We did at least have one good player…
Appearances: 8 (4)
The strategy of picking up the best that the lower leagues had to offer proved a fruitful one for us under Mick McCarthy; with this in mind, the signing of Jed Wallace in May 2015 seemed a sound enough idea. He’d scored 17 goals in 2014/15 for Portsmouth and was rated as one of the very best players in League Two, and at just 21 had plenty of room to develop. Unfortunately, this simply hasn’t materialised. While he wasn’t helped by a pre-season injury, his opening campaign at Molineux was a damp squib as he failed to nail down a spot in the team and was sent out on loan to Millwall for three months, although bright appearances against Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday towards the end offered some room for optimism. He started this season in the team under Walter Zenga but save for a fine display at St Andrews in August, his impact was negligible, being replaced twice at half time inside the opening month and his final start came at Ewood Park at the end of October. Save for a 25 minute sub appearance at Preston in Paul Lambert’s first game, he didn’t appear under the new regime and returned for a second loan spell at Millwall, this time with a view to a permanent move. Other than the brief flicker here and there, he simply hasn’t looked up to Championship football; wide players who don’t really beat a man, don’t have any real pace or power to speak of and don’t offer much by way of delivery don’t often get very far. What is odd is that given his goal record for Portsmouth and the quality of some of his goals for Millwall, his shooting and general finishing has looked so poor in a Wolves shirt; the few efforts he has got off have had the power of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. As with Michael Jacobs before him, some players just have a very definite ceiling at League One level, even if they do look a cut above in that division. You can’t always unearth a Michael Kightly or Matt Jarvis.
Appearances: 15 (3)
Lee Evans certainly divides opinion amongst Wolves fans. For every fan who thinks he’s still a player with a lot of potential and something different to offer in midfield, there’s another who can’t see what all the fuss is about. This has been another season of little tangible progress for the Welshman who started the opening three games as the first choice defensive midfielder under Zenga, but picked up a knee injury at Birmingham and didn’t return until the turn of the year. High points were appearing throughout the FA Cup run and starting each of our five successive wins in March and April; low points would be missing virtually the entire first half of the season, being jeered at home to Wigan and giving away a shocker of a goal at Bristol City. The problem is that he still hasn’t really found a niche. Is he a deep lying playmaker? Can he do enough defensive work to play in front of the back four? Does he have the energy to get about the park if we play him higher up the pitch? Is he ever going to offer us much in the final third? Nearly four years since he made his debut, we’re still none the wiser on all of that. Turning 23 over the summer, he has to start offering more than just the odd decent long pass. Having been handed a three and a half year deal recently, he should have the chance to move his game on, but needs to do it soon.
Appearances: 0 (3)
I suppose this is just a mark of the way in which we operate if we choose to deal with Jorge Mendes. We didn’t really need another wide player, less still one who’d already had an uneven career encompassing a fairly average spell at Reading in this division. We never got the impression that anyone actually wanted Ola John at the club. But he’s part of the bargain, if you want access to the best players possible that Mendes can place here, you have to accept that you’ll have to do him the odd favour here and there. No-one has to like it, it’s just an inevitability. So it followed that John played a whole 72 minutes in a Wolves shirt before being shipped off yet again on loan to Deportivo La Coruna in January, where he’s made a mighty one league start to date. He did nearly notch an assist for us against Leeds at home which proved to be Zenga’s final game, but there’s little else to report. It’s a curious existence that he has; four separate loan spells since joining Benfica in 2012, none of them in any way fruitful. That’s modern day football I guess.
Appearances: 40 (5)
Given we spent £2m on Conor Coady when we already had a surfeit of central midfielders, that turned out to be basically all of our transfer budget for that summer, he swiftly proved himself to be no better than anyone we already owned and nothing about his natural game has improved since he arrived, he’s never going to go down as a good signing. What he does have is a decent attitude and a willingness to muck in, which has proved valuable as he’s been pressed into service this season as an auxiliary right back. His performances in that role have actually been way better than anything he’s served up in midfield. If you can accept that he’s rarely going to offer anything going forward – his crossing is as poor as his general passing, not to mention his ball control, the sight of which makes you question how someone that deficient in basic technique ever came all the way through Liverpool’s Academy – he’s fairly solid defensively, hasn’t really been taken apart too many times despite not being a natural full back, understands the basics of positional play and gives it his best every single game. It’s a low bar for what was a fairly decent sized investment in our circumstances, but making some use of him is better than no use. We know for sure that we can’t use him in midfield if we’re serious about progressing in this league; the horror of having both him and Dave Edwards in the middle of the park is equivalent to listening to Vanilla’s “No Way No Way” on a loop. He wouldn’t be a dedicated option to continue in that right back role, yet as a back up option for the last year of his contract he would be tolerable. It’s a mark of how poor the season has been overall that he managed to come third in the Player of the Season awards. Maybe he deserved it just for that clearance at home to Nottingham Forest, that win effectively confirming our safety in the division (and there’s that low bar again, it’s a good job Stefan Maierhofer isn’t in town).
