Zenga’s men fight back after appalling start
First up, a disclaimer for this section of the blog. At present, away games aren’t an option for me for a variety of reasons that aren’t worth going into here. So what you get here is my initial reaction to a game, based on whatever reports, commentary and feedback I’ve been able to get. At no stage am I trying to suggest I know better than anyone who went to the match, clearly I can’t guarantee 100% accuracy either. For all the home league games and any televised away ones, you get a proper verdict from me as I’ll be there for all of them. For away games, you get these. That’s the deal. Right, now that’s out of the way, here we go:
Chunks of this team are just not good enough
There’s no escaping that this was a truly abysmal start to the game. 2-0 down after 20 minutes, barely able to string three passes together, it served to show the players left by Kenny Jackett to be a ragged bunch low on technical ability and short on coherence. Slack marking from a set piece, a player not closed down properly to have a shot from range, Carl Ikeme beaten from distance (it might be that he had no chance with this one…but he doesn’t regularly concede from outside the box by accident), a lack of meaningful attacks and being bossed by pretty poor opposition. This was all of the worst parts of last season in microcosm. With Guo Guangchang in attendance, this should have made it plain that we are carrying far too many players who have no business playing for any team with serious aspirations at this level. Ask yourselves what sort of clubs would be likely to be bidding on Ikeme, Matt Doherty, Dave Edwards and James Henry if we put them up for sale. We can’t even hold on to many of these and hope they can fill a squad berth, they just aren’t viable options for us. A degree of ruthlessness is required and these players need to be jettisoned, there isn’t any room in the new Wolves era for passengers.
Do George Saville’s goals make up for his overall lack of quality?
Since returning from his loan spell at Millwall in January, George Saville has made 20 appearances for Wolves and scored six goals; a very healthy return from a central midfielder which compares extremely favourably with Dave Edwards, often lauded for his supposed goalscoring ability yet currently sitting with one goal in his last 21 games. However, we know that Saville is not particularly strong in possession, his passing can be extremely loose, he frequently picks up soft bookings and tends to flit around the edges of games rather than strongly influencing them. As we look to the development of our team, is that scoring rate sustainable and would he be suitable should we evolve into a more possession based team, as seems likely as we bring in players from Portugal in particular? Realistically at very least the choice should be between Saville or Edwards, not picking both as each have similar weaknesses. At the moment only one of them is showing anything like consistent displays of what is their key strength.
In the absence of Nouha Dicko, our strikers need support
Our rise to the top of the Championship at the start of November 2014 was built around using Nouha Dicko as a lone forward, a role in which he excels and is arguably one of the very best such players outside the Premier League. Quick enough to stretch defences, strong enough to deal with the attentions of multiple defenders, astute and technically able enough to bring others into play, offering serious goal threat of his own. Whenever he’s been unavailable, we’ve tried numerous forwards in the same role and we’ve seen more or less exclusive failure. Jackett was clear shortly after signing Joe Mason that he needed to play with a partner (which begs the question why you would spend £3m on someone who doesn’t fit into the system you predominantly play…but I digress), early signs from today’s first half were that Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was isolated and ineffectual in the starting 4-3-3 shape with James Henry and Jed Wallace nominally supporting him from wide areas. The Icelander looked impressive in a basic 4-4-2 shape for his national team in the summer, but leading the line alone is an entirely different proposition. Until Dicko returns – we hope sooner rather than later – we have to find a way to get Bodvarsson and Mason (or a new signing) in the same team as they just aren’t going to be effective as a lone striker.
Joe Mason’s finishing is a concern
An excellent comeback today was almost capped by snatching a late winner. Unfortunately given a clear sight of goal, Mason fluffed his lines and allowed Lee Camp to make a comfortable save from a very good position. This is not the first time that the former Cardiff man has missed a presentable chance, and while we would hope that we will become a lot more creative than last year and not relying on sticking away virtually all of our clear cut opportunities, very few teams ever have the luxury of constantly missing chances. Mason’s finishing does not seem to be especially strong, which is of course borne out in his career goal record. He may have cost a hefty fee, but he’s very much a signing belonging to the old regime – if he can’t improve in the area where strikers are most expected to perform then it’s hard to see a future for him in the starting line up.
The new signings made an immediate mark
Once we changed our shape to give Bodvarsson some much needed support as noted earlier, he had a very impressive second half, full of running and garnished with an excellent equalising goal. The goal was set up by Joao Teixeira with his very first contribution from the bench and he has attracted superb early reviews, his ability to carry the ball from midfield being picked out as a real highlight of his play. These are very encouraging signs from the two new recruits who saw serious gametime today, if Silvio and Helder Costa (restricted to a very late sub appearance for a spent Bodvarsson) are of similar quality and further new signings are of similar calibre, this signifies extremely promising signs for our recruitment policy. Always worth considering that many a player has started well at Molineux only to fade away (as happens at every club up and down the land), but these two players already seem to have the fans onside and look ready to make an impact on the division. We just need to put the right quality around them.
‘The ball is never out and the game is never finished’
They were Walter Zenga’s words at his introductory press conference and he stuck to that ethos today. It would have been hard to see the 2016 version of Kenny Jackett inspiring a comeback from two goals down, or committing to attacking Rotherham while down to 10 men and even chasing a winner. We continued to play in a positive fashion through the second half and the fans will support any team that opts to approach games in that way. We’ve had our fill of needless caution and low ambition. Enterprising substitutions, looking to play off the front foot, never giving in, fighting to the last even in adversity, if this is the Zenga way then we can all be positive about what’s to come.