Deadwood Central

Harry Burgoyne: Well, he isn’t ready for Championship football. Maybe never will be. There’s a serious lack of command of his area – nothing to do with size as he’s comfortably physically imposing enough to be a presence if he chose to be – and even in his handful of appearances so far, there are a number of goals where you suspect he might have done better, last night being another as he made the ground to cover Izzy Brown’s shot but only managed to push it into the net. But he isn’t Andy Lonergan. There is that consolation. It’s circumstances that have led to him playing in the first team this season when he was at best, fifth choice last season, what it does illustrate is that the goalkeeping department is one of many that needs seriously looking at over the summer. Carl Ikeme is bang average on a good day and always picks up injuries over a season. Lonergan is pretty much as bad as it gets, outwith short term loanees who didn’t hang around long then I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse Wolves keeper (so yes, worse than Paul Jones’ second spell and worse than Tony Lange). Then it’s kids. For a club that for 30 years or so has prided itself on having excellent keepers, this isn’t acceptable.

Dominic Iorfa: Brought back in from the cold for his first start at home in over four months. It didn’t go especially well. When he first came into the team in 2014/15, it was exceedingly rare that any winger would manage to beat him for either skill or pace. Last night, he got burned on three or four occasions in the first half alone by Molineux favourite Rajiv van La Parra. Fortunately good old Raj still can’t cross a ball. Iorfa is far too good to let his career slip away from him, we all know what he can do at his best, but those reports of Premier League interest are a distant memory at present.

Danny Batth: Back in the team after a two match absence and we got what we generally get from him. Won some stuff in the air, made a couple of good challenges…but it’s not enough. We’ve seen him for three full seasons at this level now. We know that his use of the ball is below par, we know that he’s cumbersome on the turn, we know that he can’t organise or lead a defence…and none of this is going to improve now. Like so many of our players, you could tolerate him as a fringe option just playing every now and then. Not an automatic choice.

Richard Stearman: People normally associate Richard Stearman with “passion”. He has multiple flaws as a defender but theoretically makes up for some of them with absolute commitment and a never-say-die attitude. It’s all a facade. If you watch him closely, he constantly passes on responsibility in ludicrous areas, lets his man go through nothing other than casualness, shirks challenges that should be in his favour…you can beat your chest and thump the ground all you like Richard, but it’s about as convincing as Sean Connery is as a Russian submarine commander. I actually have no idea why he’s in the team at the moment as there must be next to no chance of him being here next season.

Stears points the way to where he’s let a centre forward run into his channel and let someone else deal with it.

Silvio: Things I saw from our left back last night; ability to consistently control and pass the ball, positional responsibility, diligence to chase back when we lost possession and he’d gone upfield, a proper link with the wide man ahead of him, general calmness on the ball and an overall reassuring presence. And no sight of a ludicrous beard or personalised gloves. It’s been ooh, 16 months since we’ve been anywhere near close to that. It’s a shame that his fitness record across his career is so poor because it’ll probably cost him the chance of a contract here. If we could get this kind of display out of him 35+ times a season, it’d be a no brainer. I suppose I’ll just have to appreciate the novelty of seeing an actual left back at left back, because we know full well which chancer will be playing there come August.

Chinstrapped wonder or a Portuguese international? I wonder. Matt isn’t going to pass for a matinee idol either unlike Silvio.

Jack Price: Neat and tidy in possession without ever looking like he was able to control the game or have any great influence on proceedings. Did at least show for the ball constantly unlike his partner. Silly booking early on for a needless foul which then impacted on his ability to make challenges later on. One dreadful shot. I could have written that verdict for about 90 of Jack Price’s 100+ Wolves appearances. Another one who has plateaued and is pretty unlikely to improve from here, the reality is that if we persist with the likes of him then we’ll carry on with sub-60 points totals and finishes of around 15th place.

Dave Edwards: Let’s get this out of the way; Dave Edwards hasn’t had a bad season at all in the grand scheme of things. He’s got into double figures for goals, which I never thought he had in him, and there have been times when he’s genuinely merited his place. He’ll probably end up coming in the top three when it comes to the Player of the Season votes and deservedly so (although you could argue that’s more of an indictment of the lack of candidates…). However – it’s been a long time since he was playing well, or scoring. He’s always scored in bursts before going on a dry spell and is now on a sequence of one goal in 17 games. He did have our best chance last night, but failed to strike early enough while the goal was gaping, got the ball semi-stuck under his feet and ended up hitting the post. Because basically, he isn’t that good a finisher. And if he isn’t scoring, then he isn’t doing much. Was it possible to forget he was on the pitch for 20 odd minutes last night? Absolutely. Did the opposition midfielders make him look like a Year 6 kid chasing his school books around as the bigger boys chucked them to each other? For sure. Did he give the ball away for the goal when under no serious pressure then let his man run right off him? Of course. Should he be a first choice player? Hell no.

