Stan Cullis

Wolves in November – The Debrief

Wolves 2-1 Everton

After 45 minutes of front-footed intensity, it looked like Wolves were ready to roll through Everton like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Optimistic fans, shivering under the lights on a cold Monday evening at the start of November, could be forgiven for thinking this would be an easy one or that four or five goals were ready to flow.

 

By the final whistle, nerves were starting to shred and Wolves just about held on to claim three points. On the balance of play across two very different halves, both sides could make an argument for deserving something out of the match. At half time it looked like a massacre could be on the cards, until the wise old hand of Rafa Benitez shored up his side, changed tactics and sent his men out in the second half with renewed vigour. 

 

Even with the initial two goal cushion it would be great to see Wolves really shake loose, put these teams to the sword and add that vital cutting edge to the dominant possession. Max Kilman’s header was a long overdue reward for a fantastic start to the season. Raul’s chip was a delightful finish after a bad mistake from Ben Godfrey. Credit to the lads for not letting their heads dip after a marginal offside call ruled out Hwang’s false opener.

 

Hwang’s endeavour was beautifully merged with a masterful midfield mix of Moutinho and Neves pulling the strings, spraying passes across the field.

 

Strangely, as both sets of legs tired, there was once again no sign of the explosive Adama Traore emerging from the bench to terrorise the opposition. Bruno Lage still needs squad additions to bolster his options and add fresh impetus in the New Year. 

 

As Traore’s contract talks rumble on it is becoming increasingly more likely that he soon may ply his trade elsewhere. He remains a viable threat from the bench but at this stage of his career, with lofty ambitions, Traore will want to be a key player moving forward. On this occasion the Spaniard’s services were not required and his current teammates did a sterling job in his absence.

 

Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves

While Brentford at home was bad, at least the game ended with six forwards on the pitch in a Championship Manager-style formation change to salvage a point. This was just a bit depressing. Little fight, little urgency, tactically exposed. Worse than effort, there was a distinct lack of quality and creativity. Palace ran us ragged and getting in at half-time without conceding was a minor miracle. 

 

So here ends the unbeaten run. Shame really because things were just starting to get exciting. But that’s what mid-table teams do. They fluctuate between highs and lows. They turn in a meek and feeble display just at the point when incentives are high and a win would earn a place in the top six. That’s why Trincao and Semedo are at Wolves not Barcelona. “It is what it is” as the hackneyed modern day phrase reminds us.

 

Palace bullied, attacked in numbers and showed general positivity. Grasping the initiative early on, they never let it slip. In the first half at last Wolves restricted the home side to only a few chances. The referee and VAR provided controversial talking points, with the man in the middle awarding a penalty before changing his mind. Any help from the officials would’ve been welcome. However, Wolves were the architects of their collective downfall and were extremely poor in the second half. 

 

For the first goal, the enigmatic Zaha bottled up his growing frustration, slipped in behind Semedo and finished off a through ball. The defensive reaction was slow. The overall reaction was non-existent as Wolves toiled to stay in the game, while creating little in return. 

 

The Eagles were hungrier, fresher, and wanted it more. Traore came on too late and his wing back positioning didn’t work out. Trincao put in as poor of a performance as any Wolves player in recent games as Palace outnumbered Neves and Moutinho in midfield. 

 

Their higher pressing and energy made the difference. When playing so defensively Traore’s pace on the counter attack is a favourable outlet, rather than seeing him shackled in a more defensive role. Trincao isn’t physical enough for these types of battles, which leads to the question: is the overall squad too thin on quality and quantity?

 

Wolves 1-0 West Ham

 

Saturday afternoon and West Ham roll into town. Not gonna lie, it was a scary thought. They were on form while Wolves’ last outing was a soulless loss to Crystal Palace.

 

Reenergised and reinvigorated after yet another tedious international break, Wolves weathered the early storm and scored a tremendous win over a team in form. Of all the duels taking place across the park, the home side certainly won the midfield battle. The outstanding Neves, situated alongside the cool head of Moutinho, overran Rice and Soucek. Neves is a master of the engine room who makes the team tick when he’s “on it”. The Portuguese international was combative, displayed great passing ability and comprehensively dictated the tempo.

 

Not alone in delivering a stellar performance, he was joined by the sprightly Podence, a diminutive magician who played the killer pass through to Raul who in turn produced a sublime finish on the 58th minute. At the back, Kilman, Saiss and Coady converged to create a rock solid unit that the Hammers could not breach. 

 

Jarrod Bowen should’ve scored. Mikhail Antonio was flown home early at huge expense only to spend the entire duration in Max Kilman’s back pocket. Dropping back deep to defend a lead resulted in a nervy final few minutes, but Wolves held firm and there was no Leeds-style sting in the tail.

 

Now to the difficult stuff. While grabbing a win over Norwich and bogey team Burnley would appear an easier task, these are the teams Wolves have faltered against in the past. Nuno notoriously struggled to prize stubborn teams apart. Can Bruno produce the winning formula and send his team flying into a haunting December schedule?

 

Nestled neatly in sixth position, if the club can keep building and insert some quality squad additions in January then suddenly the garden is looking rosy.

 

Norwich 0-0 Wolves

Imagine travelling all the way over to a team Norwich, revitalised under Dean Smith, in those horrific weather conditions? Massive salute to the resilient souls who braved the trip. Given the lack of options on the bench it seems half the squad didn’t fancy it either. Joking aside, the cheque book needs to come out in January. Let’s bolster the squad and have only one goalkeeper back on the sidelines.

 

Anyone watching from the stands will have witnessed an away side sloppy in possession, with little to no link-up play or fluidity. The gaffer clearly likes Trincao but there have been games this season where he’s offered next to nothing. A freezing afternoon’s work up against a hard press was never likely to be the Portuguese winger’s situation of choice.

 

Norwich got their tactics nailed on. Targeting Ait-Nouri early down the flanks, they seemed happy to allow the young Frenchman to press forward in the knowledge that his final ball was likely to lack efficacy.

 

While the attack was feeble, the defensive remained resolute. Between the sticks Jose Sa is solid and dependable when called upon, while home striker Timo Pukki was guilty of fluffing his lines on more than one occasion. A more clinical striker would have repeatedly punished Wolves for their slackness.

