Wolves 1 Cardiff City 2

I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

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Cardiff, as expected, made it difficult for Wolves to play; marking tightly, giving away niggley fouls and generally denying their opponents any sort of fluency.

Unlike the wins over Middlesbrough and Derby, we didn’t win enough of those mini battles and you always felt the momentum was with Neil Warnock’s side.

They’re an impressive, powerful team, full of pace and menace. Zohore and Mendez-Laing were the danger men and really exploited the space down the sides of our back three.

Miranda struggled to get to grips with the impressive Zohore in the second half and that was the root cause of their opening goal.

Boly too had a few shaky moments and when he let the ball bounce between his legs, Mendez-Laing was quick as flash to run on the overlap and power home the winner.

That was a costly mistake because Wolves had got back into the game thanks to a well developed Bonatini equaliser and tails were up.

But once Cardiff got ahead for the second time, it felt like there was one inevitable conclusion.

Those are the moments that determine these horrible, knife-edge contests and Wolves were five per cent off it today.

There were positives in the shape of Enobakhare who I thought was excellent again and unfortunate to be taken off.

Jota too stuck to his task well and didn’t allow himself to be bullied by some rough treatment. He looks like he can handle the physical challenges that lie ahead.

Another goal for Bonatini too and those are the finishes we need, inside the box latching onto any little flick that might come his way. He had a strong second half.

Neves and Saiss weren’t able to influence the game as they have done previously and that really restricted our attacking potency.

I lost count of the number of inch perfect diagonal passes we saw at Derby, affording our wingbacks acres of space to play in the forwards.

Today, against a well disciplined Cardiff side, we rarely got into those key positions and for that you have to credit the opposition.

We saw some some dark arts for sure, as you’ve come to expect from a streetwise Warnock team, and they could easily have been a man down before half time, but these are the challenges you need to rise above if you want to be a top Championship side.

The time wasting, the gamesmanship, the off the ball fouls – it’s a dog-eat-dog league and the refs can’t see everything. You’ve got to find ways to win whatever the opposition are doing.

There’s still lots to feel good about moving towards what looks an easier run of fixtures, but this was a reminder about how hard this team has to fight to play their brand of football.

It was never going to be easy.

Wolves Vs Cardiff City Preview

You need only look at the teams sandwiching Wolves in the table to remember how easy it is to come crashing back to earth.

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Lose 10% out of your performance and the Warnocks and McCarthys of this league are ready to gobble you up whole with their belligerent brand of football.

It’s been wonderful to see Nuno’s boys silkily navigate these tricky looking opening fixtures with a degree of comfort but there would be something particularly satisfying about winning this one.

I’ve got nothing against Cardiff or Neil Warnock, but the combination of their impressive start and the powerful makeup of their side means they’d be a notable scalp.

After all, if none of the promotion favourites can beat us and none of the archetypal Championship powerhouses can get it done, who else is left?

Cardiff

I did a pre-recorded interview for Radio Cardiff ahead of this game and the presenter asked me if I was surprised by how well they’d started. Hardly.

If you look at what they’ve done since Warnock took over midway through last season and the side he’s put together, they were always going to be up near the top.

They’ve got three giants at the back in Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba and Ecuele Manga, which immediately makes me sweat thinking about defending set pieces.

Further forward you’ve got the pace and trickery of Hoilet, Tomlin and intriguingly the former Wolves man Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. Looking forward to seeing what he’s got to offer.

Then big Kenneth Zohore up front, whose been a revelation since Warnock took over and was subject to a failed £10 million bid from Hull just yesterday.

They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at this burgeoning Wolves team and if they enforce their game, it’ll be a difficult afternoon for the home side.

Wolves

It’s amazing what happens when you keep a settled side with players all in their best positions isn’t it? I think too many managers over complicate the process in search of a winning formula.

Cavaleiro and Dicko are the only two really pushing for a start, assuming no injuries to other players. But both of them have done well coming off the bench so why change?

Right now you just want everything to stay the same for as long as possible to see if we can continue riding the crest of the wave.

I still think the club are planning to introduce another striker before the month is out, but given how well we’ve started and the players to come back, it’s probably not the mandatory acquisition it was once deemed.

Predictions

Unfortunately, my hands are tied once again. We’ve won all three games and I’ve predicted draws in each of them so I can’t buck the trend.

If you’re less superstitious than me and fancy backing the Wolves, Bethut have a a range of predictions, tips and bookie offers which you might find useful.

This will ultimately come down to who can enforce their style of play on the game. If it becomes about power and physicality Cardiff will be on top, but if Wolves can get their technical players to dictate it will be an entirely different contest.

I’m confident, lets just say that.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Hull City 2 Wolves 3

Just a few weeks ago you’d be forgiven for earmarking this fixture as a battle between two of the division’s unknown quantities.

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And though four points from a possible nine would suggest that moniker still applies to Leonid Slutsky’s team, our own is beginning to look a serious prospect.

