emirates

Arsenal 2-1 Wolves Match Report

Wolves’ trip to the capital ended in devastating fashion as two late goals punctured Wolves’ top four hopes. With both sides gunning for the Champions league places, it was the Gunners who came out on top, [providing a comfortable cushion from the chasing pack. Wolves were the outside bets to crash the top four party this season, but a loss at the hands of Arsenal all but managed to eliminate these chances entirely. 

This was unfortunately a result that we deserved, another opportunity missed, for me. Bruno started with a positive line-up, bringing Hwang in for Dendoncker in what otherwise, was an unchanged side. Bruno seemed to trust the Neves and Moutinho partnership rather than overloading the middle of the park, providing an opportunity for Hwang Hee-Chan to force himself back into contention following an injury lay-off. 

Similarly to the Spurs visit, the early Wolves press forced a mistake from the opposition back line, resulting in a dream start for Lage’s men and the travelling supporters as Wolves took the lead after just ten minutes. However, highlights for wolves were few and far between from this moment, there was a particularly alarming gulf in the quality of passing from either side. Arsenal managed to zip the ball around with confidence and accuracy, whereas Wolves opted for the unattractive long-ball tactic, to no avail unsurprisingly. 

One key reason for the little success was due to another poor performance from Raul Jimenez. Once again, the Mexican looked way off the mark, as every ball into him left at the feet of an Arsenal defender. This became increasingly evident as Raul was our out-ball, Traore’s departure means that Raul’s hold up play is prioritised when managing difficult away fixtures, but nothing was sticking. Missing a gilt-edge opportunity to put us in a commanding two-goal lead doesn’t help his argument to start either. This begs the question: what can Fabio Silva do to gain another run of starts in the Premier League? Wolves are currently competing in one competition, the Premier League. If Silva’s chances to start are limited to cup competitions only, the pressure of Jimenez’s performances is simply lifted. Silva’s cameos have displayed that currently, there is more to his game than our number nine. He holds the ball up, links play effectively and appears to have a great partnership with Daniel Podence, our man in form. 

Wolves have developed quite the reputation for stubborn defensive work and great game management this season, but last night’s showing reflected the game management of a certain Portuguese manager previous. Winning the ball back deep in our own box and launching hopeful balls that just invites more pressure. Typically, this tactic is adopted late on in the game to see a dogged performance to the end, seeing this from the 30th minute demonstrated such a lack of inspiration or belief to take the game to Arsenal. Heartbreak at the end, but a hugely disappointing performance. 

 

Key moments 

Wolves fans must have thought they were in dreamland after five minutes when Saiss poked home from an offside position during the second phase of a corner. Despite being disallowed, this provided momentum for the away side to attack the Gunners. As a result of the effective early press, Gabriel was forced to pass back towards his goalkeeper, and the loose ball was pounced on by the incoming Hwang Hee-Chan, who smartly rounded Ramsdale before slotting home from a narrow angle. 

Bar Hwang’s fine finish, clear cut chances were hard to come by, the only real one of not was Jimenez dragging a perfect opportunity well wide of the post. Aside from that, it was one way traffic in favour of Arsenal, and deservedly got their equaliser through Nicolas Pepe, with a brilliant turn and finish, in a sea of old gold. Wolves’ heartbreak was then secured after a Jose Sa own goal – mishandling a tame effort from Lacazette in the 95th minute, sending the Emirates into raptures.

 

Man of the match – Rayan Ait Nouri 

With an abundance of below par performances, finding a man of the match proved difficult. In a game of negative tactics, there were some real moments of positivity displayed by Rayan Ait-Nouri though. Whilst not all his forward runs resulted in a chance (sometimes conceding possession), it was welcome to see someone being confident on the ball, instead of opting for the easy punt up field with zero direction or intent to hit someone in gold. With Semedo unfortunately pulling up with a hamstring injury, there will be added onus for Rayan to inspire attacking phases, but a responsibility I think he’s more than mature enough to carry. Another good showing from our number 3. 

 

Things to improve on 

Another vital fixture is just around the corner, back to London for West Ham United. Again, a six pointer for those fighting for European football next season. In my opinion, bold changes are needed – the first of which being Fabio Silva in for Raul Jimenez. Raul hasn’t looked right all season, and five goals should not be an acceptable case to retain his position in the starting eleven. Secondly, win the midfield battle. It provides additional security whilst maintaining control of the tempo, something that was desperately missed against Arsenal. 

Simply not good enough, a reaction is needed. Onto the Hammers.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Steve Bull Stand

Wolves 0-1 Arsenal Match Report

A frustrating evening ended as Wolves fell 0-1 to Arsenal in an important fixture under the lights at Molineux. The Arsenal defence faced an onslaught in the final period following a red card, but Wolves were unable to capitalise on the opportunity. With both sides on the hunt to consolidate their ambition for European football, it was the visitors who left with all three points – much to the disappointment of Wolves. 

