Wolves 2-1 Derby County
By Tom Bason
February 27 2016
Wolves horrible run of form came to an end today with a 2-1 win over Derby County. A George Saville brace secured the points, despite Chris Martin equalising just before half-time.
- For the visit of Derby County, Kenny Jackett again rang the changes. In came Jérémy Hélan, a loan signing from Sheffield Wednesday, while Dominic Iorfa was restored to right back after being left out midweek. Joe Mason was again left out, with Björn Sigurðarson playing upfront by himself. In midfield, Kevin McDonald sat the deepest of the three, with Conor Coady and George Saville looking to get slightly further forward.
- Our style of play could be seen from the first 3 seconds of the game. Saville and Sigurðarson kicked off and played the ball back to Doherty, who without taking a touch launched a hoof ball forward. That pretty much stated our intent and much of the play from then on was playing the percentage ball, launched long, putting the Derby defenders under pressure and trying to then force them to make mistakes. I wrote after the Preston game that we have a number of players who aren't actually that good at football, and are instead in the team for their physical abilities, and so a direct, play the percentages type of play is always likely. The issue with this is that we do have some players who technically are good, and can pass the ball. The abilities of the likes of McDonald and Nathan Byrne are completely wasted with this style of play.
- As such, it's not a surprise that the one moment of quality in the first half came when McDonald played an excellent, probing ball forward to Byrne. Byrne beat his man into the penalty area, held the ball up for Saville to join him, before rolling the ball across to him. Saville had the time to work the ball into his left foot and finish nicely past Scott Carson. The pass from McDonald was comfortably the best of the match, bypassing the Derby midfield and finding Byrne in the space to do some damage. It was one of the times in the game we were able to create such space, and it's really frustrating that the tactics are bypassing McDonald when he has such ability to do damage to opposition teams.
- On the other hand, Derby were able to find players in these sorts of positions all too often. Both Johnny Russell and Jacob Butterfield were constantly finding space between our midfield and defence, and had they had more quality in these positions, could have done us a lot more damage. The problem with playing McDonald as the deep pivot is that defensively he's not that good. He's played best in that role when he has had Jack Price alongside him, a player who has far more defensive nous than I think many give him credit for. Derby's main failing was that when they got the ball in front of our defence, they were slow and allowed us to get back. They also had very little width, and do our defence was able to play reasonably narrowly and block off any space. Apart from long range efforts, I can't think of any real efforts Derby had, and they needed a well hit free kick from Chris Martin to equalise.
- I felt that there were two really positive things to take away from today's game. The first was the introduction of Jeremy Hélan, and his link up play with Matt Doherty. Hélan added an enthusiasm to the side that has been distinctly lacking. It's amazing the effect that having someone in the team who can do this can have. We saw it last season when Iorfa was added into the team, and earlier this season through Jordan Graham. I'm fairly certain that enthusiasm will be drilled out of Hélan by the end of the season though... It wasn't just his enthusiasm that impressed me, it was his link up play with Matt Doherty at left back. It has frustrated the hell out of me over the last few weeks, having the right footed Doherty at right back with a right footed midfielder in front of him, giving no width whatsoever at all on the left. But while Hélan would hold his position wide left, Doherty could move inside and they seemed to dovetail nicely. There was also some really nice one-touch link up play between the two, which is promising if you think of how little they will have trained together. The one moment of quality in the second half came when Doherty, Hélan and Coady linked up down the left, to almost send Doherty in on goal if it hadn't had been for the assistant referee's flag being raised.
- the second positive thing was the performance of George Saville. I thought this even before he rose splendidly to head home Doherty's cross for an 86th minute winner that reminded me of Dave Edwards' header against Leeds last Easter. Saville opened the game with a crunching tackle and from then on played well. I'm not 100% what his main strength is; he doesn't have technical skills of McDonald, the physical ability of Coady, the passing range of Lee Evans, or the defensive boys of Jack Price. But, the fact that he is left footed pleases me; I have long thought that having additional left footed players adds an extra dimension to the team, and I hope he can continue to prove his place in the team.pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2016:03:13:12:41:11 by Badge32.