Is there a reason behind Wolves abundance of midfielders? David Evans takes a look…
I dream of a team of midfielders.
A statement, tongue in cheek of course, which I expressed in one of the recent podcasts.
Kenny Jackett seems to have a fondness of buying midfielders. Like the kid at school who only collected ‘Far fetch’d’ Pokemon cards.
When Wolves are crying out for a player in a certain position, Kenny pulls out the midfielder card.
It’s an unusual trait. Given that Wolves are in a defensive crisis at the moment, in need of experienced cover up front and…
Right, let’s not go there. Let’s leave that for another day.
I’m speculating here, but it’s not to say that Kenny feels that midfielders, or that a depth in there numbers, is the key to a successful team.
Let’s look at some stats (give or take some percentages).
For incoming signings (we’re ignoring loans here), 60% of first team signings Kenny has brought in have been midfielders. Compare this to 20% in forwards, 14% in defenders and 6% in goalkeepers.
Let’s compare this to his time at Millwall.
45% of his signings were in the middle of the park, 20% each for defenders and strikers and 10% were goalkeepers (remember, I did say give or take on the percentages).
Another little stat for you. One calculated after Wolves record breaking League One season…
If all of Wolves goals from January – May 2014 had just come from midfielders, Wolves will have still secured a top two finish in League One.
You could say that midfield were the secret success behind Kenny’s debut promotion.
Back on track, a significantly higher percentage here in midfield purchases.
Co-incidence? Perhaps, but my next point can counter this.
It could also be that when arriving at the club, (just like Millwall) Jackett felt that it was the midfield where Wolves needed to strengthen most.
At the end of the 2012-13 season with relegation to League One, Wolves were in need of a massive overhaul. Both on and off the pitch.
With loan signings returning to their parent clubs, injuries, contract expiring and subsequent departures (Boukari and Doumbia would be loaned out to France), Kenny was coming into a midfield squad of:
- David Davis
- Dave Edwards
- Anthony Forde
- Karl Henry
- Jamie O’Hara
- Bakary Sako
Whilst just over half of these would initially remain, Jackett must have seen that a large re-structure was needed in both the ability and style of his midfield.
A position on the pitch which would ultimately be the centre of his high possession based style we see today.
Three academy players would make the jump to the first team midfield in the shape of Evans, Ismail and Price.
Scott Golbourne and Sam Ricketts became the senior defensive recruits and after a January mix around, Leon Clarke and Nouha Dicko were brought in for Kevin Doyle, Leigh Griffiths and Bjorn Sigurdarson.
In the windows to come Kenny would again concentrate on midfield.
Did he need to strengthen elsewhere though?
In goal, Ikeme was a trusted lieutenant. Kuszazck and Martinez would provide competition and cover.
After a defensive crisis in form last season, Kenny brought through Kourtney Hause and Dominic Iorfa from the academy.
Before the current defensive crisis and ‘StearmanGate’, Kenny may have felt re-enforced enough with Ebanks-Landell and Hause as cover in the centre of defence, despite a lack of experience.
Wolves needed ruthlessness up front and in the winter of 2014, in came Benik Afobe.
With season long loan Adam Le Fondre joining from Cardiff City in August, again, Kenny may have felt satisfied with Afobe, Dicko and Le Fondre competing for places.
Who would have foreseen Dicko’s near season long injury at Wolves 2-1 home win to Charlton Athletic?
Perhaps then, the team was balanced enough everywhere else but midfield.
Kenny has made nine permanent signings in midfield in his time, with all but one still on the books.
Question: Are they any good?
Kevin McDonald has been one of Kenny’s, if not Wolves, best signings in recent years.
James Henry has been a consistent performer and perhaps been our best player so far this season.
Michael Jacobs had a staring ‘no.10’ role before his sale to Wigan Athletic.
On the other side…
Rajiv Van La Parra has had an inconsistent time at Wolves. Never really living up to the ability he seems to possess.
With a failed move away from Molineux at the end of the summer transfer window, it’s almost certain that his time is almost up.
Conor Coady’s transfer from Huddersfield Town was applauded. Despite a promising start, he has been altered with Jack Price ever since.
Nathan Bryne’s arrival from Swindon late this summer was also well received. Early signs are promising, but a lack of game time has halted a full analysis.
Rowe, Saville and Wallace are the trio of what you could call typical ‘squad players’.
Perhaps brought in for competition, but they have not been close enough to challenge for a regular space.
It’s early days for Jed Wallace since his arrival this summer.
Rowe was blighted with injury last season as Saville seemed to disappoint when given a starting role.
Whilst Kenny has built a squad in itself of midfielders, the quality of this unit is questionable.
Don’t shed a tear just yet. Some might still get a happy ending.
Rowe, at Scunthorpe United, and Saville at Millwall, seem to be flourishing in their loan spells. With both clubs looking at extending their deals.
Has this piece given you any insight into why Jackett chooses midfielders?
Probably not. But I hope it has given you some food for thought.
Whilst Wolves are in a desperate search for players in other positions, my view is that Jackett has looked at the bigger picture.
Midfield, may be base camp, in his attempt at reaching the summit of the greatest challenge in English football.
The Premier League.
What do you think of Kenny’s regular purchase of midfielders? Comment below and share your opinion.