Reading 0 Wolves 2

Groundhog Day is a film I’ve often described as being akin to watching Wolves.

Rarely has the comparison been used with flattery in mind.

Year after year we’ve endured one insipid performance after another, with an occasional upset victory cheering us up every now and then.

At times, it seemed as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

That has been provided in spades, however, by the promotion chasing juggernaut assembled by Nuno and co.

They too are a predictable bunch, the key difference between them and their predecessors in old gold being they can’t stop winning.

It’s a quaint feeling being a Wolves fan nowadays, with each victory carrying an alien sense of inevitability.

Yesterday, we were put to task by a Reading side that appear as talented as they are limited.

And yet the scoreline would suggest another leisurely afternoon for the league leaders.

The old adage goes that the best teams can win games without playing well and, though I’m not usually one to indulge in cliches, the saying is ringing true at present.

We play some breathtaking football at times, but our resolve when under pressure is just as impressive as our swashbuckling play in the final third.

After being subjected to years of calamitous defending by various coaches, it’s a pleasure to see Wolves be able to cope with onslaughts in the manner in which they did yesterday.

Ryan Bennett, Connor Coady and Willy Boly were in imperious form, particularly during a second half in which the Royals had plenty of chances to level the score.

John Ruddy, meanwhile, had arguably his best game since joining the club, keeping the home side at bay with a string of crucial saves.

As we all know, such solidity provides a platform from which our creative forces can do damage and both goals were once again pleasing on the eye.

Diogo Jota’s through ball to Ivan Cavaleiro was a thing of beauty, as was the latter’s ensuing shimmy round the opposition goalkeeper.

Matt Doherty left it late to prosper from some sumptuous build up play in the game’s dying embers, no doubt prospering from some tired Reading legs as he slotted cooly past a hapless Vito Mannone.

It all seemed rather routine, and quaintly poetic given the opposition had former subjects of ire in their ranks.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Dave Edwards always gave their all for the club, but they’re a million miles of the standard required to play in this current vintage.

Whether this air of invincibility will prevail over a notoriously bruising winter period remains to be seen, but promotion is currently looking an elementary task for this side.

* Wolves are looking strong odds for promotion so to maximise your returns with freebetting make sure you check out what’s on offer from the leading bookies.

Reading Vs Wolves Preview

It’s been a long old fortnight.

Maybe it’s because we played on the Friday prior to the international break so it’s consequently been two blank weekends without a fix?

Either way, it’s felt painful.

I’m so buoyant about our prospects right now I just want to get through the games as quickly as possible.

Bring it on.

Reading

That said, I smell danger in this one. Edwards, Bodvarsson, former players, our record, etc, etc. You know what I mean.

Add to that the fact that Reading’s form has improved of late and a 4-2 win at Derby certainly raised a few eyebrows.

It’s worth remembering too they came within a slither of reaching the Premier League last season so have pedigree.

Along with the players they recruited from Nuno’s ‘no longer required’ list, they also added Sone Aluko from Fulham for serious cash. His pace and guile could prove problematic.

Equally so, big Yann Kermorgant. We’ve struggled against target men this season and he’s been a thorn in our side before.

The Royals have only mustered 2 wins from their 7 homes matches thus far, so there’s nothing to fear in terms of fortress Mad Stad, despite our record being iffy at best.

Wolves

Hopefully no injuries or excessive fatigue knocking around Compton after some of our best and brightest jetted off to represent their countries.

I suppose that will become evident in Nuno’s team selection tomorrow. If everyone is fit and available I’d expect something very close to the side that saw off Fulham.

There’s plenty of competition for places though so I won’t be too disheartened if we see changes for the greater good.

Predictions

It’s a tough looking game on paper but we’ve got nearly twice as many points as Reading, so perhaps it’s they who should be fearful?

I haven’t seen a lot of them this season, but if they’re still about retaining possession and building up slowly I think that suits Wolves.

In a game of chess, I would back us to get the win every time.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Conor Coady – an apology

At some point during our impoverished recent past, I could take no more.

It could have been any one of Preston, Ipswich or Rotherham and it almost certainly featured Edwards, Saville and Coady.

I recall big black clouds, Red Row signage, a smug shrug of indifference from the director’s box and an assertion that if I didn’t like it, I could stay at home.

In Molineux, nobody could hear you scream, so I took to the blog to make myself heard, pumping out a torrent of invective like a machine gun, aimed at the owner, the CEO and amongst others, Conor Coady.

I called him a ‘terrible footballer’ and wrote him off as a useless failure, who I’d have been happy to see the back of along with the majority of his pathetic team-mates.

Were he to leave now I’d cry salt tears for the world we couldn’t conquer, such is his importance to the side. And for that Conor Coady, I am sorry.

