Steve Bull Stand

Wolves 0-1 Arsenal Match Report

A frustrating evening ended as Wolves fell 0-1 to Arsenal in an important fixture under the lights at Molineux. The Arsenal defence faced an onslaught in the final period following a red card, but Wolves were unable to capitalise on the opportunity. With both sides on the hunt to consolidate their ambition for European football, it was the visitors who left with all three points – much to the disappointment of Wolves. 

A minor calf issue for Joao Moutinho saw Dendoncker line up with Neves in a midfield two, with a re-introduction for Romain Saiss, after his great showing at AFCON. Raul Jimenez started up top with Trincao and an in-form Daniel Podence. In a similar vein to his current form, Podence was the bright spark for Wolves during the first half, drawing many a foul with his trickery and intelligent movement. Trincao and Jimenez on the other hand, struggled to stamp their authority on the fixture once again – marshalled out of the game by White and Gabriel, in a very confident showing from the Arsenal pair. It was particularly frustrating that Wolves failed to target booked players, with both Xhaka and Thomas Partey cautioned within the game, I was surprised to see the lack of action through the centre of the field.

Possession seemed a key factor for Wolves, as the home side held much of it, but having very little in terms of chances on goal to show for it. Arsenal seemed relatively comfortable with allowing Wolves time on the ball, as the home side were causing little panic for their defensive unit. Even after a red card for Martinelli’s petulant fouls in the same passage of play, Wolves severely lacked any creativity to unlock the Arsenal defence. The contest was even overall, with neither side having too many chances to write home about, but it was the red card that allowed the visitors to sit back soak up the remainder of what Wolves had to give. 

Arguably Wolves’ biggest game of the season so far, and it feels like a huge opportunity missed. The away side went down to ten for the final twenty minutes, and all Wolves could conjure up was a barrage of crosses, defended simply by the visitors in what looked like a training drill. A chance missed to close the gap on those ahead, and a chance missed to cement our bid for European football next season.

 

Key Moments 

Wolves had built a good reputation for not conceding set pieces this season, but four set-piece goals have been conceded from the last four fixtures. This time, succeeding a scramble in the goal mouth, Gabriel poked home for the Gunners in the 26th minute. A disappointing manner for Lage’s men to concede after some decent spells of possession during the first period. Clear cut chances for either side were few and far between, with both goalkeepers having an easy day at the office. Gabriel Martinelli managed to change the complexion of the game within fifteen seconds, with a childish display of fouls resulting in Arsenal’s 101st dismissal of the Premier League era. Unfortunately, Wolves’ feeble attempts to equalise left much to be desired, as Arsenal comfortably sailed towards an important away victory. 

 

Man of the match  – Daniel Podence

There was precious little to choose from for standout performances, the attacking movement was lacking, midfield was conservative, and the defensive unit failed to keep out the Gunners’ only decent opportunity. Daniel Podence was a livewire during the first half, giving Cedric Soares nightmares, with the Arsenal defender somehow escaping a booking. Podence looked like the only one attempting to fashion a different opening than an aimless cross that as simply headed away. In a game where we didn’t cause trouble for Arsenal, one man did. Another deserved mention for the little man, in a hugely uninspiring front line. 

 

Improvements 

You could be blind and still see Wolves are in dire need of creativity. Whether this be from a new, dynamic midfielder that can unlock defences, or a change in attacking patterns, an alternative is needed. We’ve become too predictable again, sideways passing towards the wingbacks, before a cross is fired in that doesn’t clear the first man. When it does? No-one is there to attack it. The push for European football is still possible, but points are needed desperately from the February fixtures.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Wolves stadium

Wolves 3-1 Southampton Match Report

Four goals at Molineux, a treat from Bruno’s Wolves in another convincing victory, as they overcame a Southampton side in good form. Wolves took the opportunity to maintain pressure on those ahead of them this season, keeping those European dreams of seasons past well and truly alive. Finally, the Wolves have left their teething phase in their Prem campaign, they’re on the hunt for the top six.

Upon arrival, the team sheet probably surprised every single Wolves fan, as Neves was out with COVID and Toti Gomes was brought in for his Wolves debut. Quite the step up from the quality of opponent he was used to at Grasshoppers, nonetheless, Toti (with the ever-present support from our captain) looked like a seasoned member of the Premier League; certainly, a debut to be proud of. The reason Lage gave for not playing Leander Dendoncker at centre-back was to maintain the system they had been working on, and instead opted for the Belgian to operate from his more comfortable station if midfield.

Despite the result conveying a relatively comfortable afternoon at the office for Wolves, this was far from the truth in the first half. Southampton raced out of the blocks with an intense pressure, causing Wolves problems in possession – conceding four early corners, but these were defended confidently despite quality of delivery. A combination of poor touches and lacklustre passing frustrated fans in the first half particularly, but this was soon rectified in the second period of play, as Wolves took control of the game and highlighted the difference in quality between the two sides. Key performances from Coady, Kilman and Jose Sa kept Southampton at bay, with the away side needing a piece of alien-like brilliance to prevent yet another clean-sheet for the home side. 

