As March comes to a close, David Evans takes a look back at the five traits we noticed about Wolves in the last four weeks.
March comes to a close and it’s time for another round up that you have come so used to. I missed last month (and perhaps the previous one aswell), so I thought it was about time to get back on the proverbial horse and talk about what we learned about Wolves in the third month of the year.
Starting out with a defeat and now unbeaten in four, Wolves have firmly put themselves in the playoff mix with big results against their rivals. Wolves go into the international break on good form and they will hope that this run will continue with a trip to Nottingham Forest on 3rd April (my birthday by the way. Just throwing that out there)…
1. Benick got game
Wolves fans were crying out for a striker in the January transfer window to cover and rival Nouha Dicko. With Leon Clarke not providing any real threat and loaned to Wigan Athletic for the rest of the season, Wolves needed goals, and needed them fast. Cue Benick Afobe.
The former arsenal striker has been on blistering form since arriving at Molineux for £2 million. 8 goals in 14 games and it has already made him a fans favourite. Given two or three one on one chances he should have finished, Benick’s eye for goal is incredible. When running on goal, you just know that the ball is crossing the white line. His particular goal against Watford in a 2-2 draw being a highlight.
It isn’t just his goal threat which impresses with Afobe. It is his general play. Pacey, silky with the ball and his general control are all fantastic attributes for a player who is only 22. He already looks a cut above in the Championship and makes you question why some lower placed Premier League clubs hadn’t marked him out?
Wolves have found a little diamond in Benick Afobe. Kenny Jackett’s patience in finding his man needs to be credited.
Benick has also struck up a good on the field relationship with Kevin MacDonald. Which we will nicely cue into…
2. Kevin ‘King of through balls’ MacDonald
Kevin’s form has been up and down since he received glowing reports a couple of months into the season for his high passing rate.
Since, It almost seemed that he had been ‘found out’ at Championship level. Despite having previous experience in the Premier League.
The recent acquisition of Benick Afobe has somehow revitalised the Scotsman. The toughness, cool control and skill we saw last season has now returned and almost coincided with Benick’s arrival.
The partnership that Benick and Kevin have struck on the pitch is extraordinary. Kevin seems to have developed a super-human ability to pinpoint Afobe with long balls. Most of the time these quarterback style kicks have resulted in Afobe getting on the scoresheet.
Kevin seems to have regained his form at the right time. Let’s hope he can continue his Tom Brady style through balls for the rest of the season.
3. We can play another formation
For most of this season I have talked about how Wolves were stuck to playing a 4-2-3-1 system. Anytime Wolves reverted to a different system, it just didn’t work.
With the arrival of Afobe, Wolves have been able to vary their formations, tactics and even able to play the classic 4-4-2.
Afobe, Dicko and Sako mixing around has given Wolves a different dimension and threat. The pacey, powerful and strong attacking unit that Wolves were searching for has finally come in play. A front four of VLP/Henry, Afobe, Dicko and Sako now looks as frightening on paper as it does for the opposition.
Wolves can now make oppositions think on their feet. As Richard Hobbs pointed out our last podcast, bringing on Henry or VLP changes the dynamic and threat Wolves can bring. Henry will cut inside and become another player in the no.10 role. VLP can work the wings on tired full backs.
Wolves can mix it up tactics wise. Every time Wolves look to attack, you can now sense a goal is a realistic possibility.
4. Calamitous or courageous Kuszazck?
The former multi award winner isn’t a bad addition to have in any squad. After impressing fans early on with his performances since taking over the injured Carl Ikeme, it did make you question why Brighton or any other team didn’t pick him up?
Kuszazck though seemed to be a puzzle. He can pull off some fantastic saves which has at times have helped Wolves to claim all three points. Especially in Wolves recent 2-0 win v Derby.
For the ‘TV saves’, there are the errors. His inability to catch a ball from corner is worrying. Choosing the option to punch when a catch would have been easier. His goal kicks are not as pinpoint as they could be and some of the simpler saves he has had to make have been fluffed.
Fans are have been hoping for Ikeme’s return but Kuszazck has been part of the clean sheet run which has provided Wolves with the joint top highest clean sheets in the league.
Wolves still have a quality goalkeeper on their books with Kuszazck. If Wolves are to be promoted this year, fans should not forget the contribution Kuszazck has made in earning some of those points.
5. Cometh the hour, cometh the team
If Wolves were to get back into the promotion mix this month, they needed to have pulled off results against two of their rivals and two of the best teams in the league. Derby and Watford.
Amid the controversy which ended the Watford game and the errors which led to Watford’s goals, Wolves never gave up. They hounded the hornets nest and should have come away with a victory. Even more to cap off a first senior goal for Jack Price.
Wolves high pressure could have been caught out by Watford’s counter attacking policy in the second half. But you felt that if Wolves were to have succumbed to a goal, they would have pressed more and more for the equaliser and not accepted defeat.
A Friday night under the lights and on Sky, the game against Derby felt like a big occasion.
A near full Molineux, the stadium had an atmosphere and buzz of a play off semi final second leg tie. The crowd roared on and Wolves didn’t disappoint. Despite a shaky start Wolves became solid at the back and fearsome up front.
Wolves didn’t cower to the TV or their opposition. They showed their play off rivals that Wolves meant business in the closing stages of this season.
If Wolves are to sneak a play off spot, they need to show the same ability, desire and mental strength in their remaining seven games. Tough matches await with Middlesbourgh away and Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich at Molineux. If Wolves can emulate this Derby performance, fans will day dream even more about a memorable day at Wembley.
(Image via guardian.co.uk)