A minor calf issue for Joao Moutinho saw Dendoncker line up with Neves in a midfield two, with a re-introduction for Romain Saiss, after his great showing at AFCON. Raul Jimenez started up top with Trincao and an in-form Daniel Podence. In a similar vein to his current form, Podence was the bright spark for Wolves during the first half, drawing many a foul with his trickery and intelligent movement. Trincao and Jimenez on the other hand, struggled to stamp their authority on the fixture once again – marshalled out of the game by White and Gabriel, in a very confident showing from the Arsenal pair. It was particularly frustrating that Wolves failed to target booked players, with both Xhaka and Thomas Partey cautioned within the game, I was surprised to see the lack of action through the centre of the field.

Possession seemed a key factor for Wolves, as the home side held much of it, but having very little in terms of chances on goal to show for it. Arsenal seemed relatively comfortable with allowing Wolves time on the ball, as the home side were causing little panic for their defensive unit. Even after a red card for Martinelli’s petulant fouls in the same passage of play, Wolves severely lacked any creativity to unlock the Arsenal defence. The contest was even overall, with neither side having too many chances to write home about, but it was the red card that allowed the visitors to sit back soak up the remainder of what Wolves had to give. 

Arguably Wolves’ biggest game of the season so far, and it feels like a huge opportunity missed. The away side went down to ten for the final twenty minutes, and all Wolves could conjure up was a barrage of crosses, defended simply by the visitors in what looked like a training drill. A chance missed to close the gap on those ahead, and a chance missed to cement our bid for European football next season.

 

Key Moments 

Wolves had built a good reputation for not conceding set pieces this season, but four set-piece goals have been conceded from the last four fixtures. This time, succeeding a scramble in the goal mouth, Gabriel poked home for the Gunners in the 26th minute. A disappointing manner for Lage’s men to concede after some decent spells of possession during the first period. Clear cut chances for either side were few and far between, with both goalkeepers having an easy day at the office. Gabriel Martinelli managed to change the complexion of the game within fifteen seconds, with a childish display of fouls resulting in Arsenal’s 101st dismissal of the Premier League era. Unfortunately, Wolves’ feeble attempts to equalise left much to be desired, as Arsenal comfortably sailed towards an important away victory. 

 

Man of the match  – Daniel Podence

There was precious little to choose from for standout performances, the attacking movement was lacking, midfield was conservative, and the defensive unit failed to keep out the Gunners’ only decent opportunity. Daniel Podence was a livewire during the first half, giving Cedric Soares nightmares, with the Arsenal defender somehow escaping a booking. Podence looked like the only one attempting to fashion a different opening than an aimless cross that as simply headed away. In a game where we didn’t cause trouble for Arsenal, one man did. Another deserved mention for the little man, in a hugely uninspiring front line. 

 

Improvements 

You could be blind and still see Wolves are in dire need of creativity. Whether this be from a new, dynamic midfielder that can unlock defences, or a change in attacking patterns, an alternative is needed. We’ve become too predictable again, sideways passing towards the wingbacks, before a cross is fired in that doesn’t clear the first man. When it does? No-one is there to attack it. The push for European football is still possible, but points are needed desperately from the February fixtures.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Wolves stadium

Wolves 3-1 Southampton Match Report

Four goals at Molineux, a treat from Bruno’s Wolves in another convincing victory, as they overcame a Southampton side in good form. Wolves took the opportunity to maintain pressure on those ahead of them this season, keeping those European dreams of seasons past well and truly alive. Finally, the Wolves have left their teething phase in their Prem campaign, they’re on the hunt for the top six.

Upon arrival, the team sheet probably surprised every single Wolves fan, as Neves was out with COVID and Toti Gomes was brought in for his Wolves debut. Quite the step up from the quality of opponent he was used to at Grasshoppers, nonetheless, Toti (with the ever-present support from our captain) looked like a seasoned member of the Premier League; certainly, a debut to be proud of. The reason Lage gave for not playing Leander Dendoncker at centre-back was to maintain the system they had been working on, and instead opted for the Belgian to operate from his more comfortable station if midfield.

Despite the result conveying a relatively comfortable afternoon at the office for Wolves, this was far from the truth in the first half. Southampton raced out of the blocks with an intense pressure, causing Wolves problems in possession – conceding four early corners, but these were defended confidently despite quality of delivery. A combination of poor touches and lacklustre passing frustrated fans in the first half particularly, but this was soon rectified in the second period of play, as Wolves took control of the game and highlighted the difference in quality between the two sides. Key performances from Coady, Kilman and Jose Sa kept Southampton at bay, with the away side needing a piece of alien-like brilliance to prevent yet another clean-sheet for the home side. 

