Wolves 0 Huddersfield Town 1

Since their jubilant arrival in sunny Wolverhampton last summer, our Chinese owners have often spoke about the size and potential of the club and the importance of returning it to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

And yet a glance up the Championship table sees Barnsley, Cardiff, Brentford, Reading, Huddersfield and Brighton sitting comfortably above us.

All due respect to these clubs – they’ve more than earned their respective standings – but none bare anything resembling our history.

This isn’t delusions of grandeur on my part, it’s fact.

But under the bumbling premiership of Fosun, Kevin Thelwell and to a lesser extent Laurie Dalrymple – because, contrary to popular opinion, we can’t blame Morgan and Moxey for everything – we’re now in a position where opposition as modest in stature as tonight’s can turn up at Molineux and claim three points without breaking sweat.

Paul Lambert made six tactical changes to his team but on recent evidence it’s apparent that there’s no winning formula to be found in the current side.

Truthfully, the blame for this can be afforded to every outfield department but having watched the ease with which two of this season’s success stories, Brighton and Huddersfield, passed circles around us it’s hard to argue against the notion that the midfield is our Achilles heel.

Sure, our strikers are laughably impotent but they might have mustered a few more goals if we had some vision in the middle of the park.

Be honest, who doesn’t see the sale of Kevin McDonald as anything other than scandalous?

God may love a trier but as professional as Dave Edwards may be I’d be thankful if I never had to endure another 90 minutes of him hiding behind opposition midfielders whilst we’re in possession.

No manager can legislate selecting any midfielder at this level that is not comfortable with the ball at his feet – the ever increasing standard of the league won’t allow it.

Though it’s a deficiency that is symptomatic of all our midfielders (except perhaps Saiss) the fact that Edwards is picked week in, week out regardless of form means he deservingly bears the brunt of most fans’ criticism.

Don’t let 10 goals fool you, we’ll never get promoted playing this guy every week.

Of course, ‘Deadly’ wasn’t alone when underperforming tonight. His bearded counterpart churned out one of his worst performances in a Wolves shirt and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson continued his excellent impression of Tomasz Frankowski with aplomb.

Crumbs of comfort could be found in Silvio’s solidity, Morgan Gibbs-White’s youthful endeavour and the long awaited return of Jordan Graham but, truth be told, this was a damp squib not dissimilar to the dross served up on Saturday.

I’m yet to be convinced that Lambert possesses the ruthless streak that is needed to arrest this malaise but the efficiency of Andi Weimann and Ben Marshall since their arrival in January, coupled with his feats at Norwich in years gone by, suggest he knows enough about the Championship to at least engineer some improvement on this term.

Whether that faith is misguided is a question that won’t be answered for some time so perhaps it’s wise that for the time being we relish the prospect of a Molineux free summer.

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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Huddersfield Town 1 Wolves 0

It’s difficult to know if the reverse of this fixture will also be a top of the table clash but today’s contest certainly lived up to its billing.

With the home side irrepressible in the first 45 and anything but in the second, it was the cliched game of two halves.

The main takeaway for Walter Zenga though was another slow start, with the opening and ultimately decisive goal nothing short of shambolic. Despite our clean sheets against Reading and Ipswich, our defensive deficiencies are all too apparent.

Much has been made of Danny Batth’s improvement under Zenga’s tutelage but the skipper was caught out badly in the build up to the goal, with pantomime villain Rajiv Van La Parra also afforded far too much space to tuck home on the rebound.

Huddersfield fans clearly haven’t gotten to know their new number 17 all that well, given the adulation they bestowed upon him throughout proceedings, but nobody can deny the quality of his performance today. What a shame that he only bothers to muster up this level of effort so infrequently.

Coady was arguably our best player again, though his knack for breaking up opposition attacks was largely wasted at right back. On the opposite side, Doherty turned in another typically swashbuckling performance. I can’t recall a more drastically improved player from time supporting the club.