 

Coady marshalled the back line admirably. Saiss got stuck in when required and Kilman….well, it’s King Kilman now. Strong and reliable, yet too unfashionable to gain international recognition, he’s been one of the finds of the season. 

 

When pacey powerhouse Adama Traore finally entered the fray he was once again deployed as a wingback, in what is surely a political move rather than tactical. Looking more and more likely to move in January, Traore’s entire career has been fits and starts. From amazing to frustrating and somewhere in between. Just when he looks set to become a world beater his form tails off. 

 

Yet again South Korean international Hwang was unable to impose himself on the game, despite his usual willingness to chase and run. At least Wolves did not get beaten or concede a late heartbreaker, so there are at some slim positives to be taken home.

 

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team

 

Selhurst park

Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves – Player Ratings

Wolves’ five-game unbeaten run ended abruptly as they were convincingly beaten by Patrick Viera’s Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon. It was a lacklustre performance in which Wolves never really got going, failing to live up to the heights of the performance against Everton on Monday night. Goals from Wilfred Zaha and Connor Gallagher sent Wolves home without a point, giving the home side the win that they deserved. Wolves are back at Molineux after the international break against in form West Ham United.

Raul Jimenez Xmas Cards – Available Now

raul card

 

Jose Sa

Made a mess of a deep cross into the box which ultimately led to the opening goal of the game, but Wolves should have defended the second phase of the attack far better. His distribution was not up to the usual standard, but he did make several saves which ultimately saved Wolves the embarrassment of a heavy defeat at Selhurst Park. 6/10

 

Max Kilman

Was solid defensively with much of what was thrown at him and looked to step out of defence and get Wolves further up the pitch as they failed to create. His passing was poor, and he was caught out of position several times. 6/10

 

Conor Coady

A poor display from the Wolves captain who once again showed his inability to defend against big and physical strikers, this time Christian Benteke. He was far too slow in pushing out the box for the opener, capping off an afternoon to forget before he departs for England duty. 4/10

 

Romain Saiss

Saiss like Coady, had a poor afternoon and was also partly at fault for the first Palace goal, playing Zaha onside. He was poor on the ball too, incapable of dealing with the high press that the home side forced on Wolves. 5/10

 

Nelson Semedo

Not Semedo’s finest afternoon in a Wolves shirt as the wing back struggled defensively for much of the game, Max Kilman often covering for him. He did however, look to get Wolves up the pitch, particularly in the first half, but had little support in doing so as Wolves failed to create a clear cut chance. 5/10

 

Joao Moutinho

Struggled to assert any kind of dominance in the midfield and was in truth, non-existent when Palace on the ball. For his many strengths, Moutinho is far too easy to get past in midfield and this is an issue Wolves must address. He did however go closest to getting a goal with his free kick being tipped round the post by Guaita. 5/10

 

Ruben Neves

Failed to build on his man of the match display against Everton last week with a poor showing in the defeat at Selhurst Park. He was poor on the ball with far too many passes going astray, while he failed to stop many Palace attacks as they drifted through the middle of the park with ease. 5/10

 

Rayan Ait-Nouri

Like Semedo on the opposite flank, Ait-Nouri tried to make things happen but had little support around him, forcing him to go backwards far too often. Wolves’ attacking chemistry just wasn’t quite there and that will be the biggest disappointment for Bruno Lage. 6/10

 

Francisco Trincao

A poor display from Trincao having put in arguably his best performance in gold and black on Monday night. Almost every pass went astray in the final third with the Portuguese winger failing to create a single chance. 4/10

 

Raul Jimenez

Jimenez cut a lonely and frustrated figure for much of the match, failing to link with Hwang and Trincao, and going a full game without mustering a shot for the first time in a Wolves shirt. 5/10

 

Hwang Hee-Chan

Failed to live up to the heights of his impressive start to his Wolves career, on a different wavelength to those around him. A day to forget for those in the front three for Wolves. 5/10

 

Subs:

Adama Traore

Replaced Nelson Semedo with 20 minutes to go and injected some much-needed energy going forwards. He was far more direct than any other player on the day but couldn’t create anything meaningful from the more restrictive wing back position. 6/10

 

Daniel Podence

Came into the front three and failed to improve the movement and creativity that had been lacking all game. Will certainly be in with a chance of starting against West Ham after his impressive start to the season. 5/10

 

Fabio Silva

Played the final few minutes without having any time to make a real impact on the game. N/A

 

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

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Wolves in October: ‘The Debrief’

Wolves 2-1 Newcastle

 

Not long after Jeff Hendrick had slotted home Newcastle’s equalising goal, the dreaded proposition of yet another 1-1 draw loomed large. Hendrick’s smart finish seemed wholly unavoidable. Was it the referee’s fault for not protecting Jose Sa? Was it the fumbling defenders who failed to stick a boot through the ball and “get rid”? Was it Francisco Trincao who, just moments earlier, had rattled the crossbar, passing up on a gilt-edged opportunity to extend Wolves’ lead? Take your pick.

Raul Jimenez Christmas Cards On Sale Now!

raul card

 

Thankfully, Hwang Hee-Chan had other ideas when he slotted the ball home in the second half to send the home side into raptures and help drag Wolves out of their persistent stalemates with the Magpies. Hwang’s energy and work rate was faultless, and he was withdrawn late on as a result. There was barely a blade of grass that he failed to cover as the South Korean’s partnership with a vibrant Raul Jimenez flourished before our eyes.

 

Make no mistake, Newcastle were poor. Steve Bruce cut a forlorn figure on the sidelines as his average side (injuries accepted) toiled fruitlessly to grab a point. Imagine travelling all the way from Tyneside to watch that? No wonder the fans’ frustration is never too far from boiling point. 

 

Meanwhile, the home side’s frustration was aimed mostly at the referee. Being the man in the middle is a thankless task at the best of times. There was an argument to suggest that Sa was fouled for the Newcastle goal. But any fan would want their striker to go for a ball that was there to be won rather than “bottling out” of the challenge. 

