Billy Wright Stand

Wolves 2-1 Brighton: The Debrief

Morgan Gibbs-White, he’s one of our own. It seems a lifetime ago since those sounds rang across the same Molineux stands that now sit so barren and lifeless.

 

Isn’t it great to get that winning feeling back? Until the youngster stepped up to smash home a deserved winner, it seemed like the 10 men of Brighton were destined to leave with a point. 

 

It could’ve all been so different had Lewis Dunk not grabbed Fabio Silva’s shirt, which in turn yanked the chain of the gold and black generator, causing Wolves’ afternoon to suddenly splutter into life.

 

The start was refreshing and vibrant, putting Brighton on the back foot immediately. That was until Dunk himself popped up and headed the away side in front. Neves and Gibbs-White appeared to have been given the task of stopping him. Perhaps one should have perched on the other’s shoulder to try and obscure the man mountain’s path to goal.

 

Brighton are a neat and tidy outfit. The passing is crisp and free flowing. As BBC commentator Danny Murphy remarked, “They’re dangerous every time they come forward.” 

 

Moutinho’s passing range and overall ball control was lacking. Ait-Nouri’s silky runs often became blind alley treks. The passing moves were textbook but ineffective, all done in front of a solid Brighton back line.

 

It looked like a training match, it felt like a training match. Even the synthetic cheers and whistles of the BBC sound machine failed to achieve any semblance of reality. Pressing the “boo” button at half time would’ve made things more believable.

 

Losing at home to a team beginning with B, on a Sunday afternoon, all seemed eerily similar to the 4-0 Burnley battering. Danny Welbeck was enjoying himself. The nearly man of the Premier League was physically strong, quick and willing to lead the line.

 

Again, it was difficult to see who Wolves could turn to off the bench. Dendoncker up front maybe? Otasowie at left back? Give Corbeanu a debut in a holding role? When the script got flipped it was a Brighton player who was the main antagonist.

 

Silva raced though. Dunk had a sneaky tug. Time stilled briefly. The big man’s head dropped; his departure inevitable.

 

Nuno suddenly sensed an opportunity. The beard stroking became more vigorous. Eyebrows steadily raised like Leonid Brezhnev. It was time to shake up the baby oil bottle, release the beast and let Adama Traore run loose. Already the recipient of an Adama roasting earlier in the season, Dan Burn no doubt twitched nervously as his tormentor reappeared for round two.

 

Rueing a gilt-edged opportunity minutes beforehand, to his credit Morgan Gibbs-White did not let the miss get him down. Often pinpointed as transfer fodder, as the exit door flapped open Morgan refused to be dragged away. 

 

He stepped up when it mattered, instigated some late notice drama and bagged all three points for his team. Brighton games aren’t supposed to be this way. A 3-3 draw in January and an entertaining 2-1 win that bucked the bore draw trend. Neal Maupay was determined to add to the drama when he went ballistic after time and made it two red cards for the Seagulls.

 

At half time a large percentage of fans might have happily swapped the managers around and accepted Brighton’s head honcho with open arms in to the home dugout. 

 

The red card undoubtedly swayed the game. In the end though it was Nuno, that grizzled old wizard, who had the last laugh over fresh young Potter.

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

Hawthorns shithole

West Brom 1-1 Wolves: The Debrief

On a saturated evening that was supposed to provide one final crumb of sustenance from an increasingly mouldy season, Wolves trudged through the puddles to earn a draw against the old enemy.

 

It wasn’t catwalk football. Many of the players may have viewed it as “just another game”. The lack of fans did not help get the blood pumping as was required for such an occasion. But between the dark grey clouds circling above The Hawthorns there grew some green shoots of light. 

 

Young legs, fresh ideas, neat combination play; something for viewers at home to cling on to. After last week’s 4-0 loss to Burnley it was the marked improvement so badly needed.

 

Early on the ever-industrious Fabio Silva looked particularly isolated as he hustled and bustled against the physical powerhouses of the Albion defence. 

 

Straight after his goal we tweeted: “Made up for Silva. Not stopped trying all half. Throughout the season every opportunity he’s had, every criticism and missed chance, never let his head drop.”

