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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Wolves: A Fourth to be Reckoned With.

This was another pleasing result, as WW continue to demonstrate that they have learnt how to grind out victories. It's not pretty but it is effective.

It marks a refreshing change to be at the ground, celebrating four successive victories, especially as I have to earn my presence there. Indeed, I had to tread very carefully today as the match marked my first full day on the road watching WW. As a result, I spent the week paying my dues, which included a pub lunch and a trip to a stately home on Tuesday, though, admittedly, it was my wife`s birthday.

Last season, one of the pleasures (or shared misery) of travelling up to Molineux by car was the impromptu interviews with fellow-WW supporters at service stations to and from the South-east. I had written half of my report by the time I had made my third stop on the way home. This season I am letting the train 'take the strain`.

An impulsive purchase of a 'hot hatch` in the Spring, a final hurrah as a geriatric boy racer before having to clamber into an invalid buggy, put the cost of motoring up to the West Midlands beyond my pension. Even so, this season`s reports should be more finely honed and considered since I am able to discuss the match at leisure with my friend as we hurtle home on Virgin Rail (for the moment at least).

My friend is lucky because his wife accompanies him to the match, a concession which mine steadfastly refuses to makes, even though (as I regularly point out) I am as allergic to visits to garden centres, DIY stores and carpet and soft furnishings shops as she is to football matches (allegedly).

Reviewing the season so far with my friend in Upper BW before the match, we agreed that the signs were promising and that the team was making progress. We were particularly impressed with SS, having read about his use of video recordings to force the players to think about their actions in a game and to consider the possibility of better options.

We both discounted the hammering by Chelsea on Tuesday, though I had a residual niggling doubt that it might cast a dark shadow over the whole squad. I also thought that SW could not be taken lightly. After all, they had started well in August and the margin between success and failure is often small (though not if you consider our performances last season).

I should not have worried. After an evenly balanced first quarter, WW gradually imposed their authority on the game and were clearly the better team by half-time. Our superiority became more pronounced in the second half and towards the end of the game I even dared to tempt fate by telling my friend that we were managing to contain the threat posed by SW with ease.

Sheffield Wednesday certainly spent time in and around our box in the second half as we typically defended ever more deeply but our back four successfully snuffed out any threat to our goal. Johnson played well throughout the game and Berra improved steadily as the game progressed. Naturally, he gave away a daft free kick, pushing an opponent just outside our penalty area in the 16th. minute, but thereafter he made a number of vital blocks, tackles and headers. Even so, our two central defenders have yet to buy into SS`s passing game completely, largely resorting to the hoof upfield when finding the ball at their feet.

Fortunately, our full backs are quicker learners and both Ward and Foley proved adept at moving the ball out of defence, as well as supporting their wingers going forward. Foley had a particularly good game, solid and cool in defence and linking up well with Peszko. On the other flank Ward did not have the same understanding with Sako, partly because the latter likes to drive forward with the ball himself.

At this point I have to rectify a shameful oversight in previous posts by emphasizing how well Ikeme is playing. He had very little to do but what he did do, he did well ... as ever. He commands the box and deals with shots with calm efficiency. Henners cannot expect to walk back into the side while Carl is in this form.

If Sako is one of the first names inked in on the team-sheet, it appears as though SS intends to rotate Boukari and Peszko ... that is, until Boukari limped off in the 13th. minute. I hope he is fit for Tuesday as he looked lively and sharp . Peszko had a better game than he did the last time I saw him play, regularly beating his man on the outside. On one occasion in the 21st. minute only an unpunished body-check prevented him from racing down the touch-line. He also cuts in at pace, one effort in the 63rd. minute whistling over the bar.

In the inner midfield Doumbia was superb, putting in a veritable McCarthian shift as he constantly made himself available for a pass, advancing with the ball and bringing a colleague into play. He also defended stoutly. Henry played his normal game, tackling and intercepting well but still prone to the misdirected pass (the first in the 8th. minute) and the dither under pressure. In contrast, Sako and Doumbia were very composed on the ball and difficult to shake off it.

Upfront, Doyle continues to impress with his control, pace on the ball and his lay-offs. In the 15th. minute he dropped a pinpoint cross onto SEB`s head but the latter could only balloon it over the bar. Even so, SEB had a good game, full of bustle and displaying neat touches, but without seriously threatening the goal. Siggy replaced him in the 82nd. minute, which is becoming predictable, but made little impression on the game.

The Solbakken revolution is clearly progressing and the contrast with MM`s tactics and formation is very marked. We are holding onto the ball much better and players are not only running into space but are also receiving the ball. Of course, movements still break down but I witnessed numerous examples of patient but positive build-ups of play with the ball being worked forward into danger areas.

What is letting us down is our lack of sharpness in front of goal. We engineered few real chances in the penalty area, though we did unleash some near misses from a distance. One shot from Sako in the 25th. minute clipped the crossbar. At least a goal-kick was given, though all of us in our corner of Upper BW thought that the goalie had tipped it over.

Sako`s goal came from a thunderous dead-ball strike from just outside the penalty area, having noted the hole in the right hand side of the defensive wall. It was lucky that he got a second chance as his first, tame effort was ruled void, having shot before the referee had blown his whistle. It earned him a booking! He is deadly in such situations but, just to prove that he is human, he sometimes makes a hash of it.

Resisting the temptation to look at the league table as soon as I returned home (it seemed politic to sit down and watch the X-Factor with my wife), I eventually found out that we are equal top on points, if third on goal difference. What a turn around. If we get three more points against Crystal Palace on Tuesday we might even be top.

We will need them too (as well as giving a further boost to the players` morale) because thereafter we face difficult away fixtures up North against three of our promotion rivals. Perform well in those matches and we can with confidence begin to dream of a favourable outcome at the end of the season.

