Stan Cullis

Wolves in November – The Debrief

Wolves 2-1 Everton

After 45 minutes of front-footed intensity, it looked like Wolves were ready to roll through Everton like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Optimistic fans, shivering under the lights on a cold Monday evening at the start of November, could be forgiven for thinking this would be an easy one or that four or five goals were ready to flow.


By the final whistle, nerves were starting to shred and Wolves just about held on to claim three points. On the balance of play across two very different halves, both sides could make an argument for deserving something out of the match. At half time it looked like a massacre could be on the cards, until the wise old hand of Rafa Benitez shored up his side, changed tactics and sent his men out in the second half with renewed vigour. 


Even with the initial two goal cushion it would be great to see Wolves really shake loose, put these teams to the sword and add that vital cutting edge to the dominant possession. Max Kilman’s header was a long overdue reward for a fantastic start to the season. Raul’s chip was a delightful finish after a bad mistake from Ben Godfrey. Credit to the lads for not letting their heads dip after a marginal offside call ruled out Hwang’s false opener.


Hwang’s endeavour was beautifully merged with a masterful midfield mix of Moutinho and Neves pulling the strings, spraying passes across the field.


Strangely, as both sets of legs tired, there was once again no sign of the explosive Adama Traore emerging from the bench to terrorise the opposition. Bruno Lage still needs squad additions to bolster his options and add fresh impetus in the New Year. 


As Traore’s contract talks rumble on it is becoming increasingly more likely that he soon may ply his trade elsewhere. He remains a viable threat from the bench but at this stage of his career, with lofty ambitions, Traore will want to be a key player moving forward. On this occasion the Spaniard’s services were not required and his current teammates did a sterling job in his absence.


Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves

While Brentford at home was bad, at least the game ended with six forwards on the pitch in a Championship Manager-style formation change to salvage a point. This was just a bit depressing. Little fight, little urgency, tactically exposed. Worse than effort, there was a distinct lack of quality and creativity. Palace ran us ragged and getting in at half-time without conceding was a minor miracle. 


So here ends the unbeaten run. Shame really because things were just starting to get exciting. But that’s what mid-table teams do. They fluctuate between highs and lows. They turn in a meek and feeble display just at the point when incentives are high and a win would earn a place in the top six. That’s why Trincao and Semedo are at Wolves not Barcelona. “It is what it is” as the hackneyed modern day phrase reminds us.


Palace bullied, attacked in numbers and showed general positivity. Grasping the initiative early on, they never let it slip. In the first half at last Wolves restricted the home side to only a few chances. The referee and VAR provided controversial talking points, with the man in the middle awarding a penalty before changing his mind. Any help from the officials would’ve been welcome. However, Wolves were the architects of their collective downfall and were extremely poor in the second half. 


For the first goal, the enigmatic Zaha bottled up his growing frustration, slipped in behind Semedo and finished off a through ball. The defensive reaction was slow. The overall reaction was non-existent as Wolves toiled to stay in the game, while creating little in return. 


The Eagles were hungrier, fresher, and wanted it more. Traore came on too late and his wing back positioning didn’t work out. Trincao put in as poor of a performance as any Wolves player in recent games as Palace outnumbered Neves and Moutinho in midfield. 


Their higher pressing and energy made the difference. When playing so defensively Traore’s pace on the counter attack is a favourable outlet, rather than seeing him shackled in a more defensive role. Trincao isn’t physical enough for these types of battles, which leads to the question: is the overall squad too thin on quality and quantity?


Wolves 1-0 West Ham


Saturday afternoon and West Ham roll into town. Not gonna lie, it was a scary thought. They were on form while Wolves’ last outing was a soulless loss to Crystal Palace.


Reenergised and reinvigorated after yet another tedious international break, Wolves weathered the early storm and scored a tremendous win over a team in form. Of all the duels taking place across the park, the home side certainly won the midfield battle. The outstanding Neves, situated alongside the cool head of Moutinho, overran Rice and Soucek. Neves is a master of the engine room who makes the team tick when he’s “on it”. The Portuguese international was combative, displayed great passing ability and comprehensively dictated the tempo.


Not alone in delivering a stellar performance, he was joined by the sprightly Podence, a diminutive magician who played the killer pass through to Raul who in turn produced a sublime finish on the 58th minute. At the back, Kilman, Saiss and Coady converged to create a rock solid unit that the Hammers could not breach. 


