Though Wolves may just missed out on the playoffs, it has set the groundwork for next year writes Richard Hobbs.
It feels like a lifetime ago since Wolves kicked off their first season back in the Championship against recently-relegated Norwich City. From that warm day in August, Wolves never looked out of place in the second tier.
After “Notorious November”, Wolves were left with an uphill task to reach the top 6, The additional firepower in Afobe led Wolves to securing 30 points in the last 15 games, but losses to Birmingham City and Middlesbrough lead to missing out on the playoffs on goal difference.
Missing out on the playoffs on such fine margins will be hard on the team but the positives that have come out of this season will help overcome that final day disappointment.
At the back, Wolves now have seven senior defenders who have all shown they are capable of competing at this level. The likes of Iorfa and Hause have shown maturity beyond their years and if they can continue their development, could provide a cornerstone in defence in years to come. Richard Stearman has now grown into a calming presence at the back and is entering the peak years of his career. Even the likes of Scott Golbourne, who has had an up and down season, looks set to step up next year.
Improvements are still needed in the Wolves midfield, especially when Bakary Sako departs. But Jack Price and Kevin Mcdonald’s partnership can be devastating when on form. Price’s perseverance to play for Wolves will no doubt see him continue to push himself preseason to cement a place in the starting XI.
Although he dropped out of the team after Christmas, Lee Evans showed his potential in the first half of the season. Still young, the Welshman has plenty of time to iron out the flaws in his game but he does need to work harder to ensure his talents are not wasted.
He splits opinion with many a Wolves fans, but it is easy to overlook that Van La Parra has had a solid season. Yes, he left his shooting boots in Holland and his decision making isn’t always the best, but it is hard to deny that he can be a nightmare for opposition left backs when he is in full flow. He could have a much bigger role to play next year, especially with fellow winger Sako leaving.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to next year is the front pairing of Dicko and Afobe. In the past few months, “DnA” have formed a ruthless partnership. Since Afobe’s arrival, he has continued his hot streak in front of goal, scoring 13 goals in 21 games for Wolves; leaving him on 32 goals in all competitions for the season. Like all traditional strikers, Afobe comes alive whenever that ball is in the attacking half and has shown to he can score all typed of goals.
I was doubtful of Dicko making the grade at coming into the start of the season. But he relentless work rate and link up play won me over in a matter of games. In the ‘Magic trio’ of Dicko, Afobe and Sako, Dicko’s goals have gone under the radar somewhat. Scoring 14 goals in his first season at this level and having only just turn 23; Dicko still has time to push on from this very good season.
With the introduction of Iorfa this season and the likes of Price and Batth breaking through in previous campaigns, Wolves academy is producing very good players right now. When you include the young players who have been brought into the system like Kourtney Hause, Lee Evans and Jordan Graham, the current philosophy of developing young talent appears to be working.
I won’t deny that there haven’t been negatives this season. Not putting enough teams to the sword in the first half of the season did some hefty damage to our goals scored tally, and defensive lapses caused us to drop points at critical times.
But overall, all the positives gained from the season outweigh the negatives. It’s easy to forget we were a newly promoted team with several players untried and untested in the second tier. Wolves seemed to have a long term vision for how to running the club and the with the potential they should last season, the next few years look fruitful for Wolves.
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