One performance stood out from the rest, that being the one of Michael Salisbury. That first half was possibly up there with one of the worst officiating performances I had witnessed at Molineux. Six blatant fouls weren’t given against Saints players, and it took the involvement of VAR (not hugely popular amongst the Wolves faithful) to overturn Salisbury’s original penalty decision. It’s a topic that’s discussed widely across the league, but the standard of officiating this season most notably, is deteriorating rapidly, and you know it’s poor when I mention it following a 3-1 victory.

 

Key moments

Proceeding the VAR decision to award Wolves a penalty ten minutes before the break, Raul Jimenez calmly dispatched his fourth goal of the Premier League season; a much-needed confidence boost our star man. Not long after the break Wolves made it two, Forster was caught out as Kilman looped an effort towards the far post, before Conor Coady headed home from two yards out, and a due reward for what’s been an incredible season so far. James Ward-Prowse decided it was time for another goal of the season nomination, with the best goal I’ve ever seen live, period. This gave the Saints a foothold back into the contest, yet all hopes of a draw were ended as Adama Traore (finally) gained an ounce of composure in front of goal. The winger slotted home his first goal of the season. Even those who want him sold enjoyed that one, right?

 

Man of the Match – Conor Coady 

 

No player had an outstanding performance as such, but my man of the match is his first of the season: Conor Coady. His league goal in front of the South Bank was a moment a long time coming, but the MOTOM award isn’t because of this. Coady had a young, inexperienced centre-half by his side, who had been in the country less than two weeks. I closely watched the partnership of him and Toti yesterday, and I genuinely don’t think there’s a player in the league who can make a debutant feel more comfortable in that context than Conor. Last season, Coady was a captain with incredible leadership quality, but many questioned his footballing ability. He must be in contention for most improved player of the season, leading though exemplary performances in addition to his elite mentality. What a person, what a player, what a captain.

 

Improvements 

The first half highlighted our struggle to deal with a quickly enforced press, sloppy passing and hesitation on the ball caused for too many turnovers in possession. Additionally, we had a cluster of counter attacks that demonstrated our ability to move the ball quickly and efficiently, but this wasn’t common enough. Overall, it was a good performance but there’s just an element of complacency to tidy up before Brentford. Three goals at Molineux, though, I can’t complain too much.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Old Trafford

Manchester United 0-1 Wolves Match Report

A game, result and performance that will be etched into the Wolves history books for years to come. Wolverhampton Wanderers leave Old Trafford victorious for the first time during the Premier League era after their 0-1 win. Top class performances littered the field as Joao Moutinho turned his Manchester playground into the Theatre of Nightmares, striking home eight minutes from time, sending the travelling fans into bank holiday ecstasy.

Embed from Getty Images 

The combination of positive COVID cases and injuries have caused many a postponement during the congested winter period, as Wolves faced after a two-week layoff from fixtures. Their return was against a Manchester United side under new management, with Ralf Rangnick at the helm. The German is notoriously recognised for his aggressive Gegen-press style of football, yet the evidence of this from this performance was lacking hugely. From minute one, United were unable to keep up with the pace of Lage’s Wolves. Neves and Moutinho schooled Matic and McTominay in their own backyard, through a lesson of midfield mastery, winding the clocks back to their debut season together in the Premier League. 

Lage opted for Trincao and Daniel Podence over Adama Traore, who was perhaps left out due to the ongoing transfer speculation that surrounds him, or perhaps to be utilised as an effective substitute later in the affair. Following a string of uninspiring performances, Wolves fans may have questioned the choice of Trincao, but the loanee decided to get more physical than usual, whilst registering another handful of nutmegs doing so – hopefully a sign towards further improvements for the Barca boy. The defence remained unchanged and for good reason, another clean sheet to add to their already impressive tally this season – resolute when called upon, but the midfield prevented most of the concern, against two of the best forwards of this generation. 

However, one performance stood out to me and not in the positive sense I had initially hoped for. For me, Raul Jimenez was chasing shadows, there were a couple of moments where he linked up nicely with Trincao and Podence, but something isn’t quite clicking for the Mexican Sensation. Although his movement wasn’t particularly poor, chances on goal are few and far between, and those chances are often flagged offside. Considering the lack of game time and the reported issues with Fabio Silva’s application to warm up, he performed excellently in his late cameo, barring the silly foul, the game management for someone his age was impressive to see.

 

Key Moments

Wolves’ recent performances have been those of defensive focus, their poor eye for goal has resulted in the recognised label of: “well that’ll be last on Match of the Day.” Therefore, for Wolves to be the team to have the most shots at Old Trafford in the first half of a league game since 03/04 (@OptaJoe on Twitter), was a surprising, yet welcome spectacle. Neves had an audacious goal of the month attempt prevented by a David De Gea early on, combined with a couple of early attempts from the heavily involved Podence. A short rally from United was born after Fernandes rattled the crossbar and CR7 decided he was too good for the offside rule. But it was our own Portuguese veteran that stunned the Theatre of Dreams into a sea of insomnia, as Moutinho fired Wolves ahead late in the game.

