Chalkboard Analysis – Positive Start For Wolves

24 08 2011

*A version of this post appeared on WolvesBlog earlier this week.
** All chalkboards courtesy of The Guardian and powered by Opta data.

Five Things We Learned From Wolves vs Fulham – August 21st 2011
by Adam Bate

Johnson to the Rescue

The signing of Roger Johnson has obviously excited Wolves fans. It seems too much to dare to hope that one man can transform last season’s 17th leakiest Premier League defence into a formidable unit. However, he’s made a positive start and he’s done so by doing the things that earned him such praise at Birmingham City – tackling, blocking and intercepting. Johnson managed more successful tackles than any other player on the pitch on Sunday.

Roger Johnson made more successful tackles than any other player

Henry Still Important

The dirty Wolves tag is one that haunted Mick McCarthy and his side for much of the 2010-11 campaign and, for many, Karl Henry personified all that was wrong with that team. The player himself was clearly affected by the controversy but he has begun this season in encouraging form by doing what he does best – tracking runners, pressing the ball and making interceptions. Henry intercepted the ball high up the field on five occasions on Sunday. Astonishingly, this was four more than the entire Fulham team combined. Jol’s side preferred to sit back before pressing the ball but only succeeded in inviting Wolves onto them. The contrast between Henry and one of his chief detractors, Danny Murphy, was stark. The Fulham captain did not attempt let alone succeed in making a tackle in the entire contest.

Contrast Karl Henry's midfield interceptions with the entire Fulham team

Stearman’s Role

The inclusion of Richard Stearman at right-back was arguably the most controversial selection at the start of the season. Kevin Foley remains a firm favourite and Ronald Zubar has become a cult hero. In particular, the case for Foley’s recall was enhanced by an assured second half performance at Ewood Park during which the Irishman completed more passes than any other Wolves player. However, Mick McCarthy has expressed concerns about the size of his midfield and clearly favours Stearman’s height in the back line. Although it was Stephen Ward who made the most high profile interception of the day, Stearman actually made five to Ward’s spectacular one and it was noticeable that he frequently tucked in and won key headers at the far post. Indeed, the heat maps show the contrasting roles that the two full-backs had on Sunday. Stearman had a higher percentage of the ball than Ward in every equivalent zone within Wolves’ half, while the attacking left-back enjoyed an astonishing 51% of his possession in the opposition’s half. Foley may be the ball player but that is not currently the role that McCarthy is looking for from his right-back.

Richard Stearman & Stephen Ward - full-backs with different roles

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

Wolves’ shoot on sight policy may have veered into the self-indulgent in the second half, with some fairly ambitious efforts, but Jamie O’Hara and Stephen Hunt in particular have added a goal threat from midfield. The twenty shots attempted against Fulham were more than Wolves had managed in any home game last season.

More shot attempts than any home game in 2010-11

Left is Right for Jarvis… not Hunt

Inverted wingers have been de rigueur for several seasons now and Mick McCarthy seems to finally be embracing the trend. Although Matt Jarvis provided the assist for Steven Fletcher against Blackburn with an orthodox cross from the right byline, McCarthy saw enough at Ewood Park to decide to utilise Jarvis and Stephen Hunt on the opposite flanks from the outset against Fulham. He got his reward as both wingers cut inside onto their stronger foot to help set up the goals – with Jarvis even coming inside to fire home for the second. While Jarvis has long enjoyed more success on the left-wing, there had been some debate as to Hunt’s preferred flank but playing from the right appears to allow the busy Irishman greater options with the ball at his feet. Lacking Jarvis’ electric pace, Hunt is less focussed on getting to the byline and more keen to drift around in search of space. This is borne out by the heatmaps that indicate Hunt enjoyed 25% of his possession in central areas compared to Jarvis’s 12%. As with the full-backs, McCarthy appears less concerned with symmetry – instead keen to allow the players to play to their strengths.

Matt Jarvis hugs the touchline while Stephen Hunt roams




6 responses

24 08 2011
Joe Stanford

These are so interesting, saw your one on Wolves beating Man City last season and it was stupid of me to not bookmark it and look every week straight away – won’t be making that mistake again. Keep it up.

24 08 2011

Thanks Joe
Will definitely try and make it a more regular thing – looks like it could be an exciting season!

24 08 2011

Good work overall, but not convinced about Stearman’s positioning and Matt Jarvis has always played left wing for Wolves so it certainly isn’t a recent trend that we are inverting Wingers.

24 08 2011

It’s not true to say Jarvis has always played left-wing.

In fact, when Stephen Hunt has been in the side, Jarvis has usually played on the right-wing.

He’s actually done ok there – assists for Fletcher away at Sunderland at the end of last season and at Blackburn on the first day of this season.

But, as I think we’re agreed, he’s better on the left – and I believe this was the first game in which we started from the first minute with Jarvis on the left and Hunt on the right. I’ll concede otherwise if you can name a specific game when it was the other way round?

23 09 2011
facebook mobile

Nice post about Chalkboard Analysis – Positive Start For Wolves « GhostGoal. I am very impressed with the time and effort you have put into writing this story. I will give you a link on my social media blog. All the best!

7 10 2011

Thats an all round well thought out post

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