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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.

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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 Hwang’s energy and work rate was faultless, and he was withdrawn late on as a result.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

 

Stan Cullis

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

 

elland road

Leeds United 1-1 Wolves – Player Ratings

Wolves continued their impressive unbeaten run with a 1-1 draw against a struggling Leeds United side at Elland Road. Wolves left frustrated having conceded a 93rd minute penalty, just three minutes before full time. However, a poor second half display where Wolve struggled to assert any control and gain any momentum means Leeds’ equaliser was more than deserved. Bruno Lage’s men, therefore, missed out on the chance to move into the top four but are sat comfortably in mid table ahead of returning to Molineux against Everton on Monday.

 

Jose Sa

Yet another superb display from the new Wolves shot stopper who has settled into life in the Premier League with ease. Sa made some good saves in the second half to keep the home side at bay, including an excellent stop from a Gelhardt effort just ten minutes from time. His distribution was once again impressive as he looked to get Wolves up the pitch in the second half to combat the sustained Leeds pressure. 8/10

 

Max Kilman

Kilman put in another assured display away from home and is quickly becoming Wolves’ most consistent and reliable defender. He dealt with almost everything that came his way, particularly in the second half as Leeds asserted their dominance. 7/10

 

Conor Coady

Coady has quickly put his early season slump behind him and is now getting back to his best. He was assured defensively, and he tried to involve the wing backs with his distribution whenever possible. He was comfortable on the ball too, impressive considering the high and intense press that Bielsa’s Leeds side are known for. 7/10

 

Romain Saiss

Did relatively well for most of the game but will be disappointed with his involvement in the penalty that ultimately gave Leeds the equaliser. While he was by no means the only player at fault here, he must improve when players are running at him, especially in the penalty area. 6/10

 

Nelson Semedo

Like Saiss, Semedo played well until his challenge on Gelhadt gave Rodrigo the chance from the spot. He was excellent down the right-hand side in the first half and played a crucial part in Wolves’ goal, crossing for Jimenez whose deflected shot fell to the feet of Hwang. Semedo had little choice but to do something with Gelhardt running through on goal, but the defending was clumsy to say the least. 6/10

 

Joao Moutinho

Did the basics well as we have now come to expect but didn’t have any meaningful impact on the game. Was beaten far too easily in the midfield, a recurring problem. 6/10

 

Leander Dendoncker

A surprise inclusion with the omission of Ruben Neves, and like Moutinho had no real impact on the game in what was a weak Wolves midfield. He misplaced too many of his passes and didn’t break up the swarm of Leeds attacks in the second half. 5/10

 

Rayan Ait-Nouri

A refreshing performance at left wing-back from Ait-Nouri who many fans had called for in recent weeks. He looked to get forward with the ball and linked well with the front line. He was solid defensively and withdrawn late for Ki-Jana Hoever. 7/10

 

Adama Traore

Cut a frustrated figure at times with Leeds clearly working on marking him out of the game. Wolves didn’t have the ball for sustained periods which meant Traore didn’t have many opportunities to run into space on either flank. He linked well with Jimenez when he did have the ball. 6/10

 

Raul Jimenez

A strong performance from Wolves’ number nine despite not getting on the scoresheet. He played a pivotal role in instigating the press from the front which during long spells of Leeds possession, helped prevent the number of clear-cut chances the home side had. 7/10

 

Hwang Hee-Chan

Hwang, like Jimenez, contributed an awful lot defensively with his non-stop running and energy. He also gave Wolves the lead poking home from eight yards after a fortunate deflection in his path. 7/10

 

Subs:

Daniel Podence

Came on with 15 minutes to go and brough some much needed energy and fresh legs. His dazzling runs produced two chances for Wolves late on, one of which he will no doubt feel he should have done better with. 6/10

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

Came on at right wing-back for the final ten minutes and looked comfortable, dealing with anything that came his way. 6/10

 

Ruben Neves

Played the final few minutes but should have done better in the build-up to the Leeds penalty, failing to put pressure on Gelhardt before he got into the penalty area. He was passed far too easily as were Moutinho and Dendoncker throughout the game, which must be addressed in the January window. N/A

 

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

elland road

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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raul card

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

 

villa park

Aston Villa 2-3 Wolves – Player Ratings

Wolves made it nine points out of nine after a stunning and unexpected comeback at Villa Park on Saturday. After a poor first half where neither side really had the upper hand, Villa took control and found themselves 2 goals ahead thanks to Danny Ings and John McGinn. Wolves had produced next to no goal threat in the second half but gave themselves a chance following an excellent move finished off by Romain Saiss. A cleared corner then led to a goalmouth scramble which saw the ball deflect off Captain Conor Coady and into the net after Max Kilman had hit the crossbar. And Wolves produced then produced the most unlikely of wins after a deflected Ruben Neves strike found the bottom corner to send players, fans, and staff crazy. There were great scenes at the final whistle in what feels like a big moment in Wolves’ season ahead of a trip to Leeds next week.

