Wolves Vs Sunderland Preview

I have a suspicion this will end up being a preview for a game that doesn’t happen.

With snow on the ground already and more to come we may experience that increasingly rare phenomenon of ‘match abandoned’.

If it is called off that’s a blow and not just for those of us hoping to get out the house for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

With the points steadily rolling in, the quicker we can get through the games the better.

For that reason I hope everything that can be done is done to make sure the match goes ahead.

Sunderland

Chris Coleman has a job on his hands to get Sunderland out of this mess. They’re eerily reminiscent of the Wolves team that suffered the last double relegation.

They’ve lost half of the 20 games they’ve played so far and only managed two wins. Yes, you heard right, two wins.

Unlike shot shy Birmingham who are a place above them in the table, scoring goals hasn’t been an issue. The 26 they’ve netted so far is more than respectable. It’s the 38 they’ve conceded that’s the problem.

Only Burton (who are bottom) have shipped as many so the objective for Coleman is pretty obvious – shut the back door.

One nugget of hope for the Black Cats is that both their victories have been on the road. But they come into the game off the back of another disappointing home defeat to Reading.

Wolves

Although Wolves managed a decent level of consistency in their performance at St. Andrew’s I did feel we missed Ruben Neves. I expect him to play tomorrow.

Helder Costa is really the only player whose getting a proper chance to come on and fight for his place. He was disappointing on Monday night.

It’s a shame for the likes of Ruben Vinagre and Bright Enobakhare who’ve done good things when they’ve played, but what can you do?

As well as the team are playing, the winning run can’t go on forever and when there is a drop in performance levels, it’s good to know we’ve got players to challenge.

There should definitely be an emphasis on quality over quantity in our January recruitment. Two players at most for me.

Predictions

The only reasons you wouldn’t predict a Wolves win are those old favourites like ‘we’re due a bad result’. 

We are definitely due a bad result, but logic dictates it shouldn’t be this one. If Wolves play anything close to their maximum it should be a seventh consecutive victory.

Pump up that orange ball lads.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Birmingham City 0 Wolves 1

BBC WM, as any local football fan can attest, often makes for interesting post-game listening.

Last evening, in the wake of a sixth consecutive win for Wolves, the phone-in was largely dominated by the topic of Birmingham’s second half performance.

In the eyes of the commentary team, though admittedly few of their fans, they had given the league leaders one of their sternest challenges this season.

Couple this with Steve Cotterill’s rather laughable assertion that we were ‘average’ and that ‘without goal line technology, they might have got away with it’ and the picture of a rather chastening night at the office becomes clear.

And yet, the home side didn’t muster a shot on target all evening.

Which begs the question, if this is to be considered one of the more challenging victories of the season so far, then is anyone really capable of landing a punch on this team?

Labels such as ‘the Manchester City of the Championship’ often prove to be more of an albatross around the neck than lasting compliment, but in this case it’s beginning to look fitting.

Like City, Nuno’s ensemble have begun to demonstrate an aptitude for winning in all manner of ways, whether it be in the vein of recent shellacking of Bolton or this more arduous of successes.

This has been irrespective of how the opposition have performed, with few teams actually standing out as being poor thus far.

Despite their inability to pepper John Ruddy’s goal, the Blues were in the ascendancy for much of the second half.

Nonetheless, I never really feared that we’d let the points slip away from us. Tell me, is that overconfidence or acceptance of the reality that we’re simply too good for the majority of teams in this league?

Much has rightly been made this season of our passing ability but what’s equally impressive to me is the ferocious appetite the players show when closing down their challengers, a skill flaunted on numerous occasions last evening.

With Ruben Neves’ enforced absence a glaring feature of our inability to penetrate a resolute (if appallingly over-competitive) home guard, the need to suffocate Blues’ play was more pressing than it likely would have been had our Portuguese maestro not been missing.

And press they did, with potential threats such as Jota and Lukas Jutkiewicz squeezed out of the game almost entirely.

Willy Boly was integral in this respect, turning in a performance as good as any I’ve seen from a Wolves defender past or present.

Though our success to date has been resultant of the efforts of all our players, it’s clear to see who the key individuals are within this current outfit and the gargantuan Frenchman, along with the rejuvenated Connor Coady, is certainly the key cog in our resilient defence.

Also standing out was the unrelenting work rate of our wing backs, a feature of our play that I feel is slightly under appreciated at present.

I shudder to think what training actually entails for Barry Douglas and Matt Doherty, but they’re both fit as fiddles and two of the stand-out performers at present.

