Wolves face Newcastle United on Sunday as the home team still chase their first league win of the season. We spoke with Olly Hawkins from NUFC Blog who gave us the low down on The Magpies.
How has the start of the season gone for you?
All in all, it’s been a really promising start. We outplayed Nottingham Forest from first minute to last on the opening weekend, paying some lovely stuff and pressing well throughout. In truth, 2-0 flattered them! Brighton away was a tough watch. We were lucky to come away with a point in the end, having Nick Pope to thank, but were sensational in last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Man City. It’s a shame we let the 3-1 lead slip, however it was a performance to be proud of and refreshing to see such a bold and fearless approach against top opposition.
Are you happy with the transfer business that’s been conducted by your club?
Prior to this week, we’d only made defensive additions in the form of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Matt Targett, which was a surprise to many when we’d been crying out for goal-scoring winger and quality competition for the injury prone Callum Wilson all summer. Botman looks a classy operator, Pope has already shown his worth and Targett is a 7/10 most weeks, but it looks like Alexander Isak is set to become our new club record signing from Real Sociedad ahead of Sunday’s trip to Molineux. He’ll be on the bench at best, but it’s a serious statement of intent and the attacking breakthrough we’ve been waiting for all summer.
What is your opinion on your manager?
Eddie Howe has been a revelation since he took the job. Yes, he’s been backed in the transfer market, but he’s a workaholic and forward-thinking manager who seems meticulous in everything he does. We’ve come on so much in so many areas since he replaced Steve Bruce, massively improving fitness levels, enhancing our previously non existent style of play, becoming much better defensively and tactically astute. He’s also developed individuals who were previously struggling under the former coach, with Joelinton’s rise from £40m flop to midfielder powerhouse one of his many success stories.
What is your team’s typical formation and style of play?
We’ve opted for a 4-3-3 formation for the majority of 2022, which features one number six – who operates just ahead of the back four – and two high-pressing number eights who hunt in packs and attempt to support our front three. Our ability to play out from the back is still a work in progress, but ever-improving fitness levels have helped us press high and force errors at the back. It’s a risk reward strategy, but our dynamic midfield, mixed with Kieran Trippier’s creativity, Almiron’s endless running and Saint-Maximin’s quick feet make us a tough side to contain when we’re at it.
Which player do you tip to have a big season for your team?
Bruno Guimaraes. The Brazilian has got it all. I often sit and wonder how we managed to pull this one off when I watch him play! He has that Samba flair mixed in with an incredible engine, real tenacity in the tackle, creative spark and an eye for goal, too. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on against the likes of Nunes, Neves and Moutinho, which promises to be some battle on Sunday!
How do you think you will do this season?
Based on the money spent, the recent progression and momentum behind us, I feel like we could be in the mix for a top eight finish. Top 10 felt realistic and sensible a few weeks ago, but if we can end the window with a few big signings, I see no reason why we can’t compete with West Ham and end up in 8th. Our home form could be key, with Liverpool being the only side to beat us at St James’ Park this calendar year.
What are your thoughts on Wolves?
I saw your 1-0 defeat at Spurs last weekend and thought you were by far the better side in that first 45 minutes, yet you went from total control to letting the game slip and barely laying a glove on them in the second half. You look a quality goal-scorer away from being a very handy side, as the likes of Neto, Guedes and Podence seem eye-catching players who would benefit from a focal point up front. I got the feeling things had gone stale at Wolves prior to Matheus Nunes’ arrival, but he could be one of the signings of the summer and Max Kilman often impresses me at the back.
Who from Wolves are you worried about playing against?
Pedro Neto is a real livewire and someone I felt was destined for a huge move prior to his injury, but Matheus Nunes looks a top player and superb coup for the cub. His big frame and ability to glide with the ball reminds me of former Spurs midfielder Moussa Dembele, so it’ll be fascinating to see how Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton handle him.
Score prediction for our game?
I must say, I’d fancy us to sneak a win had Callum Wilson been fit. I know Chris Wood loves a goal against Wolves, but he just isn’t the same threat. So, I’ll go for a 1-1 draw where winning the midfield battle and Allan Saint-Maximin – who is unplayable on his day – will hold the key.