As the summer transfer window is ready to officially open, David Evans discusses why Wolves need to bolster their squad depth for the coming season.
It’s another important summer ahead for Wolves. After missing out on the playoffs by goal difference, Kenny and his team will want to make sure they don’t miss out by such a narrow margin again.
Wolves are in a great position in that they don’t need to sell and they have more of a financial clout to play with. Bakary Sako is off to try to fulfill his Premier League dream. Doyle, Johnson and O’Hara are off the books and Ricketts revolution is complete.
Moxey, Morgan and Thelwell have more money to use to bring in re-reinforcements. This summers targets aren’t just about improving the starting eleven. It is improving the depth in quality. One factor which I believe will have ultimately halted the promotion chase last season.
If Wolves can bring in the depth in quality, they could be serious contenders for promotion, or even the league title.
Gary Neville produced a brilliant piece of analysis on the last ‘Monday Night Football’ of the season. Looking at Chelsea’s squad depth and its academy supplement going forward. I used this example and modeled it on Wolves own set up in our last podcast of the season.
To go into more detail into this, I created this formation which I believe is our second string starting XI.
I’m basing this formation on a current starting eleven of: Ikeme, Golbourne, Batth, Stearman, VLP, Price, MacDonald, Henry, Dicko, Afobe.
You may or may not have noticed two exemptions from this back up team. Georg Margreitter and Bjorn Sigurdarson.
Georg has literally become a forgotten man at Wolves following loan spells at Copenhagen and Chesterfield. Be honest, did you remember that he was still here?
Despite being in Jackett’s team at the start of his reign, Siggy dropped out of the side and joined Molde on a season long loan. Returning in January, the initial signs suggested he might get another chance. This was not meant to be as Bjorn re-joined up with Stale Solbakken and Kevin Foley at Copenhagen on loan and even scored in their Danish Cup final win.
Despite both being in contract, expect both of these foreign imports to either make their departure permanently or on loan until their time runs out.
In this section, I’ve taken Jon Flatt out as I feel he might need more experience elsewhere before making the step up to the first team. Even though he has filled in for McCarey on the subs bench.
Kuszazck is already a marmite player. The multi award winning goalkeeper can pull off the ‘TV save’ but falls short on his catching and command of his area. Where Wolves keepers over the years have been obviously trained to rise above their peers and calmly catch the ball, Kuszazck goes for the punch.
Kuszazck however is a vastly experienced goalkeeper. Work on his catching and distribution and you have a player who can be a solid two and a competitor for the top spot. With his contract expired and potential talks taking place, don’t be surprised to see the pole in the goal, or on the bench, next season.
McCarey. Well, at the moment, who knows? After making the step up two seasons ago in uncomfortable circumstances against Gillingham, Aaron has been a stable no.2. But long injuries have kept him out of the side.
With a suspension following the use of a ‘non-performance enhancing’ substance recently, it’s hard to say where McCarey’s future will lie. If everything is rosy, McCarey could do with some first team loan time at a League One side to build up his experience.
COVER: One experienced goalkeeper if Kuszazck/McCarey are not around.
I could have gone for a back three for this one. But I decided to go for the formation that Jackett is used to using. With this in mind, it’s been a bit of a makeshift one. That alone shows you the additions we need.
Tommy Rowe comes in as a makeshift left back. The midfielder can play here, and has done earlier in the season. But you would prefer a naturally defensive player to start in this position.
In the middle are Ethan Ebanks Landell and Kourtney Hause. Both full of promise for the future. Hause, like Iorfa, broke into the first team last season. His time has mainly been spent at left back, but when you watch him, his positioning and frame are ready made to be a centre back.
Ebanks Landell, again, shows promise. Two great performances at the end of the season against Wigan and Millwall. Earning Wolves third goal in their 4-2 Molineux win against the Lions. However, performances against the big boys earlier in the season, mainly in Wolves 5-0 thrashing to Derby, highlighted a development need still for the young centre back.
At right back is Matt Doherty. More than capable in defence and is clearly a first team player. The blistering form of Iorfa however has kept the young Irishman out of contention.
The young and hungry policy is the right direction to take for Wolves. Perhaps a player with battle hardened experience is needed to cover Batth and Stearman in another promotion push. Hause is more than capable at playing left back, but someone naturally fitting to this position would be better.
COVER – A left back and centre back.
If there is one place Wolves have enough of to sink a ship in, it’s midfield.
