Molineux Stadium Turnstile

Wolves 0-4 Burnley : The Debrief

As bad days go this was right up there.

Scorelines often mask the reality of a game. A good performance punctuated by a couple of mistakes can lead to a 3-0 or 4-1 reverse with the statistics not offering a true representation of events. 

On this balmy April afternoon the score echoed every inch of a one-sided drubbing. It probably should’ve been more. Heads dropped early, quality players hid in large shadows that loomed across the pitch. Obscured from view, hoping to avoid scrutiny, too many went missing at all the vital moments.

Picking Wolves and Burnley as a BBC game may have led to disgruntled subscribers demanding an end to the license fee. At least one team arrived looking to ramp up the entertainment factor. 

Burnley, a rigid four-four-two grinder of a side, built in the hard working image of their manager, turned on the style and punished their hosts who spent most of the afternoon resembling a League Two outfit. 

 

Watching Wolves isn’t fun anymore

 

For years the rise to prominence has been so sweet. But as the oddest of seasons rumbles on it’s all beginning to get a little bitter.

Problems? There are many. For starters, there’s nothing on the bench to shake up the chosen 11, or make opponents feel the slightest concern.

Even at 2-0, when there was still a little hope of a comeback, who could jog down from the stands, work themselves loose and enter the fray to strike fear into the opposition? Would Vitinha or Morgan Gibbs-White, tidy technicians that they are, offer an increased threat to Burnley’s comfortable back line? 

Familiar and functional, the line-up offered few surprises. Tarkowski and his band of blockers would not have to deal with the bizarre “threat” of Owen Otasowie in a False 9.

Often as effective as Otasowie in forward positions, last week’s hero Willian Jose began pretty strongly. For the first five minutes at least. Holding up play, swinging a beautifully weighted pass across the pitch to Semedo, it all looked so promising. 

For the remainder of the half he resembled a bag of cement – only less mobile. It’s clearly a case of wrong place, wrong time for the big Brazilian who is now entering Tomasz Frankowski territory. At least Jose got that goal.

 

Is Nuno losing the dressing room?

 

To be blunt, Wolves played like a team looking to get rid of their manager. Maybe the manager himself would be better off with a move away. Appearing genuinely sad on the sidelines, a far cry from the super-motivated, ferocious figure of the Championship blitz, Nuno could do little to stem the tide from the increasing heat of his dugout.

Adama Traore showed a bit of fight. The wrong kind of fight though, and he was lucky to escape a red after a needless palm swipe at Jack Cork. Familiarity breeds contempt and Wolves feel like a team of individuals who can’t stand the sight of each other right now.

Scoring against Burnley is tough enough at the best of times. Trying to find five goals would be near impossible. One of the most frustrating parts is that the home side’s defensive frailties were not the result of boundless abandon or attacking endeavour. It was a stale, lifeless beating. Leaky at one end, worthless at the other. 

Aside from a few catches from corners, Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was largely untroubled. The visitors were professional, streetwise, well organised. They knew when to defend, when to whisk forward with surprising ease and when to hit the deck and roll around.

The men in Gold and Black were the opposite. Weak in the tackle, slow to close down the wide players and their threatening crosses; stumbling underneath long punts and giving away the ball with alarming regularity – and that was all just the first half. Losing the second half 1-0 seemed like an improvement.

 

Too many players had an off day

 

Even with five minutes to go Wolves’ defenders were still providing “what the hell are you doing?!” moments as Saiss wandered into a corner of trouble. He was swiftly dispossessed and his team swiftly punished.

Anyone rubbing hands at the prospect of Wolves hammering the final nail in to the Albion coffin next week need to look elsewhere. Right now, there’s no guarantee of three points from any fixture.

This squad requires a huge overhaul in the summer. The playing staff, the tactics, the personnel, maybe even the manager all need to be intensely scrutinised. Let’s see if Fosun have the stomach to whip out the cheque book and sort things out. 


Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here 

Steve Bull Stand

Wolves 0-4 Burnley Player Ratings

Wolves put in one of their worst performances in recent years as they lost 4-0 to Burnley at Molineux. A first Premier League hat-trick for Chris Wood put the game beyond Nuno’s side in the first half, before Ashley Westwood’s brilliant late strike put the icing on the cake. It was a disastrous display by Wolves, who looked hopeless in all aspects of the game. 