Jarrod Bowen should’ve scored. Mikhail Antonio was flown home early at huge expense only to spend the entire duration in Max Kilman’s back pocket. Dropping back deep to defend a lead resulted in a nervy final few minutes, but Wolves held firm and there was no Leeds-style sting in the tail.


Now to the difficult stuff. While grabbing a win over Norwich and bogey team Burnley would appear an easier task, these are the teams Wolves have faltered against in the past. Nuno notoriously struggled to prize stubborn teams apart. Can Bruno produce the winning formula and send his team flying into a haunting December schedule?


Nestled neatly in sixth position, if the club can keep building and insert some quality squad additions in January then suddenly the garden is looking rosy.


Norwich 0-0 Wolves

Imagine travelling all the way over to a team Norwich, revitalised under Dean Smith, in those horrific weather conditions? Massive salute to the resilient souls who braved the trip. Given the lack of options on the bench it seems half the squad didn’t fancy it either. Joking aside, the cheque book needs to come out in January. Let’s bolster the squad and have only one goalkeeper back on the sidelines.


Anyone watching from the stands will have witnessed an away side sloppy in possession, with little to no link-up play or fluidity. The gaffer clearly likes Trincao but there have been games this season where he’s offered next to nothing. A freezing afternoon’s work up against a hard press was never likely to be the Portuguese winger’s situation of choice.


Norwich got their tactics nailed on. Targeting Ait-Nouri early down the flanks, they seemed happy to allow the young Frenchman to press forward in the knowledge that his final ball was likely to lack efficacy.


While the attack was feeble, the defensive remained resolute. Between the sticks Jose Sa is solid and dependable when called upon, while home striker Timo Pukki was guilty of fluffing his lines on more than one occasion. A more clinical striker would have repeatedly punished Wolves for their slackness.


Coady marshalled the back line admirably. Saiss got stuck in when required and Kilman….well, it’s King Kilman now. Strong and reliable, yet too unfashionable to gain international recognition, he’s been one of the finds of the season. 


When pacey powerhouse Adama Traore finally entered the fray he was once again deployed as a wingback, in what is surely a political move rather than tactical. Looking more and more likely to move in January, Traore’s entire career has been fits and starts. From amazing to frustrating and somewhere in between. Just when he looks set to become a world beater his form tails off. 


Yet again South Korean international Hwang was unable to impose himself on the game, despite his usual willingness to chase and run. At least Wolves did not get beaten or concede a late heartbreaker, so there are at some slim positives to be taken home.


Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team (4) (1)

Wolves in October: ‘The Debrief’

Wolves 2-1 Newcastle


Not long after Jeff Hendrick had slotted home Newcastle’s equalising goal, the dreaded proposition of yet another 1-1 draw loomed large. Hendrick’s smart finish seemed wholly unavoidable. Was it the referee’s fault for not protecting Jose Sa? Was it the fumbling defenders who failed to stick a boot through the ball and “get rid”? Was it Francisco Trincao who, just moments earlier, had rattled the crossbar, passing up on a gilt-edged opportunity to extend Wolves’ lead? Take your pick.

Raul Jimenez Christmas Cards On Sale Now!

raul card


Thankfully, Hwang Hee-Chan had other ideas when he slotted the ball home in the second half to send the home side into raptures and help drag Wolves out of their persistent stalemates with the Magpies. Hwang’s energy and work rate was faultless, and he was withdrawn late on as a result. There was barely a blade of grass that he failed to cover as the South Korean’s partnership with a vibrant Raul Jimenez flourished before our eyes.


Make no mistake, Newcastle were poor. Steve Bruce cut a forlorn figure on the sidelines as his average side (injuries accepted) toiled fruitlessly to grab a point. Imagine travelling all the way from Tyneside to watch that? No wonder the fans’ frustration is never too far from boiling point. 


Meanwhile, the home side’s frustration was aimed mostly at the referee. Being the man in the middle is a thankless task at the best of times. There was an argument to suggest that Sa was fouled for the Newcastle goal. But any fan would want their striker to go for a ball that was there to be won rather than “bottling out” of the challenge. 


Should the game have been stopped as Sa lay sprawled on the deck after the challenge? Possibly. The ref was close to blowing until Sa sprang into life in a vain attempt to save the situation. Blowing every time a player hits the deck is a dangerous road to go down as the more streetwise performers will find a reason to collapse each and every time the opposition side attacks.