Jose Sa

Produced an excellent save to deny Danny Ings in the chance of the first half but otherwise had little to do. Sa had no chance with either Villa goal. His distribution was good and his celebrations for both the second and third goals means that September’s player of the month is slowly becoming a cult hero. 7/10

Max Kilman

Once again produced a solid defensive display on the right-hand side of defence. Despite the return of Willy Boly from injury, Kilman has done nothing to suggest he should be replaced in the starting Xi having been one of Wolves’ most consistent players so far this season. 7/10

Conor Coady

What a moment for the Wolves captain! Just his fourth Wolves goal and in truth he didn’t know an awful lot about it. That didn’t stop the sheer emotion of the moment spilling over. The joy and passion on Coady’s face at the end was infectious after coming under pressure due to his poor early season form. 7/10

Romain Saiss

Struggled at times to deal with the Villa front line and was far too easily outdone by McGinn for the opening goal of the game. He did however contribute to the Wolves comeback, getting the goal that started the final ten minutes of madness. He was an effective aerial presence in the box at set pieces causing problems as Villa became nervy late on. 6/10

Nelson Semedo

Did relatively well in the first half getting Wolves up the pitch in rare moments of possession. He did seem to struggle more in the second half defensively and failed to link play with Hwang and Traore to produce any meaningful attacks down the right flank. 6/10

Joao Moutinho

Moutinho produced his usual calm and measured display on the ball without having any great impact on the game. He does seem to become less effective in a three-man midfield with Leander Dendoncker and Ruben Neves seeing more of the ball in what was a crowded central area. 6/10

Leander Dendoncker

Introduced into the XI to match up the three-man Villa midfield and did his job effectively. He broke up play on several occasions and looked to give Ruben Neves the chance to play forward whenever possible. 6/10

Ruben Neves

After being relatively quiet for most of the game Ruben Neves came alive in the final ten minutes to spearhead the Wolves comeback. His pass to Daniel Podence for the first goal was sublime and perfectly timed. Neves increased the intensity of the entire team in search of the equaliser and winner and will of course claim the winning goal despite the initial effort being tame. 8/10

Fernando Marcal

Yet another below-par performance from Marcal leaving many supporters wondering just what Rayan Ait-Nouri must do to earn a chance in the side. Marcal struggled defensively at times in the second half and contributed very little going forward, often slowing down the pace of any attack Wolves had. 5/10

Adama Traore

Played more centrally in the absence of Raul Jimenez and produced the best Wolves chance of the first half beating several Villa defenders but his shot was straight at Emi Martinez. After being marked out of the game for most of the second half Traore produced another moment of magic as a bursting run through the midfield won Wolves the free kick which ultimately won the game. 7/10

Hwang Hee-Chan

After the heights of his brace against Newcastle summer signing Hwang Hee-Chan was less than impressive at Villa Park. He failed to link attacks with Traore which will of course improve over time. He also gave the ball away for the second Villa goal despite being under very little pressure as the ball came towards him. 5/10

Subs:

Daniel Podence

Podence came off the bench and alongside Neves really did change the game for Wolves. His energy certainly rubbed off on the rest of the team and Villa really struggled to deal with his pace and technicality. He also produced the assist for the first Wolves goal squaring Neves’ excellent pass for Saiss to tap home.8/10

Fabio Silva

Came on alongside Podence and added energy to the Wolves front line without having any real impact on the ball. Although his playing time is limited Silva will have to do more when he is given an opportunity if he is to stake a claim for a place in the starting XI. 6/10

Raul Jimenez

Much to the surprise of everyone watching on Jimenez was not introduced until the final few minutes of the game. Lage said that he was left out of the side having played three games in a week for Mexico, only returning to Compton after traveling back from South America on Friday morning. You would expect to see Jimenez back in the side for the trip to Elland Road on Saturday. N/A

 

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

DSC_6334

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 

 

Wolves stadium

Southampton 0-1 Wolves – Player Ratings

Wolves picked up just their second victory of the season winning 1-0 at Southampton on Sunday afternoon. Raul Jimenez got his first Premier League goal in an incredibly emotional moment in front of the travelling Wolves fans, with an assist from goalkeeper Jose Sa. Sa made some important saves in the second half in what was a poor game, but Wolves came out victorious and head back to Molineux next week to face Newcastle United.

