Rewind back to Friday night. I was out with my mates having a great time, as am sure many of you were too. Whilst at the bar with an old friend; who sadly supports Aston Villa, I can remember us both saying that come Saturday night we’re probably going to end up on the heavy stuff again. Unfortunately for him, Villa lost as expected.
But; despite being 23rd in the Championship form table before kick-off, and having collected only three points in our last six matches, a superb Wolves performance was enough to see off high-flying Derby County. George Saville’s tremendous performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras (again) was particularly pleasing. It was only Wolves’ fifth win at home this season – worse still, the previous four successes had only come against teams below the Old Gold in the bottom-half of the table.
Derby on the other hand, after a run of eight games without a victory, beat Brentford and Blackburn last week to reignite their promotion charge. After the surprise sacking of Paul Clement; who now seems destined to link up with Carlo Ancelotti once more next season when the Italian becomes Bayern Munich manager, new boss Darren Wassall seemed to have the Rams back firing on all cylinders again.
However, Wolves head coach Kenny Jackett had a trick up his sleeve.
On Thursday, 23-year-old Frenchman Jeremy Helan arrived on loan until the end of the season from promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday. The speedy winger is also capable of playing at left-back. As a left footer, he should help the balance of the Wolves team following the departure of Scott Golbourne, which has meant right-back Matt Doherty has filled in on the left-hand side.
After the serious anterior cruciate ligament injury that Jordan Graham unfortunately suffered after his brief; yet impressive, spell on the left side for Wolves, Jackett’s team selections have been crying out for an injection of pace in my opinion. This is especially true given the January sale of Benik Afobe and Michal Zyro’s injury, one that will see the winger sidelined until at least Friday’s game against Middlesborough.
For the duration of the match on Saturday, Helan offered just that. His tireless runs into the channels made him a constant nuisance to Derby right-back Cyrus Christie, and he was never afraid of taking his marker on. I noted that although he has been blessed with blistering pace, Helan seems to have the turning circle of an aircraft carrier, but that didn’t stop him leaving a lasting impression on the Molineux faithful.
Helan’s cause was helped by the inclusion of Nathan Byrne in the starting XI. Just like his new teammate, Byrne is extremely athletic. But; where Helan favoured taking the outside route around the Derby defence to get to the byline, Byrne was not afraid of bringing the ball inside onto his left foot. This makes him unpredictable, and a nightmare to mark, which led to Saville’s first goal to put Wolves ahead.
But; much to the dismay of Wolves fans across all social media platforms, boss Jackett rarely uses Byrne. He has only played twenty league games this season, with the majority of these being substitute appearances (13).
Joe Mason also seems to have been unable to nail down a starting place for Wolves following his arrival from Cardiff back in January. Despite two goals already, embarrassingly making him one of the team’s top goalscorers after the sale of Afobe and the injury to James Henry, Jackett still claims that he does not know how to use Mason to the fullest effect.
He recently claimed that Mason is capable of playing in three positions. The head coach believes that he can be utilised as a striker, a deep lying forward or on the right-wing. But; on Saturday’s evidence, I do not believe that Mason has the defensive qualities to be trusted on the right side of the midfield.
It was no coincidence that after the surprise substitution of Byrne, Derby left-back Marcus Olsson found himself in acres of space on the left-hand side. This is because; unlike Byrne and Helan on the other side, Mason was not willing to track back and help out Dominic Iorfa. This was a particularly surprising move given the speed and ability that the Rams possess on the counter attack, with players such as Olsson, Bradley Johnson, Tom Ince and Johnny Russell providing their attacking threat.
I think bringing off Bjorn Sigurdarson for Joe Mason would have been a much wiser move, allowing Mason to play down the centre. Despite his effort that hit the bottom of the post, Sigurdarson once again failed to impress me, and I think I am speaking on behalf of most Wolves fans. He looked clumsy, slow, and often lost the ball when a promising attack seemed to be in prospect.
For these reasons; although I was pleasantly surprised by Wolves’ victory on Saturday, I still think that Jackett’s side have a long way to go if they want to emulate the form shown by the club this time last year. Injuries and departures of key players have gone a long way to ruining this season so far, but hopefully the arrival of Helan will provide fresh impetus for a late surge up the Championship table. If Saturday is anything to go by, using Helan as an outlet maybe the best chance Wolves have got.
In this league, anything can happen!