Archives for August 2012

Cardiff City Vs Wolves Preview

There are notable similarities between Cardiff and Wolves with both sides heading into Sunday’s game looking for a much needed boost.

Slip-up at Ashton Gate

Before we even kicked off our disappointing contest with Derby, the Bluebirds (or whatever they call themselves these days) had already gone down 4-2 at Bristol City.

As a result they, like Wolves, have 4 points thus far after a last minute win over Huddersfield on opening day followed by a goalless draw at Brighton.

Malkie Mackay, much like Ståle Solbakken, has been given funds to reshape his squad over the summer with the likes of Bellamy, Helguson, Mutch and most recently winger Craig Noone arriving in Wales.

As I write this, it’s also widely expected that forward and one-time Wolves target Nicky Maynard will join ahead of the transfer deadline. He’d be a useful addition at this level.

Wolves

Of course Cardiff aren’t the only team who can add to their squad before this game kicks off and I’m hoping Wolves will bring another central midfielder into the fold.

With Jamie O’Hara still a few months away and Karl Henry struggling, we’re down to bare bones. Personally, I’m not keen on either Davies or Jonnson filling the void for an extended run of games. Certainly not based on what I’ve seen thus far. Glenn Whelan from Stoke would be a shrewd acquisition.

With the players we do have, this would be my preferred eleven:

At least one of the new wide men need to start this game and I’d personally opt to throw them both in. Why not?

Either way, it’s a luxury to have three natural wide players to choose from with Peszko also in the mix.

Both Nouble and Sigurdarson pushed themselves into contention with solid midweek displays, but I’d persevere with Ebanks-Blake and Doyle for the moment. But again, it’s nice to have different types of forwards to choose from.

At the back, it’s perhaps a little harsh to drop Berra after a decent performance against Derby, but Solbakken has surely brought Margreitter here to play. And with Christophe having slapped in a transfer request, how much loyalty do we owe him?

Opposition view

Couldn’t find a blogger to contribute on such short notice, so here’s a few snippets from the Cardiff forums:

So some exciting new signings to raise the gloom of the stuffing served out by the Wurzels. But now with so many new midfielders, who does Malky possibly pick? Finally new signing from South Korea, Kim Bo is set to make his debut. However, apart from Whittingham (who will be certainly picked unless injury) Mackay has a strong selection of talent to pick from. However with Turners availability unsure, could we be weak at the back once more?

Unless there is a significant change in the way we play it’s going to be tough against Wolves. Will a 4-5-1 formation give us the goals?

Predictions

Only 7 people correctly predicted a draw against Derby. 4 of those said 1-1 though so they double up to 2 points.

Well done to Greg, Clemens, andrewwfc and Amberwolf for taking the maximum.

I think this will be an incredibly stern test, particularly for a Wolves team very much in transition.

Still, with the confidence of last night’s second half seeping through my veins, I’ll go for a respectable score draw.

2-2.

Up The Wolves.

Northampton Town 1 Wolves 3

If you can make nine changes to your starting eleven and still run out convincing winners, there are definite reasons to be cheerful.

Now that’s what I call Clack!

Only Carl Ikeme and David Davis remained from Saturday’s snore-draw against Derby, with Ståle’s new boys taking center stage.

And come full time, this was very much Solbakken’s Wolves.

Sigurdarson and Nouble up front, Sako and Peszko on the wings, Doumbia in the middle, Margreitter at the back.

Times are a changing and if the second half is anything to go by, probably for the best.

Passing to feet, moving the opposition around quickly, opening up spaces. Much like the Barnsley game, plenty of encouraging signs.

Bakary Sako’s venomous drive was the icing on the cake and dare I say it, the sort of no-nonsense goal Matt Jarvis just wasn’t capable of scoring. Ball into feet, shift, bang. Welcome to Wolves.

Razak Boukari was also impressive, offering pace, trickery and a definite eye for a pass as demonstrated with an inch-perfect through ball for David Davis.

Will both of those players start on Sunday? I’d like to think so.

It’s harder to judge Georg Margreitter, as he wasn’t asked many questions, but I suppose the fact he came through the game unnoticed suggests he coped comfortably. Sterner tests await and it will be intriguing to see if Solbakken throws him straight in against Cardiff.

