After yet another 0-0 draw at Molineux on Saturday against Neil Warnock’s in-form Rotherham United, it has been made abundantly clear (in case it wasn’t obvious to Head Coach Kenny Jackett already) that drastic changes are needed if Wolves are to have any hope of pushing for promotion next season.
One positive of this current season is that the club’s homegrown players have played an important role during this campaign. Six of the starting XI against the Millers on Saturday had come through the club’s highly regarded academy. Carl Ikeme, Matt Doherty, Dominic Iorfa, Danny Batth, Sylvain Deslandes and Bright Enobakhare all featured. Let’s not forget the importance of Jack Price in Wolves’ fortunes since Jackett’s arrival in 2013, too.
I appreciate that Deslandes was brought to Wolves late in his footballing education, and the same can be said of Kourtney Hause, who was only good enough for the bench, but Wolves are one of the few teams giving youth a chance in a league becoming increasingly dominated by big-spending clubs.
Wolves are 17 points off Sheffield Wednesday who occupy the final play-off position, with two games left to play. Relegation is also impossible; the club’s superb four-game winning run over Christmas being pivotal in that achievement.
With that in mind, I think Jackett should allow the young players at his disposal to have a chance to show what they can do against Nottingham Forest and The Owls, looking ahead to next season.
Firstly, Jackett may be tempted to re-shuffle his back line and bring Hause back into the fold. In doing so, he’d most likely play the former Wycombe Wanderers man in the heart of the defence, pushing Iorfa to right-back. This would allow Doherty to move back into the left-back position, a role in which he has flourished since Scott Golbourne’s departure.
This would mean dropping Deslandes. The 18 year-old, who was signed from Caen this season, recently made his league debut against Hull City. He possesses pace and power, which helped him to nullify the notable threat of Ahmed Elmohamady, a winger of Premier League quality and experience. Similarly to Iorfa, he will most likely move into the centre of the back four in the future. I think Jackett should leave the back line unchanged after a number of clean sheets recently.
In front of him on the left side of the midfield, I think that Connor Hunte deserves more game time. George Saville has had a healthy impact since his return from a loan spell at Millwall, but I do not think he is of any use playing on the left wing. I think that Jackett would be better off playing Hunte, who is extremely direct and willing to take on his man, hopefully allowing him to match the success of a number of left wingers in the club’s recent history.
This is because Hunte has immense pace at his disposal. He is extremely athletic, allowing him to cause his marker some distress. When Saville plays on the wing, he does not have the speed to get in behind the opposition. This leaves the defence without the option of a direct ball into the channels to relieve heavy pressure after regaining possession.
To accompany Hunte when bombing forward, I think that Enobakhare should start as a striker. There is no reason as to why a youngster cannot lead the front line on his own, proven by the success of Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) in recent months and Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) against Stoke City on Saturday.
After the sale of Benik Afobe, and in the absence of the injured Nouha Dicko, Wolves’ strikers simply have not scored enough goals this season. Only Joe Mason has managed to find the back of the net since January, but he hasn’t scored since February 13. Adam Le Fondre, who looked hopeless in an episode of ‘You Know The Drill’ on Soccer AM with Jimmy Bullard earlier this season, has only managed three goals since his arrival.
And Bjorn Sigurdarson? Don’t get me started. He hasn’t scored since Wolves’ days in League One, back in 2013. It is impossible to justify playing the Icelandic international as the only striker in my opinion.
Enobakhare scored on his debut against Barnet in the League Cup way back in August. He also impressed in pre season, scoring a couple of goals during the club’s tour of France, followed by a superb solo effort against Doncaster Rovers. If Jackett places his trust in him, I see no reason as to why he can’t go one better than his relatively veteran attacking teammates in Wolves’ final two games.