With ten new players already joining Wolves this season, Dan Butler looks at what it means for some of the stalwarts of the club.
The new season is fast approaching and plenty of new faces are arriving at Molineux. It is only natural for some of the old guard at Wolves to wonder if their futures hang in the balance. With a completely alien system to learn and some big names to compete with, what sort of role will these players from the Jackett/Lambert era play this season? Here are a few to consider……
Most Wolves fans could’ve been forgiven for thinking Coady’s time at Molineux would be up after Nuno’s arrival. He never showed any consistent form when playing in midfield last season and when moved to right back he was solid if uninspiring to say the least, to his credit though he always gave 100%. So it came as a surprise when Coady started the first pre-season game against Werder Bremen as the central centre back in a back 3. He certainly didn’t look out of place, and perhaps it was his vocal nature out on the pitch that convinced Nuno he could have a future there.
In reality though Coady’s future looks much the same as a lot of the others on this list, there are better options in their positions. Coady is probably the only player in the squad who is going to be more useful off the pitch than on it this season. Our aim as a club this season should be a minimum of making the play-offs, for that you need a squad of personalities. When we inevitably lose at home to QPR we’ll need Coady in the dressing room, keeping player’s heads up, especially when we have a squad that’s so new with so many players who aren’t used to each other. I just hope the new boys understand Scouse.
The implementation of a back 3 could be the making of Matt Doherty, with the arrival of Barry Douglas he’ll finally be able to play on the right hand side of defence. Given his impressive performances from left-back for Wolves it would be a fair assumption to make that he’ll be able to use his attacking capabilities to an even better standard using his natural foot, he’ll also be on the same side as the pitch as a certain Helder Costa. With Costa naturally drifting onto his stronger left foot and Doherty looking to go down the wing and get to the byline it causes a real headache for the opposition’s defence when they have to choose who to go with.
The biggest obstacle to Doherty remaining an important part of this Wolves side will be the form of summer signing Phil Ofosu-Ayeh. It’s fair to say Ayeh is an unknown quantity to most Wolves fans so it’ll be interesting to see how minutes are divided between the two. Doherty is a fan favourite but Ofosu (from the limited things we do know about him) seems to be a ready-made right-wing Back and that could see him take a starting berth over Doherty who has to learn the system.
Wolves fans love/hate relationship with Danny Batth could be set to fizzle out this season if he spends more time warming the bench than on the pitch. He’ll become yet another victim of the 3-4-3 revolution, a system which would expose his most glaring flaws. Batth cannot play as one of the wide centre backs in the 3 as he can’t defend the wide areas should he be called upon to do so, his lack of pace would be exposed time and time again as teams would learn to play on the counter against what looks to be a very possession based Wolves set up. Teams like Millwall will have no problem coming to Molineux and setting up in a low block, looking to counter on the flanks when they can, our wide centre backs therefore need to be able to defend the wide areas.
So could Batth’s lack of pace be covered by playing him as the central centre back? Possibly, but the side would suffer in other ways. If we take Chelsea’s system as the best modern day 3-4-3 as an example, their central centre back David Luiz, is tasked with bringing the ball out from the back and it’s his range of passing that makes him perfect for the role. Now comparing Danny Batth to David Luiz is of course unfair, one is a future National team captain, the other is David Luiz, but the problem still stands. Unless Helder Costa stands over in the top tier of the Billy Wright Stand he simply isn’t going to get any service from Batth. Wolves’ central centre back needs to be capable of picking a pass, or at least competent at bringing the ball out from the back, perhaps this is why we saw Conor Coady start there against Werder Bremen.
Another player who the Molineux faithful can’t seem to make their mind up on. One week he’s the next Pirlo the week after he’s only capable of passing sideways. There’s no doubt in my mind Price has an exceptional range of passing but he is a player in the same mould as Ruben Neves, and if push comes to shove it’s always going to be Neves ahead of Price. If Nuno intends to play 2 midfielders in front of the defence then they can’t be the same style of player, Neves and Saiss works because Saiss will sit that little bit deeper and is good at shielding the defence. Price and Neves won’t because you have two deep lying playmakers next to each other, it doesn’t offer the balance that a Saiss/Neves combination would. That being said, there could still be a role for Price to play this season, it just may not be a prominent one.
The Dave Edwards era is over, finally. No longer will Twitter be rife with arguments over his contribution after a 1-2 loss at home to Burton because simply put, he offers nothing to a team which now possesses considerably more quality in any position he could feasibly play. For some reason previous managers accommodated Edwards almost every week, blinded by his occasional goal contributions they couldn’t see that he was incapable of retaining possession or playing his part in keeping the team’s shape, if Nuno plans to build a possession based side then Edwards cannot be a part of it. In fact the only situation Dave Edwards should see game time this season is if we’re chasing a lead and need to sacrifice a holding midfielder for one who can press the opposition and play in a more advanced role.
Whilst on the subject of Dave Edwards though I think it’s important to remember it isn’t his fault he became a mainstay under each Wolves manager in recent memory. We’re all aware of his limitations, and this season we’ll see the kind of technically gifted midfield we’ve been crying out for as opposed to Edwards’ huff and puff approach. But we should attempt to analyse his time in the side in a fairer light. Was there a more frustrating sight than seeing Edwards on the team sheet for the last 2 years? Probably not, but you knew you’d get 100%, and there can be no doubt his goals were crucial at times. Now his time in the side should be over let’s appreciate him for what he was, not slate him for what he wasn’t. That being said, if I see Edwards’ name next to Neves’ on our opening day team sheet I may tear my hair out.
Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch, Hause is finally going to be in a position to learn from defenders who have genuine quality. Both his and Dominic Iorfa’s growth have been stunted by being part of a defence that has leaked goals for the last 2 years, this season though Hause could be in the perfect position to starting working towards the high ceiling he has. Being partnered with Stearman or Batth wouldn’t benefit any young defender, but playing in a defence alongside Willy Boly who has experience of playing at a high level will do Hause the world of good. Whilst he is more than capable of playing in the middle of the back 3 it will be on the left hand side where he should really come into his own. Having spent time in the Wolves side as a Left-Back, Hause will have no problem defending out wide, where he’ll be able to use his natural physical gifts, his speed and strength.
So it would be fair to say the future looks bleak for some but positive for others. But if we’re going to progress as a club then this long overdue change has to happen. We’ve settled for mediocrity for too long now, Fosun have shown their ambition off the pitch, now it needs to be matched on it. Let’s hope Nuno can find the right balance between old and new.