Dave leads the wild celebrations after he passes the “40 attempted passes” mark in a home game for the first time since 2008.

Ben Marshall: Played on both wings and as an ersatz left back last night. Didn’t really excel in any of those roles. When he’s in a front three or four where there’s genuine pace and direct threat alongside him, he’s a good asset to us as his passing from central areas and delivery from wide is invariably first class. When we don’t have any of that, then he can look pedestrian and he’s certainly not going to be taking on and beating many full backs.

Morgan Gibbs-White: The first thing I look for in a young attacking player is their ability to be unflustered in possession and play with their head up. Morgan has that in abundance and if we handle his development properly, we should have a serious player on our hands – it is hard to remember at times that he’s not long turned 17. Didn’t get much change out of Huddersfield when played centrally but had more of an impact out wide on the right…and then fell victim to the growing tendency of Paul Lambert to think “I planned to take you off after X minutes and I’m going to stick with that even if you have just had your best 10 minute spell of the game and are looking our most threatening player”. Would surely have been worth keeping him on and trying him in central midfield rather than Edwards who was contributing less than nothing.

Andi Weimann: As per the Brighton game, he has had one solitary decent appearance out wide for us and the rest of the time, has offered very little in that role. He has looked far better when played up front. So of course for the first half we parked him out wide on the right. He actually got injured after about two minutes and despite it clearly impacting on his mobility, we left him on for the entire game. Moved up front in the second half and tried hard but had very little by way of service. We got the ball in the box a fair amount…but he’s never going to be winning headers against the likes of Michael Hefele.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson: We couldn’t be blunter up front when he’s playing if we had an ex-Army guy singing “You’re Beautiful”. He’s quite obviously running on empty and has been for months. As such, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the team. We aren’t learning anything from playing a guy who blatantly needs a prolonged break, it won’t be doing his confidence any good whatsoever and we aren’t going to be scoring goals when he does play there. I’m far from convinced that he’s actually good enough in the first place, he doesn’t have a fantastic instinct for getting in the right place and his finishing is indifferent at best. But at the moment it’s like judging Mo Farah’s 400m pace right after he’s crossed the finishing line at the London Marathon.

Send this man to a beach, stat. A real one, not the metaphorical one we’ve been on since we beat Forest.

Joe Mason: One decent enough shot on the turn but otherwise this was another copy-and-paste performance; not a terrible footballer by any means but doesn’t offer a huge amount of goal threat, doesn’t really create much, flits around the edges of games, doesn’t have pace, power or aerial ability, not really a wide player, a number 10 or an out-and-out striker…so what is he and what does he actually bring us? We’re still none the wiser 15 months after we signed him.

Jordan Graham: Great to see him back after a long absence. As you would expect, looked ring-rusty. But he was at least positive, taking his full back on as soon as he came on and always looking to work a yard and get a cross in (the delivery wasn’t the best last night, but it will come). Getting the likes of him, Conor Ronan and Michal Zyro in the team next season does at least provide some hope.

Nouha Dicko: Came on near the end, hung around largely on the right wing and did nothing other than run the ball straight out of play once. Lambert says he needs a pre-season…great, I can understand that. So why is he in the team now? It’s not like we don’t have alternatives. Like so much of Lambert’s management, it’s muddled at the moment and as soon as the final whistle blows against Preston a week on Sunday, we need clarity. This lumpen mish-mash with no discernible style and contradictions all over the place can’t carry on into next season.


