Another high flying team to face in deceptively tough start to season
First of all, apologies for the last fortnight’s hiatus in blogs. Partly for technical reasons (I couldn’t access the admin part of the site for a little while, for reasons best known to WordPress) and partly for personal reasons which aren’t worth going into here (maybe in a separate blog); suffice to say I need some time out every now and then. Hopefully everything’s back on track now and we can get back to regular content going up.
Back to more important matters and tomorrow’s game at home to Brentford. Looking at the fixtures when they were first published, it appeared to be a fairly gentle start to the season on paper, yet as it transpires we have already played the teams currently sitting in 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th places and tomorrow’s visitors from West London are 6th in the table. With that in mind, going along at 1.5 points per game while still trying to bed down our plethora of new signings is not bad early progress. The biggest issue at this stage has been consistency, displayed no more so in losing 4-0 at home to Barnsley and winning 2-0 at Newcastle inside four days. Stating the obvious, but from here it’s about putting together more of the latter performances as the talent is clearly there within the squad to beat anyone in this division. We have to hope that last week marked a watershed with the end of us starting games far too slowly and allowing opponents to get a foothold in the game, which is not a luxury that any Championship team can get away with on a regular basis.
We all know by now that Walter Zenga is an advocate of squad rotation. It’s fairly clear that over a 46 game season, it is beneficial to have the option to swap players in like for like without impacting on the quality of the starting XI, ensuring that everyone remains fresh, particularly as we now have a sizeable foreign contingent unused to the unrelenting grind of the Championship. However, this is only acceptable to a point; there is protecting players and there is making changes for the sake of making changes, which Zenga has already been guilty of on more than one occasion. It could be that having been denied the opportunity to view his players in pre-season, he’s been taking an extended look at what is available to him in these opening few weeks. By now, it has to become apparent to him who our best options are and we must start developing a consistent heart to the team which remains the same week on week; this being the basis of pretty much any successful team at this or any level. Even when Claudio Ranieri picked up his ‘Tinkerman’ tag at Chelsea in the early part of the century, he wasn’t changing the back four every week.
With that in mind, we should be using the superb win at St James’ Park as a template and making that the starting point when we come to select a team. I would only make two changes from that game; Dave Edwards very rarely has two good games in a row so I would be removing him and installing Conor Coady who had possibly his best game in a Wolves shirt against Burton a fortnight ago. It’s a perfect illustration of why ‘never change a winning team’ is a fallacy really; I can more or less guarantee you that if Edwards starts tomorrow, he’ll provide absolutely nothing positive and be a waste of a shirt for the 45-65 minutes that he lasts before being hauled off, we’ve all seen it time and time again. Don’t wait for that to happen before you take action. Elsewhere I would bring in Ivan Cavaleiro for Joao Teixeira who is beginning to tail off a little after his excellent start; there is of course plenty to be encouraged with regarding Teixeira and he would remain a fine option from the bench.
It’s on the bench where I hope to see further encouraging developments in the return to the matchday squad of Nouha Dicko. 80 minutes and a goal for the U23s against Middlesbrough on Monday, in a performance which from the highlights provided appeared to be full of his trademark pace and power, added to previous gametime should see him ready to be able to make a contribution as a substitute from here. He would represent a far superior option should we need late impetus than Paul Gladon who has struggled thus far to demonstrate why we saw him as a viable option. There is time for the Dutchman of course, though it would probably be wise for him to learn the offside rule ahead of his next appearance. Not jumping like Stefan Maierhofer might be an idea too.
Matt Doherty – Dominic Iorfa – Danny Batth – Cameron Borthwick-Jackson
Conor Coady – Prince Oniangue
Helder Costa – Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – Ivan Cavaleiro
Subs: Andy Lonergan, Silvio, Kortney Hause, Dave Edwards, Joao Teixeira, Joe Mason, Nouha Dicko.
Ex-Walsall boss Dean Smith overcame a slow start to his time at Griffin Park (only 12 points collected from his first 13 games) to rally well and finish last season strongly, as Brentford won seven of their final nine fixtures to end up in a creditable 9th place. That good work has extended into the new campaign as they shrugged off an opening day defeat at early surprise package Huddersfield and have since picked up 14 points from their last seven games. As such, this is a team in a long standing run of excellent form and they will provide a tough proposition this weekend. Much of the recent success has been built on the goals of one time Wolves target Scott Hogan, who has recovered from a serious knee injury and has scored 13 times in his 16 Brentford appearances to date.
While Alan Judge remains sidelined with a broken leg, highly rated Danish defender Andreas Bjelland has made a return from his own long term injury this season and Smith can also call on the services of early 2010s Chelsea wunderkind Josh McEachran who may finally be fulfilling some of his vast potential after years of nondescript loan spells. Romaine Sawyers and Rico Henry have followed their former manager from Walsall to Hounslow and the loss of keeper David Button to neighbours Fulham has been more than offset by the arrival of Daniel Bentley from Southend who has long appeared to be an excellent prospect.
Last line up (vs Preston, 17.9.16, W 5-0): Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Bjelland; Yennaris, Woods; Kaikai, Sawyers, MacLeod; Hogan
Top scorers: Scott Hogan (6), John Egan (3)
Tuesday 23 February 2016: Brentford 3-0 Wolves
Oh dear. This was a true horror show of a display and left Kenny Jackett’s stock as Wolves manager at perhaps its lowest, with this being our third straight defeat and leaving us with a mere three points in a seven game winless run. The goals came from feeble defending showing little commitment to the cause and it was a game where a three goal defeat was almost a mercy as Brentford peppered the Wolves goal with 20 attempts. This was Rajiv van La Parra’s final game in a Wolves shirt; coming days after he had made some unnecessary comments towards the fans on Instagram (our Raj being a very 21st century kind of wastrel), he lasted just over an hour of being constantly harangued by the away fans before being mercifully withdrawn. There were no positives to take from this game.
Team: Ikeme; Doherty, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Hause; van La Parra (Le Fondre 63), Coady, McDonald, Byrne (Saville 62); Mason, Sigurdarson. Unused subs: Martinez, Iorfa, Price, Rowe, Hunte.
2013/14: D 0-0 (H), W 3-0 (H)
2014/15: W 2-1 (H), L 0-4 (A)
2015/16: L 0-2 (H), L 0-3 (A)
Wolves 1-1 Brentford (Cavaleiro)
This is an occasion where Brentford’s perceived status as a club in terms of size needs to be disregarded, they are a team that has found their niche in the Championship and as above, have been in top two form for what equates to a third of a season now (albeit stretched over two campaigns). A point would represent a decent if unspectacular return.