One performance stood out from the rest, that being the one of Michael Salisbury. That first half was possibly up there with one of the worst officiating performances I had witnessed at Molineux. Six blatant fouls weren’t given against Saints players, and it took the involvement of VAR (not hugely popular amongst the Wolves faithful) to overturn Salisbury’s original penalty decision. It’s a topic that’s discussed widely across the league, but the standard of officiating this season most notably, is deteriorating rapidly, and you know it’s poor when I mention it following a 3-1 victory.

 

Key moments

Proceeding the VAR decision to award Wolves a penalty ten minutes before the break, Raul Jimenez calmly dispatched his fourth goal of the Premier League season; a much-needed confidence boost our star man. Not long after the break Wolves made it two, Forster was caught out as Kilman looped an effort towards the far post, before Conor Coady headed home from two yards out, and a due reward for what’s been an incredible season so far. James Ward-Prowse decided it was time for another goal of the season nomination, with the best goal I’ve ever seen live, period. This gave the Saints a foothold back into the contest, yet all hopes of a draw were ended as Adama Traore (finally) gained an ounce of composure in front of goal. The winger slotted home his first goal of the season. Even those who want him sold enjoyed that one, right?

 

Man of the Match – Conor Coady 

 

No player had an outstanding performance as such, but my man of the match is his first of the season: Conor Coady. His league goal in front of the South Bank was a moment a long time coming, but the MOTOM award isn’t because of this. Coady had a young, inexperienced centre-half by his side, who had been in the country less than two weeks. I closely watched the partnership of him and Toti yesterday, and I genuinely don’t think there’s a player in the league who can make a debutant feel more comfortable in that context than Conor. Last season, Coady was a captain with incredible leadership quality, but many questioned his footballing ability. He must be in contention for most improved player of the season, leading though exemplary performances in addition to his elite mentality. What a person, what a player, what a captain.

 

Improvements 

The first half highlighted our struggle to deal with a quickly enforced press, sloppy passing and hesitation on the ball caused for too many turnovers in possession. Additionally, we had a cluster of counter attacks that demonstrated our ability to move the ball quickly and efficiently, but this wasn’t common enough. Overall, it was a good performance but there’s just an element of complacency to tidy up before Brentford. Three goals at Molineux, though, I can’t complain too much.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Old Trafford

Manchester United 0-1 Wolves Match Report

A game, result and performance that will be etched into the Wolves history books for years to come. Wolverhampton Wanderers leave Old Trafford victorious for the first time during the Premier League era after their 0-1 win. Top class performances littered the field as Joao Moutinho turned his Manchester playground into the Theatre of Nightmares, striking home eight minutes from time, sending the travelling fans into bank holiday ecstasy.

Embed from Getty Images 

The combination of positive COVID cases and injuries have caused many a postponement during the congested winter period, as Wolves faced after a two-week layoff from fixtures. Their return was against a Manchester United side under new management, with Ralf Rangnick at the helm. The German is notoriously recognised for his aggressive Gegen-press style of football, yet the evidence of this from this performance was lacking hugely. From minute one, United were unable to keep up with the pace of Lage’s Wolves. Neves and Moutinho schooled Matic and McTominay in their own backyard, through a lesson of midfield mastery, winding the clocks back to their debut season together in the Premier League. 

Lage opted for Trincao and Daniel Podence over Adama Traore, who was perhaps left out due to the ongoing transfer speculation that surrounds him, or perhaps to be utilised as an effective substitute later in the affair. Following a string of uninspiring performances, Wolves fans may have questioned the choice of Trincao, but the loanee decided to get more physical than usual, whilst registering another handful of nutmegs doing so – hopefully a sign towards further improvements for the Barca boy. The defence remained unchanged and for good reason, another clean sheet to add to their already impressive tally this season – resolute when called upon, but the midfield prevented most of the concern, against two of the best forwards of this generation. 

However, one performance stood out to me and not in the positive sense I had initially hoped for. For me, Raul Jimenez was chasing shadows, there were a couple of moments where he linked up nicely with Trincao and Podence, but something isn’t quite clicking for the Mexican Sensation. Although his movement wasn’t particularly poor, chances on goal are few and far between, and those chances are often flagged offside. Considering the lack of game time and the reported issues with Fabio Silva’s application to warm up, he performed excellently in his late cameo, barring the silly foul, the game management for someone his age was impressive to see.

 

Key Moments

Wolves’ recent performances have been those of defensive focus, their poor eye for goal has resulted in the recognised label of: “well that’ll be last on Match of the Day.” Therefore, for Wolves to be the team to have the most shots at Old Trafford in the first half of a league game since 03/04 (@OptaJoe on Twitter), was a surprising, yet welcome spectacle. Neves had an audacious goal of the month attempt prevented by a David De Gea early on, combined with a couple of early attempts from the heavily involved Podence. A short rally from United was born after Fernandes rattled the crossbar and CR7 decided he was too good for the offside rule. But it was our own Portuguese veteran that stunned the Theatre of Dreams into a sea of insomnia, as Moutinho fired Wolves ahead late in the game.

