Archives for November 2014

Brentford 4 Wolves 0

It’s just as well Bakary Sako opted against sporting the diamond-encrusted boots he acquired to mark his 100th Wolves appearance.

Sako

Such extravagance would have been ludicrously inappropriate amongst another low value team performance.

Kenny at least added sparkle to a faltering side by reinstating Rajiv van La Parra and Scott Golbourne. And for half an hour, there was the shimmer of blissful hope.

But after Lee Evans surrendered the ball and Brentford punished the error with the type of ruthless pace and penetration in the final third that’s alluded Wolves throughout Nouha Dicko’s absence, things fell apart.

Golbourne, who was Wolves brightest light in an end to end first half, then departed at the break, replaced by the slow moving Tommy Rowe.

Without the outlet of the marauding full-back, the pitch became narrower and Wolves never once threatened an equaliser.

Perversely, the one break the visitors did engineer ended when Danny Graham was too slow in releasing Bakary Sako and Brentford raced up the pitch to score the decisive second.

Goal three was a wonderful turn of pace and powerful finish from Wolverahmpton-born Andre Gray. How his hometown club could do with those attributes.

And as if to underline the contrasting form of the teams, Brentford added a late fourth to go one better than Wolves famous victory at Griffin Park back in February.

Sako boots

Five of Kenny Jackett’s players from that memorable afternoon weren’t involved today (Price, Stearman, Henry, Jacobs and Dicko) and there’s an argument to say every one of those would have improved the team.

I wonder what Michael Jacobs was thinking, sat on the bench at the venue of his finest Wolves triumph? His neat footwork would have been a useful asset on a tight pitch, but he remained on the sidelines throughout.

What of Jack Price too, a player yet to be given an opportunity whilst Saville and Rowe continue to offer so little? With the team wobbling, his quietly efficient attributes would help firm up a disjointed midfield.

However, Nouha Dicko remains the most painfully irreplaceable loss. And while pacey, persistent, strong, goalscoring strikers are hard to come by, not having a like-for-like replacement for the forward completely alters the dynamic of the team.

Danny Graham remains a more attractive option than Leon Clarke, but he cannot do what Dicko does. Not because he’s a bad player, but because he doesn’t possess the attributes for the job.

Without the other half of the Mali alliance, the system doesn’t work. The ball keeps coming back, teams press higher, the game becomes condensed and our best attacker (Sako) gets nowhere near the opponent’s penalty area.

Kenny must address these shortcomings before next weekend, as both Bournemouth and Molineux promise to be equally unforgiving.

The gaffer

Brentford Vs Wolves Preview

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone at Wolves how well Brentford have started the season.

Gray

They were a solid, well-drilled unit in League One and, aided by some smart acquisitions, have continued their upward trajectory.

Wolves have been going in the opposite direction recently, struggling to find the sort of consistency that fueled a 3-0 triumph at Griffin Park back in February.

The Bees will want to avenge that painful defeat and continue making in-roads at the top end of the table, whereas the visitors are desperate to arrest a worrying downturn in results.

It’s nicely poised.

Brentford

Brentford logoThree of Brentford’s top performers from last season departed over the summer – Clayton Donaldson, Adam Forshaw and George Saville. That left a hole that needed filling.

In came forward Andre Gray from Luton, midfielder Alex Pritchard from Spurs and winger Moses Odubajo from Leyton Orient. Three astute signings that have all done the business.

Their home form, as it was last term, has again been the bedrock of their success. They’ve won five of their eight games so far and lost only once.

Mark Warbuton’s team also come into this fixture on a four game winning run, which includes victories over both Derby and Notts Forest, two teams who’ve comfortably dispatched their opponents.

Wolves

There wasn’t enough pace or trickery in the Wolves team last weekend and that invited Forest forward. I think Kenny needs to be bolder in his selection:

Wolves team for Forest

I was mildly horrified that Michael Jacobs was linked with Birmingham. He hasn’t done it yet but I still feel he has a lot to offer in the Championship, for Wolves.

Dave Edwards was sensational last weekend, but perhaps his energy could be better employed deeper to help shore up a creaking defence? If not, Lee Evans offers more than Tommy Rowe, even with a broken hand.

Rajiv van La Parra brings speed and physical presence. I like James Henry but he was poor against Forest and I think the Dutchman is overdue another run in the side.

The sooner Scott Golbourne and Nouha Dicko are back in the side, the better, but Danny Graham showed glimpses of class on his debut and with pace around him, could be a decent fit.

The gaffer

Predictions

As with most heavy defeats, nobody (at a glance) took the maximum return from last week’s 3-0 defeat.

Three straight losses could easily become five with this fixture and a home game against in-form Bournemouth to follow, but I don’t think Wolves are as bad as they’re being made to look at the moment.

Confidence is fragile and this will be a tough examination, but I think we’ll get a point.

1-1

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 0 Nottingham Forest 3

If the first half of this demoralising third straight league defeat was nip and tuck, the second was more lay down and surrender.