Granted, Nuno’s side avoided plenty of scares in a second half dominated by the home side but few would bemoan a dip in standards after the two stellar league performances that preceded this fixture. Aside from Nuno himself, whose press conferences continue to give the impression he is quite the taskmaster.

Certainly, his methods have looked that of a genius in these opening weeks. Wolves are producing football that millennials such as myself have never had the pleasure of associating with old gold and black, and long may it continue.

Whilst the influence of our new Head Coach and his team cannot be underestimated, its important to acknowledge the work done by his paymasters who, let it not be forgotten, had become figures of derision in the eyes of many after a turbulent first season in English football.

Jeff Shi and Fosun have learnt from their mistakes and created an environment in which quality is favoured over quantity, recognising that the blood and thunder brand of football their first two managerial recruits favoured is unlikely to cut the mustard in an increasingly difficult division.

Much has been made by the national media of the way they have gone about doing this but the team already seems to have found a way of harbouring the animosity offered by opposition supporters into a winning incentive. I guess that’s not so difficult to do when you have players of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota’s ilk to call upon.

Both were on the score sheet tonight, with the former likely to win much of the plaudits for the sheer audacity of his 30 yard screamer. Football purists may, however, give greater credence to our second goal which was the result of some sumptuous build-up play that was once again centred by the prodigious and increasingly effective Bright Enobakahre. Either way, it’s nice to have the dilemma of picking a favourite winning goal given that they have been in such scant supply over the last two seasons.

Equally as important as our attacking play is the new defensive resolve that has been instilled within the team, which saw them withstand plenty of pressure in the second period. John Ruddy and Willy Boly were the names doing the rounds on social media come full time but all of our new look back five are doing their bit at present, as are the midfield duo of Neves and a rejuvenated Roman Saiss.

History will tell you that a water tight defence and clinical attack – terms which have been used to describe us in these opening round of fixtures – is a recipe for success in the Championship so its hard to temper this feverish early season enthusiasm with memories of previous false dawns, despite logic suggesting this as the best course of action.

Another win on Saturday against a Cardiff City team also riding the crest of a wave would surely see logic put on the back burner for the foreseeable, which would be a most welcome state of affairs for Wolves fan to find ourselves in after the mundanity of seasons gone by.

Hull City Vs Wolves Preview

It’s very difficult to watch a performance like Saturday’s and not get carried away.

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Are Derby weaker than last season? Perhaps. But they’ve still got a lot of Championship nous in that team and a manager whose proven he can squeeze every ounce out of his group.

I expected them to provide a stern examination of our players and our system and they did initially with some intricate play, mixed with a few high diagonals up to Chris Martin looking for knock downs.

Wolves calmly absorbed the early barrage, worked their way into the game and once in the driving seat, ruthlessly turned the screw.

Nobody can possibly know if they have the capacity to consistently repeat that level of performance, but if they do there’s only one inevitable conclusion.

Hull

I wasn’t sure about Hull before the season started with their low profile summer recruitment and a questionable managerial appointment.

Maybe that’s unfair on Leonid Slutsky who has managed the Russian national team and enjoyed success at CSKA Moskow, winning titles and being the first coach to get them into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Coupled with the obvious advantages of his friendship with Roman Abramovich maybe Hull were ahead of the curve in their recruitment process, as they were last season with Marco Silva?

It’s been a very good start for Slutsky, with a good point from Villa Park and a thumping win over Burton at the weekend, albeit aided by a sending off.

Looking down their teamsheet, there’s some good talent. The winger Grosicki really caught my eye in the Premier League last season and in Fraizer Campbell and reported Wolves target Abel Hernandez, they’ve got the firepower.

Hernandez got a hat-trick against Burton so his confidence levels will be through the roof. For what’s it worth, I’d love to see him at Molineux. Doubt that one has legs though.

Wolves

Got to be the same again Nuno. It remains to be seen whether the head coach fancies freshening things up for these midweek games, but I’d like changes to be kept to a minimum if possible.

I thought every single player was very good at Derby but the two I would pick out for special praise are Boly and Enobakhare.

Boly dominated and never once looked flustered in possession, impudently stepping inside tackles in tight spots and playing out from the back.

Bright coupled all the good things about his recent performances – touch, close control, ball carrying, committing men – and then just played his team mates in. An outstanding, mature display.

Bonatini might be under threat, particularly missing that sitter at 1-0, but he’s busy, mobile and still looks very capable to me.

Predictions

Burton were reportedly well in the game on Saturday before the sending off and I don’t get the sense Hull are the finished product just yet.

We’re not either, but on Saturday’s evidence, it’s coming together.

I’m inclined to go for another win, but as I’ve predicted two draws thus far, superstition has unfortunately kicked in so my hands are tied. I’m sure you appreciate my situation.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Derby County 0 Wolves 2

One team, full of experienced players, struggling to keep up with superior opposition in front of expectant full house.