 

Man of the match –  Joao Moutinho

Daniel Podence is quickly becoming a fan favourite amongst Wolves fans, another electric performance from the little wizard, intricate passing and his low centre of gravity caused trouble all night long. However, another little genius gets my man of the match. Last season, many wrote Joao “no legs” Moutinho off, including myself. Lage must be promising some quality vino for our midfield mastermind, Joao is playing like a man possessed. Exquisite passing, strong in the tackle, progressive ball carrying, and a goal to top off an easy night at the office for this god amongst men. Truly football heaven.  

 

Things to improve on

For the first time this season, I collectively couldn’t have wished for more from Wolves. Tactical astuteness from Lage, effective substitutions, immense work rate and the quality to comfortably beat the second most expensive squad in Europe. Of course, we can hope for more goals, but if my manager says the goals will come, I will believe every word that he says. Differently, outside of the pitch, there are improvements to be made. Upon evaluation of the board’s current intentions, Lage will almost certainly be frustrated. There are the foundations to really achieve with Bruno in charge, three quality additions are all we need. The transfer strategy will not dampen this result in the slightest though. Thank you, lads. We’ll remember this one for a while.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Amex Stadium

Brighton 0-1 Wolves Match Report

3000 fans made the gruelling five-hour trip to the south coast, to see their beloved Wolves both score a football goal and win the football game. Wolves came out victors over a Brighton team, ravaged by injuries, COVID isolations and suspensions. The win came as great relief for fans who hadn’t seen a goal in over 400 minutes of action, with Romain Saiss, the ‘Moroccan Maldini’ coming in clutch for the boys in old gold.

Reaction

Disappointingly, the in-from Rayan Ait Nouri sustained a groin injury in the warm-up, so Marcal entered the fray, alongside Podence and Trincao due to Raul Jimenez’ suspension. The three in midfield was sacrificed from Saturday’s game in Manchester, to provide more threat up top, with Hwang Hee-Chan spearheading the attack, until the 15th minute after pulling up with a hamstring issue. 30 minutes of some honestly dire football from both sides was to come, with Brighton having a couple of half chances but nothing to worry Sa in the slightest. Wolves were unable to impose their style on the game, lacking strong moments of possession, with no chances on goal to write home about. The back line three were brilliantly stubborn once again, and typically, it was a defender to provide the accomplished finish, finally giving Wolves’ fans something to cheer about. It is widely understood that a key time to score a goal is just before the break, a sucker-punch goal that changes the opposition’s team talks. All that was needed was that one goal, the second half confidence was levels above those seen in the first. The press was re-born, and the pack caught some unsuspecting seagulls truly lacking. Premier League debutant referee: Tony Harrington, had a night to forget with a multitude of technical difficulties, but entertainment was sharply delivered by a keepy-up fest during the hold up, under the noses of the adoring away support.

Rather unfairly, Adama Traore has fallen victim to some harsh criticism this season, regarding the decision making and effort levels produced, Brighton was the night he truly shut the critics up. Neutrals will see zero goal involvements all season and will go to town with the ‘pace merchant’ slander, but true Wolves fans recognise that it could be so different providing the rest of the team had finishing ability. Moreover, Podence provided some much-needed energy going forward, again just missing the golden touch in front of goal. Trincao was anonymous unfortunately, seeming to struggle with the physicality of the Premier League, there’s something there with Francisco though, Wolves are just yet to see it.

Key moments

Until a shockingly poor corner from Marcal found its way to the magician that is Ruben Neves, the game was severely lacking quality – not a game for the neutral. Neves then clipped a sumptuous pass over the top of Yves Bissouma, taking eight Brighton players out of the game as Romain Saiss calmly places the ball past Sanchez with his weak foot. The second-phase work behind the scenes, conducted by Tony Roberts seems to be paying dividends for Wolves, with the goals against Brighton and Aston Villa acting as perfect case studies. Backs against the wall for the final ten is something us fans have become accustomed to over the past couple of years, last night was different though, Brighton would not find a way through, Lage is working defensive wonders.

Man of the match

Not only for scoring the first goal in five games, but a stellar defensive performance to match, Romain Saiss deserves all the credit coming his way recently. Alongside Coady and Kilman, the back three have made Wolves fans reconsider where the money should be spent in the upcoming transfer windows. Saiss took his goal brilliantly, and I’m convinced there aren’t many better ball strikers at the club than the Moroccan Maldini – being extremely close to a second, rocketing one off the inside of the post. Safe to say, if AFCON goes ahead, we’re going to miss Romain. Give him another year on his deal already.

