Black Country derby epitomizes Wolves season

by Edward Watson

Sunday, February 12th, 2012
 

I don’t get excited about many Premier League fixtures but the Black Country derby certainly gets my heart racing. It’s even more special when it takes place in the Premier League – todays match only the fourth in Premier League history.

So as Wolves slumped to what turned out to be an embarrassing defeat my major interest in Premier League football for this season ends in disappointment as West Brom triumphed for their eighth time to Wolves three wins since I first went to Molineux in 1999.

But all disappointment aside this fixture today couldn’t have summed up Wolves’ season any better: That being, they didn’t play all that badly – admittedly West Brom were the stronger side – but sloppy defensive errors cost them. Furthermore their reliance on Steven Fletcher was emphasized once again.

Wolves defence today was taught a lesson by a decent West Brom attack. If it weren’t for Wayne Hennessey the final result could have been even more embarrassing than it was. The Welshman made some top drawer saves and was desperately unlucky to not keep most of the goals out.

But whether the shots took a deflection or not there are still no excuses for the lack of closing down of the Albion attack and gifting them the opportunities to attack the goal that they did. Whilst I’m of no doubt that Mick is the man to keep the Wolves up I think it’s time for him to take a good, hard look at his defence.

It can’t have helped that Bassong looked to be playing with a dodgy hamstring for most of the match, but it’s time more scrutiny was placed on both Roger Johnson – one half a central defensive partnership that were relegated last year – and Christophe Berra. Wolves have been unlucky to find themselves with only 21 points as their performances have deserved more, but it’s been silly defensive errors all season long that have been losing them the points.

As far as the midfield is concerned the loss of Emmanuel Frimpong is a big one. They looked a rejuvenated side with him in the midfield and that was evident today. That said – I was surprised at Mick’s choice of formation. I’ve never seen all three forwards – Fletcher, Kevin Doyle and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake – start together and I feel that the side play better with Matt Jarvis and either Adam Hammill or Michael Kightly down the wings putting balls in for Fletcher and Doyle in the centre.

They showed how effective this can be when Ben Foster denied Fletcher’s header at 2-1. The lack of width today was evident though and it allowed Albion far too much space to drive into on the counter attack.

And this leads me on to my final point: Steven Fletcher. If Wolves do stay up they must hold on to him! He proved how important he was at Burnley and he’s proved so vital for Wolves this season. His goal today was a fantastic piece of skill and it’s not the first time he’s plucked out an effort like that from nowhere.

As much as I rate Kevin Doyle – and not so much Ebanks-Blake – Fletcher has shown this season he’s a class above those two and for me he’s the most important player for Wolves by a stretch.

If they’re to stay up this season they’re going to have to not only make sure Fletcher stays fit but sort out that defence. Mick needs to come down hard on any of his backline making costly errors because the more he lets it go on the more likely it is the Championship beckons.

Today was an embarrassing day in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers – but if the players can learn from it and come back stronger then it might prove a turning point in what’s been a so far disappointing season. Carry on in the same fashion however and say hello to the Championship again Wolverhampton.

 

For more from Ed Watson visit his sports blog at http://watsonscommentary.wordpress.com/ or follow on twitter @edwatson91

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