 

Should the game have been stopped as Sa lay sprawled on the deck after the challenge? Possibly. The ref was close to blowing until Sa sprang into life in a vain attempt to save the situation. Blowing every time a player hits the deck is a dangerous road to go down as the more streetwise performers will find a reason to collapse each and every time the opposition side attacks.

 

After an indifferent start to a season that has been entertaining, frustrating, and promising all at once, at the close of play on Saturday evening Wolves were above Leicester and Spurs and level on points with Brentford! As the late Jimmy Greaves once remarked: “It’s a funny old game”.

 

Aston Villa 2-3 Wolves

 

Nothing quite erases the memory of the previous 90 minutes and lifts the mood like a last-minute winner. Throw in the fact that you’ve just beaten your local rivals -away from home no less- and it’s all the sweeter. 

 

Any regular Wolves watcher will know that, as gifted as he is, a Ruben Neves dead ball situation is no guarantee of success. Despite the parroted projections of commentators and analysts, the result often hits the assembled wall or floats off into the back row.

 

On this occasion a large deflection left the keeper gloriously wrong footed. As the ball nestled cosily in the net the most unlikely of comebacks was complete. Cue wild celebrations. Regardless of the method, the result is all that matters. Did it paper over the cracks of a wobbly afternoon’s work? Probably. But at five-to-five on October 16 nobody cared. Villa fans took to social media to voice their displeasure, citing unprofessionalism and a tactically inept manager who failed to hold on to a 2-0 lead.

 

Across the entire duration neither team looked amazing. Villa’s graft and endeavor earned them a two-goal advantage, but they looked rickety. As has been the case in a few Wolves games this season, the opposition have been there for the taking. Showing too much deference only encourages these inferior teams to push forward. Which leads nicely on to…

 

Leeds 1-1 Wolves

 

Another occasion where the opposition side arguably grew in confidence as Wolves sat back, retreated further into a shell, and let them play. Of course, holding on to a slender lead is difficult. Naturally, as the clock ticks by, focus wanes and legs become lethargic there is likely to be a retreat into a more defensive mode. But Wolves have plenty of attacking prowess at their disposal. Bruno Lage has so far proven to be a Jekyll and Hyde tactician.

 

At times the reckless, free flowing attacking abandon has appeared, dominating possession and forcing good quality teams on to the back foot. At other times a deeper, more conservative approach has been adopted. Reminiscent of end times Nuno – or current times Nuno if you support Spurs (this one aged badly but I’ll leave it in). It feels like Lage has yet to tweak his tactics quite right or doesn’t have the correct personnel at his disposal.

 

Hanging on desperately to a 1-0 lead, the men in old gold and black were moments away from another nifty three points and a potential spot in the top four no less. Who would’ve expected that after the opening three games? Eager to be the fall guy once again, step forward Nelson Semedo. Slotted into an unconventional left sided role due to Rayan Ait-Nouri’s understated fitness concerns, Nelson had worked diligently up to that point.

 

It’s hard to dislike Semedo. A dedicated grafter who arrived from a premier outfit harbouring a premier price tag, he is not short of honest effort. Unfortunately, he brings along the odd lapse in concentration. Caught out by some quick thinking, a moment of clown car defending ensued as our hero furiously scurried between bodies to make amends.

 

However, we all know how this concludes. Sitting in the ground or at home, watching through fingers, the Portuguese powerhouse bull rushed into action. Time stood still. The game eased into slow motion as an extended left arm gently prodded into the attacker. We all hoped in utmost denial that the referee had maybe seen something different.

 

He hadn’t. The crowd roared for blood. It was a foul. The man in the middle depressingly pointed to the spot. Some Leeds player (who cares which one) stepped forward after the commotion. Perhaps Jose Sa will save it. Nah. 1-1. You turn to your mate and say things like, “We’d have taken a point before the match” to hide the fact that you’re gutted. 

 

A harsh lesson learned. Next time an attacking threat dances fleet-footed into the box, and our Nelson bears down on him…best to close your eyes and pray.

 

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team

 

Max Kilman – From Futsal to Premier League regular

Maximilian William Kilman, classy by name, classy by nature. A young man on a mission to write himself into Wolves’ starting XIs for the future. After years of widely reported success playing futsal, and a three-year stint in the National League, a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers followed, joining the u-23’s on their quest for promotion. Kilman played a key role in achieving this goal, the personal reward being recognition from Wolves’ first team Head Coach Nuno. 

 

Espirito Santo’s penultimate year at the helm of Wolves birthed the start of Max’s rise. A plethora of confident cameos in Europe gave Wolves fans something to be excited about, appearing assertive in the tackle and quick across the ground for someone of his stature. Additionally, a combination of major injuries and stagnating form for the likes of Willy Boly, gave Max even more reason to stake his claim in the first team selection – warranted with a contract extension. Nuno’s final year of his tenure was where the centre-backs confidence shot for the moon, pocketing the best of what the Premier League had to offer. Wolves fans were particularly impressed by Kilman, despite the clubs shambolic season of defensive frailty. His album of standing and sliding conviction, partnered with an underappreciated ability to bring the ball out from the back was ever-growing for the 24-year-old, akin to “national hero,” Harry Maguire at the time.

 

COVID-19 took fans out of stadiums, players struggled to adapt to the change of scene. But not many had a worse season behind the scenes than Max, with his father passing in November 2020, it would have been entirely understandable to see a significant drop off in his form. However, Max’s performances displayed consistency that his defensive teammates could only wish for that year, and a Premier League man of the match award was to come following a hard-fought battle in Yorkshire at Elland Road. 

 

A season of dire football and a 13th place finish in the Premier League meant NES was consequentially relieved of his duties at Wolves. Fears began to grow amongst fans over who would take the wheel, with rumours appearing out of the cracks of Wolverhampton pavements. Yet, there was an overriding hope that the new gaffer would start with a defensive 4, taking the shackles off our attacking talent and bringing our defenders off the by-line. Left-footed centre backs somehow became the talk of footballing punditry during the European championships, particularly those who can pass the ball efficiently, with pace.

