Archives for February 2012

The Kevin Doyle question

I received an interesting guest post this morning (from Wolves Blog regular Martin).

So I thought rather than just paste the blog onto the site, I’d do some digging into the statistics to see if I could conjure up a response to his question.

First off then, here’s his post:

Form is returning but should he start at Fulham?

Is Doyle really super?

Doyle is a genuine, honest good bloke.

And this, of course, is reflected in his play. He works hard, he tries hard and he plays for the team.

But he neither creates or scores enough goals.

Kev is, after all, a striker. And often with the formation we play, the only striker on the pitch. He is the one most likely to be in or around the box and he simply has to score more.

Four in total this season is just not enough. And when you watch him play it’s easy to see why. I don’t know whether he has got worse since he’s been with us, but his shooting is woeful. No power and often, as he drags it wide, no direction.

And when you’re a low scoring team, a low scoring centre forward  is a luxury you can ill afford.

Secondly, and this is a lesser criticism, he doesn’t create enough. I agree he starts a lot of attacks from his initial control and finding a team mate but, for me, he doesn’t have an eye for an early through ball or killer pass.

It’s a criticism I would make of the whole team really and one of the main reasons we don’t score more goals. Kightly at his best can do it and, sorry about this Clive, I think Ward can be very direct when he gets forward. (Proper left back and Ward left midfield for me.)

Much as I love Kev, I don’t see how we can afford to play him as the sole striker. There just aren’t enough goals. And unless TC can come up with a way to play them both, Fletch has got to play. His goals speak for themselves.

The stats

Martin certainly isn’t the first person to ask questions of a striker whose stock has plummeted in the last 12 months, thanks to a loss of form and the emergence of Steven Fletcher as Wolves main talisman.

To come up with a slightly more scientific response, I’ve put together a table comparing Doyle’s and Fletcher’s statistics for this season taken from the EPL Index.

As we can see, with Doyle’s 4 goals from 1662 minutes on the pitch, he averages a goal every 416 minutes (or 4.6 matches).

Fletcher by comparison will get on the scoresheet every 156 minutes (or 1.7 matches).

By those numbers, Fletch could grab another 7 goals this season if he were start every game. Doyle would be nowhere near as prolific notching between 2 and 3 goals with the same number of minutes on the pitch.

And of course that margin could very easily be the difference between survival and relegation.

As for assists, we can see that Doyle outstrips Fletcher in this respect, by a score of 4 to 1.

What’s clear when you look at this statistic, as well as their comparative number of shots and passes, is that in advanced positions Fletcher is more likely to pull the trigger, whereas Doyle will more often try to find a pass.

By this reasoning, they should (as provider and scorer) form a decent partnership, but as we know, that hasn’t yet materialised.

Interestingly, on current form (their last 3 matches), Doyle has actually outperformed Fletcher, registering 2 goals and 2 assists, compared to Fletcher’s solitary goal against Albion.

So if TC is to play 451 at Craven Cottage on Sunday, he must choose between long-term superiority or immediate form.

It’s by no means a straightforward decision.

I wouldn’t like to make it.

February 12th – a day to remember

When golden shirts shimmered in the hazy autumn sun, nobody could have predicted where we’d end up come February 12.

Cyrille predicted a close game

Heads down and shoulders slumped come 4pm was pretty incomprehensible, but rocking up outside the Hawthorns at the first light of dawn was nigh on impossible.

Like a couple of lost fish swimming way too close to the shore, Thomas and I were wondering around the Hawthorns in a daze at 8am, trying to find a way into the s**thole to meet a load of Albion fans!

Barely believable to us two, let alone our dear wives, who usually can’t shift us out of our pits on a Sunday morning with a stick of dynamite and a spatula.

We were there in aid of lifelong WBA and Wolves fans Kieran Caldwell and Ian Marrey, who had organised a 10 mile ‘March to Molineux’ to raise money for Acorns Hospice, which is playing an invaluable role in looking after their children.

We met Cyrille Regis and Bobby Gould in the Hawthorns car park, exchanged pleasantries with some amazingly eloquent Baggies fans, high fived some similarly dazed Wolves ones, and took a walk towards our path of righteousness.

With rivalries used as a topic of endearment, we dissected each other’s teams, remembered the good old days and chose which player we’d like from either side.

Pre-match warm up

Fletcher was their near unanimous choice, while one Albion fan said he liked the look of ‘that lad called Guedioura’ who he thought was the man-of-the-match in last season’s corresponding fixture.

Cue non-stop laughter from Coseley McDonald’s all the way to Parkfields School when I mumbled where the Algerian was now residing!

