After the sale of star striker Benik Afobe to Bournemouth last week, it does not look like the transfer window will get any easier for Wolves fans to endure.
If you are a regular user of social media like me, you will have seen a whole host of strikers being linked to the club. Tom Bradshaw and Nahki Wells, as well as more unknown targets such as Vidar Orn Kjartansson and Fredrik Gulbrandsen have all been rumoured to be joining the club, amongst many others.
One potential transfer that the Molineux faithful could be sure of was that of Mike Williamson, right? It would seem not, after negotiations over the defender’s wages seemed to break down, leaving Kenny Jackett’s men still short of cover at the back. This is especially disappointing after the success of his loan spell in the West Midlands at the end of last year.
The need for cover in the central defensive positions has increased in importance following rumours linking Danny Batth away from the club recently. It has been reported that Burnley are set to raid both Wolves and Cardiff for our skipper and City’s dependable defender Matthew Connolly in a bid to strengthen their promotion push.
Bournemouth, having scouted Benik Afobe before his record breaking transfer to Dean Court, are also said to have been impressed by the 6’3″ defender’s towering presence at the heart of the Wolves defence. According to the Daily Mail, Batth is regarded as ‘one of the best young defenders outside of the Premier League’. But, with Wolves maybe needing to sell their captain amid doubts over the future of Steve Morgan, would his departure be a massive blow?
Some would say yes. After all, he is the club captain, and his passion for the club and the city is unquestionable – you only have to look at the pure excitement on his face when he scores from yet another set-piece situation. Only last month, Batth was selling the Big Issue outside of the club shop, to address the escalating problem of homelessness in this country. Can Kenny Jackett afford to lose such a passionate and motivational character? His loss would certainly be detrimental to the club’s faint play-off hopes, because of a severe lack of match-fit defenders! With the impressive Kourtney Hause still injured, Jackett’s only other option would be to utilise Dominic Iorfa in a more central role, with large investment in new players looking unlikely.
Batth has been at Wolves since the age of ten, and has made well over a century of appearances since the arrival of Kenny Jackett back in 2013. Before the injury that he suffered towards the end of the 2014-15 season, Batth was an ever-present during Jackett’s tenure as Head Coach. This stability, coupled with the return to prominence of Richard Stearman, helped the club to an impressive 15 clean sheets last season after dominating League One and clinching promotion at the first attempt.
However, a lot of fans question Batth’s composure with the ball in his possession. It sometimes seems that he has saucepans for feet, leaving him without the confidence to regain control in tight areas. Instead of calmly retaining the ball, it is usually lumped forward in the hope that an often isolated striker can hold it up. Invariably, it comes straight back again.
You could argue that these weakness have been highlighted in the absence of an experienced defensive partner. Stearman played 211 games for Wolves, from the Premier League down to League One, and was instrumental in the club’s defensive stability for most of last season. He deservedly picked up the Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards.
Very few fans would argue that the Old Gold’s defence has inspired as much confidence this season, despite a run of clean sheets before the narrow victory over Fulham last week. If a ball is lumped in the air, more often than not Ethan Ebanks-Landell can be seen making a charge halfway across the pitch to reach it, leaving the Wolves defence outnumbered.
Clearly, this is not Batth’s fault, but the previously mentioned Mike Williamson’s dominating defensive displays led to three clean sheets in five games. Inside only a few minutes of his debut against Birmingham at St Andrew’s, he could be seen organising the defence meticulously – would Jackett be better off using a more experienced central pairing? I am still having nightmares about Batth’s tackle on Dominic Iorfa, his own player, in the penalty area against Nottingham Forest two weeks ago. I think that communication is a very underrated quality in modern football.
But in my opinion, despite the strong views held by many fans, I do not think that Wolves should look to offload Danny Batth. It is true that his ability on the ball is often shaky, but if Jackett can acquire an experienced partner during this transfer window, I see no reason as to why the local skipper cannot become a club legend in the coming years. His desire, passion and commitment for the club remain unquestioned. He leads by example on and off the pitch. This is important in helping the likes of Dominic Iorfa and Kourtney Hause in their development.