Wigan Athletic 2 Wolves 1

As bad days at the office go, Sam Allardyce’s Tuesday will take some beating.

But losing his best player and losing in the last minute to the league’s bottom club wasn’t the plan Walter Zenga had contemplated over his morning espresso.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was ruled out with a minor groin injury and after that was announced an hour before kick off, you sensed a kick in that area for the rest of us was forthcoming.

That suspicion was confirmed minutes in when we were behind to the inevitable Adam Le Fondre goal.

So predictable that one of the former Wolves quartet would score it was almost a relief to get it out of the way early.

And once Prince Oniangue had brought us level with a smart finish from a Cavaleiro cut-back, hopes of an away victory soared.

But that period immediately before the break was to prove Wolves’ purple patch in a game that Wigan would ultimately wrestle away.

Their late winner wasn’t against the run of play but truly awful all the same, with a punt down the middle of the pitch causing the type of chaos you’d expect in an under 7s game as Batth and Iorfa floundered and Will Grigg profited.

Questions will inevitably be asked about Zenga’s substitutions as none were able to make meaningful impact or even help see out the contest for a not unpalatable point.

Paul Gladon in particular is labouring and the fact he was left out in the first place despite being the obvious replacement for Bodvarsson won’t have done much for his confidence.

Playing with Cavaleiro through the middle was an experiment worth trying, but suffice to say he was never going to offer the type of selfless hold-up play that Bodvarsson has perfected in recent months.

Whether the big Icelander makes it back on Saturday or not, it’s clear that Wolves must develop a Plan B if they’re to be considered credible contenders at the higher end of the table.

Otherwise more bad days at the office seem inevitable.

Wigan Athletic Vs Wolves Preview

10 games is normally a good marker to determine what might be on the table for the remainder of the season.

 

With that in mind, it would be lovely to win this one and almost certainly return to the top six.

After Burton and Barnsley you were left wondering how bad it could get by the end of September.

Thankfully, recent developments have us looking up instead of down.

Wigan

1024px-Wigan_Athletic.svgIt’s difficult to imagine a worse start for the Latics, who find themselves bottom of the table after losing at Preston last Friday.

That’s a bit of surprise. I thought the reigning League One champions might carry over that momentum into this season, but it’s just one win in nine for Gary Caldwell’s men.

Wigan are awash with former Wolves players and all could conceivably feature tonight, which given our recent record against former players suggests an uncomfortable evening for the away side.

I was crushed when Michael Jacobs was sold and it was no surprise to see him tearing up League One again last season. Question marks remain over his ability to do it in the Championship, but he’ll be up for this one I’m sure.

Adam Le Fondre and Nathan Byrne were both disappointing in a gold shirt, but the latter certainly didn’t get much opportunity to impress.

Craig Davies was one of those early signings in the Mick McCarthy era who was short on quality but his electric pace was useful in an enjoyable start to the 2006 season.

Wolves

This is another test of Walter Zenga’s rotation policy. With this game hot on the heels of Saturday, changes do feel inevitable. Obviously, I’d pick the same eleven.

team-for-brentford

I can see Coady, Mason and Cavaleiro (the subs who made it on from the Brentford game) heading the queue for a start. All three could play.

Ola John and Silvio both impressed against Newcastle in the cup but were banished from the squad completely on Saturday. I’d like to see them feature again at some point soon.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

I don’t think Wigan are as bad as the table suggests. Looking at their goal difference (-3) it doesn’t seem like they’re being totally outplayed, rather just edged out in close matches.

Added to that our goal suddenly becomes a magnet for former players and I wouldn’t bet against the likes of Jacobs or Byrne netting tonight.

But overall, we should beat Wigan and I think we’ll just about get it done, assuming it’s not a completely different eleven and team retains some level of cohesion.

2-1

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 3 Brentford 1

Convincing? Not so much. But pleasantly reassuring all the same.

Reassuring in the sense that after such an impressive victory against Newcastle last Saturday it was a relief to see the same eleven a) make it onto the pitch and b) follow up with another win against a good Championship outfit.