Improvements

Despite scoring, it should have been two or three, our finishing still needs a lot of work. One on ones, as I doubt there are many more clubs who have missed more of them than Wolves this season, then chances can be created, the chances just aren’t being converted. Additionally, there were many moments in the first half where too many touches are being taken on the ball before the next pass. Effective link-up play requires quick decision making, to draw the opposition out of their shape, instead, we gave too much time for Brighton in this instance to regain theirs. However, a win’s a win, onto the European champions.

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

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Wolves 0-1 Liverpool Match Report

With Jota back at Molineux on his birthday, Wolves fans feared the worst. But those in attendance were pleasantly surprised with the fight on display as they fell late on to title-hunting Liverpool. Origi added to his ever-growing portfolio of clutch moments for the reds, inflicting damage in the dying moments, following a titanic defensive performance against one of the best teams on the planet. More importantly, the West Midlands teams put rivalry aside, as we remembered Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in a matchday tribute during the 6th minute.

 

After spending three days quietly concerned for how many Liverpool would put past us, the team was released, and confidence came from nowhere. Following his suspension, Neves returned for Moutinho, whilst Adama kept his place in the starting eleven. Much to the relief of Wolves fans, Liverpool were hugely off their game offensively, conceding possession too easily and not creating enough in terms of goal-scoring opportunities. Wolves held the ball well in spells whilst nullifying the likes of Salah, Mane, and the returning Diogo Jota for the first 20 minutes or so. Klopp’s men demonstrated their class soon afterwards, with arguably the best midfield in the world currently, Thiago and Henderson had the pack chasing side to side. 

 

Unfortunately, despite the spells of possession in the first half, Wolves were unable to fashion any openings to test Alisson properly. There was a clear tactic was to utilise Adama as the out-ball, once enough Liverpool pressure had been soaked and possession was regained, a long ball was fired up to Traore, to engage in a tussle with either of the reds centre halves. Thanks to his freakish physical attributes, this worked a few times as a worried Van Dijk resorted to putting the ball into touch. 

 

Again though, similarly to the Burnley match, Wolves’ positives remained in the defensive areas, with this art of defending episode provided by yours truly: Conor Coady. Saiss and Kilman were exceptional once again, with Saiss preventing an almost certain tap in from the form-man right now, Mohamed Salah. But our captain will receive the majority of my praise with one of the greatest goal line clearances anyone will see. Jota capitalised on a moment of miscommunication from Saiss and Sa, finding himself running in on an open goal with only a helpless Kilman and Coady to beat. What came next epitomised the word sacrifice, with Conor Coady leaving everything on the goal line.

Key moments

 

Aside from Jota’s back post header, and the square ball with Saiss doing enough to prevent Salah, the back five were immense in keeping Liverpool’s world class talent quiet for 45 minutes. The second half became a game of maintaining a compact defensive unit and using Adama’s pace and physicality to generate counter opportunities. Managing to weather the storm for 94 minutes, Van Dijk reached Salah with a long-range pass, and the Egyptian’s touch took it way away from Hoever, who then found Origi, smartly finishing on the turn to send the Steve Bull lower into pandemonium. 

 

Man of the match – Rayan Ait Nouri

You could choose any of the back five as the MOTM and there wouldn’t be many qualms. However, many hail Mo Salah as the best player in the world right now, many said how Rayan Ait-Nouri would be his next victim. Salah was lucky that our Algerian star boy got injured because I highly doubt Liverpool would have won if it would not have been for the 20-year old’s substitution. Rayan shushed the Premier League legend for 93 minutes, tackles and interceptions galore. Boss. 

 

Improvements 

 

Defending brilliantly is wonderful, and the greatest teams often leave you with little choice in the matter. However, our attacking display was abysmal today, we were extremely one dimensional and Alisson had nothing to do all game. Wolves wasted possession cheaply, the front men lacked cohesion and the ball would not stick. Manchester City will dominate possession, replicating the defensive performance of today will help, but being more efficient in the final third must improve. Five shots on target in three games is embarrassing. Additionally, the concept of a substitution is to give an advantage to your team in the latter stages, ours seem to be aiding the opposition recently and this is no fault of Bruno, our squad depth is nothing short of comical. A message to FOSUN – January investment has to happen.

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Steve Bull Stand

Wolves 0-0 Burnley Match Report

Cold, Wednesday night football against notoriously ‘anti-footballing’ sides have become somewhat of a hallmark within Premier League culture. Wolves discovered this as they played out a 0-0 draw against a struggling Burnley side, following a disappointing display against Norwich over the weekend. A game that provided an opportunity for Wolves to gather points with a difficult Christmas period looming; resulted in another disappointing result for the home side, failing to capitalise upon their chances. 

Burnley, as well as Wolves, were missing key players such as Tarkowski and Westwood as suspensions were carried from their postponement vs Tottenham. COVID isolation for Podence and a poor performance from Trincao created space in the starting eleven for Adama Traore. An addition that was welcomed by many after a game against Norwich lacking offensive creativity.