Unsurprisingly, Portugal provided Nuno’s successor, by the name of Bruno Lage. A coach with an attacking mindset and an unrivalled admiration for goals galore. Being the baby of Wolves’ first-team centre backs (minus the addition of Yerson Mosquera), fans worried that experience would take him out of favour of Lage. Don’t let his height deceive you though, Max is still a cub amongst this pack of Wolves, he just so happens to be a better hunter than his elders. Seven games into the new Premier League season, not one performance below a 6/10. Beyond comfortable in the most competitive league on the planet, baffles me to this day that FIFA would not permit this man to play for Ukraine if he could, no doubt that he’d be a seasoned international already. A proper centre-back, a position Wolves fans have been crying out to fill in the rear of 4 years with midfielders protecting our goalkeeper. 

 

Max hasn’t got to his peak just yet, but he’s way past base camp. Kilman’s climb is well underway, evidencing a constant lesson in the art of defending, and pride in a clean sheet. Molineux is his classroom, the prem is his playground. Preachers state that consistency is key, and if that is the case, Max has got a bright future at the top echelons of professional football. 

 

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

 

Billy Wright Stand

Wolves in September: The Debrief

Watford 0-2 Wolves

 

After a mixed August, where performances were strong but results failed to match, putting some points on the board is all that mattered. In what was ironically Wolves’ weakest overall display so far, the 2-0 away win at Watford caused a collective sigh of relief among the faithful.

 

The sight of Ruben Neves bossing the midfield had been badly missed. Aside from the odd scary moment, it was compact and routine. Not as ferociously fizzing as the first three games, but finally some points on the board after a solid, professional performance. 

 

As the home side matched Wolves blow-for-blow early on, Ismaila Sarr’s powerful threat dissipated as Bruno’s tactics kicked in. Doing a sturdy job down the flanks, the previously flaky Marcal is not only staying fit but making that left hand side slot his own. Defensively stable, not afraid to include a bit of rough-and-tumble in his game, the Brazilian finally added a touch of attacking quality.

 

Bruno’s demands for intensity show no signs of abating. Not quite Marcelo Bielsa levels of pressing but an injection of athleticism, nonetheless.

 

Despite the two goals scored, finding the back of the net on a regular basis could be a concern going forward. If Wolves keep winning and Raul still hasn’t scored then the fanbase will hopefully remain patient as their recuperating hero persists. However, if the Mexican remains as blunt in five games’ time will the manager have a decision to make?

 

Also returning from injury, minuscule magician Daniel Podence’s assist was a thing of beauty. His deftness of touch was complimented by the bulldozing directness of Hwang who bundled the ball over the line. 

 

After some sketchy early displays Francisco Trincao is getting used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, although online talk of his performances being “excellent” are premature. The Barcelona loanee still needs to prove that he is more than a lightweight show pony. His mettle for the battle will be under scrutiny if results drop off. In a long and grueling season, every player is needed for the fight.

 

Wolves 0-2 Brentford

 

Just as we all got our tails up, reality kicks in with an unexpectedly one-sided home loss. For a supposed master of the dark arts, Marcal’s position as resident “shithouse” could be under threat after he crossed the line and got caught in plain sight preventing persistent threat Ivan Toney from advancing in the box. Given that he had been previously warned by the referee for employing WWE-style tactics it was a reckless move.

 

One of the side narratives across a torrid afternoon was played out along the contrasting fortunes of two opposing forwards. At the one end Raul Jimenez: a coveted international striker who has served as a prolific talisman with a song that routinely echoes across the terraces. Unfortunately, the Mexican has been struggling to find his shooting boots. No doubt rusty after a spell on the sidelines following a horrific head clash, the image of Raul tearing off his protective headband is a symbol of his growing frustration.

 

While Jimenez was struggling, down the other end of the pitch Ivan Toney was thriving. Tormenting the defenders with pace, power and precision as his teammates infuriated the home supporters with time wasting tactics. The gap between the two teams was so apparent that Pontus Jansson’s constant trips to the ground, coupled with the goalkeeper’s glove change theatrics, were wholly unnecessary rubs of salt into the collective wound. Even with 10 men Brentford held out stoutly.

 

In a crazy final push, akin to a 2-2-6 Championship Manager last throw of the dice, Wolves ended with a morass of forwards on the pitch who still could not fashion a shot on target between them.

 

Wolves 2-2 Tottenham – Spurs win on penalties

 

At least we can focus on the league now! Come on, someone was bound to say it at some point. Positive points were few and far between after a penalty shoot out defeat at home to a lackluster Tottenham side led by the ultimate king of the handbrake. Scoring twice at home was a rare treat. At one point Wolves even threatened to perform a fully blown comeback. But the minutes frittered away and fans at least did not have to suffer extra time and an even later night. 

 

Moutinho aside, the home side’s penalties were woeful. Dendoncker’s weak effort, sandwiched between Neves and Coady’s skyward shanks, all arrived after Hwang had initially opened the scoring with every ounce of fortune attached.

 

Excluding their solo miss, Spurs’ penalties were all cooly converted with assured competence. Exiting the Carabao Cup is not the end of the world, but losing is a habit that can be hard to shake once the rot sets in.

 

Southampton 0-1 Wolves

 

It wasn’t always pretty and Sa and Raul aside, nobody in the starting 11 was overly impressive but as the old cliche goes, a win is a win. It was vitally important to get another three points on the board and create some breathing space from the languishing pack below. The sight of Raul Jimenez once again finding the back of the net in a competitive match evoked the purest of footballing joy. Only the heartless would fail to embrace the emotion of a moment that was widely celebrated across the game.

 

And what a goal it was too. Running on to a long ball from the excellent Sa, bullying the defender out of the way before calmly slotting home – it was vintage Raul.

 

It wasn’t a vintage display overall. Marcal was poor, Hwang elusive and Podence non-existent apart from the times he was giving the ball away. Southampton looked toothless without the prowess of Danny Ings up front. If their form doesn’t improve then Ralf Hassenhutl and his players will soon start looking over their shoulders. That is of little concern to Wolves who have six points and a nice building block to push on up the table.

