The last two years have produced something of a footballing anomaly – happy Wolves fans. Forever bemoaning their ill-luck at being unable to escape the Championship, they not only go and win it, but they survive their return to the Premier League with games to spare. With the risk of finally losing their tag as sleeping giants, Mick McCarthy will be looking to strengthen the squad and make Wolves a permanent fixture in the Premier League calendar.
For all the good that Wolves did last year, their weakness was stark. A mere 32 goals in 38 league games will only keep you up if you can defend well – which luckily they could. Of the strikers in the team only Doyle earned any plaudits while Iwelumo, Maierhofer and Ebanks-Blake failed to match expectations.
Let’s not do Wolves and injustice though, 15th was a fantastic achievement, but finishing on 38 points meant that they only did 5 points better than their last attempt in 2003 when they finished bottom. So you could argue that they were playing in a weaker league in 09/10. As Jez Moxey has said, next year will be a trickier affair, facing Newcastle and West Brom will be a tougher than Burnley and Hull.
So how has Mick done thus far?
I think he has gone about his business very shrewdly. He has been the only Premiership manager to have really made any moves in the transfer market as yet and by bringing in players early in the summer he is giving them maximum time the to become familiar with the rest of the squad. He has added strength and depth to his reasonably strong defensive unit with the additions of Van Damme and Mouyokolo who will be pressuring Berra, Stearman and Craddock for roles in the centre of defence.
Brought in as the player to solve Wolves’ goal scoring problems, record signing Steven Fletcher will be the one who will excite the Molineux faithful. He has shown he can flourish in a struggling side, and while the fans in old gold won’t want to see him in adverse circumstances next season, his credentials are very good. Even though he only scored 8 goals last year, you feel that he can add to that tally with better service – something that will be the test of Wolves next year.
Everyone sees goals as the reason the Molineux men struggled last season, which is true, but if you don’t create them then you can’t score them, and creative and attacking midfield players must be McCarthy’s focus for next season. Stephen Hunt is a good signing for the left of midfield. Even with the risk of him being unavailable until October you feel that Mick would have carefully weighed up his options before making the move. With the form of Jarvis as a cause for celebration last year, Kightly coming back from injury and talks of Jermaine Pennant arriving, it seems it will be an area much improved for next season. With Milijas failing to shine, a central attacking midfielder to partner Henry must also be on Mick’s wish list to pose a threat from the middle as well as out wide.
A few pieces of the puzzle are in place for Wolves to do well next year, but what pieces are left and just how well they’ll do remains to be seen. At only £7 million, Fletcher is a good piece of business and with him partnering Doyle up front with better service from those behind I think Wolves can stay up again in the Premier League next year.
Written By Karl Sears