David Evans suggests a potential missed factor in Stale Solbakken’s demise at Wolves…
Remember when we thought we were about to enter the reign of the hipster?
Continental football, keeping the ball on the ground, overseas players with bags of potential and a manager wearing a thin scarf on the touchline.
We had entered every football hipster fans dream.
When Stale Solbakken took charge of Wolves in the summer of 2012, we were in the midst of a new dawn.
A foreign manager, with a degree of league success in Scandinavia, was brought in by Steve Morgan to herald in a new chapter.
Wolves were looking to be a hollywood re-boot, reviving a brand in desperate need of a makeover.
The turmoil season of Premier League football followed by relegation had gone. Surely things couldn’t get any worse, right?
30 games later, in league and cup, spelled the end for the Norwegian after a FA Cup third round defeat to conference side Luton Town.
Solbakken would end his time at Molineux with a 33% win rate (I have got this from Wikipedia). Adding three points in nine out of his 26 league matches.
So, what went wrong for Stale?
We can point to a few factors here.
- Too radical of an appointment.
- A playing style too progressive for our current players.
- A playing style which became slow and sloppy over time.
- Poor recruitment (apart from Bakary Sako).
- Players still feeling the effects of a relegation.
- No change over from certain ‘McCarthyites’.
and so on…
I’m going to throw one more theory into the mix. Something I think could have been hidden in plain sight…
Now, hold on. Don’t go spitting out your coffee or tea. Just wait a minute.
I am NOT suggesting that the former coach is responsible for Solbakken’s fall.
Just hear me out.
Patrick Weiser, a former coach at Cologne with Stale, joined Wolves in its vacated coaching role on 19th October 2012 following the departure of Terry Connor.
Now Weiser didn’t bring a poor pedigree with him. My argument is that his arrival could have brought an in-balance to the force at Molineux.
After an in-different start to the season, resulting in one win out of four, Terry Connor was sacked on 3rd September.
In what seemed to be an ‘interim period’ between coaches and international breaks, Wolves went on to win five on their next six games.
Wolves could have gone top with a win at home to Crystal Palace, but after defeat, they settled for a season table high of 3rd with a win away to Blackburn Rovers.
In the post-mortem following Solbakken’s exit, many would cite that the players weren’t good enough. That they could not play the style of football Stale, and ultimately Wolves, needed to evolve into.
In that inital 10 game period however, the fruits of Solbakken’s time were slowly starting to show little green shoots.
The mixture of McCarthy’s troops and Solbakken’s European revolutionaries were mixing together, and producing results.
Wolves claimed 15 out of a possible 18 points in that six game period. Something must have been working.
In this small window between Connor and Weiser, were Solbakken and his colleague, Lange, onto something?
After Weiser’s inclusion, Wolves would only win three of their next 17 competitive games. Starting with a nine game winless run, losing six.
Now, this could be completely coincidental.
One argument for this easily is that Saunders, inheriting the same group, was unable to flesh out any results.
The players, as many have suggested, were simply not good enough. It took a Kenny Jackett re-casting to prove it.
What these results show is a sheer tectonic shake. To go from a substantial run of form to complete haphazard in the space of weeks?
I guess that’s football for you though.
If Solbaken was implementing a hybrid style before Weiser’s arrival, then the full tilt into his overall plan completely failed.
Early signs showed a high pressure, possession based game.
What would follow would change. Evident in games against Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town, Wolves seemed to become sluggish in front of goal.
They increasingly continued to pass the ball around the opponents box, allowing the opposition to re-group in numbers. From this, Wolves seemed to become unsure of what to do next.
No forward runs and no space created. Wolves would continue to pass the ball in uncertainty until possession was lost.
What Solbakken probably needed was coach proven at Championship level.
If not Terry Connor, then someone who could, in time, help to infiltrate Stale’s new age thinking into the first team and across the academy spectrum.
In return, they could advise and educate Stale in the rigorous nature of the Championship at managerial level.
It might have been that as a successful coach previously for Solbakken, Weiser was the right choice to help him implement his vision.
Wesier’s addition may have simply disrupted a harmony which was starting to develop in Solbakken’s ranks.
This is something which the German can’t be blamed for. He may just have been the ingredient added to a promising recipe.
What do you think of David’s theory of Solbakkens failure at Wolves? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.
(images via expressandstar.com & wolves.co.uk)