Archives for July 2017

Wolves 1 Leicester City 0

This team has potential.

Midfielders not afraid to get on the ball, defenders who were keen to find said midfielders with simple passes that allowed them to play, and pacy wingers making smart runs.

Nuno’s building from the back looks like it could bear fruit, with one or two targeted additions still needed.

Granted it was an unfit and one-paced Leicester City side, but there were still some big names on show and it was a useful test. Our passing was a joy to behold at times, and crucially we now have the players capable of playing that way.

Three things stood out for me watching yesterday’s game:

1.) Central midfield. We all knew Neves was a class act, but some of the passes were fantastic. The ball out to Barry Douglas (who also gave a very accomplished performance) was always on, and he was ably assisted by a confident Romain Saiss. Jack Price came in and showed flashes, even if it is hard to join a game that late on.

2.) Connor Coady. He looked revitalised at centre back. Without the burden of having to mark forwards, leaving that to Miranda and Boly, he read the game excellently and organised things nicely. He uses his midfield nouse to play simple passes, and was a pivotal part of the back 3. His goal line clearance from Jamie Vardy typified his attitude, even if it was a poor attempt from the England man.

3.) Forwards. I would not be happy if we didn’t sign a forward this summer. We are in dire need of one to act as a focal point, especially with doubts over Nouha Dicko’s fitness. The front three yesterday combined nicely, but Bright Enobakhare’s wastefulness suggests he still needs to develop. You got the feeling that the front three yesterday were always looking for the final ball rather than a shot. If this morning’s rumours of a homecoming for Andre Gray (a Wolverhampton lad and Jorge Mendes client) are true, this would be a most welcome addition to the squad.

Cavaleiro’s goal was a great strike worthy of winning any game, but we can’t rely on screamers every week.

There was, however, an air of optimism around Molineux yesterday, albeit of the cautious variety. If we can somehow add a clinical edge to the team, there is reason to be confident.

Roll on Middlesbrough next week.

Shaping up

How would you feel if Wolves didn’t sign a striker in this transfer window?

There’s a widely held assumption that one or maybe even two new forwards will enter the equation before the end of August.

I’m not so sure.

If you look at the squad and the tactics being employed by the head coach, we’re not short on numbers in any area of the pitch.

I watched the live stream of all three matches in Austria and it’s clear that Nuno has committed to a 343 system (he didn’t try anything else), so we must assume that we’ll lineup this way come August.

Looking down the squad list the head coach has options in every position, including center forward.

Nouha Dicko is the nailed on starter as things stand, but Michal Zyro, Joe Mason and even Bright Enobakhare could play up top in this formation.

We’ll be without Helder Costa (injured) and Ivan Cavaleiro (suspended) in our opening fixtures so that does put the squeeze on the front line, but Nuno may choose to make do in the short term.

This would be my prediction (not my preferred team before anyone starts unloading) for the team versus Boro as things stand:

It’s all based on logical assumptions, one being that John Ruddy will get the nod between the sticks ahead of Will Norris because of his experience. I don’t think Burgoyne will get a look in.

Coady at the center of a three man defence is an intriguing project that Nuno has persisted with so I suspect Conor will get the nod.

Boly will definitely start – I’d put my house on that one. Miranda I’m not as certain about, particularly as Hause is yet to return to the fold, but his ability on the ball might put him ahead of Batth and Bennett.

Leaving out captain Batth would make a big statement, but a back three relies on pace and that immediately makes the skipper vulnerable in my eyes.

Doherty and Douglas in the wingback positions seem untouchable at present. Phil Ofosu-Ayeh may return from injury to push Doherty, while Sylvan Deslandes and new signing Ruben Vinagre offer competition down the left.

Saiss and Neves look like the preferred partnership, despite some impressive outings in Austria for Jack Price who is also well suited to the system.

Whether Dave Edwards can force his way in will be interesting to see, but there’s no obvious position that suits his game.

