Wolves 2 Aston Villa 2

When three daft men, dressed as old women, were pratting around to Gangnam Style at half time, it had me wondering if they really were a dance troupe called the Fizzogs, or an ode to our midfield for the opening half hour.

Wolves Villa

The trio of lunatics tried desperately hard to keep up and worked their bloomers off to impress, but ended up doing little to lighten the mood around Molineux…

…And that was just David Edwards, Kevin McDonald and Conor Coady.

But just when the warning signs were beginning to flash brighter than Carl Ikeme’s lime green kit under lights, things started to look up.

Whatever the narrow system was being employed by Kenny Jackett, (was it 4-3-1-2 or a diamond formation?) it wasn’t working, with David Edwards deployed ‘on the left’, only to hold hands with Coady and McDonald in a pretty linear line-up.

We were one down, it could have been 3 or 4 and the alarm bells were ringing. The first Villa goal, in fact, was a result of that natural lack of width we deployed, with no player positionally versed in closing down the vast chasms of space down the left hand side of Molineux’s lush turf.

But then full backs Iorfa and Golbourne pushed on and we looked a different team.

Coady, McDonald and Edwards took turns to push-on and sit and we looked like a pretty fluid side posing plenty of problems.

Dicko could have scored two, others went close and the players grew into the game to eventually finish the stronger.

A draw was probably fair in an entertaining game, with Coady a clear man-of-the-match contender. He really does look like a top player in the making, pushing forward to win a great tackle and assisting Dicko to lay on the late leveller.

The worry is that an injury to our lively front two will render us completely impotent, while a natural left sided replacement for Sako – which was promised – is desperately needed.

In the absence of which, this full-back focused formation will become our new ‘Plan A’, with the pragmatic Kenny Jackett knowing it’s a safer bet than waiting for some squad reinforcements.

Unless those Fizzogs in the boardroom pull their fingers out fast, it’s what we will all have to get used to.

Highlights

The audit

There’s a storm coming.

Storm

Clouds are gathering overhead and an angry mob are sharpening their pitchforks as the incoming transfer activity they perceive essential shows little sign of materialising.

With so much angst, a slow start to the season may bring forth a deluge of misery.

But are the doom mongers right or is the bluster about a lack of signings simply an over reaction?

This was after all a squad that amassed 78 points last season and has only been weakened by the loss of one significant player (Kuszczak doesn’t count on the basis I never rated him).

Two new players have also been added, one of which reportedly cost several million pounds.

So why the panic?

As I find myself unsure about where to setup camp with my own opinion on the subject, I thought an audit of the current squad may offer reassurance.

Goalkeepers

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As alluded to above, Tomasz Kuszczak wasn’t a major loss. Experienced and sometimes spectacular maybe, but he’s consistently inconsistent. Give me a steady 7/10 between the sticks all day. Ikeme and McCarey will suffice, but there’s been rumours of Leicester’s Ben Hamer coming on loan. He’d provide good competition. No problem here. Move along.

Full backs

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Can’t see any necessary additions here. Two highly capable players for both flanks with Ebanks-Landell also knocking around to provide cover. Surely nobody disagrees with this assessment?

Center back

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There were question marks over our previously rock solid defence last season, particularly after that November meltdown, but they still emerged with one of the best records in the Championship and second only to Middlesbrough for cleansheets. With four recognised center halves as well as Iorfa who can shift across, is a new recruit essential? If so, who might we get that will definitely be better than the above? I think one of Hause or Ebanks-Landell may step up.

Central midfield

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Assuming the powers that be don’t have the mother of all brain farts and dispense of Diamond Kevin McDonald, I think we can feel reasonably confident that two (or sometimes three) of the above will suffice. Much is expected of Connor Coady of course whilst Rowe and Saville still have much to prove, but there are unquestionably options and competition.

Wide players

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We’ve waited all summer for that like-for-like Bakary Sako replacement, but has Kenny got other plans? With James Henry also linked with a move to Charlton and talk of van La Parra playing up front, is the notion of genuine width considered passe at Compton these days? I would still expect a wide man to come in, even if Jed Wallace regains fitness and we see the diamond that’s been widely touted in pre-season. A marquee signing here would certainly put my mind at ease.

