Date: 28th November 2014 at 2:08pm
Written by:

Doom and gloom pervades Molineux at the minute, after an 8 goal drubbing by the high-flying East Midland pair of Derby County and Nottingham Forest. Quite understandably, heads have dropped, conspiracy reigns and the Morgan/Moxey-out brigade have hit the peak of their tub-thumping fervour. On one hand, it barely needs stating that I think this is a gross overreaction to our slip in form, and is borne out of disappointment following our strong start. On the other, however, I think there are a number of issues with the current squad and management that need to be discussed, which I will attempt to do in a balanced way.

We started our season at full throttle, ascending the table rapidly and hovering very comfortably between the automatic spots and playoffs. Perhaps we hadn`t fully gelled as a team, but we were picking up points despite arguably ropey performances, which is surely the hallmark of a team with a winning mentality. 9 hard earned points against Norwich, Fulham and Blackburn were early indicators that Jackett had struck gold with his fluid 4-2-3-1 formation. Inarguably, the wheels have come off, and our formation isn`t nearly as preordained or immediately obvious anymore, however it is worth remembering that just four games ago, our point against Birmingham City put us at the top of the table, albeit fleetingly.

Wolves sit in 11th place at the moment, but the tightness of the table is such that this dramatic descent took just 270 minutes of football to prosecute. It is with this in mind that I suggest that language like “failure”, “ineptitude”, “relegation fodder” and “losing the changing room” is melodramatic and misguided. As much as Wolves are an illustrious club with a glorious history, we have no divinely appointed right to success in this league, and it needs to be iterated that we have just been promoted from League 1. Our team is relatively young and perhaps not quite adjusted to Championship football; we are an aspirant team and continually learning. Moreover, we have not particularly splashed the cash. I will discuss whether this is a problem traceable to the board, but as far as Kenny and the team are concerned, it goes some way to vindicating the lapse of form in light of numerous key injuries and ACON departures.

Saying all of that, this “In Kenny We Trust” mantra that pervaded the minds of Wolves fans at the beginning of the season is blindly unquestioning. Nobody should be exempt from criticism, analysis or evaluation, it`s just a matter of striking the right balance between criticism and perspective. One grievance that I think should be addressed is the issue of Scott Golbourne. His dropping has coincided with our bad run of form. To me (and my Dad, who continually bangs on about this), this smacks of Jackett trying to validate his signing of Tommy Rowe, shoehorning him in at full back. Yet, Golbourne was arguably a lynchpin to our defensive stability and was markedly consistent in his performances. This ostensibly tactical decision has left many Wolves fans baffled, and Golbourne`s subsequent injury has prevented the rectification of Jackett`s mistake. Similar criticisms can be levied at the Wolves coach with respect to Ethan Ebanks-Landell, George Saville and Leon Clarke`s latent inclusions.

Tactical flexibility is a buzzword that now proliferates Jackett`s dejected interviews, as he harks on about “imposing our game” and wanting to “change things up”. This was something that I noted at the beginning of the season: our initially success hinged on a reliable and solid formation, where most positions were clearly defined, and we had a central midfield balance of McDonald, Edwards and Evans that afforded fluidity, owing largely to McDonald`s excellent form.

Jackett`s mistake lies in failing to organise a well-rehearsed contingency plan for the very predictable possibilities of Dicko/Sako getting injured or shipped off to the ACON, McDonald`s imperious form drooping or the back four losing confidence and stability. The erratic team selections in recent weeks reflects Jackett`s tactical flux, as he no longer can rely on the formation he perfected last season. This is reflected in his conservative attitude to substitutions in the early season, as he was reluctant to alter a familiar structure, and his devil-may-care style of throwing McAlinden on at half time when Clarke fails to impose himself for the 5th game in a row more recently.

Perhaps the biggest criticism faced by the club as a whole is this alleged “transfer failure”. Wolves won League 1 at a canter with one fully-firing striker in Nouha Dicko. Going into the summer transfer window, McAlinden was adjudged ‘a bit raw`, Clarke ‘unproven at this level`, Doyle still a boo-boy and Sigurdarson shipped off to chillier climes. From the rhetoric, rumours and failed attempts at signatures it is clear that the club did recognise this as an issue and sought replacements. Yannick Sagbo whiffed of desperation as he failed to make even the smallest dent, and many hopes are pinned on Danny Graham, signed in similar circumstances.

Notably, Wolves have been vocal about their targets and the E&S has zeroed in on any real club targets, such as Andy Delort and Chris Wood. The failure to woo players of fairly humble calibre, despite our impressive training facilities, academy infrastructure, stadium, history and fan-base points to one decisive factor: wage demands. I won`t pretend to be so learned in club accountancy and player management to imply that Wolves are abjectly wrong in their approach, and I understand that there is stead to a fixed wage structure to avoid upsetting the applecart. However this appears to be the one problem that Wolves have thus far failed to circumvent with clever loans, academic prodigies or sudden explosions of form, and until this financial bulwark is overcome, it is hard to see a huge upturn in form.

Despite three big points of criticism, the season is still young and I fully advocate affording Jackett and the board at least the January transfer window to change the direction of fortunes.