Archives for January 2010

Hull City Vs Wolves Preview

It occurred to me a few a weeks back that Wolves fate this season will be largely decided away from Molineux.

We took just one miserly point from three home matches against West Ham, Hull and Portsmouth. That’s not good enough. So if we’re to escape an immediate return to ‘the Fizzy’, positive results in the return fixtures are an absolute must.

Wolves only managed a point in the game at Molineux

That needs to start this Saturday with the trip to the KC Stadium. Wolves are a point and two places better off than Hull going into this match, so you might argue that a draw is a positive result. Not for me though.

We haven’t won in the league since beating Burnley in December and if we can’t get three points here, that run could continue for a considerable amount of time. Our next three fixtures are Blues away, followed by Spurs and Chelsea at home and if Wolves are sitting in the bottom three ahead of that run of games, I worry for us.

I wonder whether Mick will go all out for the win and revert to a 4-4-2 system? We did well with five across the midfield against Liverpool, but I don’t think we should be giving Hull the same respect. By going with two strikers, I think it shows positive intent on our manager’s part, which would be good to see.

This is the starting XI I’d pick:

Hahnemann

Ward
Berra
Craddock
Zubar

Foley
Milijas
Henry
Jarvis

Doyle
SEB

I have a sneaky suspicion that our manager has a few surprises up his sleeve though, so that team is by no means what I expect to see. Whatever he decides to do though, I just hope he gets it right because I don’t want to be sitting here again, writing about poor tactics costing us a result.

There is of course an interesting sub-plot to this match, with speculation surrounding Stephen Hunt’s future. The fact that this story rages on, tells me that we can expect developments before the transfer window closes on Monday. There’s conflicting views on whether Hull ‘need’ to sell in this window and that could well be the determining factor in whether the deal goes through or not.

Whatever the outcome of that speculation, the result this Saturday is paramount and Wolves need to get it.

I’m expecting a tight, cagey game, with a moment of quality giving one side the edge. I just hope it comes from a Milijas or a Doyle and not from a Giovanni or a Zaki.

My prediction: 1-0 Wolves

If you’re making the trek to the KC Stadium, have a great day and roar the lads on.

Up the Wolves.

Battling Back: Wolves 0 Liverpool 0

As  spectacles go, it wasn’t pretty. Two teams effectively parking the bus was never going to make for a classic encounter.

But Wolves don’t need swashbuckling attacking performances, they need points and this was a welcome one against a faltering Liverpool side.

I’ve been uber-critical of our manager’s tactics of late, but I think he got it spot on last night. Sacrificing a forward for an extra midfielder allowed us to compete in the middle of the park and with Kevin Doyle doing the work of two strikers, we still offered legitimate menace in attack.

Kevin Doyle - Best performance for Wolves?

There’s very little point in highlighting the fact we were solider defensively in this game, as the shape of the side was always going to have that effect. But every player did their job and when mistakes were made, someone was always on hand to sweep up the mess.

Craddock and Berra were particularly impressive; repelling everything that came their way. When fit, they’re still the best center half pairing we have at the club. Zubar and Ward both looked comfortable too, so that back four should be maintained at all costs in my opinion.

With both sides plonking three men in the center of midfield, time on the ball was always going to be at a premium, but Wolves gave as good as they got in there. Mancienne seemed to be sitting deepest, which allowed Milijas and even Karl Henry to surge forward in support of the lone striker. But it was the Chelsea man who stood out for me, stifling the influence of Steven Gerrard and using the ball well in tight areas of the pitch.

Foley was again neat and tidy, even getting himself into the penalty area a few times to connect with crosses from the left. But I still feel we’d be a better side with a natural winger out there, particularly in this system where attacking from wide areas is crucial.

On the other flank, we do have a natural winger and Matty Jarvis caused Liverpool headaches all night long. His pace and trickery will give Jamie Carragher nightmares for a long time to come and it was just a shame that nobody profited from his good work.

