Wolves 3 Preston North End 2

If last week’s victory was a demonstration of Wolves’ ability to win beautifully, then this tempestuous fixture was the opposite.

Whether or not it had anything to do with the old adage of foreigners not liking wet and windy weather, many of our continental stars were off colour in the opening half.

Enough stray passes were played to make an untrained eye think that this was Paul Lambert’s Wolves side on display, and not the Nuno incarnation that has had us all purring of late.

Our own shortcomings aside, there’s no denying the credentials of our opposition.

Preston came with a gameplan and, much like Cardiff, executed it to perfection, though admittedly they were fortunate to have the mind bogglingly incompetent Stephen Martin on refereeing duties.

Questions were asked of Wolves, and for large parts of the game it was difficult to remain steadfast in the belief we would answer them.

Alas, this team appears to be capable of conjuring goals at will and did so at the death of a first half in which we had been second best.

The rejuvenated and oft celebrated Ivan Cavaleiro showed a striker’s instinct to tap over the line after the ball had ricocheted around the box, notching a goal which revitalised an otherwise sluggish home team.

One might argue that Leo Bonatini’s ensuing brace and the subsequent three goal advantage flattered Nuno’s side, but the majority of the 27,000 plus crowd cared little for justice at that point.

The Brazilian loanee is really starting to look the part and has proven the frivolous concerns of some regarding his ability to score goals to be just that. His nimble footwork, deceiving strength and excellent reading of the game makes him a key cog in our feverish front three and I’d like to see Fosun make his stay at Molineux permanent come the summer.

Our healthy cushion was not to last long, with the Lilywhites providing a perhaps timely reminder that, for all the resolve of the new look back three, we are still capable of conceding needless goals.

First, the impressive Jordan Hugill was given the freedom of Molineux and headed home a teasing cross before Roderick Miranda then conspired to miss a routine clearance and allow Preston to force home a sloppy own goal.

I’m a fan of Miranda, believing him to be one of the more underrated of our summer acquisitions, but he was our weakness for much of yesterday’s game. He’ll need to improve his concentration levels if he’s to fend off the returning Willy Boly’s claim for a place in the starting eleven.

What ensued after that carnage was an acid test of our resilience, with Preston dominating the ball and invoking some real backs to the wall defending. Connor Coady and Romain Saiss were particularly brilliant during this period, both using their gangly frames to help prevent disaster.

After we rode out a spell of seemingly endless pressure, the aforementioned Martin decided to allow the game to descend into farce by instigating a mass brawl between all sets of players. This culminated in the just sending off of Alan Browne and his hilarious ‘Where’s Wally?’ like efforts to find him after his quick trudge down the tunnel.

Some comic relief on an otherwise stressful, but no less gratifying, afternoon.

Though Nuno’s unlikely to have enjoyed this one quite as much as he did the Villa game, his team have nonetheless proven that they can win games one of two ways. History will tell you that’s an essential characteristic for any promotion chasing side to have, and whilst it remains early days it’s hard to contest the view that Wolves are looking ominously equipped to achieve their ambitions.

Wolves Vs Preston North End Preview

Top of the league and deservedly so.

But to echo Nuno’s sentiments, it’s just the beginning. We’ve had a week to bask in the glory of defeating an average Villa side, but it’s imperative to back that up with another solid result.

If I wanted to put a downer on things – and believe me I don’t – I’d point out that the teams currently sitting in second and third both deservedly beat us.

And while I wouldn’t back against Wolves to out pace the likes of Cardiff and Sheffield United it’s a timely reminder that we haven’t had it all our own way in the first quarter.

Fifth place Preston arrive with a reputation for ruffling feathers so this promises to be another useful test of promotion credentials.

Preston

Alex Neil is doing a splendid job at Deepdale. I thought they were overachieving under Simon Grayson, but the former Norwich coach has taken them up a notch.

They’ve already walloped Cardiff 3-0, drawn away at both Leeds and Middlesbrough and last weekend came within seconds of beating Fulham at Craven Cottage.

In fact, had it not been for the concession of that 96th minute equaliser they’d be coming into this game knowing a win could take them top.

They’ve conceded the fewest goals in the league (8), they press high and they’re full of beans. In short, a nightmare for a team who like to play out from the back.

I’m looking forward to seeing Jordan Hugill after we sniffed around in the summer. He’s got 6 goals already this season making their decision to pull down the ‘not for sale’ shutters appear wiser every week.

Wolves

Why did we need a forward again? Only Hull (23) have racked up more than our 21 goals and there isn’t a player in old gold who doesn’t look like he’s capable of finding the net.

It won’t work every week but I like our three interchanging little wasps up front. All that movement must be a nightmare for heavy legged Championship defenders.

And if it’s not clicking, you’ve got Bonatini locked and loaded to offer a more substantial presence. The Brazilian has two in two starting from the bench.

Miranda isn’t everyone’s cup of of tea, but I like his style. He’s skin tight on forwards and that Italian-style defending is something we haven’t seen enough of in my time. Yes, he gives away free-kicks and can be loose in possession but I think his contribution is under rated.

