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!

Wolves 1 Yeovil Town 0

Contemplating a ‘Plan B’ after two games of the season might sound a little churlish to many, not least when they’ve both ended up in 1-0 victories.

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But during spells of last night’s unnecessarily burdensome League Cup win, you were wondering what we wouldn’t give for a physical presence up top to hammer home all that intelligent interplay behind.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘Plan A’ looks extremely encouraging and the yearning for a Chris Iwelumo-type probably misses the point completely in this principled new age of possession based football.

(And imagine a scenario if we score an early goal and teams have to attack us. Then we could really have some fun!)

But for all the quite brilliant passing and moving, the hunch is that we’re still missing that final piece of the jigsaw to convert our undoubted dominance up to the edge of the penalty box.

Bonatini – who cuts the jib of Cedric Roussel in my mind – is still some way from being fit, while Nouha Dicko is still to completely convince following his injury, despite his well-taken winner.

If not a big man, then someone with that bit of devilment to fashion a chance from clever positional play. Jordan Rhodes anyone?

In any case, I couldn’t help but be impressed with this performance, which was laden with quick, incisive interplay in what appeared to be a 3-5-2 formation.

The personnel was almost entirely different to the Middlesbrough XI, save for Boly and Bonatini, but you could tell this was another Nuno side at work with Connor Ronan and Jack Price looking particularly easy on the eye in the middle of the park.

Danny Batth and Ryan Bennett looked competent alongside Big Willy, while our wing backs Vinagre and Jordan Graham were exactly what you’d expect; cool and calm on the ball with no little inclination to attack. If anything, they could have done this even more, with Vinagre seeing a lot more of the ball in the second half, lacking only in a telling final ball.

Without doubt, Dave Edwards struggled, shanking the ball out of play in the opening seconds and generally looking ill at ease when asked to recycle the ball in the pinball game mode we now adopt. His early substitution was telling, as was his reaction to it, shaking his head, kicking a water bottle (albeit apologetically) and throwing some energy bar/snack back at the lad who lobbed it his way.

The times, they are a changing, it would appear. (Bright Enobakhare looked so exciting when he came on, with Jota also impressing.)

But not enough to stop a familiar lapse in concentration when a Yeovil striker was afforded oceans of room in front of goal before we scored, only to shoot wide.

Had that have gone in, then we could have been looking at another League Cup embarrassment. Thankfully it didn’t, Nouha Dicko planted home a close-range header and we all move on.

Wolves Vs Yeovil Town Preview

That was a big win on Saturday.

We’ve been burned before after impressive starts under Solbakken and more recently Zenga, so there’s an element of caution for sure but the Nuno revolution already feels more credible than those false dawns.

There’s decent depth in this squad, albeit with a few key performers out injured, so I’m fully expecting us to progress in this tie even though most of the weekend’s starting eleven will likely sit it out.

I enjoyed last season’s cup run and it would be nice if we could make it through a few rounds in at least one of the competitions again this season. I’m still yet to see us play at Wembley.

Yeovil

It’s worth remembering that as recent as 2014 we’d have been considered underdogs in this tie with Yeovil up in the Championship and Wolves in League One.

Fast forward to now and while we’re dreaming of the top flight, Yeovil are licking their wounds after a 20th place finish in League Two last season and an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Luton on the opening day of this campaign.

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Glovers in recent times and after that disastrous start on Saturday, they’re unsurprisingly rock bottom of the Football League.

Refunds were issued to traveling supporters who suffered the carnage at Kenilworth Road and it doesn’t seem like a happy club judging by various message boards and social media groups.

With little to lose, this is a good opportunity for them to make a amends for that poor showing and given our recent record in the competition, it could be their lucky night.

Wolves

I’m assuming we’ll see a completely different XI, but it’s difficult to know for sure until Nuno shows his hand for the first time in this type of contest. But here’s one possible combination.

That probably won’t be anything like the actual team in all honesty. I just got bored moving the pieces around trying to work who from the second string would slot into each position.

The above doesn’t include Michal Zyro or Joe Mason and if either don’t get a kick tomorrow, you would imagine their time is probably up. One or both might well start though.

Unless Nuno is going to be incredibly experimental, I think he’ll have to use at least a couple of the players who started at the weekend. But again, who knows? All guesswork.

Predictions

Whichever players make it onto the pitch for Wolves tomorrow, you would hope they’d find a way to win – convincingly or otherwise.

I’ll carry on the good vibes from the weekend and hope for comfortable progress rather than the usual extra time dramas.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

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