Razak Boukari. The enigma. A man with a four year contract and has played mere minutes. Blighted by injuries left, right and centre. The frenchman has been unlucky to say the least. Injuries would lead him to a loan spell at french side Sochaux and then another long lay off.
For a man who might fear just walking down the street without picking up an injury, you would easily presume that Wolves would be keen to offload the winger as soon as possible.
However, this is where it get’s interesting.
Jackett has signaled that Razak will be re-assessed for the coming season. Why the change of heart though? Could it all be to do with Bakary Sako?
How do you replace the irreplaceable? Rumours were rife when Boukari signed in the summer of 2012 that he was a better player than Sako. Has Razak’s early and recent training at the club sparked some interest in the coaching staff at Wolves? Perhaps Sako’s replacement might have been at the training ground all along?
A fully fit (and we’re holding our breath here) Boukari would literally be a new signing. Tie in his potential and Wolves could be saying ‘Sakwho?’ in the next few months. This is all an if. A big ‘If’.
In the middle we move to Evans and Saville. Lee Evans started last season in great form. Keeping out the mini Pirlo Jack Price with some terrific performances.
Then, teams found Wolves out and Evans, with no pun intended, paid the price. Evans has now become a squad player. He’s still young, but does he have enough about him to push Price and MacDonald for a first team place?
George Saville signed last summer from Chelsea for a reported £1 million. After an impressive loan spell at Brentford in League One, hopes were high for the midfielder. However, George never really got going when given the chance and seemed to get lost in games.
A loan spell came knocking at high flying Bristol City but Savile became a bit part player in their League One title winning season. Savile returns to Wolves but where he fits, if he does now, will remain to be seen.
Remember, we still have Tommy Rowe who can fit into this position. Both Rowe and Savile didn’t set the world on fire with their limited performances. But, in my eyes Rowe came out on top with what he brought to Wolves in these games. With a long layoff last season, Rowe deserves another chance to prove his worth.
Then on the right we have a duel between Jordan Graham and Zeli Ismail.
Graham is tipped to be the academy breakthrough next season whilst Zeli, the mis-quoted £100 million player, has a lot of potential to live up to. Where time is on their side for one, the sand in the hour glass is running out for the other.
Ismail, injury prone, needs a full season on loan to show whether the rumours and the whispers on the Molineux terraces are true. After signing a new two year contract, Wolves are keeping faith in him. Or, are they still protecting a potential diamond in the rough? One they don’t know whether will shine.
Rather than go two up top, I’ve selected the classic ‘no.10’ role. Here, we have an abundance to choose from. ‘Dangerous’ Dave Edwards leads the charge. After another impressive year at the club, Edwards has matured with age and continues to surprise oppositions with his blistering late runs and knock on headers in the ‘corridor of uncertainty’.
We thought his successor might have been Michael Jacobs. An outstanding individual performance in the second half of the League One season resulted in minimal exposure in the Championship.
Most were surprised when Jacobs was not in the starting line up on the first day of the season against Norwich. Jackett made the big call and in the limited appearances he made early on in the season, the former Derby man seemed a shadow of his former self. Perhaps Jacobs simply needs more game time. Will he be happy to be second or third string for another season? Especially when there is another new guy in town…
The only new signing so far this season. Portsmouth’s Jed Wallace. Could he be the natural successor to the ‘No.10’ crown? We will just see how he performs this coming season.
Wolves have enough midfield cover for a whole season. But is the quality there?
COVER: Left winger and central midfielder.
One up top. Liam McAlinden.
After Leon Clarke and Jake Cassidy departed Wolves this summer, this left the youngster as cover. The academy graduate shows real promise. But he can’t be cover alone.
Wolves search for a striker last season went on for nine months. It could have been the key factor in Wolves ‘Nightmare November’ which halted their promotion push. Thelwell and co will not want this to happen again.
Wolves don’t just need cover, they need quality. They need a player or players which will push Afobe and Dicko for a starting place. Bring a different dynamic week in week out.
The recruitment process at Wolves would seriously be questioned if another elongated striker search happens.
Too unlucky in the market? Or too much criteria? Biding their time proved fruitful in Benik Afobe. Let’s hope we’re not having this conversation again though in nine months time.
COVER: Two strikers. A target man essential.
If my calculations are correct, my view is that Wolves need five players this summer, whether on loan or a permanent deal, to bolster the first team squad.
Wolves are recruiting young players with many games under their belts. A great policy going forward. But, it’s all about the quality.