An attritional first period saw Wolves have a couple of half chances, but nothing that tested Pope of note. Until the ball broke for Traore and Jimenez, a two-on-one situation with only Charlie Taylor to beat. The Spaniard managed to generate an angle and blast his shot onto the underside of the crossbar – rippling the net, but not in the way the deceived South Bank had thought. In hindsight, Raul was in acres of space, and was one square ball from sending us in front, but a Traore determined to prove his worth was understandably hungry for a solo attempt. Chris Wood succeeded in finding himself between Wolves’ centre-halves, sending the Molineux faithful into a claret-coloured nightmare after his last display in Wolverhampton, but nothing came to fruition.

The second half story followed from the first, Wolves holding lots of the possession and working it well into key areas, whilst Burnley sat back and waited for a mistake. The narrative of the game was centred around the defences, as any of Burnley’s threats were cut off at source. Unfortunately, Dyche’s men stood firm too, with many of our attacking moves lacking final product, or blocked come the final ball. Personally, Ait Nouri and Semedo looked fatigued, every time an opportunity to take Taylor or (previously carded) Lowton on, the safer option was favoured, returning responsibility to the midfield duo.

 

Key moments

Bar Adama’s crossbar rocket and two lame attempts on goal from Dendoncker and Hwang, Pope had an easy day at the office, occasionally warming himself up by catching a lazy cross. Since Burnley had two defenders on yellow cards before the break, I was surprised not to see more pressure put on them, either to force a mistake or another foul. Not exactly one for the neutral on Amazon Prime, it was a game lacking key moments, instead, the stadium happened to be praying for one from Traore.

 

Man of the match  – Adama Traore

Considering the contract speculation that Adama has been subject to recently, it would be easy for him to become a passenger in this game and almost force Lage’s hand into a January exit for the winger. Additionally, many fans have their questions for Adama, and they have the right to question background affairs such as wage demands and contract negotiations, but his dedication on the pitch cannot be questioned. We were never going to score today, but he gives the team opportunities, and he gets you off your seat – every single game. He missed our only decent chance, but with every attacking move having him involved, only Podence can keep him out of the starting eleven right now.

 

Improvements 

Onto the nightmare before Christmas. Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all before the 25th. Liverpool’s press will be relentless on Saturday, which is why having Neves back will be crucial. Wolves kept the ball well against Burnley, but this is no challenge against a side employing time-wasting tactics from the 55th minute. The same must be done against Liverpool, by developing any possession we have into chances on goal, as two shots on target out of 16 isn’t good enough. Our toughest challenge so far, but knowing Wolves like I know I do; we’ll turn them over easily.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

 

Selhurst park

Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves Match Review

A frustrating afternoon in South London saw Wolves fall 2-0 to Crystal Palace, and a display that demonstrated tactical similarities to the second half of the game on Monday evening. Goals from Wilfried Zaha and Chelsea loanee, Conor Gallagher, sunk Lage’s men in Croydon. Wolves lacked drive, determination and cutting edge, ultimately coming second best to the better side on the day, with no argument over who deserved the victory. 

There’s something about Selhurst Park that causes an uneasiness within me. Over the years, the mixture of the Palace atmosphere and what seems like a smaller pitch never fills me with confidence. An unchanged side was named following the confident first half against Everton, leaving Wolves fans with little room for qualms regarding player selection. From the moment Wolves gained possession though, the floods of blue and red began the swarm, and this was the moment I realised Vieira’s men were not going to roll over, these Eagles came to hunt. 

One key problem many are noticing week in week out (despite the positive results recently), is Wolves’ panic when teams initiate a press. Somehow, even with the abundance of technical ability that our players possess, firing the ball into the channels becomes the adopted tactic. I can accept this if you have payers with the physicality to combat Premier League centre halves, but Francisco Trincao vs Joachim Andersen is a prime example of why weight classes exist in combat sports; it’s simply not a fair matchup. Raul was placed on the graveyard shift, feeding off scraps and praying for an error from Palace’s defensive unit.

Furthermore, an inspired performance from Kouyate prevented many an attempt to progress through the middle of the pitch, highlighting that we need urgent reinforcement in January, particularly someone with energy and dynamism to partner Neves. It’s a must.

Bar Jose Sa with some decent distribution and Kilman shutting out Zaha for much of the game, no one gave a standout performance. Conor Coady and Romain Saiss had a torrid time dealing with Christian Benteke, a pattern that has been reoccurring for four years now. Opposition teams know that pinning a physical striker on Conor will lead to results, and for all his leadership qualities, he will continue to lose important defensive duels in key moments.

