2016/17: PLAYER-BY-PLAYER RATINGS: PART ONE

Mediocrity unparalleled since The Kings of Leon’s second album

Carl Ikeme

Appearances: 31 (0)

Goals: 0

Now into his early 30s, you would think Ikeme should be approaching his theoretical peak as a goalkeeper. If this really is as good as it gets for him, then it’s nowhere near good enough for us. He’s definitely the best option of any of the keepers currently at the club and by some distance too, but that’s rather like picking out Menswear as a better band than Northern Uproar and Starsailor. The same old flaws remain; vulnerable from range, extremely prone to injuries – he’s had three separate absences this season – not really commanding, poor and extremely slow distribution and a tendency to pull out at least a couple of outright howlers a season. More than anything else, he doesn’t do anything exceptional; he invariably won’t keep you in a match with a string of saves, in fact we concede at a reasonable rate without really facing too many shots per game. He won’t pull off incredible stops where you wonder how on earth he got there. He’ll let in a lot of goals that you wouldn’t say are a goalkeeping error per se, but you’d certainly fancy a better keeper to make more of a fist of. It was a vast improvement on last season which really isn’t saying much, given there were around a dozen goals in 2015/16 you could exclusively chalk down to him. Paul Lambert has talked of ending the culture of mediocrity around the club; it’s the likes of Ikeme that he needs to be looking at. He’s simply nowhere near good enough to be first choice for any team with serious designs on the top six. If he could ever stop picking up injuries, he’d be a fine number two at this level – in that you wouldn’t have kittens if he had to play half a dozen games here and there, he’s got plenty of experience, he isn’t good enough to get tempted away by anyone else. It’s a demotion which needs to happen.

Zola1
It should also be remembered that Carl ended up being partly responsible for a) a Gianfranco Zola win and b) Blues staying up. Unforgivable.

Matt Doherty

Appearances: 45 (2)

Goals: 5

I really do spend far too much of my life writing about Matt Doherty. Maybe when the shock has worn off that someone with that level of ability and commitment has made some kind of a career in second tier football, I can get over it. He finished 2015/16 reasonably strongly in an otherwise deathly dull spell for the team and somehow picked up the Player of the Year award, despite making a massive three league starts before mid-December (note to the club: don’t ever let our fans vote on anything, ever). This season started in a similar vein, with some decent enough performances in August including a well struck goal at home to Reading. It was pretty much downhill from there. The problem with so many of these long-standing players is that you know exactly what you’re going to get from them. In Doherty’s case that means an inability to clear the ball, mark, tackle, cover the back post or stand in even vaguely the right position. As a defender, he genuinely is close to as bad as it gets. All of that is exacerbated by an attitude which seems to be that chasing back is one of those things that other people to do, leaving him frequently ambling back while others have to do his job for him. He obviously has designs on being an attacking full back which is fine in itself, but your primary job is to defend. Quite clearly, he can’t do it and doesn’t want to. Chuck in his own share of shockers – Leeds at home, Bristol City away – a lamentable attitude to fitness (I can only assume his spare tyre is an homage to the days when we were sponsored by Goodyear), sulking like a 9 year old when things are going against him and you’re left with a complete liability. Now, it isn’t his fault that we’ve left the left back area criminally neglected ever since we sold Scott Golbourne, he has largely been in the team by default ever since then. He does contribute something going forward as when he puts his mind to it, he can pass and shoot (although his impact is greatly lessened by it being painfully obvious that he’s going to cut inside every time he gets the ball). But it’s one of the most positive portents at this stage that Lambert has said that he doesn’t see him as a left back. We are absolutely desperate for a proper option there. As I’ve said before, I’d be amazed if a penniless League Two club persisted for 17 months with an out of shape, lazy, right back who can’t defend as their undisputed first choice at left back, let alone a well-established Championship club who for a chunk of that 17 months have been owned by a conglomerate worth billions of pounds. Although if any penniless League Two clubs are reading, I recommend you sign Doherty. It might mean he’s finally found his level. Don’t worry about the money, a pipe of Pringles will suffice.

