Hwang Hee-chan proved the hero as Wolves came from behind twice to earn a draw against Newcastle United on Saturday evening, but what have we learnt from the hard-won point against Eddie Howe’s side?
Gary O’Neil praised his side’s ability to recover from setbacks in his post-match interview. For the second league game running, Wolves came from behind to earn points, and they had a task on their hands against Newcastle. A calamitous goalkeeping error and a penalty decision (which Gary O’Neil called “scandalous”) enabled Callum Wilson to give the Magpies the lead twice, but Wolves fought back to level the game twice. A crushing hamstring injury to talismanic Pedro Neto shifted the momentum of the game, and in past seasons, Wolves would have crumbled to a late Newcastle winner, but yesterday their resilience showed. Given the managerial uncertainty at the beginning of the season, the togetherness and grit pays testament to O’Neil’s management.
Midfield selection decisions
Boubacar Traore earned his spot in the starting XI after deputising for the suspended Mario Lemina against Bournemouth but was hooked shortly after mixed showing on the 54th minute. Lemina is seemingly nailed on for O’Neil’s midfield pivot against Sheffield United next weekend, but who his partner will be is unclear. Jean-Ricner Bellegarde is likely to be fit and impressed as a skilful ball-carrier on his debut, and Tommy Doyle has grown into the quarter-back role, spraying accurate passes and knitting movements together nicely. Traore’s tenacity and energy should equally not be overlooked, but against a Blades side that are likely to sit back, O’Neil might plump for Doyle to harness his skill in moving the ball quickly to stretch what will be a dogged Sheffield United defence.
Pedro Neto’s hamstring injury is yet to be assessed, but it looks unlikely that he will feature next week. O’Neil has spoken openly about his lack of wide options, and Wolves might be forced to change their forward shape to adopt to a Netoless world. Kalajdzic could feature as the central option, moving Cunha wide, but there are question marks over his ability to play 90 minutes. Fabio Silva might instead make a return to the side. As ever, the young Portuguese has shown flashes of potential but failed to deliver. Could this be this last opportunity to make an impression?
Unlocking the low block
As Newcastle took the lead after Anthony Taylor’s dubious penalty call, the Toon sat deep and looked to hold on against the Wolves onslaught. It took some outrageous skill from Toti Gomes and Hwang to break down the solid Newcastle defence, but O’Neil will not want to have to rely on individual brilliance to break down Sheffield United on Saturday. Selection priority may be given to players with the technical ability to pick a pass and move the ball rapidly.
The rise of Hwang
Hwang Hee-chan has divided fans since his initial loan from RB Leipzig: some will recall his disastrous clearance last season that went straight to the feet of Alan Saint-Maximin to clatter a volley in. He has, at times, looked disconnected from play and ponderous. But with six goals this season and a conversion rate of 50% (the best of any player in the league with more than 3 goals), the South Korean is flying. Where Hwang lacks in blistering pace, hold up play or delivery, he more than makes up for in deadly efficiency in the box and an almost supernatural knack for being in the right place at the right time nearly all the time.