(Image via www.shropshirestar.com)
Well what a miserable month that was. Wolves will be glad to see the back of the eleventh month of the year. No win in five games. 1 goal scored which was just a cross from James Henry which made it’s way to goal and a whopping 14 goals conceded. It’s been the worse month for Wolves under Kenny Jackett and one that Kenny will want to forget about in his managerial career.
A lot of questions have now been asked about the strength of this team, Jackett’s tactics and our transfer policy. As Wolves head into December looking to stop the rot, here’s what we learnt from the gold and black army in November.
1. No Dicko, No Party
The Mali man has been key in Wolves front line since he joined back in January. With a low centre of gravity, blistering runs and a tenacity of a car salesman, he’ll cause defences a whole lot of problems. But following his goal against Middlesborough in a 2-0 win at Molineux. Nouha has been sidelined with a re-occurring hamstring injury and hasn’t featured since.
This tireless work rate, a superhuman ability to hold the ball off players twice his size and a thunderbolt of a shot has helped Dicko not only cement his place in the first team but win the hearts of fans. Take this away and Wolves have no threat up front. Although Clarke took on the role while he was injured, he didn’t display the same urgency that Dicko provided.
Wolves have not won a game this season without Nouha playing and Wolves barren run has not been helped by his absence. It could be a coincidence but the evidence doesn’t lie. It’s been apparent that Wolves killer instinct, free flowing passing, movement and urgency going forward has been missed in the last few games. Dicko brings that urgency and it’s required back into the fold sooner than later. He’s set to miss Wolves home game against high flyers Bournemouth and the quicker Nouha can come back into the team, the quicker Wolves will start firing again.
2. K-Mac is losing his mojo
Some fans have drawn parallels with Liverpool’s recent poor run and how some players compare to ours. One of those comparisons you can draw on is Steven Gerrard and Kevin MacDonald. Both important players and the heartbeat of the team, their influence in the middle of the park can help set the tone for games. But just like Gerrard up until recently, his and Kevin’s performances have been poor.
Unusually for Kevin, his performances have started to gradually decline since the start of the season. The man who was once unstoppable on the ball last season has now been figured out and outplayed. His recent drop to the bench against Brentford wasn’t a surprise. Not only for Wolves to try to figure out a new midfield dynamic to stop leaking in goals, but also for his recent performances.
Kevin’s ability on the ball has now been questioned twice. In games against Ipswich and Brentford his tactic of dribbling the ball out from the box and have at both times been easily intercepted by the opposition and resulted in goals. Now this could be the way that Jackett wants them to play from out the box. But sometimes just blasting the ball away can be just as affective. Hopefully this is just a blip for Kevin. His ability is clear to see and hopefully we will see the MacDonald of last season soon enough.
3. Beam me up Scotty!
Another notable absentee from the Wolves squad is left back Scott Golbourne. The hi-top wearing defender hasn’t regularly featured since Wolves 2-2 draw at home to Wigan. At first his disappearance from the team seem to be tactical with Jackett looking to plug the early defensive leak with Tommy Rowe. After many weeks it turned out to a long sustaining injury to the arch of his foot.
Golbourne made a brief appearance in the first half against Brentford and fans seemed to think Wolves defence was back to its best bar a leading goal from the Bees. But taken off at half time, presumably through Injury, Wolves once again collapsed. Scott was another leading figure last season and was voted our Player of the Season. The former Barnsley man linked up well with Bakary Sako on the wing and this high pressure helped to keep opposition players in their half. Along with Dicko, this is another key man out of the frame and is lack of presence in the side is felt when going forward. With Golbourne pushing forward, Sako is able to push further and cut inside with Scott taking down the wing if needed.
With fresh injury concerns leaving him out the team for weeks to come, Jackett has another defensive selection dilemma on his hands.
4. Goals Goals Goals… Just not for us
We once boasted the best defence in the country at the start of this season. After letting in three against Reading away and further to follow, this blip seemed to stop after a few games and a new defensive lineup was born in Doherty, Batth, Ebanks-Landell and Rowe.
