After yet another 1-1 draw with Newcastle, Wolves sit in the relegation zone and will be looking to escape from it as soon as possible. A fairly even game saw a Rúben Neves rocket answered by an even more spectacular effort from Allan Saint-Maximin on the volley. Newcastle then hit the bar and Wolves had a Raúl Jiménez goal disallowed by VAR in what was a back and forth game, in which a draw was probably a fair result if slightly generous towards the hosts.
Here are five things we learnt:
Wolves have a first choice right back
Having had to win over supporters after an inflated fee and flaky opening to his Molineux career, Nelson Semedo was brilliant yesterday.
Marking up against maybe the most dangerous dribbler in England not named Adama Traoré, the Portugal international clamped Allan Saint-Maximin for large periods of Sunday’s game. The Newcastle winger had shredded defending champions Manchester City last week but Semedo nullified his threat with discipline and tenacity.
He made some key defensive interventions, including a great covering challenge to stop Miguel Almirón scoring for the visitors, and is a great outlet as a ball carrier up the right flank. With Jonny Otto now fully back and fit, Semedo has fought off the competition for his jersey with significant defensive improvement and continued attacking promise (although the coaching staff will want better end product).
The jersey is now his – Jonny and an out of form Rayan Aït-Nouri are now competing for a starting spot on the left hand side.
Rúben Neves is really good
Neves lived up to his stereotype with a trademark long-range effort beyond the reach of Nick Pope in the first half, but the new Wolves captain had a magnificent all-around game too.
His statistical performance makes for enjoyable reading as he got forward with 10/13 long passes completed, and 11 passes into the final third. He dug in defensively too, winning important challenges on the edge of the box and recovering the ball 10 times [Statman Dave].
He has the aura of a leader, and having two quality midfielders alongside him allowed him to cover plenty of ground and be an influence at both ends of the pitch. This was one of a number of Neves masterclasses and will leave fans desperate for a rumoured long-term contract to come to fruition, or at the very least to keep him beyond the end of the transfer window.
Guedes is an attacking upgrade
Gonçalo Guedes has been rumoured to be a Wolves player for a couple of transfer windows and has settled in comfortably. He looked excellent last week against Spurs and continued to be a threat at Molineux, particularly early on.
He provided the pass for Neves’ long distance goal during the second phase after a corner and showed a significant desire to get forwards. He adds ball carrying skills to a good goal record, and the hope will be that he can demonstrate the latter in old gold as soon as possible. He’s looked the brightest of Wolves attackers since coming into the side and has an assertiveness that Wolves lacked for lots of last season.
With rumours of a striker coming in there could be a lot of change in Wolves’ frontline, but Guedes’ start to his Wolves career suggests that he might get the opportunity to star as the team desperately look for new sources of goals.
Wolves showed that they will be much more open this season than last. This might seem obvious with the change of personnel to remove a defender from the squad, but it is apparent that Max Kilman and Nathan Collins will not be given extra protection and will be relied upon the break the press and begin attacks from centre back.
This comes with an added risk while the two are on the ball, and Collins was left vulnerable a couple of times while playing out from the back yesterday. It also means that there is plenty of space in between midfield, and Newcastle were able to loft balls into that area a couple of times. The emphasis will be on Kilman and Collins to excel individually in match ups and use their athleticism and technical ability to keep José Sá’s goal safe.
At the other end Wolves will get more men forward, even if that has currently produced the joint second lowest goal return in the league. Matheus Nunes in particular found himself on the end of half chances by making late breaks into the Newcastle box and the challenge for Bruno Lage is making this most of this new, less rigid structure.
Bruno Lage needs results
While 19th isn’t necessarily a fair reflection on Wolves’ first four games, they (and particularly the manager) need to start accruing points and quickly. A win today would have possibly papered over some cracks against a team missing Bruno Guimarães and Callum Wilson, and doubts about Lage are slowly solidifying with each week that goes by.
Only 4 points won from the last 33 is an indictment of the problems he has had, and while he deserves time to bed new signings in, he now has a squad that quality-wise is amongst the top seven or eight clubs in the country. If he doesn’t start making good on an unexpected level of support then Fosun may be left with a headache about the head coach.
We said last week that Wolves needed to win games and fast – this was a missed opportunity, and failure to win either of the next two games against Bournemouth (A) and Southampton (H) will see negativity that Lage has largely been able to avoid so far, and he may struggle to survive it.