 

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here 

 

Billy Wright Stand Molineux

Wolves 2-2 Tottenham (2-3 on penalties) – Player Ratings

Wolves were knocked out of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening after fighting back from two goals down against Nuno Espiritio Santo’s Tottenham, only to lose on penalties at Molineux. It was a poor start to the game with Wolves two goals down in the first half an hour as a frustrated Molineux watched on, but Leander Dendoncker’s header five minutes before half time changed the game. Daniel Podence restored parity in front of the Southbank but Wolves failed to capitalise on the momentum, and had John Ruddy to thank for keeping the scores level. Having converted their first two penalties, Wolves went on to miss their next three and Spurs went through as deserved winners.

 

John Ruddy

Couldn’t really have done any more as he make two excellent saves in the second half to ensure the tie went to penalties. He almost let one slip through his gloves too but his misjudgement only resulted in a corner. In the shootout Ruddy saved from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to keep the home side in it, but Wolves could not convert their own penalties. 8/10
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Yerson Mosquera

A frustrating start to his Wolves career continued as he lasted just nine minutes before having to leave the field through injury. N/A

 

Willy Boly

It was great to see Boly back in the starting XI and he reminded Wolves fans what they had been missing in defence. He will have been disappointed with the first Spurs goal but otherwise put in an assured display. Without Boly the game almost certainly would have been over before penalties. 7/10

 

Max Kilman

Struggled with the defensive shape at times which was not helped by changing personal both before and during the game. He didn’t look his usual self on the ball, particularly in the first half as Wolves were uncomfortable and the crowd became frustrated. Much better in the second half and is likely to keep his place in the side on Sunday. 6/10

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

There is a lot to like about the youngster now in his second season at the club. Hoever uses the ball well and looks to link play down the flank or come inside to get up the field at every opportunity. There is still work to do defensively, and he could certainly do with improving his strength, but that will no doubt improve as he gains experience. 7/10

 

Leander Dendoncker

Just a second start of the season for Leander Dendoncker who, like many, struggled as Spurs dominated the early stages of the game. He covered a lot of ground as we have come to expect but he lacked conviction with his passing. His performance improved in the second period, and he began to get a foothold in the midfield, looking to set Hwang and Traore down the fright hand side. 6/10

 

Ruben Neves

A disappointing night for Ruben Neves who started the night as captain as Conor Coady dropped to the bench. Neves’ passing was nowhere near the standards which he sets and he, along with Dendoncker, failed to assert any control in the midfield in the first half. He went close on two occasions in the second with a long range deflected effort as well as a free kick. His penalty in the shootout was blazed over and rather summed up his evening. 5/10

 

Rayan Ait-Nouri

A promising performance from Ait-Nouri who was good on the ball and looked on take players on at every opportunity. His crossing was excellent, including a superb corner which was converted by Dendoncker in the first half. He left the field with concussion with just ten minutes remaining, but will certainly have given Bruno Lage food for thought ahead of Sunday. 7/10

Embed from Getty Images

 

Daniel Podence

Another player who will also have given the Head Coach food for thought is Podence. Took his goal extremely well but also looked like Wolves’ most threatening outlet, particularly in the second half. He looks fit and ready following his injury set back over the summer, and it won’t be long before he finds himself in the starting XI for a league game. 7/10

 

Fabio Silva

A frustrating night for Fabio Silva, who although it was not entirely his fault, just could not get going. He cut an isolated figure at times with Wolves on the back foot for most of the first half. His first touch was poor, but he was not helped by those around him who didn’t exactly give him the service which he thrives upon. He was withdrawn at half time as Bruno Lage looked for a way back into the game in Adama Traore. 5/10

 

Hee Chan Hwang

There was a lot of excitement for Hwang’s full debut, but he failed to live up to the heights of his performances against Watford and Brentford. His first touch was poor, and his movement was not quite on the same wavelength as those around him. This will certainly improve over time as he spends more time on the training pitch with his new teammates 6/10

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Subs:

Conor Coady

Came on much earlier than anticipated due to the injury to Mosquera. Had an extremely poor first half, putting Boly in a very difficult position for the first goal when in truth it was an entirely avoidable situation. Looked uncomfortable on the right-hand side of defence but improved as he moved back into the more familiar centre. He, like many, didn’t have his best night in a Wolves shirt. 5/10

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Adama Traore

Came on at half time and injected some much-needed pace and energy into the attack. He got Wolves up the pitch, but his end product was once again lacking despite getting into some good areas down the right-hand side. He was less effective in the middle of the park where Spurs crowded him out too easily as Traore didn’t get the help he needed from those around him. 7/10

 

Nelson Semedo (Concussion Substitution)

Played on the left-hand side for the final ten minutes and looked to get involved in attacks as Wolves searched for a winner. Was comfortable defensively without too much to do. 6/10

 

Joao Moutinho

Came on in the closing stages and added greater assurance to the midfield. He dispatched his penalty superbly which cannot be said for the others. Perhaps most importantly, Moutinho had a well-earned rest ahead of Southampton on Sunday. 6/10

 

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

Molineux

Wolves Loanees – How did they get on?

Plenty of players spent the season out on loan playing in many different leagues of all levels gaining promotion, missing out on promotion, avoiding the drop, getting relegated, placing midtable and so on with their respective teams.

Those players being:

 

Goalkeepers: Matija Sarkic and Jamie Pardington

Defenders: Toti Gomes, Oskar Buur, Ryan Giles, Luke Matheson, Dion Sanderson and Rùben Vinagre

Midfielders: Christian Herc, Bruno Jordão, Connor Ronan and Meritan Shabani

Strikers: Lèo Bonatini, Leonardo Campana, Patrick Cutrone, Rafa Mir and Dongda He.

 

Here is how they got on this season:

Matija Sarkic

Age: 23

Position: GK

 On loan at: Shrewsbury Town (League One)

Games played: 29

Clean sheets: 11

Goals conceded: 28

Despite some injury troubles that he suffered at the start and the end of the season (knee and quad injury respectively) Sarkic, managed to play a total of 29 games and keep a modest 11 clean sheets with Shrewsbury Town that placed 17th in League One, avoiding the drop to League Two by 7 points with a goal difference of -7. The Vocal Montenegrin shot stopper that can command his area quite well received many plaudits while at Salop, his performances alone earned various points for the club, and you have got to think that if he had a full season without any injuries, he could have helped the team achieve a higher position in the League. A very promising player to keep an eye out for, it will definitely be interesting to see how much Wolves value him and what they will decide to do with him. With all the rumours surrounding the 2 first choice keepers, is another loan on the horizon or will he take up a place in the team as the 3rd or 2nd choice Goalkeeper? We will just have to wait and see.