Within hours of us marching through Tipton, along the Birmingham New Road and into the city we call home, we were thumped 5-1, Mick McCarthy was sacked and a tortuous two weeks ensued.

With the managerial merry-go-round twirling ever since, I didn’t think a blog about a walk was a priority to write about – until I remembered how the experience made me feel.

When materialism and cynicism rears its head with the monotony of a West Bromwich Albion attack, the Beautiful Game doesn’t always appear so scrumptious nowadays.

But when a chorus of ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ thawed the freezing Molineux air, you can tell how much I’m back in love with it that I wanted to sing along.

Thanks again Kieran, Ian and everyone involved with the March to Molineux.

Newcastle United 2 Wolves 2

They say a week is a long time in football.

Friday alone felt like an eternity for Steve Morgan.

Straining the vocal chords further

Saturday didn’t look much better as of 3.45.

Thankfully for our beleaguered chairman and everyone else in old gold, Terry Connor played it steady to drag us out of the dropzone by 5.

Stepping out from behind the clipboard, TC was everything our board haven’t been the last two weeks – bold and decisive.

Removing skipper Roger Johnson was a gutsy call and one that delivered on the promise he made in yesterday’s press conference to do things his own way.

Richard Stearman gobbled up the chance and looked assured throughout.

The same can be said of Ronald Zubar, thrown straight in and showcasing the pace and power he has in spades that we always desperately lack in his absence.

Zubes was my man of the match without question.

Sadly, Christophe Berra, another player recalled by the new gaffer wasn’t quite so rewarding.

The Scot’s early gaffe allowed Newcastle in to plunder the early goal we all dreaded.

And when Jonas Gutierrez pinged in an unstoppable second minutes later, you wondered what else could possibly go wrong for poor old Terry.

It would have been easy to panic.

But he kept his cool.

Wolves continued to pass and probe as they had done from the very start, eventually enjoying the luck they deserved to drag themselves back from the dead.

Matt Jarvis doesn’t score many, but he’s looking more likely right now, aided on this occasion by wicked deflection to see the ball loop into the net.

From nowhere – salvation.

Kevin Doyle deserved his goal, leading the line as we know he can and gleefully prodding home the equaliser when the ball ran loose.

Suddenly it’s all eyes on the dugout.

We’re back in it, so now what?

Jamie O’Hara withdrawn. Michael Kightly on. Fresh legs. Immediate action.

The clock’s ticking down and Newcastle are coming forward.

Jarvis off. Hunt on. More cover needed. No messing around.

Injury time. 5 minutes to see out.

Milijas on. Rundown the clock. Disrupt the rhythm.

I understood each and every one of TC’s decisions today and would go as far as to say he played it to perfection.

If this was the first test of his fledgling managerial credentials, he passed.

And following two weeks of bickering and uncertainty, why wouldn’t you smile?

I think it’s about time we all allow ourselves one of those.

We are Wolves.

It’s TC

So after 11 days of uncertainty, speculation, London hotels, rebuffed offers and divided visions, Steve Morgan has promoted Terry Connor to the position of manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers until the end of the season.

To the masses it appears an act of desperation.

A few brave souls might call it a bold decision.

Either way, should the wheels fall off and Wolves end the season beneath the dotted line, the finger of blame will be pointing squarely in one unified direction.

A massive achievement for TC

I just hope for everyone involved, that’s not the scenario we’re faced with.

As for my thoughts on TC’s appointment, I’m hugely disappointed.

A week ago, the prospect of the student becoming the master was joked about, but not something many thought would be seriously contemplated by a chairman and board already under the microscope after the fiasco surrounding the stadium redevelopment and their reluctance to invest in the team – both over the summer and in January.

But here we are.

One can only assume the two Ms had no other plausible avenue to explore because this is a decision that makes no logical sense, save for the fact ‘the boys like him’.

Both Ben and I agreed with McCarthy’s sacking for one simple reason: we needed a different perspective.

With the team visibly sinking before us, the only obvious way to turn the tide was surely new ideas and a fresh pair of eyes? Someone to come in, give the players a lift and try something different tactically.

Yes, we all had our favourites, but even as the search unraveled, I took solace in the fact that someone would ultimately come in and instigate change.

Whether it was Curbishley, Smith or yes, even Steve Bruce, I would have got on board because we just needed someone new.

Anyone.

But in this most simple of criteria, Jez and Steve have failed.

I think if I had any energy left, I’d probably be angry but the farce of the last two weeks has left me numb.

Any announcement would have brought relief.

And at least now we know.

And at least now we can concentrate on backing the Wolves and TC throughout these final 13 matches.

