Wolves Vs Nottingham Forest

Teams never play consistently well for an entire season.

But this campaign (to date) has been as close as you’ll get.

That’s why I give little credence to comments like ‘we’ve been figured out’ or ‘we’re not playing as well as we were’.

It’s been ebb and flow all season, save for one or two purple patches when the opposition have been stretched.

We failed to score at Barnsley and suddenly we’re crying out for a striker again, despite sticking three past a strong Brentford side in the previous game.

All season the team has succeeded through a strong defensive shape, discipline in possession and fast counter attacks. For me, nothing has changed.

We’ll drop plenty of points before May, maybe even tomorrow, but I still don’t think this group of players have done anything to make us believe they’re about to fold.

Notts Forest

It was great to see Forest put Arsenal out of the cup. I thought the team Wenger fielded was a bit disrespectful and they were rightly put to the sword.

Forest are one of those famous old clubs who are long overdue some success. They’ve mucked around with managers for years but I suspect Karanka might get them going. Then again, I thought that about Warburton.

Karanka is from the Mourinho school of coaching and over the course of a few seasons built a pretty impregnable defence at Middlesbrough.

If he can do the same at Forest, they’ve got some good footballers who can make things happen further up the pitch.

As it is, with 43 goals conceded it’s tough for them to make top half progress. They’ve only drawn twice all season, so it’s very much been all or nothing.

Wolves

I hope Cavaleiro is back in the starting lineup tomorrow, along with all the other familiar faces.

Costa is showing a few flashes but isn’t delivering the goods in terms of goals and assists. Mir didn’t do enough to press his claim at Swansea so Bonatini should continue.

Both Saiss and Neves are one booking away from a two game ban and with the deadline not up until March, that seems an inevitability.

Alfred N’Diaye should get some game time, but I’m concerned that we’re a bit light in that area now Price has been discarded. Gibbs-White isn’t quite there for me.

But I’m sure Nuno has something up his sleeve. For tomorrow, it should be business as usual.

Predictions

Unsurprisingly I’m predicting a win. I expect Forest to be more organised under Karanka but he hasn’t had long to get into those players and communicate his ideas.

Their away record is pretty terrible and we’ve managed a good level of consistency at Molineux, so the logical outcome is a home victory.

2-0.

Up The Wolves!

Swansea City 2 Wolves 1

The dream is over for another year.

But this low key exit is barely a blip on my radar. In truth, I’m pleased to be rid of the distraction.

Whereas last time out the FA Cup represented a welcome vacation from our depressingly poor efforts in the league, this season I viewed it as a pointless detour.

I wanted to win, but with danger lurking around every corner, a clean and swift eliminiation wasn’t unappealing.

Jota’s introduction last night had me hiding behind the sofa and I spent the final half hour preying our star man wouldn’t come a cropper in the tornado-like conditions.

Thankfully he didn’t and with a bit more luck his heroic cameo may have been enough to see us through. But it didn’t and the point I’m labouring is that we shouldn’t waste time pining over what might have been.

We have to think bigger.

There is a unique opportunity within our grasp to not only regain Premier League status, but truly make it stick. This squad and manager, backed by ambitious owners and high profile contacts can take us places.

And if it plays out as it should, there will be plenty of opportunities for cup runs in the years to come.

In isolation I think this defeat served as a useful reminder to Nuno that his squad aren’t infallible, particularly the second string.

The defence has been the bedrock of our success this year, but the back three were far too easily breached. Hause in particular had a night to forget.

Gibbs-White and N’Diaye both bring admirable qualities, but neither are Ruben Neves. Neither can do what he does. We shouldn’t have expected the same kind of fluency through the middle.

And up top, the cutting edge simply isn’t there when Jota and Cavaleiro aren’t in the team. They are the players sticking the ball in the net or putting it on a plate for others.

But I’m not downbeat. Quite the opposite in fact.

We can only beat ourselves and with one less distraction, it’s a direct sprint to the finish line. Lets bring it home.

Swansea City Vs Wolves Preview

The cup competitions have highlighted just how much Wolves have progressed this season.

Without using hardly any of his key performers, Nuno has routinely taken on Premier League opposition and emerged in credit every time.

Yes, you can point to a good FA Cup run last year, but that was real backs to the wall stuff. Wolves have taken the game to the opposition more this time.

Swansea were lucky to get this replay on the balance of chances created, despite enjoying a numerical advantage for a good chunk of the game at Molineux.

Tonight’s winner is rewarded with a fourth round tie at Notts County.

Swansea

The Swans took a useful point away to Newcastle on Saturday, but left disappointed it wasn’t two wins in two league matches for Carlos Carvalhal.