The two forwards also stood out. Nouble in particular deserved his goal and showed not only great physical strength, but also composure with the ball at his feet.

In an opening 45 where we struggled to string together more than two passes before hoofing long, both he and Sigurdarson showed great appetite.

Scrappy would be a kind adjective to use in describing that first half, accentuated by the two goals we bundled over the line.

Northampton’s equaliser was familiar territory. A cross not cut out down the left and a forward finding too much space in the middle to plant a header in the corner.

Like Saturday, we seemed to be lacking any sort of creativity through the middle, so I’d like think we’ll see at least one new signing before the day is out to rectify this problem.

But credit to Wolves, after the break when the game did open up, they really put their foot on the pedal, with the only disappointing aspect being that it took until stoppage time to sew the game up.

The young players like Forde and Davis, who was much improved from Saturday, also seemed to grow into the game and help control the play. That was a pleasant bonus.

As for our aspirations of progressing further in the competition, Chelsea away wasn’t the ideal draw, but it’s a plum tie all the same and a great test.

And who knows, we might even be on TV again?

Northampton Town Vs Wolves Preview

Ståle Solbakken could probably have done without a midweek cup game to contend with as Molineux’s revolving door continues to spin ahead of Friday’s transfer deadline.

Undefeated thus far

Since last Friday, it’s mercifully been a case of reinforcements arriving rather than troops jumping ship as we welcome Razak Boukari and Bakary Sako to the fold.

If you believe what you see on YouTube, they should bring pace and creativity to the side, two things desperately lacking from the weekend’s disappointing performance against Derby.

Relevant clearance permitting, both of those players should make their debut at Northampton tomorrow as Wolves look to advance in the League Cup. Defender Georg Margreitter is also inline for his first appearance.

League Two Northampton, now managed by Aidy Boothroyd, have enjoyed a solid start. With 3 draws and a win in the league thus far as well as a fantastic first round cup win over Cardiff, they’re undefeated heading into this match and hungry for another upset.

Wolves of course went to Sixfields last season at the same stage and won 4-0. Ebanks-Blake (2), Milijas and Sam Vokes were all on the scoresheet in that one. I remember looking at our squad after that win and thinking how much strength in depth we had. Oh well.

Wolves

I’m expecting the starting eleven in this game to consist of new signings and players in and around the first team squad. This is the sort of thing I mean:

Starting the two forwards is surely a no-brainer? I’d like to see what they can both do from the start, particularly if there’s a chance Doyle could leave before Friday. Someone has to fill the void.

If the three new lads can play, it would be nice to see them get a run out. The likes of Elokobi, Stearman and Davis should also benefit from a run out.

Opposition view

Thanks to Danny from A Load of Cobblers:

Aidy Boothroyd has mentioned that fringe players may get a chance. With a trip to Plymouth coming two days after this match there could be a fair bit of chopping and changing from the Town boss.

On paper it’s another potential upset for the Cobblers but I can see this being just as much of a challenge as last season and we’ll have to be well on our game to come close. I would imagine Wolves would field a stronger side than Cardiff City did a few weeks ago and the best we can hope for will probably be a shot at extra-time. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes!

Predictions

No PL points at stake for this one, but just for fun I’ll tip us to edge through 2-1.

I’d like to say the performance is more important than the result, but I’ll be disappointed if we get knocked out.

Either way, what happens off the pitch over the next two days is probably going to be a lot more telling for the season ahead than what happens on it.

Up The Wolves.

Statement of intent

It takes a pretty sad Wolves fan to remember a 0-0 draw at Bradford City virtually 10 years ago to the day.

Robbing from rivals

Back in August 2002, the vivid memory had nothing to do with an Ivar Ingimarrson debut or a grotty white Doritos shirt, but the buzz in the away end that transcended the dour spectacle…

…Paul Ince had signed!

As statements of intent go, not many have topped Dave Jones’ capture of the Guv’nor, who dragged his battle scarred team kicking and screaming to the Premier League – whether they genuinely believed they could or not.

