It was a night to forget at the London Stadium for Wolves as they were thrashed 4-0 by a West Ham side who, previous to the game, were without a point this season. The result itself is clearly cause for concern, but the manner in which the result came about and the goals that were conceded will anger Nuno in what was about as bad a performance as we have seen during his reign.
West Ham 4-0 Wolves Reaction
West Ham (5-4-1): Fabianski, Fredricks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku, Bowen, Soucek, Rice, Fornals, Antonio (Subs Used: Johnson, Haller, Noble)
Wolves (3-4-1-2): Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre, Neto, Traore, Jimenez (Subs Used: Silva, Hoever, Vitinha)
Wolves were without the influential Daniel Podence and new signing Marcal who have both picked up minor injuries in the past week. It is, as of yet, unclear when the pair will be available for selection again but neither injury is thought to be serious. Adama Traore was given the nod to partner Raul Jimenez up front while Pedro Neto continued in his new ‘free role’ playing behind the two forwards while also taking advantage of his pace in wide areas. New signing Nelson Semedo came in for his debut at right wing back, while Ruben Vinagre patrolled the opposite flank. West Ham were without manager David Moyes as he continues his COVID-19 isolation having tested positive last week. West Ham were also without Issa Diop and Josh Cullen who are isolating under the same circumstances. Assistant Manager and former West Brom Head Coach Alan Irvine took charge but was in regular contact with Moyes throughout the game. West Ham continued their use of the 5 at the back system which had shown promise in their unlucky defeat at Arsenal. Both Cresswell and Masuaku were chosen for the left had side of defence, despite naturally being centre backs. This allowed them to deal with Adama Traore sufficiently well.
Wolves never really got going from the off and did not create a single chance until just before half time when Ruben Neves’ effort was easily saved by Fabianski. In truth it was a poor game, that was until a quickly taken West Ham free kick took advantage of a lapse in concentration as Bowen cut inside to give the hammers the lead. From that moment on it was one-way traffic. West Ham had several chances to make it two before the break, a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping kept Wolves in the game. West Ham were once again in control in the second half as the goals began to flood in. Club record signing Fabio Silva was introduced with half an hour to play but was largely ineffective, all be it through no fault of his own. Ki-Jana Hoever was given his debut late on and looked assured on the ball, aiming to combine with Adama Traore.
It is perhaps harsh to single out player performances in what was all-round catastrophic night for Wolves, but West Ham clearly exploited their right-hand side where Romain Saiss and Ruben Vinagre could not cope. Bowen had the beating of Saiss every single time, often cutting inside to great effect as was seen for the first goal. The pace of Antonio caused problems to the entire back line throughout the game as he had a hand in almost everything West Ham did going forward. Many people expected Wolves to sign a quality centre half this summer, a position that is likely to need strengthening if Wolves are to move to the next level, however we understand that nothing is imminent. Based on this season alone, a left sided centre back should certainly be a priority for Wolves in order to sure up the defence and provide some much-needed competition to the back three. Ruben Vinagre has been linked with a move away from Wolves and it is understood Wolves would entertain a sale for the right price. Based on last night’s showing, and indeed the lack of progression the young wing back has shown over the past 18 months, this is perhaps understandable. The absence of Jonny is causing far more damage than many anticipated, perhaps emphasising how important he is to this team and this system. Nelson Semedo had a debut to forget but there were some promising signs from Wolves’ right wing back going forward as he looks to build a partnership with Adama Traore. This will certainly take time and it would be unfair to pass judgement on Semedo on such a poor all round team performance.
Just 17 minutes into the game West Ham had the lead as they took a free kick quickly in the middle of the park which caught Wolves out. Fornals found Bowen who still had a lot of work to do. He cut inside and got the better of Saiss with ease before producing a smart finish into the corner.
After a terrible first 40 minutes Wolves finally ventured forwards and in doing so created their best chance of the game. The ball broke on the edge of the box, Jimenez left it for Neves, but his shot was too central and easily saved. A player of his quality needs to do better from there, and fans would expect him to do better there given his goal collection since his arrival at Molineux. Had he scored it may have changed the entire complexity of the game.
Antonio used his pace and got past Coady down the left hand side with ease before playing the ball across the 18 yard box where Fornals was waiting unmarked on the edge of the area. His shot hit the post only for Bowen to tap in on the follow up.
Jimenez Own Goal
An in-swinging corner was flicked on by Soucek onto Jimenez’s shoulder which flew past Patricio at the near post. There was little the Mexican forward could do about it as this deflection but they game beyond doubt.
Haller Goal 🡪 Into stoppage time and West Ham were comfortable in possession seeing the game out when Masuaku put a great cross in for Haller to head into the corner without even having to jump after Saiss completely misjudged the ball into the box. A really easy goal that will anger Nuno.
Man of the Match – Pedro Neto
In what was a dreadful team performance, Pedro Neto was certainly the best of a bad bunch. The young forward continued to embrace his new position playing more centrally aiming to link midfield and attack. Unfortunately for Neto, the midfield could not keep the ball long enough to find him while West Ham crowded Traore and Jimenez out of the game. Despite this, Neto still looked to drift into wide positions and make things happen down the left-hand side. He had the beating of Ryan Fredricks on several occasions in the first half, but Wolves just could not create a meaningful chance.
Things to Improve
What on earth has happened to Wolves’ strong and sturdy defence of the past three seasons. With the exception of the first half against Sheffield United, Wolves’ defensive efforts have been shambolic to say the least this season. Willy Boly is a shadow of the player Wolves fans have come to know and love. He is often caught too high up the pitch, exposing the right side of the defence, therefore allowing players to run at Conor Coady and get the better of him. Romain Saiss was extremely poor throughout the defeat at the London Stadium, with Jarrod Bowen proving too quick for him as he bagged a brace and ran the Moroccan defender ragged for 90 minutes. Ruben Vinagre once again showed himself to be a defensive liability and is beginning to feel the brunt of an expectant Wolves fanbase. Quite simply, Wolves must rediscover their defensive shape and organisation which they pride themselves on, otherwise they will not be anywhere near the top 6 this season.
Another common theme throughout the season so far has been Wolves’ inability to keep possession and dominate games. This worrying trait was even apparent in the side’s opening day victory at Sheffield United. Neves and Moutinho did not have a foothold in the game from the off, a key battle lost that was highlighted in our Match Preview. West Ham, therefore, dominated the game in the middle of the park and allowed Fornals, Bowen and Antonio to attack the Wolves back three repeatedly, leading to sustained pressure which the defence could not cope with. We have heard the phrase ‘a new cycle’ referred to constantly in recent weeks as Nuno looks to evolve the team to take them to the next level. One trait Nuno wants to see is an increased amount of possession and therefore domination and control, but the absence of the three-man midfield is clearly preventing this. Pedro Neto has taken to his new role very well but does not offer the cover and control in which Leander Dendoncker would do in the middle of the park. This is an obvious weakness and a balancing act which Nuno must weigh up in the coming days.
On a disastrous night, Wolves fell to their heaviest defeat of the Nuno era, and Wolves have no one to blame for this rather embarrassing result other than themselves. However, results and performances like this can happen, and Wolves have had a game like this in each of the last three seasons. The task now is to ensure it does not happen again and Wolves are raring to go for what is a promising month of fixtures in October.