 

It was a glorious scuff but nobody cared. From 45-yard volleys to a five-yard tap in they all count the same.

 

Otasowie improved as the game went on

 

Once again played in a disjointed role, Owen Otasowie stuttered and stammered in a poor start. An early string of misplaced passes likely occurred from Owen misjudging the weight of the rain on the turf. Noted by the commentators as being a model, Otasowie looked like a model playing a footballer in a TV drama. 

 

After a laboured first 45, the second half at least brought more promising intent from the young American. Driving forward with the ball at his feet, there were raw glimpses of the 20-year-old’s potential.

 

Talking of potential, both Ait-Nouri and Vitinha excelled. As Wolves grew into the game Nelson Semedo’s wait for a goal nearly ended on the half hour mark. Vitinha’s forward movement and propensity to run with the ball caused issues for the hosts.

 

As the home side gently raised the temperature Rui Patricio earned his corn with a smart save from Conor Gallagher. Wolves retreated. Semedo went wandering. Matt Phillips found more joy down the left.

 

Albion’s single moment of hope arrived when Roman Saiss pulled his increasingly regular trick of falling asleep at the wheel. The Moroccan managed to fluff his lines in front of goal yet also go missing in his own box when it really mattered. 

 

Once Otasowie and Vitinha had the stabilisers taken off, both looked threatening. After his previously mentioned ropy start Otasowie grew into the game. Vitinha’s contribution held great promise and increased the likelihood of his fee being triggered.

 

Mike Dean’s introduction at half time stifled the flow of the game. The whistle-happy veteran is more effective than any midfield enforcer at stopping free-flowing counter attacks. 

 

How to deal with a problem like Podence?

 

While clearly not match fit, Daniel Podence is also a discussion point. The sprightly magician is well balanced, fast and skilled but has yet to find consistency. How many games since his arrival has Podence held great influence over? 

 

Perhaps the diminutive Portuguese is becoming a luxury the squad can ill afford. However, shipping him out (if indeed a buyer could be found) would be a heavy-handed decision at this point.

 

Podence was introduced to help ease the defensive burden and get Wolves functioning higher up the pitch. Playing under pressure in the second half was expected given the fact that the home side were fighting for their Premier League lives. Wolves weathered the metaphorical storm before the actual storm descended and the game floated towards its conclusion.

 

Described as biblical by the commentary team, the weather was more farcical as the ball skidded across the turf one minute before dragging across the sodden grass like a boulder the next. 

 

Injury aside there can be no reason to leave Vitinha out of the remaining fixtures. Another fleet-footed slickster, Morgan Gibbs-White, made a positive impact with his driving runs and penchant for a slide tackle. 

 

The youngsters offered a vibrancy of movement. A willingness to pull the head up, run with the ball or pick the forward thinking through pass rather than the gloopy sidewards offerings of the old guard.

 

Is there any solace in relegating the old enemy? Possibly, but without a band of several thousand away fans goading and jeering their counterparts it was all pretty tame stuff. Pushing West Brom closer to the trap door, not quite kicking and screaming, is small consolation for not getting the win.

 

Monday was a chance for a glimpse at the possibilities of our next generation. Badgered into a line-up change, Nuno offered the spotlight to some fresh faces and they at least made a case for another shot. 

 

Even though Wolves’ third season has been a difficult experience on so many levels, the best teams and the best players will once again grace Molineux after the summer reshuffle.

 

With four points out of six, across two fixtures, West Brom won the battle. But the men in Gold and Black won the war. Perhaps we’ll meet them again sometime?

 

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

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 1-0 Sheffield United : The Debrief

“Sign him up, sign him up, sign him up!” You can almost hear the chants from the terraces. The name’s Jose, Willian Jose – GOAL MACHINE.

It wasn’t pretty, certainly no classic, but as Sheffield United fell into the relegation abyss, another three points in the bank for Wolves is what really mattered. In years to come, highlights packages from the 2020/21 campaign will be downloaded by sinister entities and used as elaborate torture devices to extract information.