Less impressive were Edwards and Saville, both of whom were deservedly hooked. Their limitations were pretty glaring and the fact all of the substitutes improved us drastically is unlikely to do them many favours.

Both centre backs were also poor and I’d suggest recruitment in that area needs to be considered a priority in the remaining days of the window.

As I type up this report on the coach back to Molineux, a fellow traveler has already hit the nail on the head with a succinct summary that we can’t afford to be a ’45 minute team’ if we want to achieve success this year.

Sluggish starts have been an alarming trend of Zenga’s tenure to date and although almost every other aspect of the Italian’s management has been peachy it’s a habit that needs addressing.

Still, it’s important that we remain level headed given the turbulent nature of the club’s summer activities.

I doubt there’s a Wolves fan among us that expect today’s lineup to be anything like the one that finishes the season and one suspects that patience will be required for a good while yet.

With a host of new signings to bed in and some sorely missed first team players due back from injury, it’ll take time for Zenga to identify his key players and the correct system for them to play in.

Our second half display at least suggests in time we’ll have a very good side on our hands.

Today was a frustrating blemish on an otherwise solid start and it’ll be interesting to see how we pick up again in a fortnight.

Huddersfield Town Vs Wolves Preview

As positive as these early matches have been, we’re yet to face a decent side.

 

Blues and Ipswich are average by Championship standards and I’d say Reading and Rotherham are a few notches lower. The League Cup draws have also been kind.

That’s not to put a dampener on progress under Walter Zenga – we may not have got the results last season – but I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on against the heavyweights.

Huddersfield may fall into that category, but like us it’s too early to know whether they have the staying power and quality to keep it going.

This is a lovely little test for both sides though ahead of the international break.

Huddersfield

HuddersfieldTownCrestDavid Wagner was an inspired choice for Huddersfield after they sacked Chris Powell. An energetic and inventive coach, anything now seems possible for the Terriers, where as before you felt they’d hit a ceiling.

Some promising results towards the back end of last season and a busy summer of recruitment have raised expectations and results haven’t disappointed.

They’re top of the league having already seen off Brentford, Newcastle and Barnsley. A useful point at Villa Park means they’re unbeaten coming into this one.

We know Rajiv van La Parra well of course, but considerably less about the likes of Christopher Schindler, Jon Gorenc-Stankovic or Elias Kachunga.

With our own merry band of exotic new recruits, this game has a continental, anything could happen element of mystique.

Wolves

This section is not about a predicted lineup, as I’m no longer prepared to try and second guess a manager who picks eight midfielders. Instead, this is the team I would field.

Wolves for Huddersfield

That’s the form players from the last few games filling the midfield sandwiched by a well established back four and two strikers bang in form.

But there are more viable options on the bench for Walter Zenga than we’ve had for a long time and who knows how he’ll choose to use all these players?

Rotation has thus far been viewed as a favourable thing, but if results take a turn for the worse the pressure to define a strongest eleven will quickly intensify.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Nothing exciting to read here I’m afraid – 1-1.

I can’t quite summon the confidence to go all out for the win, but based on everything I’ve seen so far, won’t back us to lose either, even against a good Huddersfield side.

Anything other than defeat would represent a very solid start and leave us ideally placed going into international fortnight and of course, the final days of the transfer window.

Up The Wolves!

Huddersfield Town 1 Wolves 0

I like Kenny Jackett.

Jackett Huddersfield

As a coach and a person.

But it’s becoming harder to defend a series of bewildering team selections, the latest being the biggest head scratcher yet.

I suppose it is possible that because the squad have been hamstrung by the loss of key attacking personnel, he’s just decided to shut up shop for the winter.

Stink out the place and scrape enough points to finish with a modicum of respectability.

Or maybe he’s just experimenting given that we’re effectively contesting dead rubbers until May?

Most harrowing though is the idea that he actually believes Rowe, Coady or Saville are all better choices than McDonald.

