Last Tuesday, Mike Williamson was recalled by Newcastle United after his short but effective loan stay at Molineux, following an injury to Jamaal Lascelles during the Toon’s heavy 5-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Despite only two league cup appearances for the Magpies this season before his spell at Wolves, Williamson was an instant success for the club. In his five games, including a superb Man of the Match display against Birmingham City on his debut, Wolves kept three clean sheets, against the Blues, Burnley and MK Dons.
Kortney Hause is also set to remain out of contention until 2016. The young defender hasn’t played since Wolves’ defeat to Middlesbrough at the end of October, owing to a hamstring injury. He made a failed attempt to return to training last month, leading to Kenny Jackett admitting that the club cannot rush his return. He stressed that Hause must have all the time he needs to recover with the full support of the club’s medical staff if he is to avoid a reoccurrence of the same injury.
So, to plug the hole vacated by Richard Stearman, Hause and now Williamson, there can only be one man, surely? Ethan Ebanks-Landell, of course.
The young defender is a product of the club’s youth academy, and after a successful loan spell at Bury, he made his Wolves debut in an embarrassing 1-0 loss at the hands of Morecambe in the Football League Trophy, right at the beginning of Jackett’s tenure as Wolves’ head coach in August 2013. Since then, it’s fair to say that in the last few seasons, ‘EEL’ has divided opinion amongst the Old Gold faithful.
Personally, I think that judgement and anticipation are two of the most important characteristics required of a good central defender. In the Premier League, John Terry and Per Mertersacker are arguably two of the best central defenders in the league. They are clearly not blessed with blistering pace, but their ability to read the game puts them a yard ahead of the opposing striker before the ball reaches them.
But I think that Ebanks-Landell often finds himself under the ball when contesting aerial challenges, and when he does judge the ball right, he often fouls by pushing and shoving his man, giving away free-kicks that pile more pressure on the team’s defence.
Some fans would argue that Ebanks-Landell’s athleticism, pace and strength allow him to recover the situation majority of the time, but I cannot help feeling nervous when I see his name on the team sheet. Rotherham’s clumsy goal on Saturday as a result of lacklustre attempts at clearing the ball and insufficient pressing showed the importance of a settled backline, something it seemed Williamson had made possible during his short time at the club thanks to his leadership and communication skills.
For this reason, I think that the club should look to replace Williamson as soon as possible, with the January transfer window just around the corner. In a previous article that I wrote before Williamson’s arrival, I saw Marcin Wasilewski and Adrian Mariappa as potential signings to shore up the defence, because of their international, Premier League and, most importantly, Championship experience.