But the man of the match champagne belongs to Kevin Doyle. His ability to hold the ball up under heavy pressure and find passes in tight spaces is amazing. My old man pointed out that we’d be lucky to keep the Irish international, even if we manage to stay up. On last night’s evidence, I’m inclined to agree. He not only looked a class above anything we had, but he outshone all of the seasoned internationals in the Liverpool side too.

We move on to a crucial match against Hull on Saturday and a similar committed performance shouldn’t steer us too far wrong. The only question is whether Mick will maintain this 4-5-1 or return to a more attacking 4-4-2 system.

Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

Wolves Vs Liverpool Preview

There’s added spice to this game following the controversial events that occurred during the Boxing Day clash between the two sides at Anfield.

Pepe Reina in particular can expect a hostile reception. The Liverpool goalkeeper sprinted the length of the pitch in that match to ensure Stephen Ward took an early shower, which seemed unprofessional, to say the very least about his actions.

Steven Gerrard is likely to play tonight

That dismissal spoiled what had been an engrossing encounter up to that point and the game ended up being a procession for the home side, once they’d got their noses in front. Wolves certainly need better luck if they’re to cause an upset this evening.

You could classify any points picked up tonight as a bonus, but Liverpool are vulnerable this season, particularly on their travels, so a positive result isn’t out of the question. We’ll need to play far better than we have been though and find a cutting edge in the final third.

The team selection tonight will be very interesting, with players like David Jones and Ronald Zubar surely having played their way into contention with impressive displays in the cup on Saturday. There’s also the question of who’ll lineup in the center of defence. Mancienne was shaky against Wigan but performed better against Palace in a game that Berra struggled in. Here’s my predicted eleven:

Hahnemann

Zubar
Berra
Craddock
Ward

Foley
Henry
Jones
Jarvis

SEB
Doyle

I’d love to see Jones and Milijas in the same team, but I’m positive Mick will persist with playing Foley further forward than he should do on the right. I think SEB will continue up front, so hopefully his fortunes will improve against the side he supported as a boy.

It should be a sizzling atmosphere in a sold out Molineux tonight and a good performance is long overdue. But with Liverpool showing signs that they’re slowly turning a corner and Wolves struggling at both ends of the pitch, I can’t predict anything other than defeat. Hearing the news that Steven Gerrard has made a speedy recovery in time to play doesn’t bode well either.

We’ve already shown signs that we can compete for long periods against the top sides, but when we go a goal down there doesn’t seem to be a plan B. So if we are to get something, that first goal really is worth it’s weight in gold.

If you’re going to the match tonight, have a great time and roar the lads on.

Up the Wolves.

Wolves Swoop for Midfielder

I get the feeling this is not going to be news that’s received well amongst the Wolves faithful.

Another new signing and another unheard of foreign player.

French midfielder Adlene Guedioura has arrived on loan from Charleroi (yes, the same club as Geoffrey Mujangi Bia) with a view to a permanent deal in the summer.

As has become the norm, here’s a video I’ve dug-up from YouTube.

Let Off: Wolves 2 Crystal Palace 2

Given the fact that Wolves could really do without a tricky cup replay at Selhurst Park, I suppose it was always obvious this match would end in a draw.

On a more positive note, it was a decent game of football, which kept the crowd of 14,449 entertained throughout. There were some excellent goals too, most notably Ronald Zubar’s chest high volley that whistled into the top corner to earn us a second chance in the tie.

Zubar - Deserved his goal

The big defender did himself no harm with his performance either. How Mick can’t see that this guy should be in the team every week is beyond me. Whenever I’ve seen him play, he’s done well and a good run in the team seems long overdue. Perhaps now could be the time for the former Marseille man to step up and make a big contribution to our survival mission. He certainly has all the attributes to do just that.

Mancienne had a decent game too, sweeping up at the back and keeping Victor Moses in his back pocket. Berra wasn’t as convincing and struggled to contain the aerial threat of Alan Lee, most notably in the fourth minute when the forward powered home a header to give the Eagles the lead.