After an indifferent start to a season that has been entertaining, frustrating, and promising all at once, at the close of play on Saturday evening Wolves were above Leicester and Spurs and level on points with Brentford! As the late Jimmy Greaves once remarked: “It’s a funny old game”.


Aston Villa 2-3 Wolves


Nothing quite erases the memory of the previous 90 minutes and lifts the mood like a last-minute winner. Throw in the fact that you’ve just beaten your local rivals -away from home no less- and it’s all the sweeter. 


Any regular Wolves watcher will know that, as gifted as he is, a Ruben Neves dead ball situation is no guarantee of success. Despite the parroted projections of commentators and analysts, the result often hits the assembled wall or floats off into the back row.


On this occasion a large deflection left the keeper gloriously wrong footed. As the ball nestled cosily in the net the most unlikely of comebacks was complete. Cue wild celebrations. Regardless of the method, the result is all that matters. Did it paper over the cracks of a wobbly afternoon’s work? Probably. But at five-to-five on October 16 nobody cared. Villa fans took to social media to voice their displeasure, citing unprofessionalism and a tactically inept manager who failed to hold on to a 2-0 lead.


Across the entire duration neither team looked amazing. Villa’s graft and endeavor earned them a two-goal advantage, but they looked rickety. As has been the case in a few Wolves games this season, the opposition have been there for the taking. Showing too much deference only encourages these inferior teams to push forward. Which leads nicely on to…


Leeds 1-1 Wolves


Another occasion where the opposition side arguably grew in confidence as Wolves sat back, retreated further into a shell, and let them play. Of course, holding on to a slender lead is difficult. Naturally, as the clock ticks by, focus wanes and legs become lethargic there is likely to be a retreat into a more defensive mode. But Wolves have plenty of attacking prowess at their disposal. Bruno Lage has so far proven to be a Jekyll and Hyde tactician.


At times the reckless, free flowing attacking abandon has appeared, dominating possession and forcing good quality teams on to the back foot. At other times a deeper, more conservative approach has been adopted. Reminiscent of end times Nuno – or current times Nuno if you support Spurs (this one aged badly but I’ll leave it in). It feels like Lage has yet to tweak his tactics quite right or doesn’t have the correct personnel at his disposal.


Hanging on desperately to a 1-0 lead, the men in old gold and black were moments away from another nifty three points and a potential spot in the top four no less. Who would’ve expected that after the opening three games? Eager to be the fall guy once again, step forward Nelson Semedo. Slotted into an unconventional left sided role due to Rayan Ait-Nouri’s understated fitness concerns, Nelson had worked diligently up to that point.


It’s hard to dislike Semedo. A dedicated grafter who arrived from a premier outfit harbouring a premier price tag, he is not short of honest effort. Unfortunately, he brings along the odd lapse in concentration. Caught out by some quick thinking, a moment of clown car defending ensued as our hero furiously scurried between bodies to make amends.


However, we all know how this concludes. Sitting in the ground or at home, watching through fingers, the Portuguese powerhouse bull rushed into action. Time stood still. The game eased into slow motion as an extended left arm gently prodded into the attacker. We all hoped in utmost denial that the referee had maybe seen something different.


He hadn’t. The crowd roared for blood. It was a foul. The man in the middle depressingly pointed to the spot. Some Leeds player (who cares which one) stepped forward after the commotion. Perhaps Jose Sa will save it. Nah. 1-1. You turn to your mate and say things like, “We’d have taken a point before the match” to hide the fact that you’re gutted. 


A harsh lesson learned. Next time an attacking threat dances fleet-footed into the box, and our Nelson bears down on him…best to close your eyes and pray.


Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team


Billy Wright Stand

Wolves in September: The Debrief

Watford 0-2 Wolves


After a mixed August, where performances were strong but results failed to match, putting some points on the board is all that mattered. In what was ironically Wolves’ weakest overall display so far, the 2-0 away win at Watford caused a collective sigh of relief among the faithful.


The sight of Ruben Neves bossing the midfield had been badly missed. Aside from the odd scary moment, it was compact and routine. Not as ferociously fizzing as the first three games, but finally some points on the board after a solid, professional performance. 