For all the justifiable hype about Neves, Jota, Boly and co, Coady’s transformation to defensive lynchpin has surely been Nuno’s biggest revelation to date.

As the great man said upon his arrival: “I really think we can progress the players in a short period of time.”

Never has a truer word been said in the case of Coady, whose strengths have been accentuated in a new position few of us thought of him as a plausible candidate.

As is so often the sheet we sing from, we don’t like square pegs in round holes, we want defenders to defend and if a club like Huddersfield would sell a player for £2 million, then how good must he be anyway?

With the exception of perhaps Pep Guardiola, we think we’ve got the most progressive football mind at Molineux right now and I can’t help but draw up a parallel between Nuno and the ex-Barca boss, who our new cult hero might well have stroked his beard at when contemplating Coady’s future.

The following passages from the excellent Secret Footballer – Guide to the Modern Game book gives some insight into Pep’s preference for another ex-Liverpool midfielder who probably shared the same Melwood training ground as our number 16.

“English football has been misreading the tectonic tactical plates for years. When I played against Javier Mascherano he was just another holding midfielder that our team had to navigate around.

“At the time, Liverpool were relying on Fernando Torres for goals, with Steven Gerrard supporting him and Xabi Alonso supporting both with his initial pass. When Liverpool lost the ball, Mascherano would go haring towards it and, so long as you could by-pass him you were at Liverpool’s back four.

“We dominated the match by moving Mascherano all around the pitch like a moth to the flame. We achieved it by sending one of our strikers into a wide position as a decoy and sure enough Mascherano followed. Once he’d left his hole we sent a midfielder through the middle and pushed the opposite wide man and full-back high up the pitch. Liverpool couldn’t cope.

“But while we patted ourselves on the back in the changing rooms and labelling him as ‘basic’, Barcelona were appraising his performance.

“When Mascherano signed for them for €24 million, most of us scratched our heads. There must have been a mistake. But there he stayed and even more bizarrely, he was played as a centre-half.

“All that was made possible because Barcelona discovered that, in a team that kept the ball, a player like Mascherano was the perfect cover at centre-half. He was strong, he was comfortable on the ball, he was quick enough across the ground and he was brave.

“Pep Guardiola had come to realise that Claude Makalele started Chelsea’s attacks and his rationale told him that if he took that player out and put him centre-half, then he would not only start counter attacks directly from the back four but he would also have one extra attacking player. It all rested on finding a midfielder who could play centre-half.”

It must be said that comparisons between the capabilities of an Argentinian Champions League and La Liga winner and Conor Coady are not being drawn (not least by me who had consigned him as ‘useless’ only a year or two ago!).

But me expecting last year’s Makalele in Championship mode was to miss the point entirely with Coady. A tier-two version of Mascherano is far more preferable in a progressive mind.

Thankfully Nuno saw what this mere-mortal missed and Coady’s effervescent leadership, cool distribution and exceptional decision making are all beacons of light in an already dazzling side.

That I’d have deprived us all of the above makes me a numpty. An apologetic numpty.

Sorry Conor.

Wolves 2 Fulham 0

What a difference 11 months can make.

Last time Fulham pitched up at Molineux, the points were shared in an eight goal thriller which, although entertaining, said more for the quality of the opposition than it did the home side.

As Thomas rightly pointed out in his match preview, the Fulham of 2016/17 offered a blueprint for Wolves to aspire to.

Slaviša Jokanovic’s side oozed confidence when slaloming through last season’s ragtag equivalent, and few left the ground on that grisly December afternoon under any illusions about the gulf in class between the two.

When you consider tonight’s routine victory against the Cottagers in that context, it’s hard not to raise a wry smile.

If ever a game demonstrated the progress made by Wolves since the curtain fell on last season, this was it.

Nuno’s men were simply irrepressible in the first ten, claiming an early lead through Romain Saiss’ second goal of the season.

And though the visitors grew in stature after conceding, they were unable to prevent Barry Douglas and the increasingly prolific Leo Bonatini from combining for the second.

From that point on, proceedings were fairly routine in a bonfire weekend fixture low on sparkles.

Nonetheless, only the most hard nosed of supporter could fail to be impressed by the efficiency with which we kept our opponents at bay.

Whereas the Wolves side of years gone by looked flustered when put under the slightest amount of pressure, today’s group look capable of weathering almost all storms that come their way.

Even more impressive is the extraordinary confidence with which they move the ball, regardless of its position on the pitch.

For that we have to thank Ruben Neves, who is beginning to resemble more a gift from the heavens than he is a club record signing.

How such a supremely talented footballer has come to be plying his trade in England’s second division remains a mystery to me, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Tonight’s man of the match performance is arguably his best in old gold, especially given the technical dexterity of his counterparts in white.