Limp defeat to league leaders

The usual output from the usual suspects

We finished in 14th place with a final tally of 58 points last season. We currently sit in 16th place with 51 points and five games left to play. Given that a lower mid-table finish should never be acceptable in this division for this club, questions should be asked why we’ve had a virtual repeat of the same campaign for two years in a row (disjointed performances, a dismal home record, a small flirtation with relegation and absolutely no hope of challenging the top six); is it the owners? No, we’ve changed them. The manager? We’ve had three of them. So it falls to the players who were here last year and are still here now, inexplicably still getting a regular game. By now it should be evident that:

  • Conor Coady has virtually nothing in terms of technical ability
  • Matt Doherty cannot and never will be able to defend, and perpetually displays the body language of a 13 year old being dragged to Freeman Hardy Willis on the hunt for some sensible shoes
  • Dave Edwards frequently disappears from view for entire 20 minute spells at a time as if he’s allergic to footballs
  • Danny Batth is ponderous to the point of being beaten to loose balls by renowned speed merchants such as Glenn Murray

I can’t pretend to be surprised when any of that happens, as it does far more often than not. Add in a couple of the newer arrivals and their own foibles; Jon Dadi Bodvarsson looking as threatening as Alan Carr would in a sequel to The Football Factory, Andy Lonergan possessing the same hologram genes as Claudio Bravo…these are players that are not fit for anything other than a lower mid-table Championship slog. A state of affairs that isn’t anywhere near what we expect. If these players remain mainstays then we will keep getting the same results. When you have multi-billionaire owners who don’t mind chucking £20m on a couple of exciting new attacking players, it’s fair to assume that said results are not the limit of our ambition. There’s only one way to fix that state of affairs.

His hands don’t appear to have holes in them, so I’m not sure how that first goal has gone in today.

Full back woes are a recurring theme

You couldn’t have asked for much more of a contrast between Brighton’s Bruno Saltor and Sebastien Pocognoli, and our full back pair of Coady and Doherty. It’s borderline incomprehensible that we have gone through an entire season and our most used players in those positions are a low skilled midfielder and a terrible right back playing on the wrong side. While Brighton’s pairing provided a constant threat going forward and did their defensive duties with the minimum of fuss, we were treated to a display of regularly ceding possession, failing to track runs, pressing at the wrong time to leave opponents completely open, getting far too narrow and generally looking seriously substandard. Signing full backs shouldn’t be a difficult task. How we’ve gone so long being so undermanned in those areas boggles the mind. Doherty has been playing on the wrong side – he doesn’t have a left foot and he isn’t going to acquire one now – for 16 months. As a stopgap, emergency, “we don’t have anyone at all so this will have to do until we get round to signing someone” option, you might tolerate it. Not an entire season and a half of it. We even tried to sign Nicolai Boilesen last January and Ryan Haynes this year, so we’re well aware there is an issue…but we leave it unchecked. Silvio played 90 minutes in the U23s on Monday and if he is anywhere near match ready then he should be given an opportunity to prove his worth in the final five games; he does at least resemble someone who knows roughly what he’s doing in that position.

If nothing else, he’d improve our Suave Quotient by approximately 600% all on his own.

Romain Saiss is struggling to find a role…

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Saiss is comfortably our most accomplished midfielder. Confident on the ball and with a decent range of passing, he offers something that no-one else (in the absence of Connor Ronan) in the squad can give us. And yet…we aren’t really getting much in the way of impact from him. While in his recent substitute appearances he’s pushed a little higher up the park and been used to press the opposition, when we start him (as today) he sits far, far too deep. It might look very nice for him to spread a few crossfield balls but when he’s parked five yards in front of the centre halves, those passes aren’t going to hurt the opposition, they’re going to reach one of our players on about halfway at best. Furthermore, when playing so deep, you would expect that he’d be able to protect the back four…but despite his physical attributes, this doesn’t seem to be an especially strong part of his game. He lacks mobility and the ability to sniff out danger, leading to opposition midfielders and deep-lying forwards running rings around him as he lumbers around in a fairly cumbersome manner. If we were able to employ him 20-30 yards further forward, then we might be able to make something of his ability in distribution. As it is, he remains a man of one or two decent moments a game (to go along with at least one or two casual losses of possession in horrible areas) rather than a player who dominates games. His Wolves career might not have long to run.

It would also help if he could run.

…While Andi Weimann is paying for his versatility

Weimann has started up front against Rotherham, Fulham and Cardiff during his loan spell here…three games, three wins. So it’s a surprise that in the absence of Helder Costa, we’ve shuffled him back out into one of the wider roles. While he is diligent enough when he plays there – his defensive work cannot be criticised – he offers us relatively little in terms of attacking threat. He rarely takes his man on, doesn’t link up enough with the rest of the front line and doesn’t offer anything in terms of delivery from the flanks. He is on record as saying that his preferred position is as a central striker and he is indeed the only player we’ve deployed there all season who looks a credible goal threat. It would therefore surely follow that his status in that role should be sacrosanct and it should be left to others to fill in out wide in Costa’s absence. Morgan Gibbs-White or the returning pair of Jordan Graham and Michal Zyro would certainly be preferable to deploying Bodvarsson there as has been mooted recently, though we do of course hope that Costa returns sooner rather than later (conspiracy theories about his impending sale notwithstanding).