 

Key moments  

 

A cagey first half affair saw Joao Moutinho booked after only nine minutes; after Odsonne Edouard dived ahead of him. Similarly, to the Leeds contest, this detracted from our midfield tenacity for the remainder of the afternoon, as Joao would be in no position to make ‘clever’ fouls, or your typical ‘cynical’ challenge in order to break up opposition threat. After half time, it was evident that the home team were keen to stamp their authority upon the contest, and Wilfried Zaha achieved this, slotting home to put the hosts ahead (after a VAR overturn). Wolves had the possibility of a penalty through a rash Joel Ward decision just beyond the penalty box, but again, VAR overturned the decision. One was not enough for the Eagles, as Conor Gallagher’s deflected effort wrongfoots Sa to double Wolves’ troubles.

 

Man of the Match – Max Kilman

 

Kilman’s impressive performances in recent weeks were rewarded midweek with an improved contract for the 24-year-old. Once again though, Wolves’ player of the season (now undeniably) proved exactly why this was his just reward. For the majority of the game, Kilman suppressed Zaha’s threat, and even if Wolves had lost the war at Selhurst Park, Max won his battles (which cannot be said for the rest of the squad). Confidence in tackling the tricky winger, combined with impressive bursts of recovery pace earned Kilman my Man of the Match.

 

Improvements

It’s beyond clear that Bruno will not be satisfied with the performance, with a real lack of intensity throughout, Wolves got exactly what they deserved. The international break will provide time for the management team to find ‘solutions’ to resist pressing teams. We need to be much more confident in our ability to keep the ball under pressure, instead of resorting to route one football. It was a bad day at the office to say the least, but there’s a pattern to the poorer performances, that being against teams with aggressive pressing tactics.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

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Wolves 2-1 Everton Match Report

 

Following an eight-day lay-off for Wolves, we hosted Everton back at Molineux on a windy Monday evening. After the overall feeling of disappointment from the Leeds result, Wolves rectified the lack of intensity with an onslaught of attacking movement, partnered with some of the classiest individual performances to date. This resulted in a 2-1 victory over Rafa Benitez’s men, taking a fourth win from five games, firing us up the table into seventh spot.

 

Once again, with the injury to Marcal, Rayan Ait-Nouri had another opportunity to make the left wing-back position his own, and Trincao was chosen ahead of Adama Traore. Additionally, Ruben Neves entered the fray, replacing Leander Dendoncker after his below par performance against Leeds. A first half of dominance was to come, demonstrating fluidity and threat in attacking portions of the pitch, possibly a product of the high line that Lage opted for. The midfield two oozed class from the first minute, highlighting shades of season 18/19, Neves in particular paying homage to a prime Andrea Pirlo, and not just by his hair. Balance has well and truly been restored with Ait-Nouri’s return, if anyone doubted the Algerian before, best believe they’re hiding now. Another top class display from the 20 year-old, combining progressive runs with stubborn defensive work, utilised perfectly by Bruno Lage, with Semedo to transform our back five into a midfield four within seconds. Hwang and Francisco ran relentlessly during the first 45 minutes, pressing effectively and forcing countless mistakes from the Everton back line. The link up between the front three was sublime, every backheel found a man in old gold, with enough of them to create a five-minute compilation quite comfortably. 

 

However, there is an evident reason as to why there was a stark difference in performance when comparing Everton to Leeds. That difference being pressure, Benitez’s Everton looked like Wolves last season, sitting back, and waiting on a mistake, but built off the foundations of stability and compactness. Compare this to the ‘all guns blazing’ approach that Bielsa drills into his Leeds side, it’s evident that Lage is yet to discover a method to combat a relentless press. Therefore, Everton played into our hands last night, allowing our technically gifted players to place their stamp on the game, pegging the Toffees back for 45 minutes. Despite this, credit must be given to Lage, as Wolves finally look like a team that can break opposition defences, after three great performances to start the season and no goals to show for it, we truly have our tails up now.

 

Key moments

 

Hwang Hee-Chan was denied his fifth goal of the season after a tight VAR call after 15 minutes, but a dominant Wolves remained on top. Ait-Nouri was the one chosen to deliver the corner shortly afterward, and the influential decision to change the style of delivery paid dividends as Kilman netted his first for the Wanderers. No one deserved it more than the player of the season so far (arguably). Five minutes later, a back pass from Godfrey was pounced on by Jimenez, who sumptuously dinked the England number 1, Jordan Pickford, placing Bruno’s men into a commanding position going into half time. The second half saw Iwobi grab an equaliser for Everton following an initial block from Godfrey’s effort, though it wouldn’t be enough to stop Wolves taking all three points. 

 

Man of the match – Raul Jimenez

Possibly the hardest game to choose a man of the match from this season, every player gave 100% and no one made any noticeable errors apart from Sa’s heart attack moment in the second half. He won’t get the plaudits but I thought Romain Saiss was brilliant, when others shy away from 50/50’s, he will fight for the badge every week, without fail. A special mention should go to Ait-Nouri, who was immense too, really cementing his spot in the starting eleven for weeks to come. But my man of the match is Raul Jimenez, his work rate off the ball, delicious link-up play and his first goal back at Molineux is too much to be overlooked. The perfect number 9 performance, Si Senor still has it. 

