On the 25th of September, Wanderers announced the signing of former QPR and Wolves midfielder Karl Henry. The response was fairly wide criticism and skepticism. I'll admit my reaction was way too harsh and, now proven, profoundly incorrect.
Since his arrival, Wanderers have switched to a 4-2-3-1 and despite slender defeats at Villa and Bristol City, the improvement was there for all to see. Following the international break of October, Wanderers have been on a 5-game unbeaten streak that still lasts and this is my attempt to cover an apology to Mr. Henry with my reasoning as to why he is our most important player for the rest of the season.
Now, I did say within my rant that there could be some logic to it. Other than this being a token gesture from the manipulative regime in place; it could offer something. His experience and know-how of dealing with a situation psychologically is one and this can be translated in organisational leadership. The ability to manage players on the pitch. As a competent Premier League captain, Henry has obviously gained these qualities. A key factor in Wanderers' horrific start was the inability to offer any imposing strength in midfield; because we were playing a young loaned playmaker who had success in League One in the most defensive position; no shield.
Henry's ability to offer a meaningful shield with aggressive tackling is brilliant. He offers the defence the time to adjust to opposition build-up play. The ability to shift and narrow according to how they attack is shown from each game. Andy Taylor and Antonee Robinson's amount of blocks has gone up tremendously. This is due to their ability to tuck in when defending instead of being too wide in a flat 5 and having to get stuck on the by-line. In midfield, I believe the long-term partner for Henry will be Cullen. Cullen's creativity was not shown whatsoever in the early season - because he was playing 30 yards from his own goal. With the platform that Henry offers, he can push up. However, due to a lack of responsibility on Pratley's game; he has the ability to roam free and break-up play where he wants with the knowledge Henry is behind. Going forward, I concede the threat and return of Ameobi and Vela, at the same time as Henry's arrival, has been a huge impact. Without them, we have no genuine press or ability to craft a potent move. However, without Henry, they don't have the known freedom to exploit space further forward.
His all-round game has shocked me. Perhaps naive of me to suggest that a 34 year-old hardened central midfielder that once played regularly against Europe's elite couldn't pass the ball but I was shocked. His quality timing is unexpected, no less because he is famed for his misting of tackles. However, against Norwich especially, his reading of the play and knowing where to pass before he receives the ball is something I haven't seen in a Wanderers since the 2011 version of Mark Davies. Obviously different stylistically but Henry's intricacy and ability to play forward is something undermined.
Although I find it hard to respect his personal beliefs or admire his professional behaviour in the past; he is critical and I've have well and truly been humbled in my early assertions about him. A well-acknowledged and yet fairly under-appreciated ,still, component of Wanderers' ever-improving system.