Thankfully; after enduring yet another terrible game of football at Molineux on Saturday, I went out with my friends that night and drowned my sorrows. They were overjoyed to hear my drunken rants about Kenny Jackett’s questionable tactics and the game, which was very boring, in general.
I probably told them how that night I sat in a KFC store at the table next to the AFC Bournemouth goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, two or three dozen times as well!
And in fairness; my chance encounter with a Premier League shot-stopper was probably one of the most entertaining parts of the day, because Wolves’ match against Blackburn Rovers was arguably the dullest game of football I’ve bared witness to. Opposing boss Paul Lambert agreed and said that it was one of the worst matches that he’d ever seen.
High praise from a man whose previous managerial roles have been at Aston Villa, Norwich City and Colchester United, amongst others.
As football fans, we expect value for money. We expect to see our players wearing their hearts on their sleeves, fighting for every ball, genuinely trying their absolute hardest to change the outcome of the match. This doesn’t mean that we expect somebody to score a 20-yard bicycle kick, or to score an Alex Rae-esque long distance volley every week, it means we simply expect an advertising style of football that we can be proud to watch. Think back to the second-half of last season, that’s what I mean.
But, Wolves’ methods of late have been far from ‘advertising’. It has become predictable. In a thirty second period yesterday, Wolves went from taking a corner to passing the ball all the way back to Carl Ikeme in goal – which, as ever, resulted in a hoof up the pitch allowing the opposition to regain possession. It happened time and time again.
In Jack Price, even though he has found himself on the substitute’s bench a lot this season, manager Jackett possesses one of the finest passers of the ball in the division. Aside from having a key role defensively; from August to December 2015, Price had an impressive passing accuracy of 80 per cent (%). It is no surprise then, that during this five-month period, Wolves lost a staggering 55 per cent of their matches in which he did not feature. These statistics must surely justify his place in the starting XI, right?
On behalf of every Wolves fan, I sincerely hope so. I can’t help but think that even when he is trusted in a central midfield role, he doesn’t get on the ball anywhere near enough. He constantly drops deep to retrieve the ball from the central defenders, and is often the only one giving an option when a wide player runs into trouble. Yesterday, he played some superb passes to switch the play to either flanks, allowing Wolves to counter-attack. No surprise then that before Saturday’s game, ‘Jacko’ bagged himself four man of the match awards in a row.
Instead, most of the team are guilty of playing long, aimless and erratic long balls. They are often too straight to turn the opposition defence and are usually bang in the centre of the pitch, allowing opposing defensive midfielders and defenders to easily clear their lines. That said; Adam Le Fondre stands at only 5′ 9″, how many aerial duels will he win anyway? And even though Peter Beagrie recently claimed that Bjorn Sigurdarson provides a ‘physical presence’, I’m yet to see any evidence of that.
Even back in the club’s Premier League days, in 2009-10 when the tremendously exciting signing of the gigantic striker Stefan Maierhofer was announced, Wolves struggled to employ a long passing style of football. Instead, Mick McCarthy’s side got more joy when feeding the ball out wide and whipping crosses into the box. Maierhofer only managed nine games in Wolves’ colours.
To me, that is the style of play that would suit this current Wolves side. As Old Gold fans we have been lucky to watch some superb wingers in recent years, including Seol Ki-Hyeon, Mark Kennedy, Matty Jarvis, Bakary Sako and more recently, James Henry and Jordan Graham. All have been capable of supplying superb crosses for the forward players, whilst notching a few goals themselves.
Le Fondre has proven his Premier League poaching ability with 12 goals for Reading in the 2012-13 season, and Joe Mason managed five goals in Cardiff’s colours in the first-half of this campaign. We know that they can both finish, they just haven’t been given enough chances.
That’s why an unwelcome record being broken on Saturday came as no surprise. It was the first time in the club’s long history since 1877 that three home games in a row had finished scoreless.
If Wolves could play to their own strengths instead of simply focusing on nullifying the opposition, I think Jackett’s men would experience a drastic change of fortunes.