Strikers

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On the plus side, we’ve got two excellent strikers who could easily score the goals needed to get promoted. Not many teams can say that. But cover is surely essential? For all his detractors, I thought Chris Wood offered a good option and was disappointed he went to Leeds. A physical presence in the Iwelumo mould would certainly be useful. Saving that, pace and a eye for goal are never a bad thing. Adam Le Fondre would fulfill that criteria.

Conclusions

Essential purchases: A wide player and a striker.

Useful purchases: Goalkeeping cover. A proven center back.

Summary: A competitive top six challenging eleven can already be constructed out of the existing roster, but an injury to one key player, particularly up front will leave us exposed (as it did last November). If we make the two key signings I’ve identified, which there’s still plenty of time to do, I feel good about our prospects. It’s also worth noting that this article offered no mention of the academy conveyor belt. The likes of Ronan, Deslandes, Flatt and Enobakhare may step up in the same way Hause and Iorfa did last term. Plenty then, to be excited about.

Blogger needed

With both Ben and I finding it increasingly difficult to give loyal readers of this blog the service they require and another long season on the horizon, we’re on the lookout for a third amigo.

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Would you like to write for Wolves Blog and be our friend (note: friendship is optional)?

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Someone who can chip in on a semi-regular basis with match write-ups and opinion pieces. Probably looking at circa 15-20 articles over the course of a season. Might be less or more depending on availability.
  • Someone who goes to a lot of the matches would be preferred and someone who goes to a lot of the away matches in particular would be ideal.
  • Someone who can be opinionated, descriptive and entertaining without sharing their life story in every article.
  • Someone who doesn’t mind being occasionally edited.
  • Someone who recognises we’re in the business of opinions not reporting. I don’t care if Nouha Dicko scored in the 68th minute. I do care if you thought it was a goal of the season contender or the scruffiest tap-in you’ve ever seen.
  • Someone who appreciates not everyone will share their opinion and is strong enough to accept the criticism that comes with putting your views front and center.
  • Someone who doesn’t mind having their spelling and punctuation constantly scrutinised.
  • Someone reliable.
  • Someone who loves it as much as we do.

If this someone sounds like you and you’re interested in joining the pack, please do drop me a line. My email address is tom@thomasbaughmedia.com. I would love to hear from you. Also feel free to drop any follow up questions into the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

Here’s to you

So, Kevin McDonald’s playing hardball and the natives are restless.

Kevin McDonald

In what seemed like the most agent-engineered interview in Sky Sports history, the Scot laid bare his contractual situation.

Jez hasn’t offered him enough dosh and if a better deal isn’t forthcoming he might be on his bike – to Fulham or anyone else paying the going rate.

Oh dear.

The backlash from the old gold keyboard patrol has been swift and to the point – almost universal condemnation.

Hardly surprising. Give supporters an opportunity to raise the question of ‘loyalty’ and they will happily feast on the flesh of even the most tenuous tabloid morsel.

But get over it folks – loyalty simply does not exist in football.

Yes, it’s surprising when a player makes such brazen comments in an age where most business is conducted behind closed doors, but don’t for a moment think Kevin McDonald is the exception – he is the rule.

Any first team player going into the final year of their contract knows they can roll out the magic tricks to engineer their desired goal.

And that goal is always the same – more money.

Personally, this revelation does nothing to change my opinion of Kevin McDonald because he didn’t say anything that every other player in the squad wouldn’t be thinking in his position.

If what irks you is that he dared to go public, ask yourself if you were bothered when he did something similar two years ago when tunneling his way out of Brammall Lane.

I didn’t think so.

OK, it doesn’t paint him as a man of high integrity but this is nothing more than aggressive negotiation tactics.

And despite Kenny Jackett’s typically straight bat response, the club will now be forced into action.

For what it’s worth, I hope they raid the piggy bank to keep the big midfielder.

He is a high quality player at second tier level, an integral part of the team and almost certainly irreplaceable.

If it’s loyalty you’re after, I’m afraid you’re quite simply in the wrong sport.

Middle ground

It’s little surprise Kenny Jackett’s only summer signing to date is a midfielder.

Kenny summer

The success our manager has achieved in his two years has been underpinned by a welcome desire to get the ball down and pass.

