Date: 17th November 2014 at 11:23am
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Wolves currently find themselves in 9th place in the Championship but only one point off the play offs and only 5 points from the top of the league. But they are going to need to recapture their early season form to remain as promotion contenders as we enter the winter months.

In the period leading up to the first International break of the season, Wolves secured 12 points from 5 games and there was real optimism that the team that romped League One last season would be good enough to make a real challenge for successive promotions. That momentum was not maintained in the second phase of the season leading up to the October International break when they got 7 points from 6 games. Then in the third phase leading up to the current break it’s been 8 points from 6 games to make an overall total of 27 points from 17 games. That’s around one and a half points a game which is mid table form if held over the season. But it would be a concern that after the bright start in August its been 15 points from 12 games and that is form that would put them in the bottom half of the table.

Its been a strange season in the way things have panned out so far when you look at the defensive and attacking records. In the first 8 games Wolves scored only 8 times but remarkably conceded only 3. There was then a completely contrasting 4 games when they scored 9 and conceded 11. Then it was back to the meaner results with 5 goals scored in 4 games with only 3 conceded, before the 5 goal drubbing in the last game at Derby. So its not an easy picture to analyse and even less easy to say what is needed to happen now to get back on track.

The defensive line up was constant early on with Ikeme, Doherty, Batth, Stearman and Golbourne providing a reliable barrier. Then we had that poor run out of the blue with 8 conceded in 3 games after which manager Kenny Jackett decided on a change. Stearman and Golbourne were left out with Ebanks Landell and Tommy Rowe given a chance. That didn’t seem a wise move to begin with as they only drew having been 3 in front at Millwall. But then there was another period of stability with only 4 conceded in 4 games. But then the decision was made to bring Ricketts back into the frame instead of Rowe at left back, and 5 were conceded at Derby. The outstanding defender over the season has been Danny Batth but his form has dipped in recent weeks and it has to be hoped that the break will see him find his best form again. I think most Wolves fans would vote for a return to the early season back line, but it was a concern to see Stearman found out by powerful old fashioned centre forwards in three successive games, and the key choice is probably between him and the promising but inexperienced Ebanks Landell.

There have been quite a few changes to the midfield line up and here again a reliable performer has looked out of sorts recently. Kevin McDonald has been the main man in central midfield since he has been at the club but opposing teams have sussed him out as a key man in Wolves passing style and are man marking him even in his own half. That has spoiled Wolves build up play and a plan B must be found if that continues. Alongside him Lee Evans has emerged as a fine prospect on the verge of a place in the full Welsh team but he too has suffered a dip in recent weeks. Jack Price who looked so promising last season will be pushing for a start if things don’t pick up soon.

The main wide man remains Sako and Wolves really missed him when injury forced him out for a few games. His international travels for Mali have not helped either but he is still the main source of creativity in the side despite often finding himself surrounded by two and sometimes three defenders when he tries to get forward. James Henry has done well at times while Van La Parra looked an outstanding signing early season but has struggled in recent outings.

In the attacking third the usual selection has been Dicko as the lone striker with Edwards playing behind him. Most of the best performances of the team have come with those two together but both have been missing with injury lately and nobody has really filled that void effectively. Jacobs and Saville have been given chances instead of Edwards but we have not seen the best of either of them so far this season. Leon Clarke has not proved to be an able deputy for Dicko while the loan signing of Sagbo didn’t work out at all, and Liam McAlinden still looks a very raw talent. So the hope is that new signing Danny Graham will provide more genuine cover and competition for Dicko and also give the option of a plan B by allowing a change to 4-4-2 at times.

All is far from lost in the aim to be promotion contenders and the team has looked more than capable much of the time. Kenny Jackett has done so well since he has been at the club that this is the first real time when he has to lift the club from a mini slump. And we need to remember that although he remains highly thought of as a manager the reality is that a 9th place with Millwall at this level is his best ever seasonal position and he therefore still has plenty to prove. Another addition or two in the January transfer window may be needed but a play off position is something Wolves are well capable of but they are going to have to make improvements on what we have seen so far. And come the end of March when Derby come to Molineux, we will be looking for the two clubs to be much more evenly matched than they looked last week.