Because like it lump it, there’s nothing else we can do.

Up The Wolves.

Newcastle Vs Wolves Preview

Day 11 of the post-McCarthy era and, as I was writing this, Terry Connor was announced as manager to the end of the season.

I will save my comment on this for a separate post, but suffice to say I’m glad the speculation is at least over in the immediate.

Mauled last season

Like most, I’m looking forward to seeing the lads step out onto the pitch for a game of football.

Can anyone remember what that feels like?

Actually, probably best not to as visions of scoreboards and boinging will likely infest your brain.

Lets try and be positive.

Our away form in recent times has actually been rather good.

We’re undefeated in our last 4 matches including two credible draws at Spurs and Arsenal and of course that vital away win at QPR.

As encouraging as that may be, Newcastle’s 7 wins and 2 draws from their 12 home matches is intimidating.

It’s a massive ask for Wolves to get anything, particularly with some of their better players returning (namely, Tiote and Cabaye).

The Team

Although I was often critical of McCarthy’s tactics over the last year or so, his setup away from home, predominantly in a 451 was something I always agreed with, so I hope Terry Connor maintains it.

My preferred XI would be:

Hennessey, Zubar, Johnson, Bassong, Ward, Henry, O'Hara, Edwards, Jarvis, Kightly, Fletcher

First and foremost, we need to be difficult to beat, which is the reason for 451.

Henry must go straight back in. There can be no argument against it. He protects the back four and prevents the type of second half meltdown we saw against Liverpool and West Brom. We’ve missed him.

Zubar and Kightly are both back from injury and I would start start both. Zubar because we need more pace and athleticism at the back to combat those very attributes that Newcastle possess in the final third. And of course, Kightly is a player I personally rate above most others, hence his inclusion.

What TC will actually do is impossible to judge. Will he have been on the phone to McCarthy all week or will he have his own ideas?

It’s an intriguing scenario and I’m looking forward to seeing how much of a departure tomorrow is to the football we saw played under McCarthy.

Prediction League

Only two people dared predict defeat against Albion last time out and both sleachy and the Wanderer pick up a point.

I suspect the players will be keen to make a point this weekend and they’ll want to do well for TC.

But I think ultimately Newcastle will have too much for us.

I’ll say 3-1 to the Geordies.

If you’re making the long trek up north for this one, have a great day and really get behind the lads in that tiny corner of St. James’ Park.

Up The Wolves.

5 reasons to give Walter Smith a chance

There are many reasons Wolves supporters should be excited about Walter Smith reportedly being offered the chance to take over for the remainder of the season.

These are 5 of them.

Poised to take over?

1. He’s a winner

With a career win percentage of 57%, Smith would bring a winning mentality to the dressing room, which is something we desperately need for this final push.

Yes, those figures are inflated by dominating the SPL for so long with Rangers, but even in his least successful position at Everton he won a third of his games, which is roughly what he’ll need to achieve at Molineux, albeit with a handful of draws thrown in for good measure.

2. He’s done it before

In a two year spell as manager of Scotland, Smith was immediately able to galvanise a group of average players who’d failed miserably under Berti Vogts.

They famously beat France at Hampden Park and climbed 70 places in the FIFA rankings before he left the position to rejoin Rangers.

This encourages me that he brings the motivational skills and tactical nous to alter our fortunes in a relatively short period of time.

3. He’s experienced

34 years as a manager tells me that Smith has seen and done it all before.

As does the fact he’s managed internationally as well as in the Champions League.

So is anyone better positioned to come up with solutions to the many problems facing this struggling Wolves side?

Yes, a younger candidate might well have come with greater enthusiasm, but in our dire situation an older head that won’t panic if things don’t immediately come good might well be crucial.

4. He’s respected

Success breeds success

The players will instantly trust and respect a man like Walter Smith, which is precisely what we need.

Instant focus and concentration.

Someone like Lee Clark, who is renowned for being outspoken and confrontational may not have been received quite so well.

5. He has a point to prove

The fact that many supporters seem so dead against his proposed appointment, even on such a short term deal, is probably what whetted his appetite for the challenge.

Despite his many successes in Scotland, some critics still believe he hasn’t proven himself south of the border after a mixed spell at Everton.

If he can drag Wolves to safetly, it would surely put these nagging doubts to bed once and for all?

He’ll be desperate to do that.

So if, and it is still very much an ‘if’, Walter Smith does agree to see us home this season, it’s imperative we back him to the hilt.

The time for assessing whether the two Ms made the correct appointment or a terrible mistake is Sunday May 13th, not Thursday February 23rd.

I think we can all agree on that.