But the sole addition of Jed Wallace raises as many questions as it answers given that Wolves are already overloaded with bodies across the middle.

If the Pompey man has been drafted in to play centrally alongside the immovable Kevin McDonald, he faces immediate competition from Dave Edwards, Jack Price and Lee Evans.

And what of the forgotten men – George Saville and Tommy Rowe? Are they to be completely discarded or will they start again with a clean slate?

That’s arguably seven players going to war for two positions; three possibly if Kenny opts to deploy one up front.

Equally, Wallace may have been earmarked to compensate for the loss of Bakary Sako.

But even in wide areas James Henry and Rajiv van La Parra may take some shifting. Then there’s the curiously overlooked Michael Jacobs. Will he get a kick this year?

Jordan Graham too will be looking to make inroads towards the first team after impressing for the U21s and can we completely discard Zeli Ismail, Eusébio Bancessi and the perpetually stricken Razak Boukari from the reckoning? One of those players might come good.

That’s another seven players (not including Wallace) who’d like to get in the picture, with talk still of another marquee signing to beef up the wide areas.

Competition is no bad thing of course, but it seems inconceivable that all these players will still be training at Compton Park come August. The fat needs to be trimmed.

The sheer volume of midfield combinations Kenny Jackett has at his disposal could also be a concern, if he feels the need to constantly rotate and experiment.

He did just that last November amidst a run of five successive defeats, which ultimately curtailed our promotion hopes in an otherwise excellent season.

The Championship demands consistency and that can only be achieved with a settled group of players and a manager who gets the balance right in the engine room.

With so many faces to choose from and the likelihood of more to come, there’s a long old summer ahead.

Over to you Kenny.

Jed Wallace – the lowdown

The signing of Jed Wallace has been greeted with an understated air of optimism, I think it’s fair to say.

Jed Wallace

The timing of the acquisition, and the obligatory YouTube compilation video, seems to augur well for the future.

But at Wolves Blog, we weren’t satisfied with a three minute montage and a stock quote from the official website, so we contacted our good twitter friend Susan Maskell, a lifelong Portsmouth fan, for the lowdown on Jed.

Susan has been a regular blogger about the goings-on at Fratton Park and is well worth a follow on twitter @sjmaskell.

We wish her, and Portsmouth, all the very best next season and beyond. A club I have long admired, despite their recent turmoil.

Thank you Susan!

Jed Wallace

Jed Wallace is not the finished article. But you wouldn’t expect that for £275k. but he could be a potential match winner in the right hands.

An attack minded player, nominally a midfielder, there are many who think Jed has still not quite found his natural position. He seems prepared to play wide, through the centre or take on a roving brief on demand. He has some speed, is prepared to run at the opposition, although perhaps prone to holding the ball too long on a number of occasions.

He has been accused of trying to win matches on his own. But he will try, try and try again. He does not shirk in tackling back either. He still lacks the experience to see and decide between options when on the ball, but with Pompey over the last three years there haven’t often been many options available.

Pompey’s player of the season, a product of the Academy, Jed has been blooded over three seasons of excruciatingly poor on-the-pitch performances, and off-pitch dramas, culminating in Pompey’s lowest ever finishing position of 16th in L2. He has been a shining light in the darkness throughout.

It could be said that it was his goals, 24 from 88 appearances, that have kept us in League 2 over the last two seasons. Some feat from midfield. Only a terminal numbskull like Richie Barker, who dropped him during his brief tenure as manager, can fail to see the potential of the player.

‘Super Jed’ has been Fratton approved, unlike many over the last three seasons. So much so that most Pompey fans wish him well in the future and think he has chosen the right club in Wolves. The fact that he shone at Pompey through our darkest days may be down to the lack of quality around him during those three seasons. A squad that was constantly being demolished and rebuilt is not a good place to learn the finer skills required higher up the leagues.

So most fans here understand that to develop, Jed has to go and learn among players who are experienced at a higher level. He may not shine for a while, but proper coaching and Wolves could have a valuable asset there. We hope so, anyway, if the rumoured sell-on clauses are to be realised.

To cap it all, Jed is a thoroughly nice person and has been a popular club ambassador at social and charity events. We are sorry to see him go and wish him well. Wolves have acquired a proper professional in Jed Wallace.

The goals