 

Man of the match –  Joao Moutinho

Daniel Podence is quickly becoming a fan favourite amongst Wolves fans, another electric performance from the little wizard, intricate passing and his low centre of gravity caused trouble all night long. However, another little genius gets my man of the match. Last season, many wrote Joao “no legs” Moutinho off, including myself. Lage must be promising some quality vino for our midfield mastermind, Joao is playing like a man possessed. Exquisite passing, strong in the tackle, progressive ball carrying, and a goal to top off an easy night at the office for this god amongst men. Truly football heaven.  

 

Things to improve on

For the first time this season, I collectively couldn’t have wished for more from Wolves. Tactical astuteness from Lage, effective substitutions, immense work rate and the quality to comfortably beat the second most expensive squad in Europe. Of course, we can hope for more goals, but if my manager says the goals will come, I will believe every word that he says. Differently, outside of the pitch, there are improvements to be made. Upon evaluation of the board’s current intentions, Lage will almost certainly be frustrated. There are the foundations to really achieve with Bruno in charge, three quality additions are all we need. The transfer strategy will not dampen this result in the slightest though. Thank you, lads. We’ll remember this one for a while.

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

Amex Stadium

Brighton 0-1 Wolves Match Report

3000 fans made the gruelling five-hour trip to the south coast, to see their beloved Wolves both score a football goal and win the football game. Wolves came out victors over a Brighton team, ravaged by injuries, COVID isolations and suspensions. The win came as great relief for fans who hadn’t seen a goal in over 400 minutes of action, with Romain Saiss, the ‘Moroccan Maldini’ coming in clutch for the boys in old gold.

Reaction

Disappointingly, the in-from Rayan Ait Nouri sustained a groin injury in the warm-up, so Marcal entered the fray, alongside Podence and Trincao due to Raul Jimenez’ suspension. The three in midfield was sacrificed from Saturday’s game in Manchester, to provide more threat up top, with Hwang Hee-Chan spearheading the attack, until the 15th minute after pulling up with a hamstring issue. 30 minutes of some honestly dire football from both sides was to come, with Brighton having a couple of half chances but nothing to worry Sa in the slightest. Wolves were unable to impose their style on the game, lacking strong moments of possession, with no chances on goal to write home about. The back line three were brilliantly stubborn once again, and typically, it was a defender to provide the accomplished finish, finally giving Wolves’ fans something to cheer about. It is widely understood that a key time to score a goal is just before the break, a sucker-punch goal that changes the opposition’s team talks. All that was needed was that one goal, the second half confidence was levels above those seen in the first. The press was re-born, and the pack caught some unsuspecting seagulls truly lacking. Premier League debutant referee: Tony Harrington, had a night to forget with a multitude of technical difficulties, but entertainment was sharply delivered by a keepy-up fest during the hold up, under the noses of the adoring away support.

Rather unfairly, Adama Traore has fallen victim to some harsh criticism this season, regarding the decision making and effort levels produced, Brighton was the night he truly shut the critics up. Neutrals will see zero goal involvements all season and will go to town with the ‘pace merchant’ slander, but true Wolves fans recognise that it could be so different providing the rest of the team had finishing ability. Moreover, Podence provided some much-needed energy going forward, again just missing the golden touch in front of goal. Trincao was anonymous unfortunately, seeming to struggle with the physicality of the Premier League, there’s something there with Francisco though, Wolves are just yet to see it.

Key moments

Until a shockingly poor corner from Marcal found its way to the magician that is Ruben Neves, the game was severely lacking quality – not a game for the neutral. Neves then clipped a sumptuous pass over the top of Yves Bissouma, taking eight Brighton players out of the game as Romain Saiss calmly places the ball past Sanchez with his weak foot. The second-phase work behind the scenes, conducted by Tony Roberts seems to be paying dividends for Wolves, with the goals against Brighton and Aston Villa acting as perfect case studies. Backs against the wall for the final ten is something us fans have become accustomed to over the past couple of years, last night was different though, Brighton would not find a way through, Lage is working defensive wonders.

Man of the match

Not only for scoring the first goal in five games, but a stellar defensive performance to match, Romain Saiss deserves all the credit coming his way recently. Alongside Coady and Kilman, the back three have made Wolves fans reconsider where the money should be spent in the upcoming transfer windows. Saiss took his goal brilliantly, and I’m convinced there aren’t many better ball strikers at the club than the Moroccan Maldini – being extremely close to a second, rocketing one off the inside of the post. Safe to say, if AFCON goes ahead, we’re going to miss Romain. Give him another year on his deal already.

Improvements

Despite scoring, it should have been two or three, our finishing still needs a lot of work. One on ones, as I doubt there are many more clubs who have missed more of them than Wolves this season, then chances can be created, the chances just aren’t being converted. Additionally, there were many moments in the first half where too many touches are being taken on the ball before the next pass. Effective link-up play requires quick decision making, to draw the opposition out of their shape, instead, we gave too much time for Brighton in this instance to regain theirs. However, a win’s a win, onto the European champions.

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here