Appearances: 34 (6)
All of this over the last couple of days has been pretty much negative. Which, you know, I really can’t be blamed for. You wouldn’t expect me to write a positive review of Monster-in-Law just because I’d slagged off Jennifer Lopez’s music purely in the interest of balance. They’re both shit. Good reviews have to be earned and with that in mind, I’ve got absolutely no problem with saying that Helder Costa is comfortably the most exciting Wolves player I’ve seen since Robbie Keane. It’s easy to forget that he wasn’t the most high profile of our summer signings and nor did he have the most immediate impact; Ivan Cavaleiro and Joao Teixeira take those honours. However once he broke into the team, his quality was plain to see. Initial concerns about him being a touch lightweight were soon brushed away as he worked hard to improve his upper body strength and he set about terrorising Championship defences with his incredible dribbling ability. Watching him in full flow is absolutely mesmerising as he can beat a man on either side through skill or simply raw pace, and while it baffles me why teams continue to let him cut in from the right hand side onto his left foot, his finishing has proven to also be of outstanding quality. After a stunning showing at Anfield – had he managed to find the target with his solo effort in the first half, it would have gone down as one of the all-time great Wolves goals – the board recognised that we had to do everything possible to make sure that we at least had an investment to protect, and his initial loan move from Benfica was made permanent for £13m. Sounds odd to say so when it’s such an astronomical sum for a second tier club, but at that price he was an absolute steal. He missed the final month of the season with an ankle injury to prompt the predictable conspiracy theories that a move away from Molineux has already been agreed; while I don’t buy them, it’s fairly obvious that there will be high profile interest in him this summer. A player that good has no real business playing in the Championship. Obviously I hope he stays, but it really is hope at this point rather than expectation. If he does move on I would hope it’s to a club seriously befitting of his talent, rather than any old mid-table Premier League team (ask Steven Fletcher how that move ended up for his career). If he stays…well he’ll absolutely tear the division to shreds. Again. We might even have a team around him this time that he deserves. Whatever happens, it’s been simply a pleasure to watch him every week. I love the little guy.
Appearances: 24 (1)
Before this summer’s arrivals, Dom was our number one asset. An England U21 international with a host of Premier League suitors, right back isn’t the easiest position from which to demonstrate star quality but throughout 2015 in particular, he looked destined for the very top. So how then has he ended up behind Coady for virtually the entire second half of the season? He actually played a fair portion of games at centre half under Zenga and there were some decent displays mixed in there – it is where he spent the bulk of his time through the Academy and his pace was a definite asset to us there – but a disaster of a showing at home to Derby while Rob Edwards was caretaker manager appears to have ended that experiment for good. As a full back, there has been a noticeable decline in his performances. You’d be hard pressed to suggest that his delivery has ever been particularly strong, but the frequent charges forward from right back just aren’t there at all any more. Defensively it was rare that any winger would get the better of him in his first year in the team; when you’re getting burned multiple times by Oscillating Wildly favourite Rajiv van La Parra inside a single half of football, then there’s clearly an issue. It’s now highly unlikely that the level of interest in him is anything like as high given that he’s struggled to make our matchday squad for much of the last four months so it needs to be a summer of knuckling down and finding his form again. When he is playing as we know he can, pretty much every club in the division would love to have him. There’s still more than enough time for him to recover, but he can’t afford too many seasons like this one. Ryan Green looked good for a time and ended up being fit for sunbed adverts and nothing else.