For the record, I still think our best back three combination if Boly, Coady and Miranda, but it’s difficult to argue with Batth’s consistency of late. He scored the winner in this fixture last season.

Predictions

This one will be all about moving the ball intelligently and not allowing their high press to knock us off our stride. Cardiff and Sheffield United have already done this effectively so Preston know the blueprint.

Villa didn’t do this. They were content to drop deep and let things unfold, but I think that played into our hands. This will be something different.

Hopefully though, quality will win out and as the league leaders, playing at home, with confidence high and backed by a buoyant crowd we should expect to win and I think we will.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

* I’m still on the scrounge for people to come along to a charity film screening I’m putting on at the start of November. Details here for anyone who is interested. Massive thanks to Clive, David (Bedford Wolf), Mark (theDOOGooder) and my trusty colleagues Ben & Rasmin for your support so far. You all have my love and gratitude.

Wolves 2 Aston Villa 0

The series of road closures around Molineux couldn’t have been more incongruously timed, with Wolves so utterly brilliant that Highways England and the council combined couldn’t divert Nuno’s men from what appears a relentless journey.

In automotive terms, that was a Bugatti Veyron performance at its most exhilarating, sending the pulses racing, the goosebumps tingling and even the most morbid of fans thinking that our destination might just be reached – with some spare fuel in the tank on last night’s showing.

At various points of this game you felt blessed to be there, alive in the moment and you sensed you could look back on it like you still do for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup or Bully’s winner against the Blues. That Waterloo Road was coned off afterwards made it even better, as an inadvertent fan zone formed, flooding the street afterwards with supporters singing and bouncing back into town in a scene I’ve not seen in 30 years.

The worry, as always with Wolves, is that something will go wrong. Jota will get crocked, Neves will break down, or Miranda will get homesick and the wheels will fall off. Under Nuno’s watch, you sense he’s got a spare tyre in the boot and won’t panic anyway, as we carry on clocking up the miles on our journey to the place we daren’t mention just yet.

‘We are back in work on Monday and have a tough game on Saturday,’ reflected the boss, at his knowing best.

With the mesmeric Jota and co lighting up the Molineux and a 30,000 strong crowd in full voice, it feels like we’re the sort of formidable force that even Hurricane Ophelia’s couldn’t budge.

The game itself was a joy to watch, as an in-form Villa were swept aside with ease. The defensive three of Coady, Miranda and Batth were first to every ball and stifled every single attack before offloading intelligently. From there, our creative players worked their magic with Neves looking every inch the £15 million man in the middle.

Cavaleiro put in an incredible performance, interchanging with Costa and Diogo, with the twin turbo engines of Douglas and Doherty again knitting it all together. Then Bonatini came on and made us even better.

It sounds so straightforward to explain, so easy to watch and so simple in practice…

The way that football should be played.

Wolves Vs Aston Villa Preview

Unlike last season when both teams were farting around in lower midtable, this game has substance.

Taking 4 points off them was enjoyable but it didn’t count for anything in the final reckoning and they still finished above us.

Now we’re riding high but they’re also coming up like an express train with four wins in a row lifting them to within a point of the play-offs.

Derailing that progress and possibly taking ourselves to the top of the table in the process would be some statement of intent. They’ll be equally buoyant if things go their way.

A sell out crowd, live on TV, under the floodlights – it’s got all the big game feels.

Villa

They’ve finally got their act together for Steve Bruce, which isn’t a great surprise. Both manager and players have done it all before.

Over the last year they’ve brought in most of the best Championship talent and supplemented that with several proven Premier League performers including John Terry.

Glen Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Ahmed Elmohamady are performers the boss can rely on to deliver. The latter pair have already got him out of this league once during their time at Hull.

Kodjia is a key player and gives them that zip up front. If he remains fit, he’ll easily surpass the 20 goal mark. We need to keep him tied up tomorrow.

Young Keinan Davis is also making a big impression and he’s definitely another to look out for. Adomah and Onomah are other pacey threats Wolves may have to suppress.

Wolves

Nuno’s got some tactical headaches after demolishing Burton, assuming everyone is fit. We’ve all got our preferences and this is mine.

As others have stated Villa won’t risk playing a high line, so I think we need Bonatini back in the side to make it stick. Coady should also come back in based on his performances prior to taking an early shower at Bramall Lane.

Boly and Douglas (if fit) for Batth and Vinagre is harsh but I just think the team is stronger and more solid with those two playing. Others will disagree.

The above team omits Vinagre, Cavaliero, Enobakhare, Marshall and N’Diaye – all players I’d never be disappointed to see in the starting eleven indicating just how good life is at present.

Predictions

Here’s the thing. I feel like winning this one would be too good to be true, so I’ve convinced myself we’ll probably get turned over. Football fan logic has washed over me.

We shouldn’t fear Villa though and I believe we have better players, albeit with less experience. If both teams play to their maximum I think Wolves win out.

