Archives for November 2011

Reshuffle

Aside from the 3-0 loss, perhaps the most significant development from Saturday’s disappointing trip to Stamford Bridge was Karl Henry picking up his fifth booking of the season.

Henry - can only watch on Sunday

The former skipper will now sit out the Sunderland match, meaning a pretty significant reshuffle of the midfield is needed.

Whilst Henry has missed a handful of games in recent years, Mick has always had his trusted deputies – Kevin Foley and Michael Mancienne – to fill the void.

With one of those players still on the treatment table and the other now living in Germany, he doesn’t have the luxury of a like-for-like replacement.

So, the question is: What will our manager do?

Well, first and foremost, it depends on the formation.

Without Henry last season, Mick largely preferred 442, using Foley in tandem with either Dave Edwards or Nenad Milijas.

However, with Foley unavailable I’m not sure he trusts any central duo enough to handle the responsibility of this shape. The only possible midfield he could pick for a 442 would be something like:

Hunt, O'Hara, Edwards, Jarvis

Or, at slightly more of a stretch maybe:

Edwards, O'Hara, Milijas, Jarvis

But would anyone bet against:

Jarvis, Edwards, O'Hara, Ward

A five-man midfield is the other option, but that would mean handing a start to either Guedioura or Milijas – both players who’ve made mistakes in recent weeks.

Even so, this would probably be the most likely 5:

Hunt, Milijas, O'Hara, Edwards, Jarvis

With either shape, it will be interesting to see who will be handed the task of sitting in front of the back four.

Jamie O’Hara would seem the likeliest choice, with Dave Edwards pushing forward in his place.

I’ve always felt Milijas could play the holding role but after his Stamford Bridge horror show, will Mick share the same faith?

Probably not I would imagine.

For what it’s worth, I would play the midfield five pictured above, with Fletch retaining his position as the lone-forward.

That would give us a nice choice of options on the bench too with SEB, Hammill, Guedioura and hopefully Doyle all waiting in the wings should things go south.

What Mick will do is a completely different question all-together though.

Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

Chelsea 3 Wolves 0

As this disappointing game drifted towards an entirely predictable conclusion, my thoughts returned to our manager’s pre-match comments.

“It’s about what we do – we’ve got to focus on our performance, our team, it’s not about them because if we give them anything like a goal early on, you’ll see a completely different team. They’ll be spraying the ball about and we’ll be chasing shadows.”

Right you are Mick.

No man on the post. No chance.

How unfortunate then that a catalogue of sloppy individual errors heavily contributed towards Chelsea gaining that decisive foothold inside the opening six minutes.

First, Nenad Milijas dawdled in possession, allowing Ramires to scamper clear and force a wonderful fingertip save from Hennessey.

Then, from the resulting corner John Terry escaped Roger Johnson with ease to flick a header towards goal.

But for me, most disappointing of all was that we didn’t have a man guarding that far post.

When you’re scrapping it out against a significantly better team, you need that insurance policy. And ultimately today, not having a player in that position has cost us a goal.

As you would imagine, Chelsea didn’t look back after gaining the initiative, dominating the first half without really having to exit first gear and scoring two further goals to end the match as a contest.

Wolves unsurprisingly found the going tough in a nightmare first 45, failing to do anything with the ball inside the opposition’s half.

Two close range headers from Stephen Ward and Dave Edwards represented decent half chances, but that was as a good as it got as we once again looked toothless in attack.

The second half was better, but ultimately in vein effectively attempting to rescue a lost cause.

However you want to dress it up, there’s simply no point in taking positives by claiming we played well after going 2 or 3 goals down.

The fact of the matter is, teams naturally relax in this position and the game opens up.

Yes, it’s admirable that the lads stuck to their task and yes we could and probably should have cashed in when Chelsea took their foot off the gas, but would the consolation of a goal have made up for the performance up to that point?

Not for me.

Another soundbite attributed to Mick McCarthy during the week was this one:

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice things going forwards to make sure you are solid.”

Understandable, but I would argue his team selection today sacrificed a lot of things going forward and at the same time made us more open at the back.

For instance, why was Ward pushed into midfield?

Surely all this accomplished was making us more vulnerable at the back and less effective as an attacking force.

Why not just keep Ward where he’s been doing a solid job and bring in a dedicated midfielder? Why make two changes when only one is necessary?

I just don’t understand.

And that in a nutshell is what annoys me the most.

Chelsea Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves’ last two visits to Stamford Bridge have both ended in defeat. However, the manner of those losses couldn’t have been much different.

In our inaugural season back amongst the elite we were 3-0 down after 20 minutes and fortunate to skulk away with a 4-0 loss. The gulf in class was humbling.

Wolves played well at the Bridge last season

Fast forward to last year and Wolves more than matched their illustrious opponents for the duration, registering 12 shots on Petr Cech’s goal and forcing 8 corners.

So what this time?

Hard to say really.

Somewhat surprisingly, both teams head into the match struggling for any sort of form.

Chelsea have lost 3 or their last 4 Premier League matches, with 2 of those defeats coming on their own patch (albeit against Arsenal and Liverpool).

12 games in, they already trail Man City by 12 points, leading some to speculate whether they’ll even make the top four, let alone challenge for the title. They currently lie 5th.

But whilst most of their best players – the likes of Lampard, Droba, Terry and Cole –  have seen their best days come and go, it would be foolish to write off such an experienced team.

However, if they are to succeed over the course of the season the likes of Torres, Mata, Ramires, Sturridge, etc surely need to step up and make significant contributions.

It goes without saying they’re massive favourites to win this match and anything but a home victory will surely heap even more pressure on Andre Villas-Boas.

The Team

Mick’s job isn’t made any easier this weekend by the injury to Richard Stearman and the suspensions picked up by Stephen Hunt and Jamie O’Hara at Everton.

I can’t shake the suspicion he’ll play 442, with a team of:

Hennessey, Zubar, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Henry, Milijas, Edwards, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher

So Zubar in at right-back for Stearman, Jarvis in for Hunt and Fletcher in for O’Hara.

If we do go for this sort of shape, I’d expect one of the strikers to play deeper in an attempt to link the play.

With Edwards playing on the right, it should keep the midfield narrower and Jarvis offers the outlet down the left.

The other option is of course the 451, moving Edwards into the middle and playing one of Guedioura or Hammill out wide.

I’d be happy enough with either, just as long as we try and have a go at them.

Prediction League

13 wise armchair pundits correctly predicted we’d lose at Everton. 6 of those got the 2-1 scoreline correct too.

So well done to Amer Wolf, Hamlet, Ventura Highway, Exeter Wolf, Philly Pete and Yoda – you all get the maximum 3 points on offer.

The rest get a single point.

Hard not to predict a defeat this weekend.

Chelsea should be right up for this one and I’m not sure we’ll have enough at either end to stop them getting the win.

3-1 Chelsea.

If Wolves are to get anything, a performance similar to last season’s is the order of the day. Keeping possession and using the ball intelligently will be key, as well as a disciplined defensive showing.

Should you be one of the people making the trip down south for this one, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.