 

Toti Gomes

Age: 22

Position: Defender (CB)

On loan at: Grasshoppers (Challenge League)

Games played: 36

Goals: 2

Toti Gomes has been key in Grasshoppers promotion to the Swiss Super League, the Portuguese defender played 36 times and was the outfield player with the most minutes (3094 minutes). Gomes did not have any troubles adapting to Swiss Football at all, he has been regarded by many Grasshoppers fans as one of the best defenders and players at the club and league this season. Without him and his performances, promotion to the top of Swiss football probably would not have been achieved. The tall, quick, and strong defender has had a great season in Switzerland but he did make some mistakes at the end of the season, the best thing for him next season would be another year at Grasshoppers to see how he does in the top league, then you can work from there and see what the next step will be. A good investment overall.

 

 

Ryan Giles 

Age: 21

Position: Defender (LWB/LM)

On loan at: Coventry City until January, Rotherham (Championship)

Games played: 44

Goals: 2

Assist: 1

In the end, Rotherham weren’t able to avoid relegation they just didn’t have enough in them and missed out on safety by 2 points. Nonetheless, Ryan Giles had a decent overall season in the Championship with Coventry (in the first half of the season) and Rotherham (in the second half of the season). To get 44 games under your belt at any level is great, especially in the Championship. That many games and minutes can only have done him good. Not to be forgotten is that this was his first year playing in the 2nd tier and the step up he made from the previous season. All this at 21 years of age is a good feat and a good experience for him. Aside from the number of games played, the former England U20 international got a total of 3 goal contributions, it doesn’t sound great, but he did show promise, he was good with the ball, had quick footwork and a good crosser of the ball. There is definitely potential and room for improvement in him, another loan in the Championship where he can get regular gametime is what would be best for him, or do you think he should be at Wolves next season because “Is Rayan Ait-Nouri for 20 million better than Giles?”.

Dion Sanderson

Age: 21

Position: Defender (CB/RB)

On loan at: Sunderland (League One)

Games played: 27

Goals: 1

Dion Sanderson got off to a slow start at Sunderland, he didn’t get regular game time at the Stadium of Light until Lee Johnson took charge. He only managed a few games here and there, but as the season progressed he made the CB position his own at the Black Cats. He had an extended run of 18 games in the team with him playing the full 90 minutes in 14 of those games, he would have played even more games if he hadn’t suffered a back injury that kept him out for the final and decisive games of the season. His performances were good and he got praise from many Sunderland fans, so much that he won the Young Player of the Season. Following his performances and with just one year left on his deal many teams are interested in him, a move away from Wolves seems the most likely option for all parties if a new deal isn’t agreed.

 

Rùben Vinagre 

Age: 21

Position: Defender (LB)

On loan at: Olympiacos until January (Greek Super League), Famalicao (Liga NOS)

Games played: 27

Assist: 3

The Portuguese LB had a very poor first half of the season. He started off at Wolves making 3 appearances in old gold, but it was evident he was not good enough, so he was sent out on loan to Olympiacos. His poor form continued there as well so Wolves then sent him out on loan to Famalicao back in his homeland. He got back on track while at the Liga NOS side, playing a total of 20 games and picking up 3 assists in the meantime. Despite his form, and with the arrival of Bruno Lage his time at the club still looks to be numbered. He doesn’t have a place in the team and isn’t good enough at this time and moment but with his current form he could bring in a good sum of cash of around 10-15 million, Benfica and Sporting seem to be the two teams most interested in his signature.

 

Bruno Jordão

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder (CM)

On loan at: Famalicao (Liga NOS)

Games played: 11

Goals: 1

Assist: 1

Jordao’s season was hindered by a long-term injury that he suffered at the beginning of January and kept him out for the rest of the season. Before injury, the Portuguese midfielder featured 11 times and grabbed 1 goal (which was awarded the September/October goal of the month) and 1 assist. A shame for Jordao as he wasn’t able to display his qualities and has now fallen down the pecking order. Pre-season at Wolves and another year out on loan seems the best option for him and the club.

 

Connor Ronan

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder (CM)

On loan at: Grasshoppers (Challenge League)

Games played: 32

Goals: 1

Assist: 3

 An overall good season for Ronan but also slightly unfortunate, he joined Grasshoppers and immediately picked up an injury that kept him out of their pre-season and first two games. Once he recovered, he had to fight for a place in the team, which he did really well, becoming a regular face in the team and helping the Swiss side to promotion. In his time at the club the former Ireland U21 international showed great mentality and determination, always running and fighting for every ball. He managed to reach the consistency that he was lacking in the first half of the season and although he only got 4 goal contributions, his passing and crossing was very good. The only weaknesses were duels and headers due to his stature. Unfortunately for him though, the season ended two games early as he suffered a metatarsal fracture. Hard to predict what we will do with him, one thing for sure is that he will be at Wolves recovering from injury, when he recovers who knows? Maybe another loan, because Wolves must see something in him as they have kept and persisted with him for quite a long time now.

 

Lèo Bonatini

Age: 26

Position: Striker (ST)

On loan at: Grasshoppers (Challenge League)

Games played: 33

Goals: 13

Assist: 2

A very bad start to life in Switzerland for Bonatini, hardly any goals in the first half of the season and didn’t seem to be enjoying it at all, or more than anything not wanting to be there. His luck changed in the second half of the season once he found his scoring boots, and he seemed to be more motivated. He contributed to 15 goals in total with 13 goals and 2 assists. He started off as a massive flop and disappointment in Zurich but ended up being instrumental by pushing Grasshoppers to promotion as the club’s top scorer and the fans seemed to finally appreciate him too. There’s no doubt where he will be next year, he will be playing in the Swiss Super League with Grasshoppers as he was signed on a two year loan deal.

