Wolves maintained their winning start in the Premier League since its resumption last weekend with a dominant 1-0 win over Bournemouth. It was a game of few clear-cut chances at Molineux but Raul Jimenez’ 60th-minute header following great work from Adama Traore gave Wolves all three points and leaves the Cherries deep in trouble. It was a sad occasion with Molineux empty and fans across the city in their homes watching the game, but a word of appreciation to the team who helped to get Molineux looking as stunning as ever. The fan mosaic in the Southbank a timely reminder of the support to the team as we are forced to watch on at home, as fans sent in pictures of themselves and loved ones we have lost to make up a superb mosaic for the players.
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny, Traore, Jimenez, Jota (Subs Used: Neto, Dendoncker, Podence, Gibbs-White)
Bournemouth (4-5-1): Ramsdale, Stacey, S.Cook, Ake, Smith, Brooks, L.Cook, Lerma, Billing, Stanislas, C.Wilson (Subs Used: Kelly, Gosling, Danjuma, H.Wilson, Solanke)
It was not the greatest game we have seen at Molineux all season, but a win in our first home game behind closed doors, and second consecutive win since the restart has got Wolves fans dreaming of Champions League football. Nuno reverted to the 3-4-3 formation with Adama Traore replacing Leander Dendoncker. Pedro Neto remained on the bench despite many calling for him to start after his excellent substitute performance and goal in the 2-0 win at West Ham. Having played a 4-3-3 formation prior to the restart, Eddie Howe opted to go with a flat five in midfield to try and deter Wolves’ control and ability to switch the play, they were also without striker Josh King.
Wolves asserted their control after a shaky opening 15 minutes which saw Bournemouth put the pressure on the home side to gain a couple of corners which were easily dealt with. Wolves had the majority of the possession throughout the first half and were patient in waiting for openings in a half where clear cut chances were few and far between. A stunning piece of skill and burst of pace from Adama Traore taking the Bournemouth midfield out of the game brought about a free-kick which Ruben Neves blazed over. Traore again looked dangerous working the ball well on the edge of the box before firing over despite having Raul Jimenez in space on the edge of the box. The second half started with greater intensity as Diogo Jota forced Aaron Ramsdale to tip a shot from wide of the box over the bar before Traore and Jimenez linked up once more to put Wolves ahead on the hour mark much to the relief of supporters watching on at home.
Wolves continued to dominate after the opener, and while Eddie Howe made all five substitutions to try and force something from the game, Bournemouth left Rui Patricio with very little to do. Nuno switched back to three in midfield with Leander Dendoncker replacing Adama Traore with 20 minutes left, this ensured Wolves were able to control the midfield with even more assurance and match Bournemouth’s three central midfielders. This did mean Wolves were less fruitful going forward but deep into stoppage time while initially aiming to run the clock down Pedro Neto spotted an opening in the Bournemouth backline and managed to beat all in his way with his fresh pace form the bench, the only thing missing was the finish as he dragged his shot wide of the far post meaning Wolves won by just the one goal.
The performance of Traore will yet again be in the spotlight, along with the hard work and clever link-up play we have come to expect from Raul Jimenez, but the work of the Portuguese pairing in midfield will perhaps be overlooked. Bournemouth had evidently aimed to overcrowd the midfield from the off but both Neves and Moutinho managed to deal with the pressure comfortably and asserted the control on the game that Nuno demands. The pair were happy to be patient for openings and switch the play where necessary. Neves’ work rate was once again above and beyond with his tracking back to win the ball vital in Wolves’ control over the game.
It was another quiet performance from Diogo Jota who does not seem quite up to speed since returning, he seemed frustrated when leaving the field just after the Wolves opener and will want to find his form again with the ever-improving Pedro Neto and new signing Daniel Podence waiting in the wings. Far from pretty, but another convincing and vital win for Wolves’ quest for Champions League football, now five points clear of Sheffield United and just two behind Chelsea who face the difficult task of playing Manchester City tonight.
Jimenez Goal (60th Minute)
On the hour mark, Adama Traore got the better of Adam Smith to produce a superb cross onto the head of Raul Jimenez who sent the ball into the roof of the net to ultimately bring three points home. It was a carbon copy of the opening goal at West Ham with Adama and Raul now linking up together to provide 10 goals this season, and with the form, the pair have shown since the resumption of the league season, that figure is likely to keep rising!
Man of the Match
Having come off the bench to make the real difference in Saturday’s 2-0 win at West Ham, Nuno opted to go with Traore from the start at home to Bournemouth, reverting back to the 3-4-3 formation. Almost every Wolves attack came through Adama when even in a dull first half that lacked clear cut chances for either side, Traore had the better of Adam Smith and the trio of Bournemouth players who faced the impossible task of stopping him. His incredible run which saw him go from under pressure not far from Wolves penalty area to win a free kick in a dangerous area was staggering, taking five Bournemouth players out of the game completely in the process. Keep this man fit and in form until the end of the season and who knows what Wolves could achieve!
Things to improve on
First half performances
It perhaps seems like an easy thing to say, but this has been a recurring theme for Wolves this season. The first half was lacklustre and the intensity just wasn’t quite there. Adama Traore fizzed an effort over the bar when perhaps playing through Jimenez was the better option, while Ruben Neves almost found the upper tier of the Northbank on two occasions. While, like at West Ham, Wolves were in control throughout the half, these slow starts could cost Wolves points later down the line as we have seen on numerous occasions this season, such as the previous home game against Brighton. Should Wolves improve upon their first-half performances, you can see them really beginning to exert their control while in the lead throughout a long period of games and putting teams to bed with much greater ease.
Creating chances at home
Another common theme throughout the season has been the lack of consistency at home. Wolves have won six, drawn seven and lost three in league games at Molineux this season. While evidently difficult to beat at home, seven draws is simply not good enough if Wolves are serious about their Champions League ambitions, especially when you consider Wolves drew just four homes at home last season. This is mainly due to a lack of chances created, with teams happier to sit in and settle for a point at Molineux, when they perhaps would not do so at home. Wolves ability to find the breakthrough lies with how many clear-cut chances they create, and momentum that they can build upon.
This will be even more difficult with the absence of the Molineux crowd and the Southbank’s encouragement in attacks in the second half of games. As is the case with their first-half performances, you get the impression that if Wolves can adapt well and create chances at home with a good run-in compared to their competitors, they have a serious chance of Champions League qualification.
Not as good of performance compared to the West Ham game but three points nonetheless.
Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.