Pringles1
Better facial hair than Doherty, just as mobile and I’m sure we could trust the pipe to stay wherever we put it.

Silvio

Appearances: 5 (0)

Goals: 0

You don’t often get former Atletico Madrid and Portugal full backs in their late 20s offered to you on a free transfer. There has to be a catch. In Silvio’s case, unfortunately that catch is that he is made of biscuits. He arrived here having made just 40 league appearances in the previous five seasons and also with a hip injury which precluded him from the early fixtures. A brief smattering of appearances in September and October were then followed up by a broken foot in training which ruled him out for over four months. For a man only tied down to a one year deal, it’s not the greatest of fortune to have. It’s a shame because everything we have seen from him has been impressive; excellent technical ability, good link up play with the winger ahead of him, positional responsibility, calmness in possession…basically everything we’ve been missing in that area for well, 17 months. If it were merely a question of ability, then retaining him would be a no brainer. Ultimately though, we can’t realistically hold on to someone with that kind of track record for availability.

Silvio1
We should just keep him for sex appeal alone. Think of the demographic we could attract.

Dave Edwards

Appearances: 44 (5)

Goals: 10

Ten goals from midfield is no mean feat and for that Dave Edwards deserves great credit. His character remains first class and his effort levels can never be questioned. Without those goals – principally scored in the very early days of Lambert’s tenure, with us hovering just above the bottom three – we would have found ourselves in very real trouble. And yet. Yet. It’s not enough, is it. As ever, Dave scores in little bursts which are great while they’re happening but he’s now on a run of 1 goal in 19 games to follow the run of 1 goal in 31 games which he went on between November 2015 and October 2016. And when he isn’t scoring…you have to question what he’s actually doing. After going on a run of 8 goals in 15 games, largely from a deeper role allowing him to make runs into the box unchecked, Lambert bizarrely chose to switch him to the number 10 role at the start of February, totally unprompted. We then went on to lose every single game that month. Stats around that time indicated that Edwards was attempting (less still completing) fewer than 30 passes a game, at home, from a pivotal area. We know he creates nothing in attacking areas. We know he doesn’t link play. We know he rarely shows for the ball. Without the goals, you’re left with someone who basically chases the ball around without really ever threatening to win it. None of which has prevented him being an automatic choice under Lambert as he has started every game bar one (Stoke in the FA Cup) for which he has been available, and been substituted just once (against Aston Villa at home, when he had a head injury). This is the crux of the issue; not many people would object to Edwards being at the club, as he obviously cares and from time to time, does have something to offer. It’s that he’s continually placed into the team by default – and this is under multiple managers, not just Lambert – even when he isn’t contributing anything. We are not and are not going to be any time soon, good enough to carry someone who might start a run of goals one day and is a nice guy. If he’s playing well enough to be in the team on merit – and he definitely was, between October and January, that spell being the best I’ve ever seen from him in a Wolves shirt – then great. If not then leave him out. I appreciate this is a complex line of thinking, but then this is what football managers are paid for.

Edwards3
Dave applauds me being vaguely positive towards him. It’s only taken nine and a half years.

Richard Stearman

Appearances: 19 (0)

Goals: 1

When you sell a defender for £2m for avowed “footballing reasons”, he goes on to play for a team who concede 79 goals in a year and then finds himself out of the picture within a year of the move, it wouldn’t seem conventional to bring him back. Of course we now know that Richard Stearman’s move to Fulham was prompted by the downsizing of ambition from the soon-to-depart Steve Morgan and rumours of a personality clash with Kenny Jackett also persist. As we saw attempts to sign Alfie Mawson and Luisao flounder (astonishing really that the latter preferred Champions League nights at Estadio da Luz rather than a midweek schlep to Portman Road, but it takes all sorts), we went with a tried and trusted option, someone we knew, someone we knew was available and would come. That of course being the issue in itself; we know Richard Stearman. Only two things have changed since we originally signed him in 2008; his haircut, which has gone from boyband shock blonde to a straggly mullet, and he can no longer use his pace to recover on the turn, being as he can’t really run any more. Everything else: the slack marking, the complacency on the ball, the inability to lead a defence, the poor positioning leading to a display of flinging himself around like a ragdoll to rectify the initial error, the hamfisted error…that’s all still there. He can fist pump and chest beat all he likes, but it’s all window dressing. It’s “passion” for the sake of it, because we don’t really see that level of commitment in his actual defending; real defensive leaders, real lionhearts, don’t pass on responsibility like Stearman does, week after week after week. Being in and out of a team that has yet to find a convincing centre half partnership says it all and there isn’t any chance we should consider retaining him. Thanks for the goal at Anfield Stears, and goodbye. For good this time.