 

Rui Patricio

A difficult afternoon for the Wolves keeper, but he would have done well to stop any of Burnley’s goals. Made one very good save from Lowton in the second half, as well as a couple more routine stops from Wood either side of the break. 5/10. 

 

Romain Saiss

Part of a back three who were battered from pillar to post by Wood and Vydra. Was responsible for Westwood’s brilliant fourth after giving the ball away to Rodriguez outside his own box, but prior to that Saiss had a more backseat role in Wolves’ demise when compared to his partners. Still undoubtedly one of his worst performances in his four-and-a-half years at Wolves. 3/10. 

 

Conor Coady

The worst possible performance for Wolves’ captain in front of a national audience, which it’s safe to assume included Gareth Southgate. If people wanted an example of how not to play against Chris Wood or the Premier League’s other target men, they should look at Coady’s performance; he was turned inside out for the first goal by the New Zealand international, who repeated the trick for a chance in the second half. The defensive aspect of Wolves’ game was a complete shambles, which ultimately falls into Coady’s leadership domain. 2/10. 

 

Willy Boly

Started as he meant to go on when his attempted backpass was woefully short and put Vydra through on goal. Boly’s brilliant last-ditch tackle on the Czech international delayed Burnley taking the lead by just 90 seconds, as another one of his mistakes allowed Wood to score as a long ball sailed over the Ivorian’s head. Certainly Boly’s worst performance in a Wolves shirt. 2/10. 

 

Nelson Semedo

Semedo has looked much improved in recent weeks and months, but he was back to his early season form against Burnley. Taylor and McNeil were untroubled on the left-hand side in the first half, while on one occasion Matej Vydra was given the freedom of Wolverhampton on Semedo’s side and was only stopped by Patricio. Withdrawn for Silva on 57 minutes. 3/10. 

 

Leander Dendoncker

Completely and utterly anonymous throughout the first half to the extent that most watching probably didn’t realise he was playing. Dendoncker was completely bypassed for most of the game, and in the moments when he did make a contribution, it was almost never positive. Before signing a contract extension in the autumn, Dendoncker was one of Wolves’ most important players. Now, they look better without him. 2/10.

 

Ruben Neves

Was a welcome addition to Wolves’ starting lineup after missing the visit of Sheffield United through COVID, but clearly wasn’t up to speed. Like his midfield partner Neves was bypassed for most of the game, and his long shots and free kicks left a lot to be desired. Not the return to action he’d have been hoping for. 3/10. 

 

Rayan Ait-Nouri

Probably Wolves’ best outfield player, but that’s mainly because the use of Josh Brownhill as an inverted winger left him without a one-on-one challenge for the 90 minutes. Still won’t have convinced many that he is a £20m wing back ahead of the summer. 4/10. 

 

Adama Traore

A really bad performance after looking like he’d turned his season around. Was responsible for the second goal after a lazy pass to Semedo was intercepted by McNeil on the edge of Wolves’ box, and his attacking play was similarly woeful. A disaster from Traore, who will be hoping this is just a one off. 2/10. 

 

Willian Jose

Back to his usual anonymous self after two good performances against Fulham and Sheffield United. Was no match for the formidable pairing of Mee and Tarkowski which led to the Brazilian drifting wide, where he was just as ineffective, and the addition of Fabio Silva to form a strike partnership showed no improvements either. Most fans have been calling for Silva to start over Jose for months now, but with five meaningless games coming up the 18-year-old has to play over a man Wolves would be mad to sign in the summer. 3/10.

 

Daniel Podence

Amid fierce competition, Podence’s performance was probably the worst of the lot. The Portuguese almost always broke up any attacking moves Wolves somehow managed to muster, spent more time on the floor than he did on his feet and the handbags following an embarrassing dive in the first half could have led to Wolves being reduced to 10 men. Should have been replaced prior to his eventual substitution on 69 minutes. Needs to bring back his performances of the winter, quickly. 1/10. 

 

Fabio Silva

Replaced Semedo after 57 minutes. Put himself about and disappointingly let a good cross fly through his legs in the box. 4/10.

 

Morgan Gibbs-White

Wolves’ attacking urgency had reduced to near zero when Gibbs-White came on, did nothing of note. N/A. 

