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Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers have a certain talented youngster by the name of Dominic Iorfa brewing in their side. Ross Bramble provides a detailed scout report on the emerging player.
Deciding which league is the best in the world is a very a subjective thing. It’s a title that most will apply to the league that encapsulates their favourite aspect of the game – those who avow technical, passing football will dub La Liga or the Eredivise as the best. Enjoy defensive, tactical football? Serie A may be the one for you. Prefer all out competition? Then as much as the Premier League may tempt you, I highly recommend you start looking at the Championship, which, in my opinion, is the best league in the world. It’s certainly my favourite if nothing else.
The Championship is about the get extremely interesting next season, with tales of Aston Villa and Burton Albion to be told, the wounds of Derby and Brighton to heal and of course, the blockbuster arrival of Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle. Next season’s competition will be mustn’t miss TV, and it’s a perfect time to start shedding some light on Championship level talent that many might have missed.
In that vein, I would like to begin the inquest in to Championship talent with a look in to a young right-back with a big, big future – Dominic Iorfa of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Born in 1995, the 20 year-old right back from Southend-On-Sea first joined the Wolves academy at the age of 15 from his hometown club, Southend United. Though still at a tender age in footballing terms, Iorfa has made a shade under 70 first team appearances in three years at first team level.
His first senior appearance came while on a month’s loan at League One Shrewsbury Town, appearing as a substitute in a narrow 0-1 defeat to Colchester United. The youngster went on to make 7 appearances for the Shrews before returning to his parent club. Once back at Molineux, Iorfa was thrown in to the mix at the beginning of a four match unbeaten run, and attained the Football League’s Young Player of the Month award for the month of January 2015. On the same day, he picked up an assist in his side’s 3-0 victory of Fulham, and quickly established himself as a fan favourite.
The youngster signed a new deal keeping him in the Black Country until 2019, and has also made a combined 13 appearances for the England youth teams. His most recent appearances came in the England U21s Toulon Tournament conquest – the first time England have won the tournament since 1994. There is no guarantee of Iorfa playing for the England national team just yet, however – he is still eligible for Nigeria, and according to his father, will decide on his international future after his 23rd birthday – assumingly to gauge which national will provide him with more game time.
The first thing to note about Iorfa is his size. For a 20 year-old, he’s remarkably well built. His muscle and build aren’t all that contribute to his ominous presence – at 6’2ft, he’s not someone you’d be keen on seeing ahead of you as you race down the wing, jostle for position or leap for a ball. There is a tendency amongst people to believe that if one is gifted with size and strength, other physical attributes will be diminished in some sort of trade off. That is not the case with Iorfa. His pace is nothing to sneeze at – although not exactly an Olympic sprinter, Iorfa has more than enough about him when he begins to shift through the gears to trouble the opposition. Coupled with his strength, it makes catching the Englishman very tricky indeed.
Iorfa’s main position in a young Wolverhampton Wanderers team is right-back, but with Nathan Byrne, another young English right-back, playing a little higher in as a winger, Iorfa is not restricted to the defensive side of the game. He is given freedom to push higher and attempt to bring players out of position, knowing that Byrne is available to fall back and fill in behind should the need arise. That is not to say Iorfa’s attacking presence is all that just yet, far from it. In fact his crossing and passing in general rarely appeal if it is any more adventurous than a simple forward or side pass. This is a technical skill that can be enhanced both by experience and coaching, of course, and should be no cause for concern amongst fans or prospective buyers. The youngster still doesn’t have a goal to his name, either, which can sometimes be seen as a red flag for a full back in the modern game. However, I have never deemed a right-back/right-winger’s ability to score goals as a key component in his structure. His main role in offense is predominantly to carry the ball – his physical attributes allow him to move past people and break in to spaces, bringing concerned opponents with him and opening up runs around him.
The stats are favourable when we consider Iorfa’s defensive display, too. When compared to promotion-winning Middlesbrough full-back, George Friend, who only played 3 fewer games than Iorfa, the Wolves man outperforms him in key areas. Iorfa enjoyed 4 more successful take-ons, won 7 more aerial duels and made 28 more clearances than his counterpart. It has to be said here, of course, that by his own admission, Iorfa endured a hit-and-miss season at Molineux, and the stats reflect that. He won fewer tackles, committed 26 more fouls, made 3 more defensive errors and picked up 7 more yellows cards than Friend in the 2015-2016 season, and these stats should not be forgotten. However, they must be contextualised, too – Iorfa plays in a much younger, more inexperienced side at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and is only 20 years of age. Issues of concentration, timing and temperament are important ones, but are also most acutely addressed by maturity and experience.
Wolves boss Kenny Jackett has already told members of the press that losing Dominic Iorfa in the transfer window is not on his ‘to do’ list. In fact, the manager has instead spoken of his desire to build the team around Iorfa, rather than pulling him from it for profit. Iorfa’s future may not be in Jackett’s hands for too much longer, of course, with Wolves’ meagre budget and the increasing desire among Premier League teams to sniff out talented Englishmen before the prices become too steep. Already this window, Everton, West Ham, Southampton and Arsenal have been mooted as possible destinations for the youngster, whose profile has only risen further with a successful campaign in the Toulon Tournament.
Iorfa is a right back that can attack, defend, break up play and create something through his powerful runs, and can feasibly fill a role at centre back, too. This diversity and noted attacking ability will prove appealing to many clubs in the upper echelons of English football. Add to that the possibility of getting a deal done for somewhere in the region of £7.5m pounds, and there will certainly be clubs considering a move. Gaining so many England caps at such a young age is a great sign for the future, too, as are the near 70 club caps in his first 3 seasons as a first team player. All round, the signs are good for young Dominic Iorfa, and his weakest links are all curable with simple training and dedication. If he has the tenacity to tackle those challenges and continue to improve, and there’s no evidence to suggest he lacks it, then Dominic Iorfa is a name that Premier League fans, and England fans, can look forwarding to hearing a lot more in the coming years.
Written by Ross Bramble