Following relegation from the Premier League after three years in the top flight, Stale Solbakken’s Wolves side are making the transition to the Championship. Graham Large from It’s Round and It’s White tells us what to expect from the home side.
Following relegation, what are your expectations for the season?
That depends on who you ask, really. The majority of fans have been realistic and have anticipated a transitional season. Others have been expecting us to make an immediate return to the Premier League. I did state in a previous interview that it could go either way; we would either have a brilliant season, or not be in the running at all. As it stands, the latter is looking the more likely option.
What’s the verdict on Stale Solbakken so far?
Opinion seems to be divided yet again. We have tried to play a completely different style of play this season, which is heavily built around ball retention, but we simply do not have 10 outfield players who are comfortable on the ball for 90 minutes at a time.
So far Solbakken has stuck to his guns and refused to compromise his philosophy. This has alienated a few supporters who seem to believe he is out of his depth in this division. There needs to be a happy-medium in the interim or we run the risk of slipping further away from the pack.
Have there been many changes since last season?
We were busy in the summer with no less than seven new faces, ironically all of different nationalities, coming in. Unfortunately, only left-winger Bakary Sako has made any real impact – scoring 7 goals. Other big money signings Bjorn Sigurdarson and Tongo Doumbia have shown flashes of promises, but no real consistency. Wide men Razak Boukari and Slawomir Peszko have suffered long-term injuries, whereas Georg Margreitter and Frank Nouble have barely featured.
We have since brought in Nottingham-born winger Jermaine Pennant on loan from Stoke to cover for the losses of Peszko and Boukari, but he has struggled to find form.
In terms of exits, it’s well documented that we lost three crucial players in Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher and Michael Kightly. Also you will all be familiar with the name Adlene Guedioura – who we sold to Nottingham Forest in the summer. I was surprised that Guedioura was allowed to leave, he always impressed me with his energy in midfield, but a rumoured fall-out with the previous regime possibly cost him his place in this new-look squad.
What can we expect tactically?
Presumably we will set up in Solbakken’s traditional 4-4-2 formation, and focus on retaining the ball for the majority of the game. It will be interesting to see who starts upfront, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake missing out against Watford in favour of Kevin Doyle and Bjorn Sigurdarson. Despite being out of form I still believe Ebanks-Blake to be our biggest goal-threat and, in a game where we desperately need a win, he should be given the nod.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
Bakary Sako has shown that he has the extra bit of quality required to be a match-winner at this level. If he gets a clear sight of goal, he will score.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
I really don’t know. But an ideal scenario would be a win for Wolves and an early bath for Greg Halford – who has a love-hate relationship with a lot of our fans.
Tell us more about the book you are writing.
I have been commissioned to write an independent book on Wolves’ 2012-13 season. The main focus is the Solbakken appointment being perceived as a gamble – him being Wolves’ first foreign manager, having no previous coaching experience in England and his spell at Cologne ending in failure. The structure of the book is similar to a diary format – beginning with a chapter summarising events leading to the appointment, followed by one about Stale’s background, one on pre-season, and then a chapter for each corresponding month. Within each chapter I am writing about key events and all games from my point of view.
What happens if he was to be sacked by Christmas?
The book will still be written. It is about this season as a whole first and foremost, the appointment just made the project a lot more interesting.
Follow Graham on Twitter: @graham_large
Image: Row17 (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons