Season Preview: Wolves

Wolves spent much of last season toiling against relegation as they perilously hovered over the trapdoor right up to the final day of the season. In the end, Mick McCarthy’s side managed to avoid the dreaded second season syndrome. With Blackburn hammering them 3-0 on the final day of the season – Wolves looked down and out, until a miraculous comeback and an 87th minute goal from Stephen Hunt saw their Premier League status retained for another season.

However, while they improved their points tally by two on the previous season – they ended up dropping down two places to 17th and spent 28 of the 38 weeks of the Premier League season in the drop zone.  Some good performances, some bad performances, and some downright ugly performances would be one way of describing Wolves last season.

Manager: Mick McCarthy
Last season: 17th
Odds: 5000/1
In: Jamie O’Hara from Spurs (£5m), Roger Johnson from Birmingham (£7m) and Dorus de Vries (free)
Out: Marcus Hahnemann (released), Adriano Basso (released), John Dunleavy (released), David Jones (released), Nathan Rooney (released) and Greg Halford to Portsmouth (£1m)

Keys to the season

Pretty simple advice – shore up the defence, score more goals and beat the teams around you. Last season, Wolves conceded 66 goals and managed just three clean sheets; the arrival of Roger Johnson from Birmingham should help to shore up the defence. While at the other end Wolves only managed to hit the back of the net 46 times – Steven Fletcher ending the season with just 10 goals, while fellow striker Kevin Doyle managing just five, albeit he did miss the majority of the season through injury.

Last season, McCarthy’s side managed to take three points from Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United, but struggled to beat teams around themselves. They’ll need to be much more consistent on this front.

The Team

After a successful loan spell in the second half of last season, where he made 14 appearances scoring three goals, Wolves have managed to sign Jamie O’Hara on a five year deal for £5m and to bolster their backline, Roger Johnson has come in from relegated Birmingham and immediately been made club captain.

McCarthy usually favours a 4-5-1 formation with Doyle (when fit) or Steven Fletcher spearheading the attack, tricky wing play and tracking back from the likes of Stephen Hunt and Kevin Foley, then the industrious Jamie O’Hara and Karl Henry in the middle of the park. Crossing was crutial for Wolves last season because according to Opta Joe – the attempted 900 crosses – more than any other Premier League side.

Key Player

14 appearances and 3 goals (one of which was voted Goal of the season by Wolves fans) was enough to convince Mick McCarthy to put in a bid and sign Jamie O’Hara from Spurs. On signing O’Hara, McCarthy said: “He is a midfielder who is good on the ball, not afraid to put his foot in and also has an eye for goal. On top of that he is also a good character around the place who has a positive influence in the dressing room.” If that’s not a good reason for him being a key player for Wolves this season, then I don’t know what is.

Opening fixtures

Blackburn (A), Fulham (H), Aston Villa (A), Tottenham (H), QPR (H)

Wolves won’t want a repeat of last season where they won just one of their opening seven games. They kick the season off against the team they finished with last season – Blackburn Rovers. Overall, it’s not the kindest of starts for Mick McCarthy’s side.

Where will they finish?

It’s going to be another hard slog for Wolves this season and with Kevin Doyle missing the opening month or so of the season; it’ll be up to Steven Fletcher to fire in the goals. Another relegation battle. 16th

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