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