Appearances: 20 (3)
Shane Warne famously said of Monty Panesar that he hadn’t played 33 Tests for England, he’d played the same Test match 33 times. The same can be applied to Jack Price and Wolves; a massive, massive proportion of his 106 appearances are indistinguishable from each other. You know exactly what you’re going to get; he will at least show for a pass from the back four, he’ll typically knock it on 5-10 yards, he’ll give it away a few times, he’ll rarely venture over the halfway line, there might be a pointless booking thrown in there somewhere and although it’s nice that he largely keeps possession, he doesn’t really give much of a sense of security in front of the back four. Essentially, his game hasn’t moved on at all since 2013. This appears to be a conclusion reached by Lambert as despite early praise thrown his way, his presence in the first XI declined to the point where he started just three of the final 14 games of the season. What he offers simply isn’t enough for us any more; it might be accurate to say that he’d look better next to someone like an in-form and motivated Kevin McDonald, if we were to go down that road then in turn we’d want someone who does Price’s job better than he does it. Reports on his contractual situation were initially mixed with it being unclear whether his deal expired this year or next; consensus now seems to be that he’s free to go unless we take up the one year option in the club’s favour. It’s probably best that he goes somewhere else now. It’s hard to see him developing much further here and his limitations are permanent rather than something that can be worked on. We’d all like it to work out for someone who obviously cares a great deal for the club, but the theme this summer has to be ruthlessness.
Appearances: 9 (2)
Patrick Vieira has a lot to answer for. Ever since he broke through over 20 years ago for Arsenal, any tall Francophone midfielder of African descent is expected to be a facsimile of him. While Prince Oniangue stands at 6’3”, he’s no powerhouse. In fact, it’s hard to work out what he is. I suppose his career goalscoring record – and he did notch a couple for us in his brief spell here – suggests that he’d be a bit of a deluxe version of Dave Edwards, perhaps one who can play 10 yard passes with a degree of reliability. He certainly wasn’t helped by Zenga’s tactics where beyond telling the defensive midfielder to never move from five yards in front of the back four, it wasn’t clear what he was asking the midfielders to do. Nor was it helpful that he was parked out on the left wing for a couple of games. All that said, he failed to impose himself and there didn’t seem to be anything particularly exceptional about his game. Injured when Lambert arrived, he reportedly fancied a move back to France and we obliged by sending him off to Bastia, where he seems to have done a reasonable enough job in a terrible team. It’s hard to see a way back for him here; Lambert wants to trim the squad, he isn’t of an age where he’s going to develop sufficiently or where there’s time on his side to spend further months (or longer) on the fringes, it isn’t clear where we’d play him even if he were here and his reputation is probably such in France that we’d get most or all of our money back if we sold him. Seems a thoroughly nice guy, but one that we hadn’t scouted properly at all. Given the timescales involved last summer, it’s perhaps understandable that we had to do a bit of a trolley dash; however signings such as this during this window won’t be looked upon so kindly.
Appearances: 12 (2)
Ah, dear old Lonners. Ok, scrap the “dear” bit. My word, he is poor. Andy Marshall played one game for us and managed to concede five goals. Dave Beasant was authentically terrible during his 1992/93 loan spell here. Paul Jones’ second spell was an unmitigated disaster. Tony Lange played the seminal late 80s “fat, dodgy and moustachioed” role to perfection. And there endeth the list of Wolves keepers you could possibly consider to be worse than Lonergan in the last 30 years. It really is going some when you’re making everyone pine for Carl Ikeme. He basically has one attribute; at some point in a four or five game spell, he’ll probably pull off a really good save. That’s it. Everything else is at a standard where you’d be struggling to get a regular game in League Two. He can’t command his box – not just off crosses, he remains glued to his line when long balls through the middle come sailing towards him. He’s a remarkable exponent of the “flap at thin air”. He lets in an alarming number of extremely soft goals, which kind of negates his one ability as it doesn’t matter so much if you make a wonder save if we’re already losing and it’s your fault. And then there’s his kicking. Now I spent years watching Matt Murray, who could quite easily throw it further and more accurately than he could kick it. Lonergan makes Big Matt look like a regular David de Gea. I’ve seen Lonergan take a goal kick which didn’t go 30 yards. I’ve seen him clonk a steward, sat miles away from the pitch on the Steve Bull side of the ground, straight on the head. I’ve seen him fade the ball in a manner which would make Jordan Spieth proud. He doesn’t even seem to recognise this huge, fundamental flaw and look to throw or roll the ball out, as when he gathers it he simply ushers everyone away and proceeds to spanner it towards the touchline. Now of course, last summer we were for a time in a period of limbo, so money wasn’t really available for a spell and we did need a senior keeper with both Emi Martinez and Aaron McCarey departing. I can see why the management thought that in theory, someone with that number of games at this level behind them couldn’t be all that bad. He is all that bad. Of all the contracted players we have beyond this summer, he should be the first one out of the door. Yeah, even before Matt Doherty. Where he’ll actually end up I don’t know as anyone who’s actually watched him will surely cross him straight off their list.
The third and final part of the review will be up on Thursday 11 May…