They’ll come with a plan to shut down space and use their know-how to simply edge us out, much like Cardiff were able to do a few months back so it’s whether we’ve learned to deal with that kind of treatment.

As I think we should win, but will probably lose I’ll sit on the fence and say Even Stevens.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Burton Albion 0 Wolves 4

In the wake of this victory – our most convincing of the season by some distance – one can only assume that the Wolves players wiled away the hours of Friday night playing FIFA 18.

The football on display at the Pirelli Stadium was often befitting of a video game, such was the precision of our build up play and composure in front of goal.

The footwork of the diminutive pairing of Ivan Cavaleiro and Ruben Vinagre was often the stuff of pure fantasy, with poor Stephen Warnock ending up on his backside when attempting to prevent our fourth and final goal.

It was a performance to behold, one that erased the premature fear of a dip in form following our defeat to Sheffield United.

Given our response to the loss against Cardiff earlier in the season, that always seemed unlikely but those of a glass half empty persuasion can be forgiven for expecting the worst given there is the small matter of the derby with in-form Aston Villa looming.

As pointed out in previous blogs, Wolves finally seem to have found themselves a manager capable of instilling a winning mentality within the club and that was never more apparent than yesterday.

Say what you like about the Brewers, but they’re a formidable side at home that try and play football the right way.

Nonetheless, their efforts were fruitless yesterday as we surged into an early two goal lead.

Cavaleiro, in the sort of form that makes him worthy of the seemingly never ending song that has been dedicated to him, did well to tee up the clinical Diogo Jota for the first, whilst the less Stephen Bywater hears about the Roman Saiss’ tap in that followed shortly after the better.

If those goals were pleasing but somewhat underwhelming, the following two made for gleeful viewing.

Ruben Vinagre, arguably the best performer on the pitch, weaved his way into the opposition box in a manner befitting of the world’s very best full backs before dispatching the ball low and hard past the hapless Bywater.

Though he is far from the finished article, it is becoming clearer with every passing game that the Portuguese loanee is a frightful talent that has the potential to go far in his career.

It was hard to see that goal being topped for quality, but the fourth was the result of some simply outrageous skill.

After turning the aforementioned Warnock inside out, Cavaleiro squared the ball to the also excellent Matt Doherty who rolled it nto the path of a gleeful Leo Bonatini for an easy fourth goal of his Wolves career.

Liquid football is the most appropriate term to describe this performance, and we now head into the international break, dependent on today’s results, sitting pretty in second place.

We can only hope that the ensuing spate of international games does not throw us off kilter, as you’d suspect we’ll have to replicate these standards when facing the more challenging prospect of Steve Bruce’s promotion chasers.

One thing’s for certain though, in this sort of form, Nuno’s men are capable of putting anyone to the sword.

Burton Albion Vs Wolves Preview

In the same way that consecutive wins build confidence, back-to-back defeats are problematic.

After losing to Cardiff, we beat Southampton in the cup and got a solid point at Brentford. It felt like we were immediately back in business.

We need to do something similar again ahead of the international break with a derby to come against Villa straight after. We don’t want a bad result to become a bad run.

Burton are no slouches, particularly on their own ground, but this remains a good opportunity to bounce back.

Burton

They’re a funny old team who’ve registered all sorts of results so far, beating Fulham at home one week and getting slapped by Villa 4-0 the next. Leeds also took them to the cleaners at Elland Road.

Towards the end of last season they looked a dangerous side. Michael Kightly and Cauley Woodrow came in and they were making life difficult for everyone, including Wolves.

They beat us 2-1 to curtail Paul Lambert’s brief march up the table and were good value for that win, turning things around after Helder Costa’s penalty gave Wolves the lead.

But Kightly and Woodrow are no more. Their talisman Jackson Irvine was also sold to Hull in August so it’s been another summer reshuffle for Nigel Clough.

One player they have recruited is Sean Scannell and he has been a thorn in our side on several occasions for Huddersfield and could be again tomorrow.

Wolves man Joe Mason hasn’t been able to consistently force his way into their first eleven yet and they won’t be able to call on his services in this one against his parent club.

Wolves

The key question is who slots in while Conor Coady serves his suspension? Deslandes, Bennett and Hause are the most likely candidates but there are more left field solutions.

It would be a bold move to play Romain Saiss in the back three but he’s come on and played there a few times, so I believe this will be one of the ideas Nuno considers.

Surely Helder Costa will be given another chance to play? Like everyone else, I’m excited to see if he can link up with Jota and Bonatini to create one of the most formidable front three combinations we’ve ever had.

Bonatini also came off at half time against Sheffield United, so hopefully he’s fresh for this one, but with Costa back I can see both Enobakhare and Cavaleiro played down the middle if the Brazilian needs a rest.

Predictions

I’m backing us to get the win. I think it will be a tough game, but this group of players have the quality and a winning mentality.

The key is playing our way into the game and controlling possession. That won’t be easy on a tight pitch with the crowd on top of them, but they’ll get it done.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

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