They should been given a penalty that would have also resulted in a straight red for Mo Diame, but the handball was missed by the officials. VAR anyone?

But having taken the lead anyway in the final third of the game, they can only blame themselves for not hanging on.

With West Brom and Bournmouth both winning, they’re still rooted to the bottom and four points from safety. It’s a tall order for them to stay up. Not impossible, but very tough.

After this game they’ve got home games against Liverpool and Arsenal, so all the more reason to rest their best and brightest. I don’t think they’ll be overly disappointed if they’re eliminated.

Wolves

Looking back at the highlights on Saturday, Wolves did enough to get the win. Having watched the game, it was a scrappy old affair, but when you see the chances back-to-back you realise we were the dominant force.

Still, it’s going to be all change tonight. Batth is back from his suspension so will likely start. Miranda has been frozen out lately too so might get some game time in a second-string back three.

Wing-backs are tricky with Vinagre out and no immediate cover for Doherty. Marshall is an option but he looks like he’s heading for the exit. Our first choice picks may have to fill in.

Jordan Graham is back from the wilderness of Fulham reserves, so must be another contender. Not sure where he slots in though. Perhaps down the left instead of Costa in the above lineup.

Mir should get a start. Why not?

Predictions

This one could go in any direction, but based on the first match I’ll back us for a win.

2-1.

Impossible to say with any certainty given that both teams will use their squad and it then just becomes a case of who gels better. Hopefully it’s us as victory here opens up a good opportunity to make it into round five.

Up The Wolves!

Barnsley 0 Wolves 0

The phrase ‘it’s grim up north’ could have been penned for this very occasion.

On a dull afternoon in Yorkshire, Wolves couldn’t find a rhythm on a tight, bobbling pitch, so returning south with a point is a more than palatable outcome.

After all, it’s one game and one point closer to the objective. 14 matches unbeaten I might add.

We mustn’t grumble.

Barnsley are a young team of upstarts and they set about the league leaders from the first kick and remained disciplined throughout. It was nigh on impossible to break through.

Their tight defensive shape came at the expense of any real attacking menace and with Wolves equally content to remain deep, much of the contest was duked out in the middle third of the pitch.

They could have won it for though.

A few loose balls dropped for onrushing players on the rare occasion they ventured into dangerous territory but Ruddy remained untested.

Wolves for their part were in the ascendancy the longer it went on but too often laboured in and around the box.

The quick counter was seldom an option either, with the home side defending in numbers and the ball constantly getting stuck under feet at the crucial moment.

Jota was culpable of poor decision making and somehow contrived to miss from under the crossbar in one of his less illustrious outings to date.

Down the opposite flank I remain steadfast in my belief that Cavaleiro offers more than Costa and would certainly be restoring him to the starting lineup for the Forest game next Saturday.

Without him, the team lacks tempo, particularly when the impetus is on Wolves to break down the wall. It’s no use saying ‘he’s good off the bench’ if we have to wait half the game to get things moving.

On a heavy pitch, Bonatini’s legs have never looked, well, heavier. Mir was quicker across the ground and did enough in his first league appearance to suggest he can influence proceedings. Still early days for him of course.

If it was an off day for the attacking unit, we were again convincing at the back. Certainly not much to fault Coady or Bennett on as they collected another cleansheet.

But Boly is the difference maker. The way he so routinely wins everything in the air and on the deck before casually sauntering up the pitch marks him out time after time. Today was no different.

We’ve waited nigh on 15 years for a center back of his ilk. Keep him and a few of the others fit and firing for the 19 games remaining and the rest becomes moot.

Onwards and upwards.

Barnsley Vs Wolves Preview

I’m feeling particularly bullish at present.

Along with everyone else I’ve predicted wins for most of the games since November, but there have been a few that I’ve looked at and contemplated ‘Is this the stumble?’.

Blues and Sheffield Wednesday away just before Christmas could have been nasty. Similarly Bristol and Brentford back-to-back.

But we won them all and it wouldn’t have taken much to shift those draws against Sunderland and Millwall into maximums either.

We’ve beaten four of the five teams immediately below us, competed against all Premier League opposition we’ve come across in the cup and all playing our way.

Nothing is done yet. I’m wise enough to know that. But there’s no reason to think it won’t carry on.

Barnsley

The Tykes gave us a right good game back in September, matching Wolves in every sense of the word until Alfred N’Diaye’s 93rd minute winner.

You have to admire what Paul Heckingbottom continues to do at Oakwell, nurturing young players who inevitably get picked off by clubs higher up the food chain.

All that might be about to change though, after they were taken over by, you guessed it, a Chinese billionaire. The consortium now in control includes Chinese money but also Billy Beane (of Moneyball fame), so expect an influx of signings based on statistical profiling.

