How long before Solbakken is thrown to the Wolves?

November 27, 2012 in Championship

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Over the last couple of seasons, a new phrase seems to have entered the managerial game in English football - ‘project’. I think my recollection of its first use was when AVB was brought to Chelsea. He talked of his project, of phasing out the old guard and turning Chelsea into an attractive attacking team. It obviously didn’t go well for AVB, but we did get to see the always enjoyable sight of John Terry falling on his ass against Arsenal when trying to play that high defensive line. Since AVB, I’ve heard the phrase bounded about a few more times; Brendan Rodgers came to Liverpool, and people talk of his project of implementing his philosophy on the team (a philosophy I might add that is, in my view, actually the product of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa, but that’s a different conversation), and also this summer, Stale Solbakken was brought into recently relegated Wolves to build a new team and turn them back into a Premier League club.

Solbakken would have been known to few here, but those who did know him (probably through Football Manager) would know that he is very highly thought of. He has the typical Scandinavian calm exterior, and it was hoped his knowledge of the transfer market outside England might help Wolves. However, coming up to December, Wolves sit in 17th place, and although the league is incredibly tight, the signs are that Wolves could be in for an inconsistent campaign. It shouldn’t be so. The playing squad is as good as anything in the league; the majority of the playing staff from last season’s relegation fight have been retained. The losses of Steven Fletcher and Matthew Jarvis have been felt, but the substantial financial exchange for the two gave Wolves a budget far exceeding anyone else’s in the division. Currently, the team are eight games without a win and the wolves are starting to circle. It doesn’t help that bitter rivals West Brom are doing so well in the Premier League.

On paper, Wolves should be a top 2 club. Up front, Kevin Doyle (remember when he was linked with Arsenal?) and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake should be knocking them in for fun, but between them they’ve only managed nine league goals. Behind them, Karl “Joey Barton Slayer” Henry is finding out his rough-and-tumble style of play is not much good in this league, and on-loan Jermaine Pennant has underwhelmed, although his aim of racking up a Steve Claridge-esque list of clubs is gaining momentum. The one bright spot on Solbakken’s reign so far has been the arrival of Bakary Sako, who seems to have taken it upon himself to drag the entire team through some games.

This past weekend, Wolves were beaten 2-1 at home by Nottingham Forest. The winner aptly came from former player Adlene Guedioura, who ran with the ball from the halfway line before smashing an effort into the right hand side of the net. It was the kind of explosive flair play that gets results in this league, and it’s something that, Sako aside, Wolves are missing. The team don’t seem to know who they are, how they are meant to play and what they are battling for this season. The Championship is normally such a tight league that teams can get to Christmas in the bottom half of the league before pulling of a string of great results and cementing a playoff place or even better. If Solbakken can invest some of the money from the Fletcher/Jarvis sales in January and actually turn Wolves into a functional outfit, then teams may have something to fear. Until then however, Stale’s “project” will continue to look like a jigsaw puzzle missing a number of pieces.