. And once the break is over its pretty well non stop league football through to the next mini break which sees the 3rd Round of the FA Cup take place on the first weekend of January. Thats 12 weeks away from now and by then Wolves will have played another 16 games and we will be into the second half of the season with a good idea how things are going to end up next May.
The first period of the season saw Wolves get 4 points from 4 games leading up to the first International break, and then get a highly encouraging 15 points from 6 games leading up to the current break. But this run of games until the new year will go a long way to defining the season and if Wolves are in a similar position after that time then there will certainly be cause for optimism. The two teams that Wolves were relegated with last May, Blackburn and Bolton, have both now dismissed their managers and are looking for replacements, but Wolves will be pleased with the start that Solbakken has made. He has made the team more solid and hard to beat, and done enough in attack to secure wins from most of the games. And the gamble that was taken when the club appointed it’s first foreign manager, and someone that few people in the Black Country had heard of, looks to have every chance of being a successful appointment.
The squad will be boosted soon by the return to action of number one goalkeeeper Wayne Hennessey. He is set to return to full training and could be available for consideration later in October. But he will not find it straight forward to walk back into the team because Carl Ikeme has had a good start to the season and is unlikely to be left out at this stage. It does raise the possibility though of the third senior keeper at the club, Dorus De Vries being made available for transfer or loan.
Defensively the back four have done well with Johnson, Berra and Ward establishing themselves as first choices. The fact that the two central midfielders have provided cover ahead of the defence has helped but it is credit to Solbakken that he persevered with Johnson who had such a poor first season with the club, and recalled Berra who Terry Connor had left out of his team at the end of last season and who subsequently went onto the transfer list. I am sure the new manager will be keen to stick with the two of them as they have been a key part of the achievement of getting clean sheets in the last three away league games.
The right back position has seen more changes than any other in the team so far this season. Zubar got the vote early on but had a poor start to the season. Then Stearman got a couple of games in that role before Foley was recalled when he became fully fit. There is no doubt that Foley is the most accomplished orthodox full back at the club and had a couple of excellent games on his return. The only threat to his position is that some managers like the idea of having a defensive line that can all win balls in the air and for that reason McCarthy often chose Stearman and even more so Zubar. At Blackburn last week Solbakken also saw the value of that when Blackburn resorted to throwing high balls into the Wolves penalty area. I think the majority of Wolves fans would like to see Foley get the chance to get his regular place back and get back to the form that made him the player of the season when Wolves were last at this level.
The centre of midfield has been succesfully occupied by Henry and Doumbia so far and when available I am sure thats how things will stay with Davis and Edwards providing cover. On the left of midfield Sako has been the main success story of the season so far and in recent games has looked the most likely to score or assist with any Wolves goals. His shooting and dead ball delivery are from the top drawer and he looks well capable of playing at a higher level, hopefully with Wolves.
On the right of midfield Peszko has tended to be first choice and has shown plenty of promise without imposing himself as much as Sako on the opposite side. Boukari also looks to have plenty to offer from what little we have seen of him. But both those players are set to be out of action until late November and Wolves have acted smartly to bring in Jermaine Pennant on loan from Stoke. It was a bit of a surprise, including to the Stoke supporters, that the Potters were prepared to let him go. But he has struggled to get a first team place since Kightly arrived from Wolves and he looks to be a very good replacement for the injured pair.
A midfield four of Pennant, Henry, Doumbia and Sako looks more than good enough to maintain Wolves momentum in the coming weeks and they will have additional competition in a month or so when Jamie O’Hara is expected to be fit to return to action. He will present a useful alternative in the midfield and additional help is likely to be needed as the fixtures come along thick and fast. And if there is a concern about Wolves being able to stay the distance in the quest for an immediate return to the Premier League it is a question mark over the depth of the squad, and injuries to some key players could affect Wolves more than most. And they may well lose a few players in the new year for duty at the African Cup of Nations.
Up front the paring of Doyle and Ebanks Blake has been the norm and with Doyle returning to his best form and SEB knocking in his share of goals it has worked well so far. It would be a boost if Doyle could add more goals to his excellent all round game and if SEB offered more in creating opportunities for himself and team mates but so far so good. Sigurdarsen is another of the Solbakken recruits that has shown promise and we wait to see if he can pressure the current first choices for a regular spot. If Wolves are looking to add fire power for the second half of the season then there may be a solution in their own ranks. Jake Cassidy is on loan at Tranmere who are top of League One and he has netted 7 in his last 6 games and has been named League One player of the month for September.
So on the near horizon now is a trip to Huddersfield on October 20th followed by two home games in a week with Bolton at Molineux on the 23rd and Charlton on the 27th. Two wins out of three would keep Wolves in a very strong position and if the form before the break can be maintained then that is not a forlorn hope.