Whether it was the ferocity with which he pressed when out of possession or the simple outrage of his passing range, there was plenty to laud the Portuguese for this evening.

Simply put, he makes us tick and keeping him fit has to be a priority for Nuno and his staff moving forward.

That being said, credit ought to be afforded to the performances of Barry Douglas, the provider of two sumptuous assists, and Willy Boly, who alongside Connor Coady looks by far and away the best of our current crop of centre halves.

However, as has been the case all season, this triumph was the result of a concerted team effort, one which leaves us sitting pretty at the top of the division irrespective of what our nearest contenders do tomorrow.

Only the boldest of match goer would have predicted that a year ago, a truth which leaves this writer brimming with optimism – albeit cautious optimism – about what’s still to come.

Wolves Vs Fulham Preview

Dreams do come true.

Last December I was watching open mouthed and even more gormless than usual as Fulham caressed the ball around the Molineux pitch making us look positively prehistoric in the process.

‘I wish we could play like them’, one poor, frostbitten soul uttered as Dave Edwards mis-controlled the ball out for a throw in.

Well, fast forward a year and the Nuno revolution is in full swing and Fulham fans would probably chew off their own arms to swap places.

Given how they play and our rapid ascent to the realms of liquid football, this could be a really nice game.

Fulham

I thought they’d win the play-offs last season after breaking into the top six down the final stretch.

They were by far and away the best footballing side in the division, but I suppose you could see their defensive frailties might hold them back.

For whatever reason, they haven’t really started firing this season and are well back in 16th after losing at home to Bristol City the other night.

In fact they haven’t won any of the last four, which has derailed their short lived charge up the table. They should rightly fear this fixture too.

No doubting they have quality though. Tom Cairney and our old mucka Kevin McDonald are a technically adept midfield partnership and could dictate if we allow them the space.

Floyd Ayite was a thorn in our side in this fixture last season, so he’s another to keep an eye on tomorrow.

Wolves

It was great to comeback so emphatically after losing against QPR. Wolves did the same things, but just a bit better and with a bit more appetite.

I’m very comfortable with starting the same team that won at Carrow Road. Assuming no injuries or fatigue, everyone justified their selection.

Saiss can probably count himself a bit unlucky, but if you lose your place in this side, be it to injury or suspension, you leave yourself open to a stint on the sidelines.

He might come straight back in but I thought N’Diaye gave us that punch we’re sometimes lacking and allowed Neves a bit more room to breathe.

Predictions

Logically this should be an open game with both teams trying to get on the ball and pass and Wolves winning because they have more quality.

That is therefore my prediction.

It would be lovely to go into Saturday knowing we can’t be overtaken and with the prospect of putting a bit of daylight between ourselves and the immediate chasers.

Make it so lads. 3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Norwich City 0 Wolves 2

You can’t accuse either side of not playing the game the right way.

The ball was zip-zapping around the Carrow Road pitch all evening and with space to aim their passes, Wolves always looked the more likely winners.

Two goals could easily have been three, four or five if a small selection of the clear openings created had been despatched.

But too many times legs got tangled, defenders got back or the final ball simply wasn’t good enough. I feared the worst.

Norwich were busy and always on the edge of breaking through so when Leo Bonatini’s ninth goal of the season finally arrived it mercifully prevented a grandstand finish.

Wily Boly’s early header was a welcome bonus ball and his presence in the back three immediately makes Wolves a more imposing proposition.

Not only does the giant Frenchman look a foot taller than everyone else, but his calmness in possession is like having another midfielder on the pitch. Quite handy for our style of play.

He also made a superb last ditch intervention to toe poke the ball over his own crossbar with Cameron Jerome poised to score his inevitable goal.

Ryan Bennett isn’t as fancy but barely put a foot wrong all evening, so those two should feel confident of keeping their places for the Fulham game.

N’Diaye brought to the midfield what Boly added to the defence – raw power and calmness on the ball. I’ll forgive him a few awful misses. He powered up and down all night, which freed up Neves to pull some strings.

It wasn’t our star midfielder’s best night as too many passes went astray but in the spells of possession when the team looked at it’s more imperious, he was inevitably at the epicentre.

Jota and Cavaleiro were both typically dynamic and mobile, stretching Norwich on the break and giving Wolves endless menace.

With Helder Costa still looking a yard off the pace and notably uninterested, it’s hard to look beyond those two at the minute.

Bright was strong and skillful in his cameo, but again wasted a wonderful chance of his own creation, getting his pocket picked at the crucial moment.

Nuno’s got to be pleased though. Players seem to be able to drift in and out of this side without the overall quality suffering.

That bodes well for the long winter ahead. If we’re built for distance as well as speed, I can’t see anyone overtaking.