I thought Zenga might find it impossible not to tinker, but the Italian stuck to the script and was rewarded with a far more cohesive showing than we saw against Burton or Barnsley.

That said, Brentford weren’t really pulling up any trees themselves until they went 2-0 down and started turning the screw in search of a way back.

Wolves had grown into the game as a bitty first half progressed and it was great to see them shift up a gear after the break and take charge of proceedings.

Joao Teixeira looked the most likely route to goal throughout, so it was no surprise to see him latching onto Helder Costa’s pass before confidently turning inside and stabbing home.

His second was one of those free kicks that’s both a cross and a shot if bodies run across the ball. Some people call them lucky but if you put the ball in the right area with pace, you deserve that reward.

He might have had a penalty in the first half too, but despite being sat right in front of it, I still can’t decide whether he dived or was pushed. Either way, the twisting run that preceded it was mesmerising.

On days like this where he chips in with a few goals, it’s hard to believe there’s a more effective playmaker than the young Portuguese man knocking around in the second tier.

Physically, there’s still a major question mark of course and the same can probably be said of Costa and certainly of Cavaleiro. But all three suggested they might be finding their feet with telling contributions when it mattered today.

One person you can’t accuse of shirking a scrap is Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. He is our talisman and the linchpin around which the whole team functions. Without him, forget about it.

I break out in a cold sweat every time he hits the deck thinking our season is about to vanish in a puff of smoke. But up he pops, ready to batter his way through another challenge.

Brentford tried everything imaginable to stop him today but the big Icelander eventually won the day, busting through late on and teeing up Cavaleiro to hammer in the final nail.

Had we not scored that goal it wasn’t difficult to envisage more late heartbreak in front of the North Bank as the Bees buzzed around our penalty area and repeatedly occupied uncomfortable positions.

But Wolves did enough, just enough, to get it done.

And with this team developing and hopefully growing stronger with each passing week, that’s all we can ask.

Wolves Vs Brentford Preview

Excitement or trepidation?

Probably both.

That’s just how it feels supporting this Wolves team. You might argue it’s always been that way, but even more so this season.

Hopes were built up prior to Burton and Barnsley with the bubble obliterated before being patched up and re-inflated at St. James’ Park.

Losing in the cup was a bit of a pill but our league aspirations will be well and truly back on track if we can overcome Brentford.

Brentford

Brentford logoEven though we beat them on our way to winning League One and scored a narrow home victory the following season in the Championship, Brentford feel like a bogey team.

They’ve twice thrashed us on their own patch and won comfortably at Molineux last time out. I suspect this season won’t be any easier.

Scott Hogan is the league’s form striker with 6 goals already, including a hat-trick against Preston last Saturday.

At the other end of the pitch, their defence boast the best defensive record in the league having conceded just 5 in 8 matches.

And of course you know Dean Smith – born in West Bromwich with a 10 year Walsall association – will be well up for this one.

Wolves

With Ola John and Silvio back pushing for places and Nouha Dicko not far behind, selection headaches are piling up for Mr. Zenga. But this should be relatively straightforward no?

team-for-brentford

The same team that beat Newcastle, or something very close to it, will surely start tomorrow.

I’ll never stick my house on anything with Zenga, but that eleven must be at the forefront of his thoughts.

There was an insinuation that Bortwick-Jackson was caught out for Matt Ritchie’s opener in midweek, so that could open the door for the likes of Silvio, Hause or Stearman.

Ivan Cavaleiro didn’t feature at all in midweek after only getting a late cameo in the league game and considering his price tag, I’d expect him to also be involved at some point too.

Predictions

Went for a defeat in the league and a win in the cup against Newcastle so what the hell do I know?

I do know Brentford are looking like a well oiled machine. I also know Wolves are backed to win and expectation levels are sky high, which is normally ideal conditions for a swift kick in the goolies.

So I’ll hop back onto the fence and say 2-2.

Up The Wolves!

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Newcastle United 2 Wolves 0

If Saturday was about the collective team performance, the positives to take from this tame League Cup exit were all about individuals.

Silvio being one such example, appearing on the teamsheet after a month and a half in the wilderness and turning in a steady seven out of ten.

