A rare change in shape saw an uncomfortable Wolves draw 1-1 with Southampton. With Coady missing his first league game since 2017 due to his self-isolation from the squad the past few weeks and Saiss testing positive for coronavirus, Nuno surprisingly went with two central defenders. Kilman got the start on the right and Boly on the left. The structure was nowhere near what we’re used to seeing. Shocking defending from both fullbacks, yes fullbacks, led to Theo Walcott’s second-half tap-in to make it 1-0. Yet again, Wolves were not able to find their attacking footing until very late. Substitute Pedro Neto fired home a rebound into an open net, equalising the game in the 75th minute. The final 15 was dominated by the home side but Wolves were unable to find a winner. Wolves move into ninth with a trip to Arsenal in the cards on Sunday.
With Wolves in a rare back four, the keeper was asked to do far more than usual when it came to distribution. Patricio will be the first to welcome Coady back into the lineup as he struggled mightily with the long ball. He could do nothing about the Walcott goal and was only forced into one save otherwise, stopping a tame effort across goal from the aforementioned goalscorer.
A bit of a surprise to see the teenager on the left side of the back four, but after a few early weary moments, Ait-Nouri settled in nicely. He was confident going forward and had several key forward passes that would have led to much better chances had the attack been in better form. Leading up to Southampton’s goal, the Frenchman went down looking for a foul after a collision in midfield leading to a gap down the right side. With only two centre backs available for cover, Wolves were left wide open and conceded.
Kilman was the better of the two central defenders but still had some nervy moments. Already down 0-1, he fell asleep at the back giving Walcott the space to run behind. Luckily, Walcott was not able to hit the target off a one on one from the keeper or Kilman would have been at fault. His best moment of the game came when he stopped a Southampton counter-attack with a lunging tackle.
Unsurprisingly, it was a tough game for Boly without the captain to his left. He, along with the rest of the backline, was a bit all over the place defensively. The most memorable moment from this game for Boly was when he got the captain’s armband for the final 20 minutes with Neves getting subbed off. Improvement is much needed from Boly if Wolves want to get back in form.
This was by far Semedo’s worst performance with Wolves for me. On the Southampton goal, Semedo completely lost Walcott, leaving him unmarked at the far post. Losing focus defensively cannot become a recurring theme for the right-back who replaces Doherty from last year’s side, someone who also struggled to stay switched on. Although he did create one chance from an excellent strike 30 yards out that led to a double save from Southampton’s recovery, Semedo will have a tough time looking past the mental lapse.
Probably the best player on the pitch tonight for Wolves. Questions about the 34 year old’s legs may have been quieted a bit after Moutinho made it through the full 90 for the first time this season, and it was an impressive full 90. The midfielder was solid defensively and played a key part in the goal, completing the line breaking pass to Jimenez that led to the chance. Moutinho looked especially comfortable further up the pitch when Wolves went to a full attacking style for the final 20. Although this may not be his fault, it is becoming a bit mind-numbing seeing every Moutinho corner taken short.
Neves was given the captain’s armband with Coady’s absence, but it was a lacklustre day at the park for him. Ruben was yet again playing his deep-lying midfielder position and was okay defensively. His signature switch of play seemed to be missing and Wolves attack suffered because of it. It was no coincidence that the best-attacking play came when he was subbed off in the 70th minute. I also would have liked to have seen him claim the first half free-kick just outside of the box, especially as captain.
Originally thought to be playing the Coady role of the back three, it was a surprise to see the Belgian dashing forward in the opening minutes. Dendoncker was a bit unlucky to not be on the scoresheet after being the first to react to a McCarthy save, forcing another quality save from the Southampton keeper who had nine stops on the match. It is rare to see a poor performance from Dendoncker these days as he has quickly become one of Wolves most consistent players.
Traore was given his first start since the debacle at West Ham. The speedster proved yet again that he can take on and beat nearly anyone in the league, but the final ball was especially lacking tonight. There were several instances where Traore was able to get into great positions by the byline but was never able to find a gold shirt with a cross. Nuno has a tough decision on his hands when it comes to Traore’s minutes as the necessary quality will only come with consistent playing time. Is Nuno willing to ride out the lumps or are we seeing the beginning of the end of Traore at Molinuex? The next month and a half leading into the new year will be telling.
Podence continues to impress me with his work rate. The goal eruption is there, it just may take some time. He has a great ability to find himself in open space, whether that be on the right or the left. Podence forced McCarthy into two saves and had a few key passes. He especially looked lively in the final 20 minutes. His spot in the team seems as safe as any.
It may have been the most frustrated we have seen the Mexican at Wolves. Jimenez barely saw the ball in the first half with Wolves on the back foot for much of the first 45. Things did not go much better for the striker in the second half, even when the team looked sharp while attacking. He had several miscues in the air today, leaving the normally excellent finisher shaking his head. Jimenez also had several unsuccessful touches in key spots, wasting potential chances. To his credit, his shot on a quick turn led to the only goal of the night for the home side. When Jimenez gets back in form, I expect the rest of the team will follow.
Neto got on the scoresheet again, this time off the bench. After coming on in the 70th minute for Neves, Wolves switched their shape to a 4-2-3-1, allowing all of Jimenez, Traore, Podence and Neto to play in the attacking third, with Neto playing below the striker. Neto fit in well in this role and not only scored, but forced yet another quality save from McCarthy preventing Neto from leaving with a brace and the winner. The 20 year old winger has been Wolves most creative winger all season, making it very difficult to leave him out of the side until he proves otherwise.
Since making some serious noise in Portugal with the U21 internationals, Wolves fans everywhere have been calling for him to be involved. Vitinha was selected for the bench and found himself on the pitch for the final five minutes. He did not contribute much to the side in his limited appearance, but getting some minutes under his belt will surely lift his confidence.