Stears4
Feel the passion! Ignore the positional play!

Danny Batth

Appearances: 41 (0)

Goals: 4

It’s been quite a downfall in status for Captain Danny. From the terrace hero of 2013/14 to the target of endless (and let’s face it, largely witless) abuse on social media. Which is odd as nothing has really changed other than we’re in the Championship now and we were in League One then. For Batth is yet another player who hasn’t really moved on in the last four years. Everything is the same. He still doesn’t like getting pulled into channels, there are times when his marking leaves a lot to be desired, he gives forwards too much space inside the box at times, his heading has a tendency to go straight back to the opposition, we know there’s a real problem if he’s caught up the pitch and needs to have a footrace with a forward, he isn’t as powerful as he should be given his build and he’s not exactly David Luiz on the ball (although he has improved marginally in this regard this season). As a captain, he does excellent work on behalf of the club in the community but he’s not a great on-pitch leader. There’s no way that he’s the liability that he’s often painted as, but nor should he have been handed a four year deal or that he should be considered as a permanent fixture in the team (thankfully, Lambert does at least seem to be subjecting Batth to the crazy policy of “you only play if you’re actually performing”). He probably won’t ever develop from what he is, which is a fairly bog standard, mid-table level Championship centre half who’ll have some good games, some bad. Which really would be ideal for a backup centre half for us while we’re in this catastrophe of a division. Time will tell if we actually make that a reality.

Batth1
He has at least stopped fannying around with his hair in the middle of a game.

James Henry

Appearances: 3 (1)

Goals: 0

In the team more or less by default at the very start of the season when we were still trying to piece a squad together and swiftly shifted out as soon as we had actual capable performers in place. Inexplicably we saw fit to hand Henry a near three year deal last season even though he’d failed to make a consistent impact at Championship level, and he hasn’t pulled up any trees at Bolton in his loan spell there, so he’ll be looking for a move again this summer as he enters the final season of his Wolves deal, or we’ll simply end up paying him off.

Henry1
See, he did play for us this season. Really.

George Saville

Appearances: 20 (9)

Goals: 1

A goal and an assist to kick off the season against Rotherham and Reading but that was as good as it got in terms of end product for the Bill from Bill & Ted lookalike. That brief run of goals at the end of last season (following into this one) turned out to be the exception to the rule and it’s telling that after three years here, he hasn’t managed to nail down any kind of role in the centre of midfield. Occasionally used wide on the left where he looks about as comfortable as Theresa May eating chips, he actually produced some halfway reasonable performances at left back, though perhaps that’s just me comparing him to who’s normally there rather than a true reflection of how he did. As a midfielder it’s hard to work out what he actually excels at; his passing is below average, he does try to tackle but his tally of 16 yellow cards across a Wolves career which has included just 43 starts tells its own story, he isn’t really ever going to be a consistent goal or creative threat, he isn’t quick or particularly energetic and we still haven’t worked out where it is that you’re supposed to play him. We don’t really have room for a utility player that does a 5/10 job at best wherever you put him and with his contract running out this summer, there seems little benefit in extending his stay. You can’t keep players forever in case they suddenly turn good. He’ll probably end up doing well for a League One team.

Sav2
George schooling some mug in the art of chest control. And looking a bit camp.