Former Benfica team mate Ola John also got his debut and impressed in a 45 minute cameo, showing pace and flair in an otherwise toothless attacking effort from Wolves.

Jed Wallace squandered the team’s only meaningful effort, running through on goal but shooting tamely at the goalkeeper. His wastefulness against Barnsley proved costly and so it proved again last night.

To Newcastle’s credit the two goals they scored were Premier League quality. First Matt Richie’s neat one-two opened the door for a neat finish before the winger laid on the cross for Yoan Gouffran to let rip with an unstoppable volley.

I suppose after that double blow it has to be considered a positive that Wolves stuck at it and didn’t go to pieces.

And after John’s introduction, there was some hope of finding a way back into the contest, albeit fleetingly. But he’ll be a weapon in the weeks and months to come.

More disappointing was Paul Gladon, who again tried his very hardest to impose himself on the game but struggled to lead the line with anything like the effectiveness of Jon Dadi Bodvarrson.

With the Dutch man failing to impress and Joe Mason playing deeper, that puts a lot of pressure on the big Icelander, meaning Nouha Dicko’s return can’t come soon enough.

He scored for the U23’s on Monday and looked close to match fitness judging by the highlights. I wonder how much longer it will be before he’s considered ready for first team activity?

You probably won’t get a direct answer out of Walter Zenga, who continues to talk in riddles and metaphors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody will be second guessing Wolves while he’s in charge.

Least of all, any of us.

* Highlights of the game can be viewed here.

Newcastle United Vs Wolves Preview

I was wrong.

In the post-Barnsley discussion thread and my preview for Saturday’s game I felt Wolves would lose, regardless of the team selection.

Perhaps I was giving Newcastle too much credit or Walter Zenga and his players not enough, but could you blame me after Tuesday’s collapse?

Prior to the first leg of the St. James’ Park double header, I felt the most important thing was to at least see the emergence of a team. And boy did we get that and more.

Hopefully it’s the start of something and not just the first of many high points in a topsy-turvy season.

Newcastle

newcastle_united_logo-svgThe Magpies had most of the ball and forced Carl Ikeme into a couple of worldies, but I didn’t hear anyone begrudging Wolves what turned out to be a comfortable away win.

Rafa Benitez perhaps paid the price himself for rotation, as the likes of Mitrovic and Gouffran were dropped after featuring in the blitz of QPR.

Or maybe they were tired or maybe they thought they’d win comfortably. Whatever the reason, Wolves were well on top and that won’t sit well with the Toon supporters.

You’d expect the manager to ring the changes again and much like Wolves, it’s hard to know whether their supposed second string will even be inferior to the team we faced on Saturday.

Newcastle fan Jake hosts a Championship Podcast (which I’m due to be on early next week) and he sent me a few Tweets ahead of this one:

“Wolves looked to be a good team on Saturday, but previous results suggest a lack of consistency. Play-offs the ceiling? We have recovered well since bad start. Saturday was a reminder that we won’t be able to win every match. I’m not sure what team we will put out on Tuesday. That said, I can’t see you winning twice at SJP, so a home win this time!”

Wolves

Since Kevin McDonald’s absence and subsequent sale, we haven’t had any matchwinners in the middle of the park. Hopefully Romain Saiss can be that man.

team-for-newcastle-cup

The Moroccan was a key performer on Saturday and given how flaky we looked against Burton and Barnsley, he must be nailed on to start against Brentford.

As for tomorrow, I can see Zenga going big and changing the entire side. The above represents a completely different XI to Saturday, save for Doherty at full-back.

Speaking of full-backs I’m not sure how far away Silvio is from getting a game or Ola John. Zenga has been fairly tight-lipped on their status but would be great to see them back fighting for a shirt.

Predictions

I wanna go to Wembley baby. It’s long overdue and we haven’t even got anywhere close in the last 10 years and more.

This is a tough tie, but you would hope that whatever the team selection we’ve got a few players that can produce a moment of magic to help us progress.

Newcastle will be fired up after getting turned over at the weekend, so expecting a tough test, but with the residue of optimism still in the air from Saturday I’ll back us to squeak through.

2-1.