Wolves 3 Burton Albion 1

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days after being thumped at Villa Park and we’re 13pts clear of Steve Bruce’s men, who is now attributing his latest defeat to the snow, having scoffed at our own prospects in the wintry weather a few months ago.

The irony won’t be lost on many, nor the endless ad-libbing about most facets of our club in every press conference he sits in.

Bruce, more than anyone, should appreciate that actions speak louder than words. Our actions on the pitch against Burton Albion were flawless, as we cruised to a second successive home win to inch us closer to the finishing line.

Winning (against weaker opposition) is one thing, but the self-assured manner of both victories has been quite astonishing in the context of the season, when Bruce, Radrizzani and their Machiavellian colleagues were cranking up the hysteria levels in a pretty transparent agenda. A winter of discontent, in other words.

Thankfully, Nuno’s men were as expressive on the ball as the rest of the league has been on the microphones, typified by the outrageously good Ruben Neves, who dictated proceedings like a conductor with the Philharmonic.

As Dave Jones actually bemoaned at roughly this time of the season when the wheels were falling off, struggling teams will still comprise of 11 men who try to stop us from winning. This time around, we appear to have the players who – to borrow another phrase from Jones – aren’t afflicted by ‘safety first football.’

Again, look no further than Neves, who positively demands the ball at all times when the easier option might be to pass the baton. Costa, Cavaleiro, Saiss…All of them in fact, are also desperate to have it to feet and express themselves positively. To comprise a squad of players with this common similarity is actually quite incredible, if not illegal depending on who you listen to. The end result is a sight to behold and a side in old gold who look to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

The full backs are occupying positions in the final third like they always used to and the understated Saiss spearheads the ‘mid-press’ philosophy that makes us as compelling without the ball as we are when we’re on it.

This was a nerveless display overseen by a nerveless manager in Nuno, whose ability to ignore the peripheral noises and concentrate on the job at hand is commendable. A head coach by day and a therapist at night for us compulsive obsessives.

And whilst lavishing praise on individuals isn’t Nuno’s style, he can only have purred at the performance of Benik Afobe who, to borrow a quote from another past-manager, looks like the final piece in the jigsaw.

If there can be one legitimate criticism of our side (rather than the ethics behind it) then it’s the lack of a Plan B when unpicking the lock. Those sumptuous goals at home to Sheffield United will live long in the memory, but Afobe’s first goal – and strike at Leeds – demonstrates a more direct route to goal that I’ll relish equally. A through ball, pace in behind and bang! Old fashioned number 9s might not be en-vogue, but with this diversity in place of Bonatini’s more predictable play, we only look stronger in the areas that matter.

Burton’s high line always looked likely to be breached at some point, with the only surprise in how quickly it was. Costa dispatched coolly from a stunning Coady through-ball early on and Afobe was clinical thereafter. Aside from questionable defending from a set play (which will surely be addressed ahead of a trip to Tony Pulis’ Boro), this was a breeze.

A clinically icy performance to further divide a division.

Wolves Vs Burton Albion Preview

Someone on Twitter posted the results Wolves have achieved this season in matches that immediately follow a league defeat.

I can’t recall the precise figures, but they’ve won every game without conceding a goal.

It’s been lose, win, lose, win in the last four but those two victories have been as impressive as the defeats were demoralising.

The chips were well and truly down after losing at Fulham, but Leeds were routinely swept aside and it was the same in midweek after losing at Villa Park. Convincing responses that ease any fears of collapse.

Such ruthless professionalism is required again on Saturday, with victory expected, but far from guaranteed.

Burton

The Brewers were on the receiving end of a post-defeat backlash when Wolves battered them 4-0 at the end of September after losing to Sheffield Utd days before.

That was the most routine victory of the season against a Burton side possessing the worst home record in the Championship (currently reading 2 wins, 4 draws, 13 defeats).

Their away form isn’t quite so disastrous though (5 wins, 5 draws, 8 defeats) so odds are this will be a much closer game than the non-contest at the Pirelli.

