Wolves 1 Preston North End 0

After finishing last season in midtable with 58 points there was insatiable appetite for change.

New owners, two managers, circa £30 million of investment, endless recruitment and where did it get us?

58 points and a midtable finish.

Change it would seem, isn’t always for the better.

Success in the Championship relies on building up incrementally over time, not constantly sweeping the decks and starting from scratch.

History supports this stance. Only two managers have won promotion to the Premier League with Wolves and both of them accomplished the task in their third season.

Dave Jones and Mick McCarthy were given resources to sculpt their teams and more importantly time to get things right. They both wobbled and faltered at times but ultimately succeeded.

Learn the lesson.

Every manager will annoy you at some point. Every manager will pick players and choose formations you don’t like. If it’s not Paul Lambert it will be someone else, but the revolving door strategy seldom pays dividends.

It’s for this reason I banged the drum for keeping the faith with Kenny Jackett last season and it’s why my opinion is the same this time around.

Back Paul Lambert, afford him the resources and I’m confident we’ll get there quicker than the alternative path.

This was a decent enough performance to sign off on. Yes, it was a dead rubber against an average side, but there was plenty to feel good about, especially when you consider most of our key performers were absent.

Helder Costa, Ben Marshall, Ivan Cavaleiro, Matt Doherty and Carl Ikeme all sat it out and not many Championship teams could lose so many influential players and still be able to play with a degree of fluency.

Silvio, Graham and Enobakhare were all able deputies, resplendent in the Molineux sunshine and getting bums off seats with slick, incisive football.

Jordan Graham in particular was excellent in the first half, ruining Preston’s full-back at will and bending dangerous crosses into the box. His perfectly placed corner gave Danny Batth the ammunition to win the game.

The great thing about our returning winger is that his game is centered on finesses and footwork rather than pace and power, so unlike Nouha Dicko he probably isn’t as encumbered by his long stint on the sidelines.

What we don’t know about Graham just yet is whether he can give us a whole season at the level we’ve grown accustom to. If he can get anywhere close, then the team can be built around his considerable talent.

Enobakhare’s performance will be remembered for two gilt edged misses with an open goal at his mercy, but his potential remains undoubted. Find that killer instinct and we do have one hell of a player.

I’d give Silvio a contract extension if we can feel confident he’s over the worst of his injury problems. As with the aforementioned players, he obviously possesses the talent but must overcome his personal demons.

These three individuals highlight that there is talent at Paul Lambert’s disposal and coupled with those sidelined, not mentioning academy prospects like Ronan, Gibbs-White and Wilson, we should feel confident about our prospects.

Retain as much of the talent as possible, select carefully from the water carriers that give them a platform to shine and add the necessary steal and we certainly won’t be far off.

It might be all that wonderful May sunshine going to my head, but I’m already feeling good about next season.

Have a great summer. Up The Wolves!

Wolves Vs Preston North End Preview

Nearly there.

A season that was supposed to sparkle and shine will mercifully fizzle out on Sunday giving us all much needed respite – for a few weeks at least.

But the club can’t sit around watching the garden grow. There’s a mountain of work to get through reshaping this squad to ensure we avoid these dead rubbers next year.

For what it’s worth, I’d give Helder Costa the Player of the Season gong based on the fact we’ve only looked anything close to capable when he’s been on the pitch.

Dave Edwards is the only other realistic candidate and rightly so for hitting double figures and putting in the miles. I wouldn’t begrudge him the award.

Preston

Although they’ve drifted back towards midtable, you’ve got to say Simon Grayson continues to do a splendid job at Deepdale.

There’s no money there and a couple of key players left last summer, so keeping them up was probably about par for the season. The fact they’ve occasionally flirted with the play-offs is testament to the former Leeds and Blackpool boss.

I tend to think of them as your archetypal Championship team, keeping it tight at the back and going direct, but the statistics suggest otherwise. They’ve scored 64 and conceded 62, both at the higher end of the scale.

They come into this game off four straight defeats and a draw against whipping boys Rotherham, so perhaps they’re also keen to get the beach towels out?

Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson have netted 24 goals between them, while Aiden McGeady has rediscovered some form in a drifting career to notch eight himself with a further nine assists.

Wolves

We already know Helder Costa is out and Ivan Cavaleiro suspended so we’re short in wide areas. But maybe Jordan Graham can manage an hour to at least occasionally get us off our seats?

It would be nice to play with some actual width at home for a change and with the above wingers on the pitch, as well as Enobakhare in the middle, there’s actually a chance Dicko might get some decent service.