With three days of the transfer window left and £25 million burning a hole in our pockets, what price a signature to recreate that excitement? To finally replace pragmatism with a crumb of aspiration for once?

However refreshing and laudable the signatures of Boukari and Margrietter may well be, they fail to quench the thirst of a fan still parched by the bitter loss of relegation, the recollection of ‘Novicegate’ and the loss of our three star players thereafter.

With a similarly dull draw against Derby still festering, now has never been a better time to show the rest of the league that we genuinely mean business. That to quote a slogan from one of Ince’s old clubs, we ‘come not to play.’

As I stumbled on the pronunciation of Bakary Soko to a wonderfully attentive new friend I made on holiday, I thought that if my untrained tongue had no chance of describing our latest transfer target, then what chance did my mate have to feign the slightest bit of interest?

As I scrambled to the nearest sports bar with Nick (as big a Leeds fanatic as I am a Wolves nut), he told me of the time Blackburn Rovers poached a bloke called Shearer from the club next to his house.

Not Alan, but Duncan, only this time nearly 20 years to the day.

With ‘Deadly Dunc’ plundering goals with the unerring poise of his namesake, Kenny Dalglish snapped him up for £800,000, more in a reassertion of a footballing ‘pecking order’ than any great desire to play him.

Little old Swindon Town lost their talisman and with it, any chance of competing with Blackburn Rovers which they’d once done so gamely.

With tick following tock on this transfer window, can we stop dreaming the impossible dream for once, throw the lyrics in the dustbin and start penning a new songsheet?

The name Ince again springs to mind, and the chip off Paul’s block called Tom.

‘Nah, we’d never get him,’ said a glum friend in the pub on Sunday night. ‘Why would he want to leave Blackpool and come down to play for us?’

It’s a sign of the times that most people would agree.

But with £25 million banked and a paltry 21,000 home attendance to ponder, now’s the time to issue a statement of intent.

Wolves 1 Derby County 1

Ståle Solbakken said earlier in the week he couldn’t wait for the transfer window to close. After today’s abject display he should be grateful it’s open for another week.

Scrappy at best

Without the pace of Jarvis and the tenacity of Henry, his team lacked any sort of shape or cohesion. Coming off the back of Tuesday, it really did feel like one step forward, two massive steps back. Demoralising.

The reality is, we should have lost convincingly.

And but for a string of superb Carl Ikeme saves, this would have been a cricket score. Nobody could have complained.

Credit too should probably go to Johnson and Berra for a string of fine last ditch blocks as the visitors tore through at will.

The midfield was non-existent.

Davis was just awful. There can be no other word to describe his performance. Starting in the middle and then shifted over to the right, he just looked off the pace from the very first kick.

Peszko was equally disappointing. On a day we were really looking for him to shoulder the creative burden, he was simply anonymous. We need much more.

Doumbia continues to look like the pick of the summer signings and his rampaging runs forward were a rare highlight of an otherwise terrible team performance. But even the big man was muted without the assured presence of Henry sitting alongside him.

Zubar had one of ‘those’ games, spooning the freest of free headers over the bar and passing to nobody when running through on goal. Had he taken either of those glaring chances, Wolves would surely have pulled off one of the most unjust victories in recent history.

The one consolation that he didn’t is that there can be no papering over the cracks.

Make no bones about it, Wolves need to do serious business this week or any chances of a top six finish go up in smoke.

Rennes winger Razak Boukari is reportedly on his way, joining defender Georg Margreitter who signed yesterday. But even that probably isn’t enough.

We really are down to the bare bones, but what’s staggering is that it’s mostly self-inflicted.

We ended this game with a midfield that consisted of Ward, Jonnson and Forde, when a fully fit Hunt, Milijas and Hammill were sitting at home with their feet up. How did that happen?

I always suspected things would have to get worse before they got better.

But I don’t think even I was prepared for just how bad it was today.

Wolves Vs Derby County Preview

As more players head for the exit door, Tuesday night’s win over Barnsley looks all the more important.

Muscled out at the Reebok

As I write this, bids have been accepted for both Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis with personal terms and medicals all but a formality. Farewell and good luck to both of those players. We close the door and move on.