Forest Wolves

Forest upped the ante after the restart, Wolves just didn’t start and that was the end of that.

The visitors well worked opener was the culmination of 20 minutes total dominance, to which the home side offered precious resistance.

Matt Fryatt, the outstanding player on the pitch, laid on the first and flicked in a second to put a hapless Wolves out of their misery.

Henri Lansbury’s thunderous third gave the scoreline one-sided gloss that was more than justified given the opposition’s second-half vanishing act.

But enough about Forest, what has happened to the Kenny Jackett side we’ve come to know and love?

The absence of key personnel remains a major factor.

Nouha Dicko’s pace to run in behind and Scott Golbourne’s ability to push forward and feed Bakary Sako are qualities that have so far proved irreplaceable.

Sako spent most of yesterday’s game retreating to the halfway line to retrieve the ball. Without him operating in the final third, chances were unsurprisingly at a premium.

Danny Graham emerged with credit on a challenging debut, showing strength with his back to goal and an ability to lay the ball off. But he doesn’t give Wolves those elusive attributes that Dicko offers.

Stronger opposition that exploit weakness are another obvious explanation.

Whereas last season Wolves could coast for extended periods, plodding along at walking pace, that simply isn’t going to work in the hustle and bustle of the Championship fast lane.

If any players need reminding about the levels of effort required, they need only look to Dave Edwards.

The midfielder was the catalyst for everything Wolves achieved in a more promising first half yesterday, driving the team forward with a limitless appetite to cover the ground. Few showed such desire.

Team selections must also come under the spotlight. Kenny himself admitted in his post match interview that Wolves didn’t have enough pace to get out and trouble Forest.

So why didn’t he do something about it?

Players like Rajiv van La Parra and Michael Jacobs cover the ground quickly and put teams on the back foot. The former only emerged when the game was lost and latter didn’t even make the bench.

Liam McAlinden is the player our manager is consistently turning to for that injection of ground speed but he remains an ineffective solution.

The positive is that all of these things can be addressed. Key players should return, better team selections are possible and Wolves can certainly push teams harder by showing greater desire for the duration.

As with anything though, it’s easier said than done.

Wolves Vs Nottingham Forest Preview

I was wondering recently, how much of football is luck?

Notts Forest

Specifically, luck with injuries, decisions and timing.

Of course team selections, tactics and individual quality are all major factors, but in a pie chart of what makes for a successful season, good fortune must be attributed a significant wedge.

Despite the well worn platitude, I don’t believe luck evens out over a campaign either. Some teams get the rub of the green and some don’t.

When the final Championship table takes shape, the teams occupying those top six places will have earned their reward, but you can be certain that with such thin margins in this division, most will have enjoyed their share of good fortune along the way.

Nottingham Forest

Nottingham_Forest_logo.svgForest have flirted with promotion in recent seasons (and probably their share of bad luck), but continually seem to fall away. Patchy would probably be a fair description and after another good start, consistency again looks to be their worst enemy.

They grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat last time out against Norwich with two goals in the last five minutes, arresting a worrying slide down the table in the process.

I thought Stuart Pearce added some useful players over the summer. Britt Assombalonga, who already has 10 goals, is justifying a lofty price tag, while former Wolves man Michael Mancienne, someone I’d have liked to have seen back at Molineux, continues to impress.

Both of their wingers, Chris Burke and Michail Antonio, are proven Championship pedigree but Pearce still found it necessary to bring in Tom Ince, a player who scored twice in his last game against Wolves.

Surprisingly with all that firepower, Forest have only scored 8 away league goals this season, which is likely the reason they’ve also only managed 2 wins from 8 games on their travels.

Wolves

The signing of Danny Graham doesn’t get my motor running, but perhaps that’s just because it had been so widely touted for so many months, it almost felt inevitable.

Wolves team for Forest

Still, he’s a player that has a proven goalscoring record in the Championship and having played effectively for Swansea, he’s shown that he can be successful in a possession based team.

The continued absence of Dicko is frustrating, but with Golbourne and Edwards hopefully fit enough to be in contention, the squad looks considerably stronger.

The time has come to restore Stearman to the defence. After the drubbing at Pride Park, I’d like to see a bit more leadership and organisation at the back, which I think he brings to the table.

The gaffer

Predictions

Not many thought we’d get hit for five at Derby but a few did foresee defeat. Well done to everyone who added to their totals.

Please do check the table and make sure your tallies are what they should be. We’ve automated the system this season so it’s doubly important people let me know if there are any errors.

I think this is a bad time to be playing Forest after that morale boosting win against Norwich. I also know they have individuals that can hurt Wolves if the game becomes stretched.

That said, our home record is strong and there should be a reaction to that humbling at Derby. All things considered:

2-2

Up The Wolves

Derby County 5 Wolves 0

Derby were magnificent.

Derby Wolves

To lose by such a margin and not acknowledge the point would be churlish.

They played with a verve and energy that Wolves couldn’t cope with and scored a variety of goals that demonstrate the quality they possess throughout the side.