It was a more fitful evening for our lauded front three, but some of the play conjured was a marvel to behold with Diogo Jota once again earning the acclaim of pundits in spite of his challengers’ cynical attempts to halt him in his tracks. Whether he stays beyond this season remains a topic for discussion, but it’s been a privilege to watch him play in old gold regardless.

Ultimately, despite Cotterill’s Scooby Doo villain-esque remarks to the contrary, it was another win for Nuno’s promotion chasing juggernaut and, with our perceived counterparts in sky blue chasing a 14th successive win in the Premier League, it’s left to us delirious supporters to ponder when this remarkable run will end.

With basement boys Sunderland in town next, you wouldn’t bet on it being any time soon.

Birmingham City Vs Wolves Preview

The last time I expected victory at St. Andrew’s it bit me on the behind.

Benik Afobe even put us ahead, but Blues won it thanks to a scrappy set piece equaliser and a Scott Golbourne brain fart.

We missed out on the play-offs on goal difference and things unravelled from that point for a team that had been on a rapid upward curve.

A few years on and those expectations are heightened with an even better Wolves team rolling into town.

We’ve won on our last two visits, but navigating this local derby under the floodlights, away from Molineux would be a further statement of intent from our table-topping group.

Blues

I always said Gary Rowett was overachieving with the group of players he had, so it didn’t surprise me that Zola and Redknapp both failed.

They splashed a bit of wonga late on in the transfer window in true ‘arry fashion. But with the remnants of several managers efforts they’re a team in transition, which is reflected in their league position.

Steve Cotterill just needs to keep them up this season and form something cohesive out of the random parts he’s inherited. Easier said than done.

Hopes must rest on ‘the other Jota’. It was a major coup for Blues to get him from Brentford, but injury has curtailed his progress thus far.

Che Adams scored in this fixture last season and he’s a useful player, as is reported former Wolves target Sam Gallagher.

However, they have easily the feeblest attack in the division with just 10 goals so far. To put that in context, Wolves have scored 40.

All four of their victories have come at St. Andrew’s and all by narrow margins. They’ve only mustered 6 goals in their 9 home matches to date.

Wolves

It’s a blow to lose Ruben Neves, but I’m intrigued to see how the team cope without him and how Nuno addresses his absence.

When Romain Saiss was suspended against Norwich, Alfred N’Diaye just slotted in and played very well. That’s the most obvious solution.

But Jack Price is the most like-for-like player, so one could argue he would be the better choice. The fact it’s a derby though and likely to be more physical probably nudges it back towards Big Alf.

Assuming no injuries, further surgery on a team that’s won five consecutive matches seems unlikely.

Prediction

As good as Wolves are playing, they haven’t been bullet proof away from home. QPR, Reading and Sheffield United all got about them and dominated for periods.

Steve Cotterill will be trying to emulate what those teams achieved and I expect them to make it difficult.

But all logic points to a Wolves win so that’s exactly what I’m predicting. 3-1.

Up The Wolves!

* Apologies for anyone trying to access the mobile version of the site this week. I had to disable it due to technical problems with an upgrade. I’m working on various fixes to improve the look of the site and speed things up so please stick with me. It’s for the greater good.

Wolves 1 Birmingham City 2

I’m still trying to land on the most disappointing thing about this poxy defeat.

It might have been Carl Ikeme’s butter fingers that presented another toothless away side with a precious lead to cling onto.

Or it could be allowing David Davis the freedom of Molineux to spank in a second and mercilessly taunt the South Bank.

Or simply our one-paced midfield making David Davis look like Roy Keane.

Then again maybe it was our meagre attempts to cash in against ten men after Paul Robinson was rightly dismissed for being Paul Robinson.

Or perhaps our distribution out of defence and Danny Batth’s endless hoofs forward to nobody in particular.

It’s difficult to overlook Helder Costa’s repeatedly over hit crosses that robbed Wolves of any momentum in the early exchanges or his subsequent hour long vanishing act.

And we mustn’t forget yet another goalless game for Bodvarsson whose beginning to make Bjorn Sigurdarson look prolific by comparison.

How about Nouha Dicko, who did finally score, but still looks bored, uninterested and five yards off the pace?

Maybe it’s the manager, who promised so much in January but has delivered literally nothing in February.

Yes, it could be the naked statistics that show five defeats in a row for the month with just two goals scored in the process.

And the fact three of those defeats came against three of the worst teams in the division.

Actually, it’s probably none of those things.

It’s more the realisation that we’ve relinquished £25 million in transfer fees and ended up with a worse team than we had last season.

All this made worse still knowing that the owners, the academy, the stadium, the fan base and everything else you need to be successful are all there and it’s simply the case that the people in power are demonstrating a gross inability to just connect the dots.

