Stuck in the Middle
I know that, as a Wolves fan, I have reasons to be cheerful at the moment. We have a sensible, no-nonsense new manager, who quickly marginalised the malcontents and has given our talented youngsters the chance to prove their worth. He has also begun to address our problem positions, tightening us up at the back with the acquisition of Ricketts, the promotion of Batth and the retention of Stearman. Upfront, he has managed to wean Griffiths away from Hibs and, with an extended contract, the Scot seems like a new signing.
I know that some Wolves fans are calling for the return of O`Hara but, for me, McDonald marks an advance too. He has not thrilled as a playmaker to the extent that O`Hara did in his first appearances for WW but he does have class, is far more mobile, and works harder for and is more committed to the team on the pitch. If Ward was another member of the gang of four (it would be a trio if he weren`t), the arrival of Golbourne is another bonus, if only in terms of attitude. As a player, he is very much in the Ward mould: good when combining in attack with his wingman but vulnerable in defence. The downside is his selection over Ricketts at LB, moving the latter to CD at the expense of Stearman.
I know that most Wolves fans would have accepted a tally of 18 points from 8 games if offered them before the opening of the season. I would have done. And yet, it could have been even better. We are 'a work in progress` and we should expect some setbacks along the way. The lads will improve, get stronger, adapt to the pace, pressure and physicality of division one and we will up our game. But, will we have lost our impetus, along with our confidence by then? Will the project be derailed?
I also know that we have ongoing problems in midfield and that KJ is aware of them too. Why else has he been tinkering with his formations over the course of the past month? Today, he discussed the issue, while pondering on team selection in the wake of Davis`s suspension for the Sheffield United game. It seems that Evans, Price and Edwards are in the frame, even if, as he admits, none of them fully replicates DD`s role in the team. Describing them respectively as passers, attackers and runners, he ruefully concludes that 'There`s may be no-one with the power that David Davis has who`s available`.
I know that`s still true in spite of what other fans have said. DD can tackle: as a holding midfielder, it`s his distribution that is letting him down. But, that`s not all his own fault as he has to shoulder the burden of breaking up opposition attacks in midfield almost single-handedly and, in addition, he often receives the ball under pressure. In fact, the root of our problem lies on the flanks. We no longer possess wingers who can track back and harass the opposition in midfield, slowing them down if not dispossessing them of the ball. Sako and Ismail are lightweights in defence and, in Sako`s case, a liability.
I know that, should any of the three named midfielders take DD`s place on Saturday, I would be worried. Neither Evans nor Price possesses the strength, stamina or the technique, while selecting Edwards in that role would merely invite another injury and a further period of rehabilitation. None of them would provide us with the necessary steel in an already flimsy midfield.
However, I know of other options, even within the squad. What about Foley, for instance? He is proven tackler and has played in midfield before with some success. Indeed, he has already scored a goal this season. He can run with the ball and is capable of delivering an accurate pass ... at times. Golbourne, as he proved on Saturday against Shrewsbury, can also pass and, as a full-back, can surely tackle ... hmm! Well, patrolling the midfield, he could concentrate on this duty, while retaining the opportunity to send the ball forward (or across as overlapping full-backs are wont to do).
I know of a further option. If we need to toughen up our wingmen in order to prevent our team being overrun in midfield, why don`t we re-employ Hunt? He`s still available. If Ince`s words have shown that he is as keen on maintaining the level of his wages as those on the transfer list, he cannot be faulted for a lack of commitment. He tackles like a terrier and would close off an easy attacking route for the opposition. In doing so, he would make Davis`s job a lot easier and, as a result, his all- round play would improve.
I know that the return of Hunt could not be accomplished without the loss of Sako. That would not worry me unduly because, match-winner though he can be, he is a luxury we cannot afford in our present circumstances. Send him out on loan, with a view to selling him of in the January window. With the money saved, we could afford Hunt.
I know that if we do not find a cure for our midfield problem quickly we are going to suffer. Without an effective holding midfielder and/or wingers who can track back and tackle, it`s a foregone conclusion. Only luck and the brilliance of Ikeme have saved us so far. Of course, we could always look at the loan market and to be realistic that seems the best bet, even if KJ is reluctant to use it (unlike teams like Swindon, who have benefited greatly from it). But, we have to act quickly and decisively.