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.

Fans’ Parliament – The truth?

Last Wednesday’s Fan’s Parliament meeting – that the Express & Star was not allowed to attend – has reputedly thrown up some staggering comments from Jez Moxey, as claimed by one stunned member to contact Wolves Blog.

While the claims can not be taken as fact, the member – who wishes to remain anonymous – told us that on Wednesday November 16, Jez Moxey told the audience:

  • Stoke City fans are better than Wolves fans
  • “Newsflash. You are fickle!” quote to fans in the room
  • He would pull the plug on phase two of the Molineux redevelopment if it were up to him, stating: “Having seen it now, I don’t actually think it looks that bad.”

The final point contradicted a quote Jez Moxey made at a February Fans’ Parliament meeting, where he stated: “Molineux would look awful if we didn’t at least go ahead with phase two.”

The member also claimed that Jez Moxey said that £17.50 for the League Cup game against Manchester City proved that lowering prices did not work, despite the game being on TV and £2.50 more than WBA charged for a Premier League fixture against Bolton Saturday which attracted 26,221.

'Newsflash: You are fickle!' The alleged thoughts of Jez Moxey

The member’s notes of the Fans’ Parliament meeting are below:

The point of it was to discuss ticket prices for next season and there does seem a willingness on the club’s part to make some concessions in order to address falling crowds. There was a strong case made for bringing the price for new season tickets down to the same prices as current early bird renewals so as not to be prohibitive for new fans.

There was also a willingness on part of season ticket holders to accept dirt cheap pricing for matchday tickets on a one-off basis for the Norwich home game on a Tuesday night in order to fill the ground.

Moxey then claimed that it was a misunderstanding that if you halve prices then you double crowds, by arguing that we slashed prices for the Man City game and look what happened.

I couldn’t believe this. Moxey was claiming that by charging £17.50 for Man City IN THE LEAGUE CUP and only getting 12,000 this proved that reducing prices didn’t work. I thought he was joking and it was a bit scary that he was serious.

Things went downhill fast when we got onto the topic of the fans chants during the Swansea game and the treatment of Henry vs QPR. Some fans there were hoping to hear that the club weren’t totally satisfied with the way the problem was dealt with by the club: Johnson calling fans a disgrace, McCarthy labelling fans as mindless idiots and O’Hara calling supporters fickle, for example.

What followed was pretty shocking. Moxey got quite animated – at one point loudly exclaiming: “Newsflash, You. Are. Fickle!”

He defended Johnson’s sentiments and told fans they were too thin-skinned and liked dishing it out but couldn’t take it. He also told an anecdote from a friend of his claiming Stoke fans were far better than Wolves fans and he couldn’t imagine any other club treating its staff in such a way. The implication was obviously that he agreed with this friend.

It was pretty hard to take. While there are flaws in the argument – Stoke have been booed at HT and FT in recent games for example – many fans do agree he has a point. What really worried me though was that he didn’t even seem to get the point that some people were making, namely that there’s a difference between being entitled to have a pop back at the fans and it being a constructive thing to do. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

All this soured the mood from my point of view and the evening ended on an even more depressing note. Moxey revealed that expansion plans are in the balance and left us under the impression that if it is up to him he would pull the plug on phase two of the rebuild (the Steve Bull Stand) and leave the ground as it is.

He again cited the recent ECJ ruling about pubs showing games and also noted that attendance was down to 88% of capacity.

Although there are sound reasons for not going ahead with the rebuild, this was a particularly staggering announcement for those of us on the parliament who have attended meetings over the past two years hearing all about this huge project – presumably a strategic, long-term investment for the club – that was now possibly being scrapped with little explanation.

Somebody pointed out that in February 2011 Moxey had stated that “Molineux would look awful if we didn’t at least go ahead with phase two.” In response to this, Moxey simply said that “having seen it now, I don’t think it actually looks that bad.”

Tim Nash, Wolves correspondent at the Express & Star, has confirmed that the paper was not allowed in to report on this parliament meeting. However, this is common practice and not exclusive to this meeting alone.

Wolves’ official website states that ‘David Instone, respected local journalist, will attend each meeting of the Fans’ Parliament to take minutes and prepare an official review of the session. This will be published under the ‘Fans’ Parliament’ section of wolves.co.uk

David Instone was not present at the meeting on November 16.

Come in Ronald

As good as Stephen Ward has been this season, George Elokobi has been bad.

Woefully inadequate against QPR in his only start, he was once again a liability on Saturday in a half hour cameo to forget.