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Sound familiar? Thankfully the roles were reversed at Pride Park with Derby County given that same sobering slap in the face that we’ve all been used to for so many years.

So majestic and so utterly dominant were Wolves that you almost felt sorry for the Rams, such was the gulf in class and the fact we’ve been on the receiving end of countless spectacles like this ourselves.

It’s those results of yesteryear – the last three drubbings we’ve suffered at Derby for example – that keep us all grounded as things must take an inevitable turn for the worse.

But on yesterday’s evidence during large spells of our 2-0 masterclass, there’s no reason to think that they will, other than the fact that this is Wolves we’re talking about.

Nuno’s Wolves though, a subtle difference. A team that seems content to crack past millstones around our necks as they’re cracking opponents on the football pitch.

They keep the ball in tight situations, never panic and patiently wait to make the right pass at the right time – all in a new look formation that a familiar old nemesis couldn’t lay a glove on.

A matter of weeks ago, Bradley Johnson, Chris Martin and co were filling their boots in this same fixture at the iPro without seemingly breaking sweat.

Roll Fosun’s clock forward and they were blowing out of their backsides after an hour, huffing and puffing to get to where the ball had been a second before it was laid off.

The back three of Boly, Miranda and Coady were outstanding once again, with John Ruddy’s presence behind them comforting, even if he was largely untroubled (give or take a good low stop and a tip over the bar from range).

Neves and Saiss were chief architects in midfield, not only working their way out of tight spots with aplomb, but positively demanding the ball in these taxing areas to begin with.

Their vision then unfurls vast expanses of pitch as if shaking a giant rug, with Doherty and Douglas free to roam and Jota and man-of-the-match Bright benefiting further forward.

Bonatini then spearheads the attack and while not entirely convincing, he displays enough intuitive ability on the ball to tell you he’s one of Nuno’s players.

Common sense is clearly agreeing with those footballing gods too, as a giant Red Row digital advert flanked the 2-0 scoreline on the Pride Park screen. Beneath it, Conor Coady left Andreas Weimann in a heap on the floor after cleaning out the ball – and player – with customary intensity (no handshake offered or hair ruffled thereafter). Here was a broken player we’d have been watching instead of the brilliant Diego Jota, who tormented the home side to lay on the second goal for Cavaleiro, having hit the post earlier.

This performance was as progressive as it gets. As an away display, it could rarely get better, to the point in which you could scarcely believe who we were watching. Singing ‘it’s just like watching Brazil’ sounded surreal too.

As a soundtrack for the afternoon, it was surely the most fitting.

Derby County Vs Wolves Preview

We used up all our luck at Pride Park in 2009 to all but secure promotion.

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Quite how Wolves pulled that 3-2 out of the bag is anyone’s guess, but it’s right up there with our best moments in recent history.

Since then we’ve drawn once and got tonked three times with precisely zero positives to take out of those games.

This one is nicely poised (but I said that before the 5-0 a few years back). Derby are among the favourites for the top six (as they always are) and we’ve had a good start.

Difficult to know what to expect but hopefully, at the very least, a closer contest in prospect.

Derby

They’ve faffed around with managers the last couple of years and I think that’s derailed their progress as much as anything else.

Looking in from the outside I thought Paul Clement would eventually have got it right, not quite sure about Nigel Pearson though.

Steve McLaren seemed to have the knack of getting them playing well and really helped establish their football philosophy but for whatever reason they always fell just short under his guidance.

Gary Rowett has done well everywhere he’s been thus far and with decent resources at Derby you’d expect him to get them close to the action.

Tom Ince and Will Hughes were notable departures over the summer, inevitably picked off by Premier League sides after another failed promotion push last time.

But Tom Huddlestone seems like a smart signing and Curtis Davies and Andre Wisdom are equally reliable at the back.

My suspicion is they won’t be quite so free flowing under Rowett but he could give them that necessary steel they’ve been lacking to make that final push.

Andy Weimann may start for Derby to offer another interesting element to the game. He’d have been in our team tomorrow had Paul Lambert stayed on.

Wolves

There are probably two places up for grabs from the team that beat Boro and they’re both at the top end of the pitch.

I fully expect Ivan Cavaleiro to come in for Bright Enobakhare. For me it would be a coin toss, but I get the feeling Nuno likes the player and will see him as the senior figure in that position.

Nouha Dicko might have got into contention by scoring against Yeovil, but I think Bonatini could keep the shirt. Very few of the other players, particularly in advanced positions really staked their claim so hard to imagine many changes from last weekend.

Predictions

You would have thought our team was nicely setup to play away from home. I just hope we can keep things compact again and stop their better players from getting on the ball.

We’ve conceded early in some of the recent routs so it would nice to see Wolves get into the game and put some pressure on the home side.

I’m still figuring out this team though, so will continue to sit on the fence.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!