With a goal difference of -38 it’s surprising they’ve managed to stay off the bottom (Sunderland playing a blinder). As with most strugglers goal scoring has been a problem. Only Blues (25) have scored less than their meagre 26 goal tally.

Darren Bent and record signing Liam Boyce (just back from long term injury) are the strikers they hope can score the goals they need in the remaining games but only have one goal between them so far.

Wolves

With Jota out, the team should pick itself.

It’s one start, one goal for Benik Afobe and I don’t think he’s anywhere close to top form yet. Confidence should be high after scoring in midweek though and that bodes well.

I still don’t understand why Nuno would ever leave Cavaleiro out of the side or for that matter why he so frequently takes him off midway through the second half? His ability to manipulate the ball and work positions will be crucial in this one against a team who will likely defend deep.

Helder Costa assisted two goals against Reading and saw a great effort from distance saved. He’ll be haunted by that late miss when clean through and still seems to be lacking belief. There’s still time for him to make a major contribution in the remaining games.

The odds

You can get odds as generous as 12/1 on a Burton win with Wolves overwhelming favourites to complete a league double over the Brewers. mybestbettingsites.co.uk provide a list of top betting websites in 2018 if you want to maximise your stake.

Predictions

I’m not sure if I’d describe this as ‘must win’ in every sense but I’ll certainly be disappointed if Wolves don’t collect the maximum.

I suspect Burton will provide a sterner test than many are anticipating but am hopeful of another professional performance to see us closer to the finish line.

2-0.

Up The Wolves!

Burton Albion 0 Wolves 4

In the wake of this victory – our most convincing of the season by some distance – one can only assume that the Wolves players wiled away the hours of Friday night playing FIFA 18.

The football on display at the Pirelli Stadium was often befitting of a video game, such was the precision of our build up play and composure in front of goal.

The footwork of the diminutive pairing of Ivan Cavaleiro and Ruben Vinagre was often the stuff of pure fantasy, with poor Stephen Warnock ending up on his backside when attempting to prevent our fourth and final goal.

It was a performance to behold, one that erased the premature fear of a dip in form following our defeat to Sheffield United.

Given our response to the loss against Cardiff earlier in the season, that always seemed unlikely but those of a glass half empty persuasion can be forgiven for expecting the worst given there is the small matter of the derby with in-form Aston Villa looming.

As pointed out in previous blogs, Wolves finally seem to have found themselves a manager capable of instilling a winning mentality within the club and that was never more apparent than yesterday.

Say what you like about the Brewers, but they’re a formidable side at home that try and play football the right way.

Nonetheless, their efforts were fruitless yesterday as we surged into an early two goal lead.

Cavaleiro, in the sort of form that makes him worthy of the seemingly never ending song that has been dedicated to him, did well to tee up the clinical Diogo Jota for the first, whilst the less Stephen Bywater hears about the Roman Saiss’ tap in that followed shortly after the better.

If those goals were pleasing but somewhat underwhelming, the following two made for gleeful viewing.

Ruben Vinagre, arguably the best performer on the pitch, weaved his way into the opposition box in a manner befitting of the world’s very best full backs before dispatching the ball low and hard past the hapless Bywater.

Though he is far from the finished article, it is becoming clearer with every passing game that the Portuguese loanee is a frightful talent that has the potential to go far in his career.

It was hard to see that goal being topped for quality, but the fourth was the result of some simply outrageous skill.

After turning the aforementioned Warnock inside out, Cavaleiro squared the ball to the also excellent Matt Doherty who rolled it nto the path of a gleeful Leo Bonatini for an easy fourth goal of his Wolves career.

Liquid football is the most appropriate term to describe this performance, and we now head into the international break, dependent on today’s results, sitting pretty in second place.

We can only hope that the ensuing spate of international games does not throw us off kilter, as you’d suspect we’ll have to replicate these standards when facing the more challenging prospect of Steve Bruce’s promotion chasers.

One thing’s for certain though, in this sort of form, Nuno’s men are capable of putting anyone to the sword.