I’m not stupid enough to expect instant success in such a competitive environment, but surely – surely – we can expect better than this?

Disappointing would be an understatement.

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Wolves Vs Birmingham City Preview

15 games to go and we probably need to win at least a third of them.

That takes us up to 50 points and then a handful of draws should see us safe from total catastrophe.

Molineux holds the key with winnable matches against Blues, Rotherham, Forest, Blackburn and Preston still to come.

I think we’ll just about get there but panic will really set in if we don’t start putting points on the board soon.

Looking at how things are going for Birmingham and Gianfranco Zola this has the feeling of a must-win.

Blues

After we brushed them aside at the start of the season I couldn’t believe  Gary Rowett managed to get Blues right up towards the top six again.

I was even more staggered that the club then decided to dispense with his services for seemingly no good reason at all.

They’ve been sinking like a stone ever since and come into this game (like Wolves) on the back of three straight losses.

Zola has only managed one win in 14 matches and suffered 9 defeats in a thus far traumatic return to management.

I always thought Rowett was getting the maximum out of a very average group of players, so it’s no great surprise the Italian has fallen short.

He’s started to bring in his own players and adjust the way they play, but that transition will never happen quickly so regardless of what happens in this game, I think they’re in for a bumpy ride between now and May.

Wolves

It’s disappointing that Connor Ronan has been all but ruled out for the remainder of the season. He’s been consistently very good.

The above is what I reckon the starting lineup might be if Joe Mason is fit enough to play.

He is the only striker / number 10 who seems to consistently get into good positions to score so has to play.

I like Enobakhare but end product has been in short supply despite some good runs and link up play.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

We’ve lost four games in a row and only scored one goal in that time, so we’re not in a good place.

The performances against Newcastle and Chelsea weren’t too bad, but Burton and Wigan were as bad as it gets.

My concern is that this game pans out more like the latter and we’re frustrated by another team who can’t buy a win.

I think we should win but I don’t have a lot of confidence so I’m climbing on the fence.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Save

Birmingham City 1 Wolves 3

Last Christmas a family member bought me the autobiography of noted psychopath Roy Keane.

It was a predictably colourful read covering the final moments of a fiery playing career and latterly, his transition into management.

After a bumpy start in his first coaching job at Sunderland, Keane scouted Coventry striker Stern John. He noted how every ball forward to the Trinidad and Tobago man stuck and allowed his team mates to move up the pitch.

John made the move to the Stadium of Light in January and immediately established himself as a vital cog in the machine. Sunderland lifted the Championship title in May.

In case you’re wondering, I’m labouring towards a point about the Jon Dadi Bodvarsson effect.

We should all be giddy because Wolves finally have a forward who can make it stick and in this competition that’s massive.

Stand it up high, fire it in low, lump it down the channel – all service gratefully received.

Today the Icelander was the sole representative of the new blood, surrounded by players who last season showed themselves to be toothless.

But with a ruthlessly effective target man to feed off, the likes of Mason, Wallace and Coady were transformed at St Andrew’s.

Mason in particular is loving life and his stunning finish to draw Wolves level just after half time was one of many impressive contributions.

Busy would be a good adjective to describe Mason who can infuriate by wasting the many useful positions he occupies, but with the goals starting to flow he could be the season’s bonus ball.

Jed Wallace has had a stop-start Molineux career up to now and today was the first time he’d caught my eye, often turning sharply, demonstrating a useful turn of pace and getting shots away. With time and confidence you sense he could reach much greater heights.

Utility man Conor Coady was back in his preferred position and swarming all over the Blues midfield as he did so effectively in the same fixture last season.

He too had a powerful drive turned away by Tomasz Kuszczak in a good first half showing from Wolves in which they were unlucky to find themselves trailing.

Birmingham were direct throughout. It was all crosses and long diagonals up to Clayton Donaldson, but Che Adams always looked a threat and his crisp finish was exactly what the away side had been lacking.

Walter Zenga will have been frustrated that such incisive approach play and effective counter attacking from his side wasn’t rewarded with a goal.

He needn’t have worried though, as Mason’s bullet, Batth’s close range follow-up and Bodvarsson’s thumping third more than made up for that first half indecision.

In his post match press conference the manager spoke of his desire to bring in forwards and defenders to balance the squad and for sure, both would come in handy.

At the back, Hause is still struggling to marry consistency with obvious talent and an experienced head would be a welcome addition. Luisao anyone?

Up top, the sledgehammer Bodvarsson and the reborn Mason could soon be joined by Nouha Dicko, but further competition for places is a must.

With some hard graft off the pitch before the end of Augst to accompany the relentless spirit being displayed on it – this could be a season we really make it stick.