 

Rafa Mir 

Age: 23

Position: Striker (ST)

On loan at: Huesca (La Liga)

Games played: 39

Goals: 16 (two hat-tricks one in La Liga and the other in the Copa del Rey)

Assist: 1

Wolves most prolific player with 16 goals, Rafa Mir, spent the season out on loan in La Liga with Huesca. The Spanish side that sat in 20th position for the majority of the season moved up the table thanks to his goals but they weren’t enough to ensure them safety as they finished 18th, 2 points away from 17th placed Elche. The former U21 Spain international was clearly the best out of the Wolves players out on loan and he didn’t go unnoticed, many teams in Spain have shown interest in him and some Wolves fans think he should be given the chance to come back and play with us. It seems unlikely this will be the case as he is entering the last year of his contract and Wolves seem willing to cash in on him or even use him as a makeweight for a possible swap deal. Signed for 1 million, you have got to say this has been good business from the club as they will be getting double that amount in the event of his sale.

 

Other players out on loan:

Patrick Cutrone

Games: 24

Assist: 1

Where do you start off, it has definitely been a shocker and a season to forget for Cutrone, 24 games in total with Fiorentina, Wolves and Valencia and no goals. Left Fiorentina for the lack of game time and played 4 times at Wolves before moving back out on loan to Valencia where he encountered the same problem he had at Fiorentina.  Possibly one of the worst signings under the Fosun reign, they will be lucky to get back the same amount they paid for him if they wish to sell him.

 

Oskar Buur

Games: 11

Sent out on an 18 month loan deal to partner club Grasshoppers and in the half a season he was there he played 11 times, his time at the club was interrupted by various injuries and when he did play he wasn’t anything special. Oskar Buur will be spending the next season on loan with Grasshoppers in the Swiss Super League along with Leo Bonatini.

 

Meritan Shabani

Games 7

Goals: 1

A promising start on loan with Dutch side VVV-Venlo, scoring on his debut to send the club into the Semi-Finals of the Dutch cup and some decent cameos for him. This could have been the big breakthrough for him having recovered from his ACL injury and having done well in Wolves u23s before his loan move, but unfortunately he suffered another injury that kept him out of action for the rest of the season.

 

Leonardo Campana

Games:10

Goals: 2

Assist: 1

The Ecuadorian internationals time in Portugal at Famalicao with fellow Wolves men Jordao and Vinagre was ultimately hindered by a muscle and a hamstring injury. He only featured in spells, getting the odd minute here and there. In his limited playing time, he did manage to grab 2 goals and 1 assist. At just 20 years of age the best option for him will be another season out on loan.

 

Christian Herc

Games: 32

Goals: 7

Assist: 1

The forgotten Slovakian midfielder spent the season out on loan at Czech side MFK Karvina, where he played 32 times and contributed to 8 goals. A decent season as one of the key players after an unsuccessful time at Viktoria Plzen the previous season.

 

Luke Matheson

Games: 2

His time out on loan with Ipswich didn’t last very long as he played 2 games and got injured shortly after. Following the injury, the loan was cancelled and Matheson returned to Wolves where he would recover and eventually feature for the U23s.

Jamie Pardington

The 20-year-old shot stopper spent time out on loan with Dulwich Hamlet and League Two side Mansfield Town, where he got his first taste of action in men’s football.

Dongda He

Games: 3 

The 19 year old Chinese striker from the U23s has been sent out on loan to Chinese Super League side, Beijing Guoan, where he has made 3 appearances from the bench.

 

Most surprising player – Rafa Mir

Nobody would’ve expected much at all from the 23 year old Spaniard at the beginning of the season, an unsuccessful time in England, first year playing in a top division and only playing with newly promoted Huesca. In the end, he defined the odds and surprised many fans, netting 16 times in total, attracting interest from many sides.

 

Most disappointing player – Patrick Cutrone

No goals in 24 games, I think that says it all!

The Italian didn’t manage to get a single goal at any of the 3 clubs he played with this season, he was never a regular and fell out of favour with the managers at basically all clubs this season. The only place where the 23 year old has done well is with the Italian U21 side at the Uefa U21 Championships where he got 4 goal contributions in 4 games (3 goals 1 assist).

Most unfortunate players

Bruno Jordao

A season back in his homeland with Famalicao where he would be able to get regular gametime and thrive, what could go wrong? He got off to a decent start, getting regular gametime, scoring and assisting once, won the September/October goal of the month and then a long- term injury struck and kept him out for the season.

Meritan Shabani

A good start to life in the Netherlands for Shabani but it wasn’t to be for the German midfielder. As stated before, it could have been his breakthrough but unfortunately he received a major blow because of injury.

 

This time around there were 17 players out on loan and as you can see, they all had varying levels of success over the season. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop and mature this time next year.

 

Stats and numbers accurate as of 14/06/2021.

 

Matthew Gentile is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

Billy Wright Stand

Wolves 2-1 Brighton: The Debrief

Morgan Gibbs-White, he’s one of our own. It seems a lifetime ago since those sounds rang across the same Molineux stands that now sit so barren and lifeless.

 

Isn’t it great to get that winning feeling back? Until the youngster stepped up to smash home a deserved winner, it seemed like the 10 men of Brighton were destined to leave with a point. 

 

It could’ve all been so different had Lewis Dunk not grabbed Fabio Silva’s shirt, which in turn yanked the chain of the gold and black generator, causing Wolves’ afternoon to suddenly splutter into life.

 

The start was refreshing and vibrant, putting Brighton on the back foot immediately. That was until Dunk himself popped up and headed the away side in front. Neves and Gibbs-White appeared to have been given the task of stopping him. Perhaps one should have perched on the other’s shoulder to try and obscure the man mountain’s path to goal.

 

Brighton are a neat and tidy outfit. The passing is crisp and free flowing. As BBC commentator Danny Murphy remarked, “They’re dangerous every time they come forward.” 

 

Moutinho’s passing range and overall ball control was lacking. Ait-Nouri’s silky runs often became blind alley treks. The passing moves were textbook but ineffective, all done in front of a solid Brighton back line.

 

It looked like a training match, it felt like a training match. Even the synthetic cheers and whistles of the BBC sound machine failed to achieve any semblance of reality. Pressing the “boo” button at half time would’ve made things more believable.