 

Improvements

It’s impossible to expect any side to sustain the press displayed in the first half, which is why energy levels fell during the second half. Players became tired, and Everton managed to find spaces and opportunities that weren’t available for the first 45 minutes. To battle this problem, the substitutions from Lage must come earlier, making the first change after 79 minutes was too late, and against better sides, we would have been punished. But the first half tactics were perfect and provided a safe cushion. Overall, a cracking night under the lights, more of the same, please.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

 

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Leeds United 1-1 Wolves Match Report

An afternoon of initial excitement crumbles into a sorry situation for Bruno Lage’s men, conceding to a penalty in the final moments of the game. Wolves looked to create history at Elland Road, by achieving a fourth consecutive win in the Premier League. The possibility was then enhanced with key figures of the Whites squad were missing (Bamford, Phillips and Ayling). Combined with Leeds’ poor beginning to the season, an opportunity was there for the taking.

 

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A couple of changes were made by Lage after the last gasp win against Villa, seeing Marcal replaced by Rayan Ait-Nouri. A welcome change for many fans, as we have often seemed imbalanced when progressing forward with the makeshift left wing-back. In addition, Neves lost his spot in the starting eleven to Leander Dendoncker, seeing the Belgian begin the match in a midfield two, partnered by Joao, the seasoned vet. And the return of RJ9 provided a much-needed focal point which was missing during last week’s affair. Despite Leeds missing players in key areas, their main threat, Raphinha started on the right-hand side. A cause for some concern against Rayan who has barely touched a ball competitively since his stint at left-midfield during pre-season.

As expected, the Wolves left-hand side was targeted by Bielsa, seeing many of the Leeds attacks finishing with their beloved Brazilian. Following a couple of half-chances for the Yorkshiremen, Wolves managed to break forward into the final third after a missed sliding challenge from Harrison allowed Semedo to deliver a cutback into Raul, with a mishit shot falling fortuitously into Hwang, and the Korean king pounced to push the ball past Meslier. Wolves struggled to gain much momentum following the goal, winning the ball effectively but unforced errors became a common theme surrounding the first half, conceding possession with many a wayward pass and aimless headers. 

Seasons prior demonstrated Wolves’ superiority in the second half of games, today was different. Succeeding a cagey beginning to the second half, Romain Saiss caught Raphinha, capping the Brazilians frustrating afternoon off with injury. What seemed like Wolves’ main concern turned out not to be the problem, instead, it was 19-year-old Joe Gelhardt who replaced Mateusz Klich for the hosts. The youngster was progressive and confident with his runs, forcing the Wolves back five into sustained amounts of pressure. A barrage of attacking pressure was invited by Wolves’ negative setup, with Nelson Semedo bringing Gelhardt down in the penalty area in the dying minutes, and Rodrigo confidently sent Sa the wrong direction.

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Two points dropped, considering the hosts were missing key players and had a single win in eight. Wolves gave themselves a hard afternoon up north, Joao Moutinho saw yellow in the fourth minute, joined early in the second half by Saiss and Kilman. All three had decent games considering their cautions, yet Moutinho looked tired from half time. Neves almost certainly would have controlled the tempo in what became a very nervous final 30 minutes but wasn’t introduced until the 90th. Many fans hold firm with their belief that if Adama isn’t on it, Wolves aren’t on it, today provided some truth to that belief. We missed his ability to move 100 yards up the pitch in a flash, although credit must be placed to Dallas and Cooper who had the Spaniard pocketed all afternoon. 

Considering the threat that opposed him in his first Premier League start this season, a man of the match performance from Rayan Ait-Nouri saw him look extremely confident at Elland Road. He struggled defensively at times in the first half against Raphinha, but even the best the Prem has to offer have been sent into retirement homes by the Brazilian. It’s what he provides offensively that was more than exciting to see. Marcal delivers defensive solidity, but he can’t cross his T’s, let alone a football. RAN gave Shackleton nightmares at times in the second half, offering a balance that Lage’s men had needed in attacking areas this season.

One key aspect is missing for Wolves, an assertiveness in possession and attacking position, that was apparent against sides arguably better on paper. Perhaps there’s an element of complacency creeping in against sides we ‘expect’ to beat, but that same assertiveness must be reinstated, as today’s performance looked alarmingly like one of Nuno’s disaster classes. I believe that if Neves is fit, he must be the first name on the team sheet, his ability to control a game on his own cannot be ignored. Yet, no player today was particularly poor, more so a case of negative tactics that a desperate Leeds side managed to capitalise on, disappointing, but by no means alarming. 

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here