Well that was…a football match. Man City are a pain to play at the best of times – even before they added Haaland – and any team that goes down to ten men doesn’t often stand a chance. It also tends to help if you don’t concede within the first minute so perhaps we were fools for expecting too much. I also can’t quite get over how they stopped a football match for an entire minute to applaud The Queen. Time for a lie down.
A strange old game
In truth, there’s not much we can really take away from the actual game. When Manchester City open the scoring after 55 seconds and one of your centre backs decides to go all ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ on Jack Grealish half an hour in, there isn’t really much you expect from the team. To the players’ credit, at no point did they look like giving up and there were occasional flashes of brilliance from the starting front three. Once again, the lack of an out and out striker hurt Wolves in the final third of the pitch.
Kilman was at fault for the second goal and only the Lord knows what Collins was thinking when he misplaced his boot into Grealish’s stomach, but apart from that it wasn’t a terrible performance – and one that might have produced a point or three if the opponents weren’t the best team in the world.
In addition, the fact Wolves limited the alien creature that is Erling Haaland to a single goal and kept the overall damage to three can be described as making the best of a bad situation.
The press and the (misplaced) pass
In the first half of the first half and at points in the second, Wolves looked like a half decent team. The high press caused the City defenders fits at times and there were occasions when Wolves won the ball back high in City’s own half and were actively looking to run straight at their defence. That’s the positive bit.
The negative is that we looked often devoid of ideas when the ball was around the edges of City’s box, and again Neto looks a player confused at his role on the pitch. Too often, he made the wrong decision just as he did against Southampton earlier this month and when you’re playing a team the stature of Man City, wasting these precious chances is a terrible crime.
Fear, fear and more fear
I understand why so many teams play out from the back. It’s more structured than just whacking the ball halfway up the pitch, can keep defender’s sharp and on their toes and, when done right, can be a thing of beauty. However, failing to adapt to what clearly was a tactic playing right into City’s hand was a mistake and gifted ready-made chances to their front line.
As a general rule:
Times to play out from the back – when you’re comfortably winning, when you’re playing inferior opposition, when you’re slowly building into the game.
Times not to play out from the back – when you’re 3-0 and a man down against Manchester City.
Wolves’ squad management is poor
There isn’t much to say apart from the fact that Wolves now have five senior strikers on their books (Jimenez, Costa, Kalajdzic, Fabio Silva and Bonatini) and not one of them made the match-day squad. Letting Fabio go out on loan is probably a sensible decision in the long term (and is justified by his performances for Anderlecht), but for Wolves to not have a single available striker yet again is clumsy and has actively cost the team points already this year.
On the other side of the pitch, Wolves’ CBs are now Max Kilman, Toti Gomes (4 appearances) and Yerson Mosquera (Nine minutes). Signing Collins remains a good piece of business, but Wolves lost Coady, Boly and Saiss in the summer and now evidently don’t have back-ups that Lage is willing to bring on, given that Neves seemingly played in defence for an hour. I’ve no idea how we’re going to cope without Collins for three matches.
In addition to all of this, The Athletic’s analysis of Wolves’ submitted squad shows that next season there’s going to be a struggle to register all of our international players. Careful thought will be needed when next summer comes around.
Refereeing in the Premier League
When Jon Moss and Mike Dean retired, the more foolish amongst us thought it might spark just the smallest hint of change in the controversy-laden halls of PGMOL. More fool us.
Instead, the standard of refereeing has fallen off a cliff. Referees have clearly been told to let the game flow, which in itself it a good thing. But this poses two main problems.
The first one is consistency. Different referees clearly have opposing views on what constitutes a foul and there were several little incidents today that would have been fouls last week but seemingly aren’t this week. Anthony Taylor was pretty consistent in this match (although some, including this author, would argue he was far too lenient) but other weeks have seen vast changes between what is permitted in the first half compared to the second.
The second issue is VAR (shock!). A foul might not be given initially, in line with the new guidance, and play continues. If this doesn’t lead to a goal, then nothing happens and the match continues with the only consequence being disgruntled mutterings in the crowd. But say the ball ends up in the back of the net, VAR more often than not will bring the action back to the tackle, redesignate it a foul and rule out the goal. Neto’s disallowed goal against Newcastle fell foul of this, as did a disallowed Man United goal against Liverpool in August.
A more free-flowing match is the right idea, but once again the inconsistency of our referees are making it much harder than it should be.