I would however take issue with Steve McLaren, who called it a ‘complete performance’ in his post match analysis.

The fact of the matter is, Derby didn’t ever have to exit first gear to secure their most comfortable victory of the season. They were never tested.

Wolves have to learn quickly that they must earn the right to play their way by first engaging the opposition on a more fundamental level.

Indeed, both teams came into the game with a reputation for sophisticated possession football but the home side won the day by demonstrating the most basic of characteristics – desire.

Wolves were a second slower to every ball up to and including Ryan Shotton’s bullet header that Carl Ikeme could only palm into his own net.

And if our talented goalkeeper was disappointed not to have kept that out, he won’t have enjoyed being beaten from distance by Jeff Hendrick’s 25-yard fizzer either. On another day, he saves both of those.

Goal three was as simple as it was ridiculous, with Wolves somehow contriving to have every player back yet still allow Johnny Russell the freedom of the eighteen yard box. Game over.

Four and five were all about individual and collective quality that good teams can inflict when the opposition are chasing the game. Hendrick’s second and Derby’s fourth was particularly sublime.

Six shots on target. Five goals. Ruthless and emphatic.

You can definitely say it was ‘one of those days’ for the Rams as everything they did came off, but you make your own luck and Wolves deservedly conjured little.

The one moment of class inevitably came from Bakary Sako, whose sumptuous reverse pass opened the gates for George Saville who could only blaze over when an equaliser seemed inevitable.

Had that gone in, perhaps momentum shifts and a landslide becomes a contest? Instead, the profligacy proved costly.

It sounds ludicrous to turn the spotlight on the attacking third when goals were flying in at the other end, but without Dicko anchoring the front line, the ball might as well have been a boomerang for our back four.

Leon Clarke is desperately ineffective. Slow, ponderous and with a woe is me approach that saps energy from our once dynamic team. He’s wasting an opportunity he’s waited six months for. A scuffed, deflected effort off the post aside, he was handled comfortably throughout.

Saville was equally anonymous on his return from exile and did little to enhance his claims for a regular start. The terrible miss aside though, was it entirely his fault?

A midfield trio of McDonald, Evans and Saville (with Clarke at the summit) surely lacked the attacking menace required to make Derby think about what was going in the opposite direction? All it did was invite them forward.

Surely van La Parra or Jacobs would have added some much needed pace and devilment to a team that desperately lacked both of those key ingredients?

Kenny didn’t agree and neither even made it off the bench as Wolves disintegrated, raising yet more questions about our respected leader’s team selection.

With two weeks to assess the wreckage of this meek surrender, I just hope he can deliver some answers.

The gaffer

Derby County Vs Wolves Preview

There were few surprises on Tuesday.

Derby

Inevitable would be the word I’d use to describe Ipswich’s high tempo pressing game that Wolves couldn’t live with.

And it wasn’t any great shock that Stephen Hunt would raise his game to torment his former employers.

What was disappointing though, is that for all their individual and collective bluster, we gave them the win with two individual errors.

There’s no doubting that a handful of injuries have suddenly made Wolves vulnerable and in this league, the opposition soon smell blood in the water.

Derby

derby logoOff to Pride Park we go then. (Incidentally I preferred it when they played at the Baseball Ground. I went there for a 0-0 snore draw back in 1995, two years after Bully scored that wonderful hat-trick in a televised 4-0 win).

I sat watching last season’s play-off final in total belief Derby would end the afternoon in the Premier League. Quite how they tossed that opportunity away after dominating the whole game is anyone’s guess.

To their credit though there hasn’t been much of a hangover and they’re right up at the top again, playing good football and looking well set to sustain a challenge. I think they’ll be close to the top two.

The Rams have a similar approach to Wolves so it will be fascinating to see which side is able to dominate the ball on Saturday. As the home side, one might expect them to take the initiative.

Chris Martin is the Championship’s top scorer and restricting his opportunities will be key if Wolves are to return to the West Midlands with anything.

Wolves

If we were lucky with injuries last season, we’ve been anything but this time. Three of our most influential performers right through the spine of the side are out and it’s exposing deficiencies in the squad.

Wolves team for Derby

Pace up front in the absence of Dicko is in desperately short supply. People keep telling me McAlinden is quick but I’ve yet to see any rapid bursts of acceleration (in fact I’m certain I saw Paul Robinson lend him a yard and still get a tackle in last week).

Clarke and Sagbo are the other options but to play either up top alone is to fundamentally alter the dynamic of the side. Not much choice though for Kenny Jackett.

Whoever plays the key to success will be getting our wide players, particularly Sako, into positions where they can threaten. I’d still like to see RvLP given another opportunity but have no complaints about James Henry, who looks as likely to score as anyone.

Predictions

Well done to everyone who foresaw defeat at Portman Road.

Hopefully Derby’s style will allow Wolves to play the type of game they’re more comfortable with this time.

I think they’ll open us up but we’re normally good for at least one goal so it will ultimately come down to how well our defence and goalkeeper play.

I’m sitting on the fence.

1-1

Up The Wolves