Zenga the Wanderer ….Part 2

Walter Zenga is now just over 50 days into his job as Head Coach of Wolverhampton Wanderers and following their turn-round 2-0 victory yesterday at Newcastle the club are mid-table, 7 points adrift of the top club Huddersfield. Football is a game of thin margins and lots of ‘ifs and buts’ … ‘if’ only Wolves had beat Huddersfield they would be second today. ‘But’ they are still only 2 points behind the sixth placed club  Brentford, who are next up at Molineux on Saturday. ‘If’ Wolves record only their second home league victory and the first since their opening home game of the season they will reach the edge of the play-off zone and create a spring board for an arrack in the top 6. Lose and with Norwich, Brighton and Villa next up after Wigan then, with a quarter of the season gone mid-table mediocrity will return and automatic promotion will be a distant dream.

Whether this season will be a another nightmare or the fulfilment of a promotion dream depends largely on one man…. Walter Zenga. The money has been spent, the squad assembled … for better or worse Wolves aspirations this season for a Premiership return will depend upon the Italian. Much has been said and written on his both his ‘larger than life’ character, life adventures and footballing background. His managerial career is the focus of Wolves fans at the moment and for the record I thought I’d start with the key data on his managerial career …. his coaching and managerial CV to date looks like this …….

  • 8/98 to -9/99 – New England Revolution, USA – tenure 12 months – failed to reach play-offs – sacked.
  • 10/00 to 1/01 – Brera, Milan, Serie D – tenure 3 months – record 1 win from 9 games – sacked.
  • 7/02 to 12/03 – National Bucharest, Romania – tenure 22 months – respectable 8th place finish Liga 1 – left by mutual consent.
  • 7/04 to 5/05 – Steaua Bucharest, Romania – tenure 13 months – led the league with only two games to go when sacked!
  • 7/05 to 5/06 – Red Star Belgrade, Serbia – tenure 12 months – resigned shortly after winning league championship and national cup competition.
  • 6/06 to 1/07 – Gaziantepspor, Turkey – tenure 7 months – resigned after achieving 5 wins in 17 games.
  • 1/07 to 6/07 – Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi – tenure 5 months – sacked after winning national cup competition.
  • 9/07 to 11/07 – Dinamo Bucharest – tenure 2 months – sacked when 7th in league (compared to champions in previous season).
  • 4/08 to 6/09 – Catania, Italy – tenure 14 months – resigned by mutual consent after leading club to a mid-table finish with the highest points total achieved by the club in Serie A.
  • 6/09 to 11/09 – Palermo, Italy – tenure 5 months – sacked after 4 wins in 17 games.
  • 6/10 to 12/10 – Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia – tenure 6 months – second in table when sacked.
  • 1/11 to 6/13 – Al Nasr, SC, Dubai – tenure 29 months – sacked.
  • 10/13 to 5/14 – Al-Jazir, Dubai – tenure 7 months – sacked.
  • 6/15 to 11/15 – Sampdoria, Italy, Serie A  – tenure 5 months – sacked.
  • 11/15 to 2/16 – Al Shaab, UAE – tenure 3 months – sacked.
  • 7/16 to date – Wolverhampton Wanderers – tenure to date 2 months.

So 15 previous managerial jobs in 17 years, an average of 9 months tenure with the lowest stay being 2 months and the highest at 29 months. However if we focus on his European clubs, excluding UAE and USA,  then these total 8 managerial roles, again with an average tenure of 9 months, the lowest stay being 2 months and the longest 22 months.  Whist his record in Europe seems similar to that elsewhere there is a difference between the two sets of data. When digging deeper, of the 8 European roles, Zenga was sacked only 4 times and three of these were involving Italian clubs, who are notorious for a sacking culture. Of the other 4 he resigned with a good to great track record at 3 of these with just one exception, again involving an Italian club.

What can we make of this? Well Zenga appears not to be suited to his homeland clubs with an average tenure of 6/7 months. with one relative mid-table success out of 4 appointments. Yet in wider Europe, excluding Italy, he has statistically achieved more than anywhere else. Whether in Europe or not statistically, at least,  it appears Walter Zenga is unlikely to stay longer than two seasons at Wolves. A two year scenario probably fits the bill for Wolves owners. Scenario 1 is Wolves are promoted this year and Zenga has a chance to keep Wolves in Premiership with an option to sack him quickly early on if the initial Premiership campaign falters. There does not appear to be a plan B in the new owner’s strategic plan so as soon as there is evidence of Wolves failing to achieve a minimum top 6 position then Zenga is likely to go, so  if Wolves are mid-table at Christmas it’s likely he will be sacrificed before the end of the January transfer window, making his tenure in the job just 5 months. The data suggests two options <6 months or >2 years. A perfect match to Walter Zenga’s personality and past record… no in between, no balance, he’s either going to be a great success and a future Wolves legend or a failure who departs the scene quickly.

So there it is ….. which one will it be?  The backdrop to the Zenga story gives us a clue. He is passionate, opinionated, a crowd pleaser and a showman. He will be THE personality at Molineux and the players will do it his way or no way. For me, whilst it is a long season, the next few games are critical…if the players respond as one team then there will be fireworks and great results just like the Newcastle game…if the players struggle to adapt to the squad system, in recent games he has averaged 5/6 changes each one, there will be disappointments and shocks like the Barnsley 0-4 loss. All Wolves fans will be hoping that Zenga goes onto achieve great things … his CV suggests it’s possible but it will be an exciting roller coaster of a ride whether short or long.  The question is …. how long it will last?