Nouha Dicko

Appearances: 20 (12)

Goals: 3

The Nouha Dicko that we had between January 2014 and May 2015 was absolutely fantastic. A striker who would chase every single lost cause, plough a lone furrow up top and provide a real focal point, run centre halves ragged, link play and provide a fair goal threat of his own. The injury which struck him down in August 2015 was a cruel blow and sadly, we might not ever get that player back again. The effort levels are still there, he’s certainly still quick enough – the club assure us that he’s at the same or better levels in that regard post-injury – but there’s something missing. A hesitancy in front of goal, the wrong decision when he pulls wide, an undefinable dynamism…it’s like watching a Nouha Dicko impressionist, and not an especially good one. Like if Alistair McGowan decided to have a go. Perhaps it all could have been different if he’d scored the chance he was handed on a plate on his return at home to Norwich…but maybe we should take the fact that he managed to hit the keeper from six yards out, under no real pressure, as a bit of a portent to what he is now. It’s not exactly the only glaring miss that he’s managed this season. There have been odd good moments and his performances against Leeds, Derby and Preston towards the end of the season were certainly more like it, but there has to be serious scepticism as to whether we’ve already seen the best of him. We’d all like to see the real Dicko back because he’d be a serious asset for any team in this league, and Lambert is still subscribing to the theory that he needs a proper pre-season before he can be playing to his full potential. The jury is very much out on that one. What we do know is that the kind of goal return he’s produced this year just isn’t sustainable.

Dicko1
Make or break time.

Joe Mason

Appearances: 12 (11)

Goals: 4

We signed Joe Mason almost 18 months ago. I’m still none the wiser what it is he actually offers. He can’t play as the main striker in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system, he’s too lightweight, no good in the air, not quick and doesn’t run the channels. He can’t play as a number 10 as he doesn’t really create anything. He can sort of fill in as a wide forward, without being someone who can beat a full back or deliver crosses from those areas to any kind of effect. His one-on-one finishing is as bad as I’ve seen from any regular Wolves forward, to the point where I wouldn’t expect him to score that kind of opportunity. Sure, he sometimes takes up nice enough positions, his touch isn’t bad, occasionally he’ll come up with a neat bit of play which makes you think there’s something there and of course he scored a legitimate belter at Birmingham (after squandering a couple of glorious first half chances, naturally). But for £3m? You want a bit more than that flimsy kind of output. He has of course been hampered by a niggling hernia injury this season which has meant his opportunities to change my mind have been limited, and perversely it’s that which may save him in the short term as Lambert hasn’t really had the chance to assess him properly. You wonder how we could actually employ him though; perhaps as a second striker if we moved to two dedicated forwards, but surely if we were going down that road, we’d just be signing better than Mason anyway. If we were to get any kind of reasonable bid for him in the summer, it would probably be best to just let him go. It’s hard to see how he’s ever going to be much more than a 10-12 goal a season man, at absolute best. We probably don’t need someone who’s a bit inferior to how Andy Keogh was.

Mason1
Oh, he did score against Villa too. Fair enough, I enjoyed that one.

Jordan Graham

Appearances: 1 (1)

Goals: 0

For all the stick that I doled out to Kenny Jackett during 2015/16 (and there was plenty, and he’s lucky I wasn’t writing this blog then), he did undoubtedly have bad fortune at times. One such time being when Graham was seriously injured following a month and a half of sustained impact where he looked a continual danger. We have been understandably cautious with his recovery and with a couple of small set backs along the way, this has meant he has only appeared at the fag end of the season, though his quality remains apparent. On the final day against Preston he was a constant threat down the left hand side, his skill and quality delivery still intact and he will surely be a major factor in Lambert’s thinking for 2017/18. Being disciplined prior to the home game vs Birmingham was a low point; Lambert was Villa manager when Graham was sold, partly due to attitude issues, and he must remain focused to ensure that he can become the best he can possibly be. The wide areas are likely to be highly competitive (and crucial) next season and while we know he is good enough to produce consistently at this level, he won’t have unlimited chances.

Graham2
Serious baller.

Part two will be up on Wednesday 10 May…

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