One would hope that the money in the bank will not only bring in new talent but also stiffen the club’s resolve not to sell any other first team players. Doyle and Ward have been linked with Everton this morning and I wouldn’t like to see either of those two leave.

Surely the exit door at Molineux will now cease, at least until after Saturday’s game against Derby?

The Rams arrive in town without a win in their opening two matches. Late goals have cost them in both, squandering a two goal lead against Sheffield Wednesday on opening day before succumbing to Bolton in the dying seconds at the Reebok on Tuesday.

I do look at Nigel Clough’s squad and see a team still very much in transition. But they do have the forward players to cause problems with the pace of Ward and Tyson added to by the arrival of Connor Salmon from Wigan.

So because they don’t have a win and because Wolves are unsettled and still incredibly vulnerable at the back, I sense a banana-skin.

Wolves

It’s impossible to say we’ll miss Fletcher because we haven’t had him, but Jarvis will leave a gaping hole down the left. His link-up play with Ward was devastating on Tuesday so it will be intriguing to see how Solbakken patches up that area of the pitch.

He could simply bring in Stephen Hunt from the cold, who didn’t even make the bench against Barnsley. That doesn’t seem likely. Maybe he could shift Doyle out to the left and bring Sigurdarson in alongside Ebanks-Blake? I wouldn’t mind giving that option a go.

Or what about pushing Wardy into midfield and bringing Elokobi in at the back?

But what Ståle will probably do is give Forde another go down the left, where he put in a lively display against Aldershot in the League Cup. He showed great promise in that game but was anonymous in his 45 minutes at Leeds. It’s a gamble. This would be my preferred team:

I’d like to see if Doyler could fill in until reinforcements arrive and am intrigued to see Sigurdarson play from the start. To me at least, that looks like our strongest eleven from the players we have available. I don’t want to dwell, but it’s a shame Hammill and Milijas have been exiled. They would offer more options.

Opposition view

Massive thanks to Ollie from Derby County Blog (It’s a blog. About Derby County) for his contribution. Here’s what he had to say:

Derby fans will travel to the Black Country more in hope than expectation. The loss of Jarvis and Fletcher may have weakened you temporarily, but you should still have enough strength in depth to see us off on your own patch.

The fact that Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis have just attracted astronomical bids from Sunderland and West Ham means that, if Ståle Solbakken is unable to get Wolves promoted this season, he is officially the worst manager in history. With a cash boost of over £20m, on top of the lavish parachute payments provided by the Premier League to help relegated clubs ‘stabilise’, Wolves are essentially in a different league to the chasing pack and really should yo-yo back to the top flight very comfortably.

You’ve apparently come down in better financial shape than Derby did. Our US-based owners GSE have been chipping away at the wagebill ever since we were relegated in 2007-8. There’s now barely an ounce of fat left to be chopped out. Robbie Savage recently speculated that Derby now probably have one of the lowest payrolls in the division, despite having one of the highest average gates.

Despite the emergence of some very promising youth products and the recent signing of striker Conor Sammon, there is a general air of mild dissatisfaction among the Pride Park faithful.

In our last game at Bolton, we were ultimately beaten 2-0 despite matching the Trotters for long spells. We didn’t quite get the rub of the green with the key decisions, but the difference in substitutes really told you all you needed to know. Bolton were able to name the likes of Martin Petrov, Darren Pratley and Benik Afobe on their bench, whereas Derby had five players under the age of 21, two of whom – Will Hughes (17) and Mason Bennett (16) -came on. Both are prodigious talents, but are still learning their trade.

Predictions

In what must be record-breaking levels of optimism, 45 people correctly predicted we’d overcome Barnsley last time out.

Only 4 got the 3-1 scoreline though, so well done to me, NY Wolf, Bemused Wolf and Gold Coast Kiddy Wolf for doubling up. Everyone else takes a single.

Tricky one this weekend. Back-to-back wins would certainly ease the pressure on Ståle as he continues to reshape the squad.

We can definitely do it, particularly at home, but it’s a real test of the new system, without the pace of Jarvis to drive us forward.

Despite every fiber of my being telling me it’s got draw written all over it, I’ll back us to scrape a 2-1.

Up The Wolves.