A final caveat though! We are still a work in progress for there is much that remains to be done if we are to perfect the new system. The fixture list has allowed us the time to get used to unfamiliar modes of play and to apply them against mediocre opponents. We are learning but we are shortly to be put to a severe test. I am reasonably upbeat about the outcome.




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The Journalist

Writer: southbank60 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 30 2012

Time: 12:13AM

Your Comments

Thank you, Southbank. I watched the whole of the match myself. Two points I would like you to reflect on, one the direct outcome of the other, then I would like to know whether your conclusions concur with mine. I have always insisted that our CB's are not all that bad, and that when all on here and elsewhere were clamouring for their replacement, accusing Moxey of 'not splashing the cash' to resolve this 'obvious' problem, among others, in the defence. Point number two: MM's main shortcoming, a grave one, the most grave, in my eyes, was the lack of an organized plan to play to. Whether intended in the light of that or not, SM did the right thing in appointing a manager from the continent. There these things are gone into in deeper detail, almost with military exactitude and thoroughness. Even at Koln, where the records says he failed, STS must have furthered his experience in that direction. Once at WW, all this began to tell. Once a proper scheme of play was in place (with obvious refinements to follow, no doubt) the players are adjusting. It all makes them better players, or, better said, it brings out the best in them as players.
lovesW
LovesW: both Johnson and Berra are playing better than they did last year. They look more solid and deal more effectively with balls being pumped into the box. They are also putting in the tackles. Johnson might even be a little quicker. Yesterday, he had to chase back on several occasions and managed to get to the ball first, even if he looked ungainly when under that sort of pressure. However, as my friend constantly reminded me, they were playing against poorer opposition, and one wonders if the speed and skill of PL strikers would find them out. Moreover, Berra is still prone to pushing and tugging. His push on the edge of the box in the 16th. minute went unpunished, the strike going miles wide. Never mind PL dead-ball specialists, Sako would not have been so charitable. Regarding organization, this is definitely something that SS has improved on. MM's teams were often shambolic in this respect, whereas you can now discern a pattern to WW's play. It is clearly something that SS is drilling into the team. On numerous times I found it difficult to scribble down the entire passage of play as the players knocked the ball around, gradually building up momentum and moving it forward. Of course, as I have written in my report, we are still a project in progress but we are definitely heading in the right direction. Even a pessimist like me heads for the ground with a new sense of optimism, believing that we have the players, the organization and the skills to do the job. Surprisingly, my biggest concern at the moment is our lack of cutting edge upfront. We are not translating our superiority into goals. Doyle is superb, a constant threat to the opposition, but he is very unlucky in front of goal. Once he slightly recalibrates his sights, he will score. However, we could do with a target man in the middle, a Fletcher, if you like. I see that he scored again yesterday. SEB is a poacher, like SF, but he is not getting into position to take advantage of the crosses from Sako, Peszco and Doyle. Siggy might do better, while Nouble is taller and faster but plays like an untrained colt, a whirr of uncoordinated arms and legs.
Southbank60
Great post SB and both you and LovesW are spot on , I think Siggy has far moe ability than Doyle and Blake , just a shame hes not used to English Footy and hes taken a bit of time to get used to it , the team is playing like a team and defending has been very good , another plus point for us is we can offload 3/4 more in Jan and the spending power is there incase Stale feels he needs to strengthen , but personally I cant see where we need to other than the top two to score a few more , only 4 between them in 7 league games , just gets to me when I see the likes of Charlie Austin with 10 already !
Will the Wanderer
I agree with SB's excellent post. In short we have done quite well so far but it has to be realised that this has generally been done against mediochre opposition. Our next three games are against far stronger teams and will provide a much more accurate picture of how far we have progressed under SS.
astraltrader
I dont buy into the opposition part Astral , we beat Barnsley who beat Blues 5 and beat Boro and drew with Blackpool , we beat Leicester , Posh won at Hull , Ipswich held Blackburn , we all know everyone can beat everyone in this league so opposition means nothing , all teams will raise their game against us Bolton n Blackburn so one week we might lose to a team in the bottom half who produce there performance of the season , yet we might get Blackburn or Bolton on an off day or they us , its just a wide open league and I wont judge over 2 or 3 games as its quite easy to draw one lose 2 but win the next 4 , bit like we already have !
Will the Wanderer
Of course the standard of opposition is relevant. These are the same players who weren't (and still aren't) of the required quality to stand a prayer of competing in the PL.They are players of Championship abilities now playing at their level.There have been no major improvements that I can see, only a drastic drop in the skill levels of the players they are playing against.
winstonsmith84
Start of the season you would not have expected Palace at home to have been a big game surely ?????
Will the Wanderer
I agree will the wanderer, this league is wide open but certain teams still come to the fore like bolton etc and i believe Wolves will as well and i am pleased with what i have seen so far and i predict that when our midfield clicks it will send shivers down the best of spines, yes the skill levels are lower but it still remains the worst league to get out of and you have to have the nous and a plan to do so and stale has a plan, we do not know at what level stales signings are but from were i sit they are better than what we had,even jarvis could not cross a ball like sako or score goals like he has just imagine him in the prem with more time and hopefully better players round him, the only guy we miss is fletcher he would have a field day with the service now provided,stale will get us up and get in the players to keep us there if his signings are anything to go by the only players who will struggle are those left us by mm but saying that stale seems to have breathed new life into them and given them a plan to work by which has improved there game all i can see are pluses but i know its not the prem but i think most of this team will hold its own and get better with additions, look forward to a good season this midfield will only get better and lets face it a weak midfield puts pressure on its defence as it did last season but somehow i cannot see that with this midfield and stale is slowly but surely finding out the wheat from the chaff
davies09
 

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