Let’s have them back in the team sooner rather than later.

Paul Lambert’s in-game management remains questionable

It would be fair to say that thus far, Lambert’s strength has not been his use of substitutions and in game changes. Frequently any switch is left far too late and is often merely like for like, offering us fresh legs and little else. With us struggling to have any kind of impact going forwards today deep into the second half, it was left until the final 15 minutes before we saw the introduction of Nouha Dicko and Donovan Wilson. As has been the case on previous occasions when we have tried to play two up front in an attempt to chase the game, it didn’t appear that we’d done any work on how to play a different shape from slight variants on the theme of one lone striker supported by two wide forwards. It is an element of his management that requires significant improvement next season; plans aren’t always going to work and it is often the managers who have the ability to spot flaws mid-game and change the tactics around who find the greatest success.

Just writing down “Shoot” doesn’t count I’m afraid, Paul.

Today illustrated how far we have to go

Chris Hughton’s Brighton are an admirable enough outfit yet for all that, are fairly workmanlike and identikit in terms of Championship promotion teams; a decent keeper, a solid back four with two physically imposing centre halves, one tackler, one passer in midfield, a bit of flair out wide and a collection of handy strikers. It’s a well worn template, underpinned by a manager who can get his team to both dominate games and grind out results; nothing flashy, not a team that grabs the headlines week in week out, but they get the job done. We are so far away from that at the moment that it’s almost embarrassing to compare the two teams. We have gaps all over the squad in terms of quality and depth, we only really have one way of playing which has been proven to work (and it is one that is by definition invalid for the vast majority of home games in this league), we don’t show enough of a reaction when we go a goal down, we miss key opportunities at one end and give away soft goals at the other. Fosun might well have looked at the game at Anfield in January and decided that they fancy a bit of that every week; they’d do well to have a look at Brighton and see just how much work we need to do to match that standard.


Fifth straight win and now clear of relegation worries

Andy Lonergan: There’s a hell of a lot wrong with Andy Lonergan’s game. His kicking either from hand or on the ground invariably just about reaches halfway, often sliced out wildly to the left hand side of the pitch. His command of the box is as good as non-existent; not just in terms of claiming crosses (which he fundamentally cannot do and often doesn’t even attempt) but with regard to taking charge of situations where he can see the whole picture – this failing nearly costing us a goal at 0-0 (more on which later). And yet, what he can do from time to time is pull off an exceptional save. To pay us back for Saturday’s horror show for Cardiff’s goal – an error which ended up costing us nothing in the grand scheme of things – he saved two points for us with a great stop from an effort arrowing into the bottom corner from around six yards out. Never going to be good enough and who knows, this might even turn out to be his final ever game in a Wolves shirt if Carl Ikeme is fit to play at the weekend and for the remainder of the season. Not a bad way to go out if that does turn out to be the case.

Conor Coady: Continues to show steady progress at right back, at present a succession of highly rated wide players are struggling to get the better of him at any stage. Going forward his impact is always going to be limited although now we have a fluid front four ahead of him, we’re less reliant on our full backs providing quite so much attacking threat so it becomes less of a factor. There’s only one thing he’s going to be remembered for from this game though and it’s that goal line clearance. He had no right at all to get back and save us there and it’s a neat microcosm of him as a player. As we look to next season, would I seriously consider him as a permanent member of the back four? Not really. But if a squad player is willing to show that level of commitment and heart, then he’ll do for me as a reliable back up option.

Danny Batth: No repeat of Saturday’s goalscoring heroics but handled Assombalonga with relative ease, looks to be working his way back into some decent form. Whether it’s direction from the coaching staff or a reaction to being dropped a few weeks ago, his use of the ball has improved of late. In truth it’s long overdue that he no longer be treated as an automatic choice; he needs to continue these standards to be a first team player here.

Kortney Hause: My Man of the Match as he continues to improve week on week; he shows more faith in his own physicality to deal with forwards in tight situations and like Batth, is looking far better on the ball at present than he was earlier in the season. He’s now very much the primary option at centre half, as has always been the case, the raw ability is there – we’re starting to see the results.