It will be mighty interesting to see what happens to the club in the coming years once that team get their feet properly under the table.

In the immediate Barnsley are slipping. They’re bottom of the Championship form table with just one victory in their last 10 matches, making their task tomorrow look all the more daunting.

They did get that win last time out though and it was a big one against Sunderland. Without it, they’d be sitting in the bottom three.

Wolves

The much changed side for Swansea last weekend allowed Nuno to rest key players like Boly, Neves, Saiss and Jota. All should be back in tomorrow.

As the team more or less still picks itself I’ll use this space to comment on something else – central midfield.

I said last season that the club were overloaded with average midfielders and that area of the pitch required the most attention.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d offload every single one of them, with the exception of Coady who moved into defence and Saiss who is transformed alongside Neves.

Price, Evans, Saville, Edwards and Oniangue all offered different qualities but none were good enough as a complete package.

Price was the best technical player so it’s logical he clung on the longest. I’m a touch surprised they’re allowing him to leave now given we only really have N’Diaye as cover. Perhaps that signals another arrival is imminent?

Speaking of new signings Rafa Mir should make the bench tomorrow and it’s good to have a genuine alternative to Leo or someone that can play alongside him if things are going Pete Tong.

Predictions

The only logical prediction is an away win. The league table, the form table and the obvious gulf in class between the players dictates the most likely result.

Barnsley were arguably the better side in the game earlier in the season, but I think Wolves have developed since then, so should be better equipped for this challenge.

They’re a young side so you’d expect them to get around the pitch and put our possession-based game to the test, but ultimately I think we’ll catch them out.

2-0.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Swansea City 0

Given the contrasting fortunes of the two teams, the scene was set for an upset.

Considering the paucity of the Swans’ current team, it would hardly have been a giant killing but the prospect of putting Premier League opposition to the sword was enticing nonetheless.

Unfortunately, some goalkeeping heroics from Kristoffer Nordfeldt deprived us of that opportunity.

Even the most ardent of opposition supporters would agree that this was a game bossed by the home side.

Frankly, we looked streets ahead of Carlos Carvalhal’s team at times and should have been a goal up well in advance of the first contentious decision of the day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the ever mercurial Bright Enobakhare that was guilty of spurning the best of a few good goalscoring opportunities.

With the goal seemingly at his mercy courtesy of a rather frenetic first half defensive scramble, he contrived to screw the ball wide.

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It was a glaring blemish on an otherwise enterprising performance, and will no doubt have given Nuno food for thought about where the young forward fits into his long term strategy. Perhaps a loan move would iron out some of the shortcomings that are currently holding him back?

Other fringe players that impressed were Alfred N’Diaye, who did a first rate job of playing the midfield destroyer role. What a complement it is to Ruben Neves and Romain Saiss that he can’t get into the eleven on a regular basis.

Alongside him in midfield was our World Cup winning prodigy Morgan Gibbs-White, who thrilled the home crowd with some really enterprising play that included one truly delicious ball over the top of Swansea’s defence.

Sadly, his was a performance we weren’t able to enjoy for long due to Anthony Taylor’s decision to give Ruben Vinagre his marching orders for a dangerous but unintentional foul on Nathan Dyer.

Vinagre was later joined by Leroy Fer, who saw red for a petulant but ultimately harmless flick of the leg after a mightily impressive Helder Costa managed to evade his initial tackle.

Like many, I at first thought that Vinagre had been most unlucky to be given his marching orders but video replays have proved the decision to be an astute one.

That being said, I will point out that various Wolves players, though mostly Diogo Jota, have been on the receiving end of far worse tackles this season and the culprits – whether playing for Cardiff, Birmingham, Preston or otherwise – have gone unpunished. I’ve no issue with our players being corrected when they fall out of line but find the inconsistency in decision making most frustrating, as I suspect Nuno does too.

That frustrating sideshow aside, it was perhaps the performance of Costa which was the most notable feature of this stalemate.

After a stop-start first half of the season which so recently featured a truly dire showing in our triumph at Bristol City, the winger was back to his diminutive best and often careened past the opposition backline in a manner akin to last season’s vintage.

Hopefully it’s a level he can sustain as competition for places are only set to increase up front on account of the exciting addition of Rafa Mir to our ranks. Though limited to a cameo today, the Spaniard looks as if he possesses the physical attributes needed to add further variety to our attacking play.

Despite the presence of Mir, Costa and Cavaleiro, however, this tie fizzled out into somewhat of a damp squib that is likely to be remembered best for the two sendings off.

Still, encouragement should still be taken from the fact that we once again more than held our own against top flight opposition – albeit one that is likely to be swapping places with us at the season’s end.