He is however one of only four central midfielders (five if you include Ronan) who seem to be getting a serious look in at present so you can’t discount him yet.

Across the front three, it’s difficult not to see Dicko leading the line, with Zyro perhaps offering a different option should he be required.

With Costa and Cavaleiro out, I think Enobakhare is in a strong position to get a start. Mason Zyro or even Ronan could occupy the left forward role in the early games.

Ronan I’d prefer to see playing centrally, but Nuno has tested him out wide so that could be something to watch in the upcoming friendlies.

The wildcards are Jordan Graham and Ben Marshall. It’s unclear how Graham fits into the coach’s plans after he didn’t travel to Austria. Similar Marshall who came home injured.

Marshall could play as a wing-back or in a more advanced role, whereas Graham would only fit that left forward position.

Again, the upcoming games at Shrewsbury and Peterborough will be a good indication as to whether either will figure come August.

I hope both players are pushing hard for a place as they can unlock defences, which we’ll need in the absence of our Portuguese playmakers.

Returning to my original point, I think the squad is stacked up with players and although it would be nice to see a proven goalscorer added, I’m not entirely convinced it will happen.

This is the full breakdown of players within the system as I see it:

Goalkeepers (one to play) – Ruddy, Norris, Burgoyne

Right wing-backs (one to play) – Doherty, Ofosu-Ayeh

Left wing-backs (one to play) – Douglas, Deslandes, Vinagre

Center backs (three to play) – Boly, Miranda, Hause, Batth, Bennett, Coady

Central midfielders (two to play) – Saiss, Neves, Price, Edwards

Left forwards (one to play) – Graham, Marshall, Cavaleiro, Ronan

Right forwards (one to play) – Costa, Enobakhare

Center forwards (one to play) – Dicko, Zyro, Mason

That’s a 27 man squad and a number of those forward thinking players (Ronan, Marshall, Enobakhare, Zyro, Cavaleiro and Mason) can occupy different areas of the pitch.

When you’ve got this sort of flexibility it opens up various combinations.

I’m still expecting Prince Oniangue and Lee Evans to depart before the summer is out, but whether that’s to make way for the star striker many believe is forthcoming, who knows?

This fascinating summer may well take a few more unexpected diversions.

Cold shoulder

I was at Rotherham last August, more in hope than expectation that Walter Zenga would mastermind a convincing Wolves victory.

A slow start (2-0 down to the worst side in Championship history) was cancelled out by a stellar second half performance spearheaded by our new Icelandic striker.

He was a man mountain, a colossus and capped his Man of the Match display with a thunderbolt to level the scores and a thunder clap to enthrall the traveling support.

Soon after he netted at St. Andrew’s and continued to look unplayable over the first two months of the season.

Where had this guy been hiding (aside from knocking England out of the Euros)?

But the remainder of his brief Wolves career would be episodic, partly because two different managers couldn’t land on a settled eleven and partly because he couldn’t buy a goal.

To my mind though, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has all the attributes required to be a very useful Championship striker.

It goes without saying then – I think we’ve made a mistake dispensing with his services, particularly to a rival.

The mere fact that Reading, a team who came within one kick of the Premier League in May have identified him as the man to give them that extra few per cent should tell you a lot.

Paul Lambert pointed out Bodvarsson hadn’t had a proper break from football in three years due to switching leagues and international commitments.

The then Wolves boss was confident the Icelander would come back strong after a good break and a full pre-season, ready to rediscover his top form.

I was inclined to agree and was hoping at the very least that he’d be utilised in a supporting role.

The fear is now we’ve given him a season to acclimatise, rested him, polished him up and handed him over to a team who will probably be competing with us for a top six finish.

It will come back to haunt us – just saying.

And before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, yes, I know I can count his goals from last season on one hand, yes, I know we had to sell players to balance the squad and yes, he might not fit in with Nuno’s style of play. I surrender.

I’m just making the point that I believe in the months to come, there’s a strong possibility we’ll be wondering why we let him go.

Best of luck Jon.