Matt Doherty: The standard mixed bag from my favourite bearded trundler. Managed to let a ball run under his foot in the first half while under no pressure whatsoever. Went on a foray forwards in the second half, then when we lost the ball managed to make it just inside our own half as he ambled back while others filled his position and did his job for him. But, to his credit, popped up high up the park (in the #10 position somehow) as we broke after Coady’s clearance and played a good part in the goal. When he puts his mind to it, he can actually offer a reasonable amount on the ball. He’s never going to be able to defend though. Doesn’t have the ability or application to do that. So nothing has changed really.

Dave Edwards: It was apparent very early on that Forest were intent on playing from the back so unsurprisingly we allocated much of the chasing duties to Dave. He did it fairly well, winning the ball enough times to put the opposition back under pressure, although these efforts told in the end and he was visibly running on fumes towards the end. As ever, not much to say about his impact in possession.

Lee Evans: A quieter game than on Saturday. Neat and tidy enough on the ball but didn’t produce much in the way of damaging passes to the attacking players ahead of him. We’re still short of the right balance in midfield – it’s always going to be the case that if Edwards is one of the deeper two in there (and let’s be fair, he has more than merited that spot this season, whatever the limitations of his game), the onus is very much on his partner to create from there. It remains unclear whether Evans can be that man. He probably is a better option than anyone else we have at the moment and he’s started all of the five wins, so at present it’s not much of a choice. In the longer term it’s an issue that still need to be addressed.

Ben Marshall: He is to the Championship what James Henry was to League One; a steady, consistent outlet out wide who can offer plenty of threat despite a lack of pace. Credit has to be given to Paul Lambert on this one as many would have wanted us to wait until the summer before trying to nab him on a free transfer (if indeed they wanted us to sign him at all); as it is, we’ve needed his output. Came extremely close with a free kick in the second half, Forest’s iffy keeper was getting nowhere near it.

Ivan Cavaleiro: Bright in the first half, Forest were clearly wary of him around the box and he probably should have scored shortly before half time when he put a shot into the side netting. Took a bit of a whack early on in the second half and was replaced shortly afterwards, although not before producing a manful effort to cover when Forest broke for their big chance at 0-0 (it is odd that we had a 30 second spell of play where Ivan was covering round for our centre halves and being the last line of defence while Doherty then popped up in the pocket of space behind the striker, Rinus Michels eat your heart out).

Andi Weimann: Amazing work rate as ever, the late injury to Helder Costa resulted in him playing a mix of out wide and behind the striker which would seem to be his secondary role in an ideal world. Gave it absolutely everything though, supplied an excellent cross for the winner and probably would have had a goal of his own had the right decision been made to pass to him. At present it seems a no brainer to sign him permanently in the summer at what we believe to be a relatively low, pre-agreed fee.

Nouha Dicko: It can’t have been easy for him to be thrown into the starting line-up around 10 minutes before kick off. He did well enough though. Had what seemed to me to be a stonewall penalty appeal turned down before half time and was in the right place to tuck away his goal. Lambert said after the game that he believes Nouha needs a solid, hard pre-season under his belt to get back to his best and it’s hard to disagree; we’d all like to see a return of the player we had in 2014/15. It’s been a disappointing season for him but the goodwill remains.

Morgan Gibbs-White: The faith Lambert has in the 17 year old is shown by him continuing to be a part of the matchday squads even when we were seriously threatened by relegation and he brought him on here at a critical stage of the game. Long term I would say his future definitely lies in central midfield but it is easy to see why the manager chose to use him out wide here and utilise his speed on the break. Horribly chopped down by Fox at the end leading to the Forest man’s dismissal.

Romain Saiss: Did a similar job to Saturday; came on, shut down some growing threat, allowed us to see out the game. It’s a hell of a luxury to have to use that quality of player in that very specific bit part role. We still need to work out how to use him best, he is definitely playing higher up the park than he was earlier in the season and this seems to produce better results. We don’t need him (or anyone) standing right in front of the centre halves.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson: Oh Bod. Bod, Bod, Bod. I know you want a goal more than anything at the moment. Anxiety is normal in these circumstances. But when we have a two on one, heading into injury time, and it’s Andi Weimann who’s wide open on the edge of the box, you pass the ball to him. If you don’t, then you make sure you score. Not sidefoot the ball straight at the keeper. He did ok apart from that, a couple of his trademark dribbles where it looks like it should be impossible that he beats anyone one on one but he does it anyway. I’m sure he’ll know he did the wrong thing last night.