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Jose Sa

Quite easily the new Wolves shot stopper’s best game in which he commanded his area well, made some vital saves including a double save mid-way through the second half, and played Raul Jimenez in for the winning goal. His distribution is certainly helping Wolves’ more attacking style of play as he begins to look like a real bargain. 8/10

 

Max Kilman

An assured performance from Kilman on the right-hand side of defence as he dealt with anything that came his way. He did not impose himself on the game in possession as he has done in previous games, but his defensive display was faultless. 7/10

 

Conor Coady

Came in for heavy criticism after his performances against Brentford and Tottenham but the Wolves captain looked back to his best on the south coast on Sunday. He was confident defensively, organising the back three throughout the game. He was also good on the ball, looking to link play with the wing backs at every opportunity. Hopefully his early season slump is now behind him. 8/10

 

Romain Saiss

Saiss, like Kilman did what was required of him defensively, which was a big improvement on his recent performances. Many had expected Wily Boly to return in place of Saiss but the Moroccan captain will have given Bruno Lage a selection headache going forwards after a confident display. 7/10

 

Nelson Semedo

Could and perhaps should have put Wolves ahead in the first minute but his shot was straight at the Southampton goalkeeper. Otherwise, it was an impressive display from Semedo who looked lively down the right hand side. Had a couple of concerning moments with the tricky Djenepo but in general dealt with him well. 7/10

 

Joao Moutinho

A quiet afternoon for the Portuguese international as he looked to keep possession with many passes going astray from those around him, particularly in the first half. A solid if not unspectacular afternoon. 6/10

 

Leander Dendoncker

A surprise inclusion in place of Ruben Neves but perhaps deserved a Premier League start after impressing and getting on the scoresheet in midweek. Dendoncker provided Wolves with something they have been missing this season, the ability to break up play in midfield and prevent teams dominating the ball in the middle of the park. 7/10

 

Fernando Marcal

A below-par performance from Marcal who had started the season well. Marcal struggled defensively with Coady and Saiss covering for him on more than one occasion. His passing was out of tune with those around him leading to possession being lost on more than one occasion. 5/10

 

Daniel Podence

A deserved start for Podence after impressing in both games he played in the Carabao Cup. He did not live up to those heights here, with many of his passes going astray. He was however direct and looking to link with Jimenez and Hwang wherever possible. 6/10

 

Raul Jimenez

What a moment for Wolves’ number nine as he finally gets on the scoresheet in the Premier League. It was an extremely good finish which sent the Wolves away end barmy. Jimenez had a lot to do once he received the ball from Sa, but he left two Southampton defenders on the floor as he slotted past McCarthy. 8/10

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Hwang Hee-Chan

Given his first Premier League start in a Wolves shirt and provided great energy in his pressing and will win the ball back. He forced Southampton to give up possession in good areas but failed to have any impact on the game with the ball. 6/10

 

Subs:

Adama Traore

A surprise omission but he did come on for the closing stages of the game. Didn’t have too many opportunities with the ball at his feet but did help Wolves get the ball up the pitch as the aimed to see the game out. He was in a great position for a late counter attack, but Jimenez failed to get the ball across to him, opting to go for goal instead. 6/10

 

Ruben Neves

Played the final ten minutes and kept the ball well as Wolves controlled the game to get the three points. N/A

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

Came on alongside Neves and looked calm on the ball with little to do defensively. N/A

 

Ciaran Barker 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

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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.

King Power Stadium

Leicester 1-0 Wolves – Player Ratings

Bruno Lage suffered defeat in his first game in charge of Wolves after a first half Jamie Vardy goal gave Leicester all three points at the King Power Stadium. It was an impressive performance from Wolves and the noisy travelling support showed their appreciation at full time ahead of a full return to Molineux next week. With five senior players unavailable, and new signings expected in the coming weeks, Wolves’ opening day performance was certainly something to build on as the new era gets underway.