Including the loan signings (Teixeira and Borthwick-Jackson) I’m expecting at least 10 players to leave with Saville, Price, Silvio, Stearman, Williamson, Henry, Wallace, Gladon all off and others possibly not far behind.

But all of the above XI seem certain to be here (Iorfa might be an exception) so lets try and extract a decent performance from the remain camp to give us a grain of optimism about next season.

Predictions

I think we might win this one. Preston look to have checked out worse than us. OK, most of their recent defeats came against the top sides but only taking a point against Rotherham must give us hope.

I’ll say 3-1.

Well done to Ash K who I believe has already won the Prediction League (a second triumph is that?) with a game to spare. I’ll update the final table on Sunday to confirm. Thanks to everyone who has taken part. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

For the final time this season…Up The Wolves!

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Derby County 3 Wolves 1

Quite a few people pointed out I’d incorrectly named Andreas Weimann in my preferred XI to this game, despite the fact he was ineligible against his parent club.

Fair enough.

Just as well as he couldn’t play though, as we might not have seen Nouha Dicko’s best performance of the season.

For the first time in a long time our once prolific striker was barreling towards defenders and making things happen with powerful, direct running. That bodes well for next season.

Despite not being rewarded with a goal for himself, he did lay one on a plate for Ben Marshall in a rare moment of cohesion from Wolves on an otherwise poor afternoon.

You can point to Cavaleiro’s stupid sending off as a key moment, but Derby were coasting it well before lapping up the benefits of numerical advantage.

If you look at the goals, discounting the countless opportunities they created besides, it’s clear an inability to defend down our right was targeted and exploited.

David Nugent was all alone at the back post for his opener and Conor Coady himself was then skinned far too easily for the second.

I talked a lot in the preview about getting the balance in central midfield right, but starting next season with two specialist full backs must also be high on the agenda for Paul Lambert.

Don’t get me wrong, Coady has played superbly on several occasions in the back four, but he’s doing a job not mastering the art.

Midfield was again a problem though. You need only look down the Derby teamsheet to see the gulf in class between two sides pursuing the same goal.

Bryson, Butterfield, Johnson and Ince would all walk straight into our eleven and that sort of disparity simply can’t exist next season.

OK, we’re without two of our best outfield players (Costa and Doherty) as well as our first choice goalkeeper, but this was yet another reminder of just how much work there is to do over the summer.

It can’t come soon enough.

Derby County Vs Wolves Preview

Central midfield is the issue.

I know we’ve all got opinions on individuals operating in different areas of the pitch, but I’m convinced if Paul Lambert can address this one deficiency, we’ll do good things next season.

Against Blackburn and again on Tuesday in the defeat to Huddersfield, there was no attacking impetus from central areas, other than the times Ben Marshall stepped inside to make something happen.

Lambert’s got seven first team midfielders on the books (Edwards, Coady, Price, Evans, Saville, Saiss and Oniangue) and no combination is good enough in possession to consistently do what’s required.

If you want willing runners, closing down and all the ugly stuff then the above will do that (hence why we’ve taken some big away wins this season). You might keep two or three of them for this purpose.

But get rid of four or five of the above, bring in two better technicians and also look to extract the most from the likes of Enobakhare and Ronan who also have the necessary skillset.

Derby

If one team have underwhelmed more than Wolves this season, it’s got to be Derby. Cash was splashed again to help Nigel Pearson reconfigure an already capable squad to his liking.

Vydra and Anya arrived from Watford with lots of Championship pedigree and with others already there like Ince, Johnson and Butterfield, it seemed inconceivable they wouldn’t make the play-offs.

But looking at the table with two games to go, it’s clear they’re nowhere near. The higher powers at the club have to take responsibility for bad appointments and/or not showing enough patience.

It did look at one stage that Steve McLaren was going to get it going again, but after a good run of victories it was back to inconsistency and he also bit the bullet.

Gary Rowett seems like a very good manager, but you wonder how much time he’ll be given at Pride Park if they don’t get out the traps quickly next season?

Wolves

It would be pretty handy to have Helder Costa fit again. I really hope this injury is serious enough to be keeping him out and it’s nothing to do with his imminent departure. Sadly, I’m not convinced.

If he is able to make it back, the above is the team I’d play. Burgoyne might be our only fit keeper but I’d persevere with him anyway, despite letting in a soft goal in midweek. Incidentally, I was surprised Lambert chose to throw him under the bus for that in his post-match summary.

Both Silvio and Iorfa are playing for their futures so let them carry on I say. Despite a few wobbly moments I thought Silvio did some good things and showed strong positional play. We’ll be in the market for at least one full back in the summer and if he can convince over his fitness, he could be like a new signing.