That put paid to Hennessy’s hopes of a clean sheet and things didn’t really get much better for the Welsh international. He had very little to do in the match, so will be disappointed to have shipped two goals. He couldn’t do much about Lee’s bullet header, but I’m not so sure Darren Ambrose’s free kick should have been able to find it’s way in.

Elokobi enjoyed mixed fortunes and despite some powerful and incisive runs forward, he let himself down again with poor distribution. I can’t see him unseating Ward from the left-back slot anytime soon.

In midfield, Jones was the real bright spark and must surely have played himself into contention for the Liverpool match. He picked out some clever passes and got into good shooting positions, culminating in a well-taken goal from the edge of the box.

Henry, Surman and Foley all showed nice touches but none of them really had the ability to hurt Palace in the final third, which probably says a lot about why we’re so toothless in attack at the moment.

Up top, Vokes won a lot of headers and was up for the game from the very start. Maybe he deserves a chance alongside Doyle with SEB and Iwelumo struggling to make the desired impact on the Premiership stage. Speaking of SEB, he can be reasonably pleased with his performance, but unfortunately, his long wait for a goal continues and for all his good play, he didn’t really get a sniff in this one.

By contrast, new boy Mujangi Bia got into some great positions when he came on, but ultimately failed to capitalise. I wouldn’t say he convinced me about his future potential with this second-half cameo, but the one thing he did was put Palace on the back foot. We’ve been crying out for a player (other than Jarvis) that can get defences turned and this guy might well give us that spark. The jury’s still out.

Overall, a few decent performances but as a team, we didn’t do enough at either end to get the win. And I’m afraid that until we start playing with two proper wide men, we’ll continue to struggle in the ‘goals for’ column.

Come on Mick, sort it out.

Wolves Vs Crystal Palace Preview

OK, hands up who remembers the last FA Cup clash between these two sides at Molineux? Normally I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting a 4-1 defeat, but that game will live long in the memory for some quite unbelievable goals. Here’s a video to jog your memory:

I didn’t go to that replay, but I remember vividly watching at home on the TV and shaking my head in disbelief at that last goal from Armstrong. What a finish. However, I did go to the first game at Selhurst Park (what a dump), where Gordon Cowans assaulted one of their players before curling in a neat finish to earn us the draw. I suppose justice was done in the end.

To be honest, I won’t be heading to Molineux on Saturday expecting a similar cup classic, but will definitely settle for a decent performance, a win and maybe even a few goals if the footballing Gods are smiling down on us.

I’m sure Neil Warnock has other ideas though and will have his side up for the game and hellbent on causing a mini-upset. It will be interesting to see whether the ‘next big thing’ Victor Moses turns out for the visitors, as many of their fans seem to think they don’t want to get him cup-tied. Makes sense I suppose given that his exit seems inevitable and they want to get top dollar for the striker. If he does play though, I’ll look forward to seeing what he’s about.

For Wolves, I expect a lot of changes from the side that were blown away by Wigan. With Liverpool to come on Tuesday, I can’t imagine Mick risking any of our better players for this one so it could well be a complete second string. That’s not necessarily bad news though, as all of those players should be well up for the game and a chance to force their way back into the first team.

Here’s the kind of lineup I’d expect to see:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Elokobi
Hill

Surman
Jones
Castillo
Foley

Iwelumo
SEB

I include SEB in that eleven, simply because it seems like a good opportunity to try and get him a goal. That must be something Mick is contemplating, but I’ve given up trying to second-guess our manager. For all I know, he might field our best side.

To be honest, the one result I really wouldn’t like to see is a draw. I think win or lose, get this fixture out of the way and move on, whether that be to the next round or focusing completely on survival. I’d love to see us win it and continue the cup run, especially with the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool already out, but staying in the Premiership must remain the number one priority.

Ben put the question to me earlier in the week:

‘What would you prefer, an FA Cup win or Premiership survival?’.

I opted for the latter. You might well think differently.

Either way, I do believe we’ll overcome Palace in this particular encounter. Had the game been at Selhurst Park, I wouldn’t have been quite so confident, but seeing as it’s at home, I’ll go for a 2-0 win.

If you’re going to the match, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.