 

Jose Sa

A Premier League debut for the new Wolves number one who put in a confident display. He dealt with everything that came his way with good shot stopping and aerial ability but could do little with Jamie Vardy’s clever flick which led to the winning goal. Wolves’ fans saw glimpses of what he can do with his feet too, with the Portuguese looking like a solid replacement for Rui Patricio. 7/10

 

Max Kilman

A very impressive defensive display from Max Kilman who limited Leicester’s threat down the left flank. Kilman was impressive on the ball and looked to link play with the midfield which meant he found himself in advanced positions frequently in the second half. He had one shot blocked at close range and has done himself no harm at all in staking a claim to be a first team regular under Bruno Lage. 8/10

 

Conor Coady

A poor display from the Wolves captain following his return from the England Euro 2020 camp. He was partly at fault for the goal, failing to move towards the cross and clear despite having an obvious special advantage on Jamie Vardy. Vardy caused problems all afternoon with Coady’s lack of pace a concern. He did redeem himself on more than one occasion with a last-ditch tackle, but his performance will have to improve if Wolves are to persist with a higher defensive line. 5/10

 

Romain Saiss

Like Coady, Saiss struggled with the pace of the Leicester forward line and was often found slacking in the higher defensive line which Lage wants to implement. He was strong in the air when defending set pieces, but his struggles have highlighted the need for defensive reinforcements before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. 6/10

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

Given his chance from the off with Nelson Semedo having missed a week’s training due to COVID-19 isolation and Hoever certainly did not do himself any harm with an impressive performance. Hoever was strong in the challenge and defended well in partnership with Kilman. He looked far more comfortable on the ball in comparison to last season and looked to link with Trincao down the right-hand side. If he improves his final ball Hoever could become an excellent option at right wing back this season. 7/10

 

Joao Moutinho

Was widely tipped to leave Molineux this summer but Moutinho looks set to stay for a fourth season in the West Midlands. He produced a solid display on the ball with an obvious increased intensity in comparison to last season. His pass through for Traore to create the chance of the first half was sublime, but his set pieces were poor and led to him giving up duties to Trincao in the second half. 6/10

 

Ruben Neves

Like Moutinho, Ruben Neves was solid in the midfield and didn’t really put a foot wrong. He will have wanted to have a greater impact on the game in the final third as he plays in a slightly more advanced role under new Head Coach Bruno Lage. 6/10

 

Marcal

The forgotten man from last season had an excellent pre-season and continued this form into the league. He looked comfortable at left wing-back and looked to contribute to attacks where possible. He will perhaps be disappointed to have let Ricardo put the cross in for the goal but otherwise had an impressive afternoon and could be a very useful option if he can remain fit this season. 7/10

 

Francisco Trincao

Wolves’ second Premier League debutant showed glimpses of quality and technical ability without having a real impact on the game. He had one good chance cutting in on his left foot in the penalty area, but his shot was blocked. He also showed to be a competent set piece taker which will be a welcome sight to many fans after causing much frustration last season. 6/10

 

Raul Jimenez

A very welcome sight to see Wolves’ number nine back out in competitive action again in front his adoring fans. Jimenez did not get into the game as he would have wished, but still showed glimpses of his old self in his hold up play and aerial presence in the penalty area. Hand any of Traore’s glaring chances fell to the Mexican Wolves would almost certainly have walked away from the King Power with something to show for it. 6/10

 

Adama Traore

The main talking point of the afternoon was most definitely Adama Traore. Used his pace to great effect all afternoon and terrorised the Leicester defence who quite simply could not cope with him. Quite how he didn’t score one of his three glorious chances only he could answer, and he will no doubt feel responsible for Wolves not taking at least a share of the spoils. There is no hiding it, Traore should be scoring the chances that he created. 5/10

 

Subs:

Leander Dendoncker

Came on to add more physicality to the midfield as Wolves pushed more men forward in the second half. Did his job well without having any real impact on Wolves going forward in their search for an equaliser. 6/10

 

Morgan Gibbs-White

His fresh legs injected great energy into Wolves just as they started to tire, and he was at the heart of the late spell of pressure from the away side. Unfortunately, none of the half chances that he created resulted in the equaliser Wolves so desperately wanted. 6/10

 

Fabio Silva

Played the final five minutes meaning he had little chance to get into the game. Would have perhaps been better to bring him on earlier and try to stretch the Leicester back line more. N/A

 

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