In a result that could be the nail in the coffin for Bruno Lage, Wolves sputtered to a 2-0 loss to struggling West Ham and could fall as low as 19th in the table should Nottingham Forest beat rock-bottom Leicester on Monday. Gianluca Scamacca’s first Premier League goal was a major blow to Wolves who had been on top up to that point, and despite continuing to dominate possession the away side conceded less that 10 minutes into the second half and never looked like getting back into the game. Yet another toothless showing has many fans up in arms, and it may not be long before serious changes are made.
Had a pretty unremarkable game. There was nothing he could do to keep out Scamacca’s superb finish, but he may be disappointed by letting in the second goal. Although the shot was hit with excellent power and accuracy by Jarrod Bowen, conceding at the near post is never a good look for a goalkeeper. Can’t really take much blame for the loss, overall, but certainly not his best display.
Another underwhelming performance by the Frenchman. Considering the talent all Wolves fans know he possesses, Ait-Nouri needs to be more consistent. He offered very little creatively against West Ham and was indecisive in possession, which has become a common problem for him. Lacklustre defending allowed Bowen far too much space to shoot on his preferred left foot for the second goal.
With increased defensive responsibility as the only natural centre-back in Wolves’ back three, Kilman was solid. He’s been one of the team’s most reliable performers this season and once again rarely put a foot wrong. Although not quite as remarkable as his heroic display against Newcastle for example, Kilman was once again one of the few positives for Wolves.
Played out of position in the middle of a back three, the Wolves captain was as usual in a class of his own on the ball – his passing from deep was one of the few ways Wolves found to move the ball forward consistently. However, his lack of comfort in an unfamiliar role was obvious. On multiple occasions he found himself out of position with West Ham on the attack, in one situation committing a silly foul with resulted in a yellow card and a one-game suspension. Fans will hope to see him back in midfield when he returns against Nottingham Forest.
The main talking point when the line-up was released was Lage’s choice to use full-back Jonny as a centre-back rather than opting for a pure CB like Toti Gomes or Yerson Mosquera. Most were skeptical of the decision and were proved right by the Spaniard’s performance. It’s hard to blame Jonny himself for the display, but he struggled mightily against the 6ft 5 Scamacca and offered little on the ball, other than testing West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski with a long-range shot early on.
Another rare bright spark for Wolves this season, Nelson Semedo has consistently shown his quality and did again in this game. Comfortable in possession and making dangerous runs on the right flank, the wing-back regularly found himself in dangerous crossing positions with no-one in the box to pick out. He was also as defensively solid as always, as he proves week in week out that he is one of the league’s top one-on-one defenders.
It is clear now that a 36-year-old Moutinho is less and less able to compete with Premier League midfielders with each passing game, at least physically. Although composed and skilled as ever with the ball at his feet, the veteran no longer brings the tenacious tackling that once endeared him to Wolves fans and offered little resistance to West Ham’s dynamic midfield. It may not be too long before Boubacar Traore begins seeing regular minutes in his place.
Wolves’ record signing is everything fans had hoped for – an energetic, physical, technically excellent midfielder capable of driving the team forward and being a big defensive presence. However, the toothless nature of the squad around him has meant he hasn’t quite unlocked his full potential just yet and is sometimes forced into attempting reckless plays to make up for the team’s lack of dynamism. Was Wolves’ best player on the night along with compatriot Semedo.
Sadly, the young winger suffered a potentially serious injury just 24 minutes into the game. He initially played on (much to the chagrin of Wolves fans) before being forced off and replaced by Adama Traore. We can only hope he isn’t kept out for a similar amount of time as his last injury.
The new signing has continued to be used as a sort-of striker due to Wolves’ injury crisis at the position and is clearly not able to reach top form in this uncomfortable position. Although he has played as a striker in the past, it was in a much different role within a heavily counter attacking system, where his primary objective was running in behind rather than holding the ball up. He was mostly ineffective today although he did have some decent touches – hopefully the acquisition of Diego Costa will allow Guedes to occupy a more natural role in future.
Not for the first time this season, Podence offered the majority of the team’s attacking spark in this game – which isn’t saying too much. The winger at least attempted to score on occasion, testing Fabianski with some dangerous long-range efforts, but ultimately created next to nothing in terms of real chances. He gets a few extra points for ambition though.
In probably his best showing of the season, Adama provided some life to the stagnant Wolves attack whenever he touched the ball – however this was still not very often. His most notable moments included a slightly miscued volley which went just wide of the post, and a fantastic cross which was headed just wide by Diego Costa, by far Wolves’ best chance of the game.
In what was undoubtedly the most anticipated moment of the game for Wolves fans, new signing Costa suited up and took to the pitch in the 58th minute, replacing Guedes, and the team instantly looked more dangerous. The striker was sharper than many anticipated, linking up well with teammates and causing problems with his movement. Although he missed a major chance, he provided enough to make fans cautiously optimistic to see what more he can offer.
Campbell has long been highly rated by Wolves staff, and fans have spent a long time anticipating the time he would finally begin to display his talent at the senior level. This was his best game yet. He provided one of the team’s most electric moments by beating two defenders before cutting in on his right and lashing a shot just wide. Hopefully we will see more of him in the next few weeks.
With the game already over, Traore was unable to have much impact on the game. He looks good in possession though and made a couple of notable defensive plays.