Much like in the 1-0 win over Chorley -January 22, FA Cup Fourth Round- Wolves’ opponents on Saturday evening toiled hard, created chances and gave off a vibe of plucky underdogs doing better than expected. 

Patronising that may be, the visitors are a team looking for any green shoots of hope as a long grind in the Championship awaits. Given the unorthodox nature of the current season (Covid – you might have heard of it) mid-table mediocrity is not the end of the world for any top seven aspirants.

 

‘Everyone at Wolves is baffled as to why it keeps happening’

 

Quietly seething on the sidelines, Nuno Espirito Santo seemed as bemused and puzzled as many watching at home over the reasons behind his side’s lacklustre first half display. Wolves’ stolid style once again strangled the life out of a game played against clearly poor opposition. 

It’s a far cry from the swashbuckling days of old when Wolves would’ve comfortably and swiftly put such an outfit to the sword. That well-worn statement about the absent Reuben Neves being a free kick specialist is trudged out before every wayward set piece attempt. Similarly, the perplexity behind Wolves’ continuous inability to reach and remain in a higher gear is oft repeated by commentators.

 

Sheffield United woke Wolves up

 

It took an Enda Stevens miss to immediately wake the home side up. Good defending from Semedo led to a nifty turn around and a sporadic counter attack kicked in. Traore accelerated and Willian Jose tucked it away beautifully. Bang. First goal for Billy Joe and you couldn’t help but feel pleased for him.

It’s hard to know whether it was better or worse than the win at Fulham, but two 1-0 victories in a row will do nicely. Just don’t ask anyone to watch them back again.

 

Relegating the opposition becomes a thing

 

Ever since a 2-0 opening day loss to Wolves, the away side busied themselves trying to become the worst team in Premier League history. That dubious honour still belongs to Derby who ended the 2007/08 season with a measly 11 points. 

United are now two points off Huddersfield’s 2018/19 total of 16. That number could’ve been even worse for Huddersfield had home and away wins over Wolves not provided six of those points and helped nudge them up and away from Derby’s inauspicious standing. 

As match week gathered pace the prospect of being responsible for United’s relegation became an increasing source of excitement for a subset of supporters. In a dismal season, short on moments of inspiration, any feeling of superiority will do. 

 

Sheffield United arrived low on confidence

 

As former Wolves striker Don Goodman explained on the Sky mic, Sheffield United arrived as a team low on confidence and demoralised, bottom of the league by a country mile. 

Paul Heckingbottom’s men had also ditched their usual red and white stripes in favour of a washed-out pink number, reminiscent of a rogue red sock in the white load. Perhaps the unnecessary kit change would help them forget who they were for an evening. 

That worked in spells, but it’s hard to see the door being smashed down for too many of their players come the summer. Understandably low on confidence, Rhian Brewster’s tagline as a striker would need to be investigated under the Trade Descriptions Act. Rarely has a player carrying such a heavy receipt offered so little. 

Another young man carrying the weight of an inflated cost price, Fabio Silva, is the anti-Brewster. Rollocking forward with reckless abandon, only a late slip-slide on the turf halted his chance to replicate the sparkling West Ham finish.

Positives? There were a few. Semedo and Ait-Nouri both worked well down the flanks. The latter may have deemed himself fortunate to have got away with an “over the top” job on Brewster. Vitinha came on to show once again that the reputation and reality of his abilities are yet to align.

 

Wolves will take the three points and move on

 

For the final 20 minutes Wolves slumped back further into a defensive posture, almost willing The Blades to grab an equaliser – a scant moment of consolation to ease their pain on the long ride home. 

Like an enthused parent rolling a fly-away football in front of their stumbling toddler, the men in Gold and Black stood back to offer the visitors a way back in to the game.

Courteous to their hosts, United politely refused. Leaving with nothing has become the norm. In a rotten season, Sheffield United continue to wallow in the swamp of the EPL’s all-time worst. 

On a night when not much went right, be thankful that one side will travel to the likes of Luton, Millwall and Coventry next season, while the other will reset, rebuild and once again rub shoulders with the elite.

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team