Cold, Wednesday night football against notoriously ‘anti-footballing’ sides have become somewhat of a hallmark within Premier League culture. Wolves discovered this as they played out a 0-0 draw against a struggling Burnley side, following a disappointing display against Norwich over the weekend. A game that provided an opportunity for Wolves to gather points with a difficult Christmas period looming; resulted in another disappointing result for the home side, failing to capitalise upon their chances.
Burnley, as well as Wolves, were missing key players such as Tarkowski and Westwood as suspensions were carried from their postponement vs Tottenham. COVID isolation for Podence and a poor performance from Trincao created space in the starting eleven for Adama Traore. An addition that was welcomed by many after a game against Norwich lacking offensive creativity.
An attritional first period saw Wolves have a couple of half chances, but nothing that tested Pope of note. Until the ball broke for Traore and Jimenez, a two-on-one situation with only Charlie Taylor to beat. The Spaniard managed to generate an angle and blast his shot onto the underside of the crossbar – rippling the net, but not in the way the deceived South Bank had thought. In hindsight, Raul was in acres of space, and was one square ball from sending us in front, but a Traore determined to prove his worth was understandably hungry for a solo attempt. Chris Wood succeeded in finding himself between Wolves’ centre-halves, sending the Molineux faithful into a claret-coloured nightmare after his last display in Wolverhampton, but nothing came to fruition.
The second half story followed from the first, Wolves holding lots of the possession and working it well into key areas, whilst Burnley sat back and waited for a mistake. The narrative of the game was centred around the defences, as any of Burnley’s threats were cut off at source. Unfortunately, Dyche’s men stood firm too, with many of our attacking moves lacking final product, or blocked come the final ball. Personally, Ait Nouri and Semedo looked fatigued, every time an opportunity to take Taylor or (previously carded) Lowton on, the safer option was favoured, returning responsibility to the midfield duo.
Bar Adama’s crossbar rocket and two lame attempts on goal from Dendoncker and Hwang, Pope had an easy day at the office, occasionally warming himself up by catching a lazy cross. Since Burnley had two defenders on yellow cards before the break, I was surprised not to see more pressure put on them, either to force a mistake or another foul. Not exactly one for the neutral on Amazon Prime, it was a game lacking key moments, instead, the stadium happened to be praying for one from Traore.
Man of the match – Adama Traore
Considering the contract speculation that Adama has been subject to recently, it would be easy for him to become a passenger in this game and almost force Lage’s hand into a January exit for the winger. Additionally, many fans have their questions for Adama, and they have the right to question background affairs such as wage demands and contract negotiations, but his dedication on the pitch cannot be questioned. We were never going to score today, but he gives the team opportunities, and he gets you off your seat – every single game. He missed our only decent chance, but with every attacking move having him involved, only Podence can keep him out of the starting eleven right now.
Onto the nightmare before Christmas. Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all before the 25th. Liverpool’s press will be relentless on Saturday, which is why having Neves back will be crucial. Wolves kept the ball well against Burnley, but this is no challenge against a side employing time-wasting tactics from the 55th minute. The same must be done against Liverpool, by developing any possession we have into chances on goal, as two shots on target out of 16 isn’t good enough. Our toughest challenge so far, but knowing Wolves like I know I do; we’ll turn them over easily.
Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here