My instinct is that Price, Coady and Edwards are the three to keep. Price because we know he can perform when partnered with better technical players. Coady because he can occupy different positions and Edwards for goals and impact.

But none should be nailed on starters next term and to compensate for what we lack moving going forwards in midfield tomorrow, I’d play an attacking trio behind Weimann who still looks like he’s got the bounce in his step to do something.

Predictions

I don’t think we’ll see anything like my proposed lineup tomorrow, but this could be a decent game for our try-hards to camp out and spring on the break as they did at Elland Road.

Derby have good quality though and I’m expecting them to ultimately put us to the sword at a ground where we’ve struggled to compete in recent years.

2-1 to the Rams.

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Up the Wolves!

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Wolves Vs Huddersfield Town Preview

The good news is this can’t possibly be any worse than Saturday.

Even if we get well and truly roasted the entertainment value alone will make it a marked improvement on the weekend’s atrocities.

The bad news is it could be pretty unpleasant if Wolves don’t find their mojo.

Huddersfield still need one more victory to be mathematically certain of a play-off position and after getting blasted by fellow promotion chasers Fulham they’ll want to get that monkey off their back sooner rather than later.

Perversely though, their eagerness could play into our hands.

Huddersfield

I’m looking forward to seeing David Wagner’s team up close and personal. I didn’t go to the reverse fixture earlier in the season but I’ve seen them a few times on the TV and been impressed.

They’ve got good energy, bundles of creativity and that all important explosive pace in the final third.

Wagner has made folly of the idea you need experience to be successful in the Championship. Both he and most of his players are learning on the job and going along nicely.

The German has coaxed something like consistency out of Rajiv van La Parra, which itself is commendable. How he acquits himself tomorrow will be very interesting. I always thought he was useful despite blowing hot and cold.

Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy has also been getting rave reviews and he’s another I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on. He’s currently on loan from Manchester City and a host of clubs will be sniffing around in the summer.

Wolves

Paul Lambert has already declared his intention to ring the changes so who knows what that might mean for the starting lineup?

The above is just one idea based on the assumption that Costa and Doherty are out injured and Enobakhare is back in contention.

Now Dominic Iorfa has had a stretch on the sidelines, maybe he can come back in and show some of the form that made him a standout in his early appearances for the club?

I’d play him and Marshall as the full-backs to give us some proper width and allow Weimann and Cavaleiro to drift inside. Price and Coady holding.

I don’t remember reading about an injury to Bright but I think he’s the exact type of player we missed on Saturday. Someone who can introduce fluidity to an otherwise pedestrian performance.

Prediction

I predict defeat, but hopefully one that offers glimpses of individual potential for next season.

Like it or not, we will still have this nucleus of players to work with, so Paul Lambert has to find winning combinations and players who can step up and perform consistently next time.

2-1 Huddersfield.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 0 Blackburn Rovers 0

I said to Paul Lambert back in November that we should adopt Jurgen Klopp’s ‘entertainment first’ philosophy.

Serve up something exciting and win, lose or draw the fans will come back desperate for more.

Given the nature of this unspeakably grim affair, it will take a seismic effort for even the most optimistic to summon the strength to reconvene on Tuesday.

Nobody expected total football but I’m sorry Paul, it should never have been this bad.

Sure, Blackburn played three at the back, swamped the midfield and tried to eek out an ugly win to preserve their Championship status.

But their situation is understandable.

Wolves in contrast should have been able to play with freedom and adventure having escaped the shackles of responsibility.

Instead they were leaden footed and lacking ideas throughout in one of the most inept outings of the season to date – and that’s saying something.

The team selection set the tone.

Sure you can argue it’s the same eleven that saw off Leeds, but going to Elland Road and setting up camp is a much different proposition to breaking down a side on the cusp of relegation – at home.

George Saville playing left midfield at Molineux should be forbidden. I feel genuine sympathy for him being deployed in a position to which he patently isn’t suited.

And when Matt Doherty limped off with a hamstring injury in the first half, good old George was shunted into the back four.

That meant no width being offered on either flank with neither Coady or Saville comfortable getting forward to expose Blackburn’s defensive shape.

In a repeat of that desperately poor showing against Rotherham, it was then left to everyone else to flap about hoping that something would magically happen.

Saiss lashed cross field balls out of play, Edwards ran around in no particular direction and Cavaleiro repeatedly fell over.

A total shambles.

It would be unfair not to mention back-to-back cleansheets, which is a grain of comfort. I thought Conor Coady in particular put in some wonderful tackles and clearances.

But we needed grit and effort two months ago when things were going south.

With nothing left to play for there is only value in entertainment.

And we are not entertained.