 

Vitinha

As above. N/A.

 

James Wynn is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

Wolves stadium

Wolves vs Burnley Match Preview 

Wolves host Burnley live on the BBC this Sunday and will look to make it three wins on the bounce for the first time this season. Nuno’s men have all but secured safety with recent victories over Fulham and Sheffield United, and could draw level on points with local rivals Aston Villa with victory at Molineux. 

 

Wolves Form 

Last Saturday’s victory over Sheffield United wasn’t exactly one to get the adrenaline going. Perhaps a Saturday night kick off in front of a packed Molineux may have made it more bearable, but in truth it was yet another lacklustre performance. There were positives for sure, most obviously Willian Jose’s first goal for Wolves and yet another assist for Adama Traore. It also meant Wolves had secured back-to-back wins after a five-game winless run and were now comfortable in mid table. The chance of a top half finish remains alive, but Wolves will have to improve their performance levels if they are to continue their winning run to the end of the season. 

 

Opposition form 

Burnley have lost their last three games, the most recent of which was a spirited 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford last Sunday. The Clarets are not mathematically safe but will think that one more win should be enough. A run of 4 without defeat including an impressive win away at Everton steered Sean Dyche’s side towards safety as they look to secure yet another topflight season. 

 

Team News

Wolves will welcome back Ruben Neves after he has completed his isolation after contracting COVID-19. Having missed the majority of training leading up to the game, Nuno is likely to stick with the midfield pairing of Leander Dendoncker and Joao Moutinho, with Neves taking his place on the substitute bench. Nuno reverted to a back three formation against Sheffield United and may stick with this to ensure Wolves have the height and physicality to combat Burnley’s strengths. The likes of Boly, Saiss, Dendoncker and Jose will all be needed at set pieces where many of Burnley’s goals tend to come from. With safety all but secured, many fans are calling for the likes of Vitinha, Otasowie and Silva to be given more game time, and there is certainly an argument for that. If Nuno opted to go with Vitinha and Silva, Wolves’ focus would be on themselves, and trying to use their technical ability to get round Burnley rather than focusing the opposition’s strengths. However, given Nuno’s track record when it comes to team selection, the former is far more likely.

 

Likely Line Up: Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Ait-Nouri, Podence, Jose, Traore (Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Neves, Kilman, Gibbs-White, Vitinha, Otasowie, Silva)

 

Burnley are without key players Robbie Brady and Ashley Barnes for the trip to Molineux, but otherwise have a clean bill of health. For the most part, Burnley play with a 4-4-2 but do occasionally change to a 4-5-1 for away games. Dyche opted for a midfield five for the defeat at Old Trafford and Burnley put in a balanced and promising performance. Had Marcus Rashford strike not deflected in late on, Burnley could easily have taken a point. However, given Wolves’ inability of playing against Burnley’s front two in recent seasons, it is more than possible the away side will revert to a 4-4-2 for the trip to the Midlands. 

 

Head-to-head 

As two founder members of the Football League, Burnley and Wolves have played 134 competitive games against each other with Wolves often gaining the upper hand, winning 66 of those encounters. The Clarets have won just 39 of those games but have certainly come out on top in more recent history. Wolves have beaten the Lancashire side just once, a victory which was Wolves’ first home win in the Premier League following promotion in 2018. Raul Jimenez’s second half strike gave Nuno’s men all three points. However, that is Wolves’ only victory over Burnley since 2010, with both games ending all square last season, and Burnley edging past Wolves in December.

 

Prediciton

Despite its Sunday afternoon slot on the BBC, this game is unlikely to capture the attention of many neutrals. Neither side have been particularly good to watch this season. Wolves’ victory over Sheffield United was far from a thriller, but it was also good to see Wolves get all three points when not playing at their best, something they have done well in the previous two seasons but a trait that has gone amiss this season. As mentioned, Wolves have struggled to cope with Burnley at both ends of the pitch in recent seasons, finding it difficult to break down a stern and determined defence while also facing difficulties against the physicality they pose in the area. Wolves have improved since their poor showing at Turf Moor in December, particularly defensively. They will know what to expect and I would like to think they will keep Burnley’s threats to a minimum but based on recent performances it is hard to see Wolves breaking down the Burnley defence and going on to win the game. 

 

Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Burnley    

 

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.