So with Richard Stearman now ruled out for a month, Mick will surely look elsewhere to fill the void.

Zubar - ready to go?

Kevin Foley remains sidelined, so it would appear to be Matt Doherty and Ronald Zubar vying for the shirt.

Well, that is if the latter is back in action himself yet.

The mercurial Frenchman just can’t get fit it would seem, tantalising us all with a cheeky appearance on one of those pointless training galleries the E&S publish weekly, before once again vanishing into the shadows.

I hope he can find a way back soon though because we desperately need him.

Doherty did well in his 45 minute Premier League debut at Anfield, but got horribly exposed in the Carling Cup thrashing Man City handed out to us.

Plus, ‘The Doc’ doesn’t give us what ‘Zubes’ does, which is to say pace, power and personality.

I’m biased of course because Ronnie is my favourite player (if it is still alright to have a favourite player in your late 20s).

Not only is he a direct and highly capable footballer, his unbridled enthusiasm is infectious.

He also happens to be the scorer of my favourite ever Wolves goal – tonking in the second at Upton Park in that famous 3-1 win.

C’est magnifique.

Yes, he makes more than the odd mistake (Bolton away flashback *shudder*). But if he didn’t, he’d still be playing in the Champions League because to quote Louis Walsh, ‘he’s got the whole package’.

I fondly remember him returning last season for the 3-2 home win over Sunderland.

He was immense that afternoon, making blocks, towering above everyone to clear headers and galloping up and down the right flank all afternoon.

We’ve missed those marauding runs this season.

Stearman, for all his defensive qualities just isn’t comfortable enough in possession to play at full-back, so his exit, however unfortunate, might not be such a bad thing.

With only one shot registered at Goodison Park at the weekend, we’re certainly in need of more forward thrust.

Come in Ronald.

Everton 2 Wolves 1

Just like many young boys growing up in the mid-1980s, the sight of Howard Kendall’s all conquering Everton side was enough to make me realise how special the game of football was.

The thrill of staying up late to watch Sportsnight with Dad and the giddy excitement at the spectacle thereafter convinced me that the Beautiful Game was the one for me.

Thank God I wasn’t born a few years ago instead.

Because the team Dad diverted me towards in 1987 created its customary brand of wretched anti-football that does more to drive neutrals away from the game and take up tiddlywinks instead.

Savour it folks. Our ONLY shot on target

No shots on target (bar the penalty), no possession, no pace, no aspiration, no progression and no player within 40 yards of Kevin Doyle at any time.

And all this at the home of the club that first got me hooked.

We are the complete antithesis of those Canon League conquerors of yesteryear, let alone Graham Turner’s heroes of division three.

It was no wonder my two mates were spending more time checking their fantasy football teams than grimace at our pre-planned attempt to pervert the course of football.

Partly because they were bored out of their skulls and partly because all of their chosen players would never ever be playing at Goodison Park on November 19.

Not in a Wolves shirt at least.

It’s no wonder our (wonderfully voiced) fans can lay claim to the most self deprecating song in the whole of football, heard only two or three times a season when we actually take the lead away from home.

“We’re winning away, we’re winning away. How s**t must you be, we’re winning away.”

Doubtless they will be called numpties and mindless idiots by Mick McCarthy in the greatest irony of all.

If this is football Mick, you can have it.

If I wasn’t so desperately sad right now, I’d summon up some bile to throw at you.

It wasn’t the wasted £35 that has saddened me. It wasn’t even the defeat itself or the subsequent baiting by my Everton supporting mate thereafter.

It was the unashamed creation of a spectacle that bears no relation to the game I first fell in love with that really hurt, featuring none of its bewitching, spellbinding characteristics.

Where the good teams have skill, we have sweat. Where Norwich and Swansea have aspiration, we have pragmatism.

And where every other side have a chain of passes, we have a kick-off to Hennessey and a lump downfield to a striker who can’t win headers.

The game itself featured 11 Wolves players giving their absolute all to the cause, looking committed and hungry from the off.

For that, they will not receive any criticism from me. Certainly not Ward for his phenomenal block on the line, or Berra for an amazing last gasp tackle on Drenthe in the first half.

We took the lead through a needless Fellaini trip on Edwards and proceeded to squander possession with the reckless abandon of a pub team.

So what happened next? We work even harder to try to get the ball back and our tiring bodies give way to weary minds.

The agonising inevitability is bad enough. The reputation we have now garnered with yet another set of disbelieving fans just rubs the salt in.

“Thank God we only play these lot once at home this season,” said one pained Everton fan.

The pleasure was all ours.