What Will It Take?

Well 3 games in and 5 points gained. Most Wolves fans would have taken this start before the season commenced. But exactly what are the expectations for the new season? The bookies have used the bright opening start to the season to reduce the odds on Wolves being promoted to 9/2 from 11/2. After taking 4 points from two clubs, Reading and Ipswich, also fancied at the start of the season to be on the edge of the promotion zone next up after Birmingham is another promotion fancied challenger, Huddersfield. But looking further ahead and assuming Wolves fans have promotion expectations then what’s required in hard points terms to achieve this?

The average points total required to gain automatic promotion over the last eight  seasons in the Championship is 87 with a range between 83 and 93.  To achieve play off status has required an average of 74 points with a range between 68 and 78 points. If a play off place is a minimum requirement for Wolves new owners then 78 points will likely secure this. To achieve this will require Wolves to secure an average 1.7 points per game. At this stage, despite being unbeaten,   we’re no more than bang on target and this shows the importance of winning home games rather than drawing too many games as the season progresses.

Going back to a short-term view and looking at Saturday’s game the bookies favour Birmingham but to me this is as near to a banker draw you will see this season. 1-1.

Zenga the Wanderer.

So Wolves fans …. how do you feel now that the dream deal has been done? Not quite the 2nd richest club in the land (as we would have been if bought by Robin Li) but surely with an owner such as Fosun International, global brand owners (including a 91m partner of Thomas Cook) Wolves fans are walking in a ‘Wanderers Chinese Wonderland’ at the moment. Continue reading

The Project is over. Old Guard Players Win Again. Long live the Experiment!

So much for the grand project. Wolves have answered my question (see my last blog) as to the objectives for this season. One must now assume a top six finish was desired and avoiding relegation the minimum requirement. The sacking of Mr Solbakken, the sixth Wolves manager to be sacked in 12 years, was not a suprise given the real threat of relegation.  Wolves looked disturbingly like the teams Glenn Hoddle managed some 6 or 7 years ago. Yet again this move has put the spotlight onto decision making in the boardroom at Molineux. Who really got rid of the manager? Continue reading

Que serra serra …whatever will be will be…we’re going to Shrewsbury

Those who are long standing season ticket holders will remember that once upon a time the South Bank que serra serra song mean’t  a Wembley final for Wolves. Last season when the chant ended with Barn-ser-ley it heralded a predicted return to the Championship during a 0-2 premiership defeat by Manchester City.

The chant was heard emanating from the core of the South Bank against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town with a predicted visit to Shrewsbury whom, if assumed they are staying in Division 1, indicates relegation for Wanderers.  Tongue in cheek or reality check. You choose!


New Year Resolutions for the Molineux Management

Following Solbakken’s  recent declaration that he would expect to be sacked if he loses fifteen games in a row it’s worth considering his appointment to be a long term project! As we don’t hear much from Messrs  Moxey and Morgan these days we have to assume they appointed the Norwegian on the basis that they wanted a ‘new broom’ and a new broom sweeps clean. This, of course, followed the ‘nearly the same broom’ approach applied when they appointed Terry Connor. Continue reading

Christmas cracker fizzles out!! McCarthy looms large as the ghost of Christmas past.

Those of us packed into the Salopian for Wolves away game last Friday really thought Christmas had come early. Who were we to know this was the best it would get!

First of all Holden’s Golden Glow was on tap and tasting very nice (thank you Ollie!) Secondly it was a record attendance for Shrewsbury Wolves since our move to the Salopian.  An estimated  twenty odd Wolves fans mingled with the festive crowd on Builder’s Friday. Continue reading

The pain is easing… Solbakken is the salve.

22 April 2012… Wolves 0 Manchester City 2.  A defeat that consigned Wolves to a return to the Championship, the footballing equivalent of purgatory.  And for me and many other Wolves fans a time to feel the hurt, take the pain before moving on. At least for us Wolves fans, unlike many other fans, the Championship is still considered to be a temporary state for Wolves even if the purification process takes many years as it did pre our one season return to the heavenly atmosphere of the Premiership in 2003.   Continue reading

Salopian Bar meeting – a good time was had by all!

Yesterday saw a presentation by David Edwards, Wayne Hennessy and Jack Price to Ollie Parry of the Salopian Bar in recognition of his support to Shrewsbury Wolves. The event was really well attended and the players were a credit to the club impressing with their friendliness and approachability. The event was reported in the Shropshire Star on Tuesday and is expected to be in today’s edition also.

Wolves Players to visit Salopian Bar!

Shrewsbury Wolves Supporters’ Club will celebrate the start of the new football season by inviting Wayne Hennessey and Shrewsbury born Dave Edwards and Jack Price of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC to present a commemorative plaque to Ollie Parry, owner of the Salopian Bar in Shrewsbury town centre on Wednesday 29 August at 2pm (in the Salopian Bar). The presentation is in recognition of the support the Salopian Bar has offered local Salopian Wolves supporters over the past year. 

Ollie has supported Shrewsbury Wolves through thick and thin, whether in the Premiership last year or the  Championship this year.  Last season Wolves supporters in Shrewsbury were able to see nearly every away game in the Salopian Bar. This year in the Championship that won’t be possible but Ollie always offers us a warm welcome as well as great beer! All are welcome to attend the presentation.