As the home side matched Wolves blow-for-blow early on, Ismaila Sarr’s powerful threat dissipated as Bruno’s tactics kicked in. Doing a sturdy job down the flanks, the previously flaky Marcal is not only staying fit but making that left hand side slot his own. Defensively stable, not afraid to include a bit of rough-and-tumble in his game, the Brazilian finally added a touch of attacking quality.


Bruno’s demands for intensity show no signs of abating. Not quite Marcelo Bielsa levels of pressing but an injection of athleticism, nonetheless.


Despite the two goals scored, finding the back of the net on a regular basis could be a concern going forward. If Wolves keep winning and Raul still hasn’t scored then the fanbase will hopefully remain patient as their recuperating hero persists. However, if the Mexican remains as blunt in five games’ time will the manager have a decision to make?


Also returning from injury, minuscule magician Daniel Podence’s assist was a thing of beauty. His deftness of touch was complimented by the bulldozing directness of Hwang who bundled the ball over the line. 


After some sketchy early displays Francisco Trincao is getting used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, although online talk of his performances being “excellent” are premature. The Barcelona loanee still needs to prove that he is more than a lightweight show pony. His mettle for the battle will be under scrutiny if results drop off. In a long and grueling season, every player is needed for the fight.


Wolves 0-2 Brentford


Just as we all got our tails up, reality kicks in with an unexpectedly one-sided home loss. For a supposed master of the dark arts, Marcal’s position as resident “shithouse” could be under threat after he crossed the line and got caught in plain sight preventing persistent threat Ivan Toney from advancing in the box. Given that he had been previously warned by the referee for employing WWE-style tactics it was a reckless move.


One of the side narratives across a torrid afternoon was played out along the contrasting fortunes of two opposing forwards. At the one end Raul Jimenez: a coveted international striker who has served as a prolific talisman with a song that routinely echoes across the terraces. Unfortunately, the Mexican has been struggling to find his shooting boots. No doubt rusty after a spell on the sidelines following a horrific head clash, the image of Raul tearing off his protective headband is a symbol of his growing frustration.


While Jimenez was struggling, down the other end of the pitch Ivan Toney was thriving. Tormenting the defenders with pace, power and precision as his teammates infuriated the home supporters with time wasting tactics. The gap between the two teams was so apparent that Pontus Jansson’s constant trips to the ground, coupled with the goalkeeper’s glove change theatrics, were wholly unnecessary rubs of salt into the collective wound. Even with 10 men Brentford held out stoutly.


In a crazy final push, akin to a 2-2-6 Championship Manager last throw of the dice, Wolves ended with a morass of forwards on the pitch who still could not fashion a shot on target between them.


Wolves 2-2 Tottenham – Spurs win on penalties


At least we can focus on the league now! Come on, someone was bound to say it at some point. Positive points were few and far between after a penalty shoot out defeat at home to a lackluster Tottenham side led by the ultimate king of the handbrake. Scoring twice at home was a rare treat. At one point Wolves even threatened to perform a fully blown comeback. But the minutes frittered away and fans at least did not have to suffer extra time and an even later night. 


Moutinho aside, the home side’s penalties were woeful. Dendoncker’s weak effort, sandwiched between Neves and Coady’s skyward shanks, all arrived after Hwang had initially opened the scoring with every ounce of fortune attached.


Excluding their solo miss, Spurs’ penalties were all cooly converted with assured competence. Exiting the Carabao Cup is not the end of the world, but losing is a habit that can be hard to shake once the rot sets in.


Southampton 0-1 Wolves


It wasn’t always pretty and Sa and Raul aside, nobody in the starting 11 was overly impressive but as the old cliche goes, a win is a win. It was vitally important to get another three points on the board and create some breathing space from the languishing pack below. The sight of Raul Jimenez once again finding the back of the net in a competitive match evoked the purest of footballing joy. Only the heartless would fail to embrace the emotion of a moment that was widely celebrated across the game.


And what a goal it was too. Running on to a long ball from the excellent Sa, bullying the defender out of the way before calmly slotting home – it was vintage Raul.


It wasn’t a vintage display overall. Marcal was poor, Hwang elusive and Podence non-existent apart from the times he was giving the ball away. Southampton looked toothless without the prowess of Danny Ings up front. If their form doesn’t improve then Ralf Hassenhutl and his players will soon start looking over their shoulders. That is of little concern to Wolves who have six points and a nice building block to push on up the table.


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


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