But then came Derby…
A team built by Steve Mclaren over two years. Narrowly and undeservedly missing out on the Premier League last season in the Play Offs, Wolves were coming up against their biggest test under Kenny Jackett. Another promotion contender, Wolves hadn’t lost at Pride Park for over twenty years. Following previous results to Birmingham and Ipswich, fans felt like a defeat was on the cards… but not like this. From the moment the whistle blew, Wolves were second best all the way and Derby’s Championship experience shone through and they out-muscled Wolves to a 5-0 romp. Despite many of our grave defensive errors that day, you could forgive the side on slip up against quality opposition.
Perhaps though that day affected the players more than we thought. Wolves then went on to lose 3-0 at home to Forest and 4-0 away to Brentford. Both times goals being conceded in quick succession. Heads dropped. Confidence shattered.
You can argue all day about what has gone wrong. The quality of the defence might have been shown up in this league. Both Batth and Ebanks-Landell are only League One experience defenders at heart. They’re still learning and they will come up against some tough competition when they face the big boys of the Championship. Defensive positioning has been questioned with players showing a lack of organistion and basic shape which has lead teams to score easy goals.
But following the success of last season, bar a couple of players, this new generation of players have not experienced such dominating defeats. They are now used to being in this position and they need to be taken out of this whatever the scoreline is. Wolves are going to concede goals but the last thing the team needs to to drop heads. Jackett, Batth and Ricketts and along with the other experienced players need to lead the team into, bar the expression, getting back on the horse. Wolves will surely score first in games to come, but if they continue to concede first, the players need to re-learn that it isn’t the end of the world and they can re-take the game themselves.
5. Danny Graham might be the missing cog in the wheel
Following speculation over the summer, Wolves finally landed the Sunderland striker in the emergency loan window. After the failure of Yannick Sagbo, Graham was drafted in to do what Wolves needed most… score goals.
Leon Clarke was given his chance but didn’t provide so Jackett turned to a striker whose record was clear to see. A prolific striker for Swansea in the Championship and the Premier League, his time at Swansea was cut short by Michael Laudrup and sadly Graham has become a bit of a journeyman since. The striker has had a bit of a dry spell goals wise following trips to Hull and Sunderland. He landed some goals for Middlesborough last season but Danny needs a run of goals to get him back up and running. The fear for Wolves and Graham is that if he doesn’t score a goal for Wolves quickly, he may not score at all.
His performances have been vastly improved compared to the tame Clarke. He is a natural no.9. Stays between the two posts, holds the ball up well and creates opportunities. He was unlucky not to notch his first goal against Brentford. A header from Sako’s looping cross hitting the crossbar, then the goal line and bouncing back out. Just the bad luck Wolves have experienced this month.
This is where Dicko comes into play. A ray of light which has been a horrible month for Wolves could be a potential partnership between the two. Although Wolves can’t seem to play any other formation apart from 4-2-3-1, Dicko’s vast runs down the channels could compliment Graham’s availability in the box. At times when Dicko rushes forward, there is no-one there to meet him in the box. Graham could be that man and as soon as the Mali man can get back into fitness, he could fit into the much used ‘no.10’ role to serve Graham an ace.
It’s a theory but if it works, Wolves could be back on the goal trial in the right direction.
6. Jackett needs a Plan B, C and D
This will be where Jackett earns his crust. Wolves inability to play a different formation and style at the moment is worrying. Although the philosophy of Football that Jackett is implementing is good, he needs another trick up his sleeve and his players need to know what to do. Wolves peak at the start of the season could simply be down to that teams where took by surprise about our style but now over a few games they have figured out how to play against us and expose our weaknesses.
This point is simple. Get a back up plan in place and make our opposition play the guessing game again.
7. A depth a talent is needed
Being defeated by these Championship experienced teams has shown us that our depth in squad is sparse. Not just in players but also in Championship quality and experience. We need to remember that most of this squad is only experienced in League One terms and they could be struggling against more talented and experienced players of the Championship.
Following Wolves failed striker search, January is such an important month for Wolves this season. With Dicko and Sako off to the African Cup of Nations, Wolves will not only need many re-enforcements, but those with high quality. Although under Jackett, Thelwell and Moxey the transfer policy at Wolves has become more rigorous and cautious when it comes to spending (which is obviously a good thing), in order for Wolves to keep competing in this league they need to get their cheque book out and at rare times take the risk to bring in recognised quality on higher fees. Other clubs will know that Wolves will need to spend with our depleted squad and table position, but Wolves will have to grin and bear it to appease the disgruntled fans.