Shudder.

If that’s the case (which I don’t think it is), he should reconsider his choice of career let alone his Molineux tenure.

Instinctively, I think McDonald and Price sat it out because Jackett believes they leave our midfield over exposed, particularly when we don’t possess the talent further forward to dominate the ball.

There’s some logic to that, but after losing another turgid contest and the team winless in six, leaving out your best players is always going to leave you wide open to criticism.

It’s not time to push the eject button though.

You’ve got examine all the evidence. The bigger picture.

We know this coach can get a team playing attractive, expansive football when afforded the resources to do so.

We also know you can’t lose Sako, Afobe, Stearman, Dicko, Graham, Edwards and Henry (not mentioning Jacobs and Golbourne) in the space of six months and expect the good times to keep rolling.

Equally, the players that have come in simply haven’t been on the same planet as those going out.

Ojo, Le Fondre, Wallace haven’t been anywhere close to good enough. I also doubt Mason or Byrne are promotion material either, albeit on limited evidence.

But is Jackett to blame for this? I don’t think he is.

Firstly, the club don’t pay decent salaries. Several reliable sources have told me there’s a stringent cap that makes us among the lowest payers in the Championship.

This immediately limits the pool of players we can realistically attract in an ever more competitive market.

Secondly, does Jackett even sanction who comes and goes? We’ve never had definitive clarification over who has final say.

Yes, you can probe and pick at team selection but the reality is, whoever the head coach puts out at present would only make a slightly under average Championship team slightly better.

Dropping the axe now in the misguided belief someone can salvage this write-off season would be a mistake.

And with no seriously compelling alternative suggested, nobody will convince me otherwise.

Huddersfield Town Vs Wolves Preview

Is everyone in agreement we just want to see this campaign out?

Huddersfield

Keep quiet, finish respectably and start from scratch again over the summer?

Good.

We ain’t touching the top six and given the healthy head start, safety should, hopefully, be a foregone conclusion.

I know scrappy draws against QPR and Reading are hardly anything to write home about, but it at least showed the resilience of our beleaguered squad.

A similar type of performance would do me fine tomorrow – considering.

Huddersfield

HuddersfieldTownCrestA friend of a friend told me David Wagner has got Town playing sexy football and I’m intrigued to see how the former Borussia Dortmund Reserves manager fares in England.

Many a foreign coach have crashed and burned spectacularly in the Championship, but in more recent times a few have enjoyed success.

Jokanovic got Watford promoted, Carlos Carvalhal is doing good things at Sheffield Wednesday and Aitor Karanka continues to push Middlesbrough forward.

I don’t think Huddersfield have the same type of resources available, so Wagner will likely find success harder to come by. But it’s a fascinating appointment nonetheless.

As for the playing staff, a few former Wolves targets (Wells and Paterson) will line up against us tomorrow while Conor Coady can expect a hot reception against his old club.

Wolves

We hammered the opposition in this fixture last season, but most of that successful team won’t be playing tomorrow. Another reminder of how quickly the wheels have fallen off.

team for Huddersfield

Kenny will be lynched if Joe Mason doesn’t get the nod tomorrow and I’m fairly confident he’ll acquiesce after his marquee January signing made it two in two against Preston.

According to the BBC Sport preview, Mason also has four in his last five against Huddersfield, so there’s another grain of comfort.

I’d hope to see McDonald back in the mixer, with Coady possibly tucked in to accommodate Mason and Sigurdarson in a 442.

Nathan Byrne will also be hoping he gets a shirt and might well do if the head coach prefers a more conventional shape with two out and out wingers.

The gaffer

Predictions

I think we might get tonked tomorrow. They’re coming in on the back of a good away victory at Forest whereas our form, confidence and squad continues to disintegrate.

All of the matches have been close lately, win, lose or draw and it’s a competitive group, but the lack of quality is there for all to see.

I’m going 3-1 Huddersfield.

Up The Wolves!