 

Losing at home to a team beginning with B, on a Sunday afternoon, all seemed eerily similar to the 4-0 Burnley battering. Danny Welbeck was enjoying himself. The nearly man of the Premier League was physically strong, quick and willing to lead the line.

 

Again, it was difficult to see who Wolves could turn to off the bench. Dendoncker up front maybe? Otasowie at left back? Give Corbeanu a debut in a holding role? When the script got flipped it was a Brighton player who was the main antagonist.

 

Silva raced though. Dunk had a sneaky tug. Time stilled briefly. The big man’s head dropped; his departure inevitable.

 

Nuno suddenly sensed an opportunity. The beard stroking became more vigorous. Eyebrows steadily raised like Leonid Brezhnev. It was time to shake up the baby oil bottle, release the beast and let Adama Traore run loose. Already the recipient of an Adama roasting earlier in the season, Dan Burn no doubt twitched nervously as his tormentor reappeared for round two.

 

Rueing a gilt-edged opportunity minutes beforehand, to his credit Morgan Gibbs-White did not let the miss get him down. Often pinpointed as transfer fodder, as the exit door flapped open Morgan refused to be dragged away. 

 

He stepped up when it mattered, instigated some late notice drama and bagged all three points for his team. Brighton games aren’t supposed to be this way. A 3-3 draw in January and an entertaining 2-1 win that bucked the bore draw trend. Neal Maupay was determined to add to the drama when he went ballistic after time and made it two red cards for the Seagulls.

 

At half time a large percentage of fans might have happily swapped the managers around and accepted Brighton’s head honcho with open arms in to the home dugout. 

 

The red card undoubtedly swayed the game. In the end though it was Nuno, that grizzled old wizard, who had the last laugh over fresh young Potter.

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here 

Hawthorns shithole

West Brom 1-1 Wolves: The Debrief

On a saturated evening that was supposed to provide one final crumb of sustenance from an increasingly mouldy season, Wolves trudged through the puddles to earn a draw against the old enemy.

 

It wasn’t catwalk football. Many of the players may have viewed it as “just another game”. The lack of fans did not help get the blood pumping as was required for such an occasion. But between the dark grey clouds circling above The Hawthorns there grew some green shoots of light. 

 

Young legs, fresh ideas, neat combination play; something for viewers at home to cling on to. After last week’s 4-0 loss to Burnley it was the marked improvement so badly needed.

 

Early on the ever-industrious Fabio Silva looked particularly isolated as he hustled and bustled against the physical powerhouses of the Albion defence. 

 

Straight after his goal we tweeted: “Made up for Silva. Not stopped trying all half. Throughout the season every opportunity he’s had, every criticism and missed chance, never let his head drop.”

 

It was a glorious scuff but nobody cared. From 45-yard volleys to a five-yard tap in they all count the same.

 

Otasowie improved as the game went on

 

Once again played in a disjointed role, Owen Otasowie stuttered and stammered in a poor start. An early string of misplaced passes likely occurred from Owen misjudging the weight of the rain on the turf. Noted by the commentators as being a model, Otasowie looked like a model playing a footballer in a TV drama. 

 

After a laboured first 45, the second half at least brought more promising intent from the young American. Driving forward with the ball at his feet, there were raw glimpses of the 20-year-old’s potential.

 

Talking of potential, both Ait-Nouri and Vitinha excelled. As Wolves grew into the game Nelson Semedo’s wait for a goal nearly ended on the half hour mark. Vitinha’s forward movement and propensity to run with the ball caused issues for the hosts.

 

As the home side gently raised the temperature Rui Patricio earned his corn with a smart save from Conor Gallagher. Wolves retreated. Semedo went wandering. Matt Phillips found more joy down the left.

 

Albion’s single moment of hope arrived when Roman Saiss pulled his increasingly regular trick of falling asleep at the wheel. The Moroccan managed to fluff his lines in front of goal yet also go missing in his own box when it really mattered. 

 

Once Otasowie and Vitinha had the stabilisers taken off, both looked threatening. After his previously mentioned ropy start Otasowie grew into the game. Vitinha’s contribution held great promise and increased the likelihood of his fee being triggered.

 

Mike Dean’s introduction at half time stifled the flow of the game. The whistle-happy veteran is more effective than any midfield enforcer at stopping free-flowing counter attacks. 

 

How to deal with a problem like Podence?

 

While clearly not match fit, Daniel Podence is also a discussion point. The sprightly magician is well balanced, fast and skilled but has yet to find consistency. How many games since his arrival has Podence held great influence over? 

 

Perhaps the diminutive Portuguese is becoming a luxury the squad can ill afford. However, shipping him out (if indeed a buyer could be found) would be a heavy-handed decision at this point.

 

Podence was introduced to help ease the defensive burden and get Wolves functioning higher up the pitch. Playing under pressure in the second half was expected given the fact that the home side were fighting for their Premier League lives. Wolves weathered the metaphorical storm before the actual storm descended and the game floated towards its conclusion.

 

Described as biblical by the commentary team, the weather was more farcical as the ball skidded across the turf one minute before dragging across the sodden grass like a boulder the next. 

 

Injury aside there can be no reason to leave Vitinha out of the remaining fixtures. Another fleet-footed slickster, Morgan Gibbs-White, made a positive impact with his driving runs and penchant for a slide tackle. 

 

The youngsters offered a vibrancy of movement. A willingness to pull the head up, run with the ball or pick the forward thinking through pass rather than the gloopy sidewards offerings of the old guard.

 

Is there any solace in relegating the old enemy? Possibly, but without a band of several thousand away fans goading and jeering their counterparts it was all pretty tame stuff. Pushing West Brom closer to the trap door, not quite kicking and screaming, is small consolation for not getting the win.

 

Monday was a chance for a glimpse at the possibilities of our next generation. Badgered into a line-up change, Nuno offered the spotlight to some fresh faces and they at least made a case for another shot. 

 

Even though Wolves’ third season has been a difficult experience on so many levels, the best teams and the best players will once again grace Molineux after the summer reshuffle.

 

With four points out of six, across two fixtures, West Brom won the battle. But the men in Gold and Black won the war. Perhaps we’ll meet them again sometime?

 

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here