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!

Derby County 3 Wolves 1

Quite a few people pointed out I’d incorrectly named Andreas Weimann in my preferred XI to this game, despite the fact he was ineligible against his parent club.

Fair enough.

Just as well as he couldn’t play though, as we might not have seen Nouha Dicko’s best performance of the season.

For the first time in a long time our once prolific striker was barreling towards defenders and making things happen with powerful, direct running. That bodes well for next season.

Despite not being rewarded with a goal for himself, he did lay one on a plate for Ben Marshall in a rare moment of cohesion from Wolves on an otherwise poor afternoon.

You can point to Cavaleiro’s stupid sending off as a key moment, but Derby were coasting it well before lapping up the benefits of numerical advantage.

If you look at the goals, discounting the countless opportunities they created besides, it’s clear an inability to defend down our right was targeted and exploited.

David Nugent was all alone at the back post for his opener and Conor Coady himself was then skinned far too easily for the second.

I talked a lot in the preview about getting the balance in central midfield right, but starting next season with two specialist full backs must also be high on the agenda for Paul Lambert.

Don’t get me wrong, Coady has played superbly on several occasions in the back four, but he’s doing a job not mastering the art.

Midfield was again a problem though. You need only look down the Derby teamsheet to see the gulf in class between two sides pursuing the same goal.

Bryson, Butterfield, Johnson and Ince would all walk straight into our eleven and that sort of disparity simply can’t exist next season.

OK, we’re without two of our best outfield players (Costa and Doherty) as well as our first choice goalkeeper, but this was yet another reminder of just how much work there is to do over the summer.

It can’t come soon enough.

Derby County Vs Wolves Preview

Central midfield is the issue.

I know we’ve all got opinions on individuals operating in different areas of the pitch, but I’m convinced if Paul Lambert can address this one deficiency, we’ll do good things next season.

Against Blackburn and again on Tuesday in the defeat to Huddersfield, there was no attacking impetus from central areas, other than the times Ben Marshall stepped inside to make something happen.

Lambert’s got seven first team midfielders on the books (Edwards, Coady, Price, Evans, Saville, Saiss and Oniangue) and no combination is good enough in possession to consistently do what’s required.

If you want willing runners, closing down and all the ugly stuff then the above will do that (hence why we’ve taken some big away wins this season). You might keep two or three of them for this purpose.

But get rid of four or five of the above, bring in two better technicians and also look to extract the most from the likes of Enobakhare and Ronan who also have the necessary skillset.

Derby

If one team have underwhelmed more than Wolves this season, it’s got to be Derby. Cash was splashed again to help Nigel Pearson reconfigure an already capable squad to his liking.

Vydra and Anya arrived from Watford with lots of Championship pedigree and with others already there like Ince, Johnson and Butterfield, it seemed inconceivable they wouldn’t make the play-offs.

But looking at the table with two games to go, it’s clear they’re nowhere near. The higher powers at the club have to take responsibility for bad appointments and/or not showing enough patience.

It did look at one stage that Steve McLaren was going to get it going again, but after a good run of victories it was back to inconsistency and he also bit the bullet.

Gary Rowett seems like a very good manager, but you wonder how much time he’ll be given at Pride Park if they don’t get out the traps quickly next season?

Wolves

It would be pretty handy to have Helder Costa fit again. I really hope this injury is serious enough to be keeping him out and it’s nothing to do with his imminent departure. Sadly, I’m not convinced.

If he is able to make it back, the above is the team I’d play. Burgoyne might be our only fit keeper but I’d persevere with him anyway, despite letting in a soft goal in midweek. Incidentally, I was surprised Lambert chose to throw him under the bus for that in his post-match summary.

Both Silvio and Iorfa are playing for their futures so let them carry on I say. Despite a few wobbly moments I thought Silvio did some good things and showed strong positional play. We’ll be in the market for at least one full back in the summer and if he can convince over his fitness, he could be like a new signing.

My instinct is that Price, Coady and Edwards are the three to keep. Price because we know he can perform when partnered with better technical players. Coady because he can occupy different positions and Edwards for goals and impact.

But none should be nailed on starters next term and to compensate for what we lack moving going forwards in midfield tomorrow, I’d play an attacking trio behind Weimann who still looks like he’s got the bounce in his step to do something.

Predictions

I don’t think we’ll see anything like my proposed lineup tomorrow, but this could be a decent game for our try-hards to camp out and spring on the break as they did at Elland Road.

Derby have good quality though and I’m expecting them to ultimately put us to the sword at a ground where we’ve struggled to compete in recent years.

2-1 to the Rams.

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Up the Wolves!

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Wolves 2 Derby County 3

During his time on caretaker duty, Rob Edwards has often spoke of a desire to see Wolves play with a clear identity.

This is perplexing to me as to my knowledge the team has been doing just that from this season’s beginning.

Early leads have been handed to the opposition with unfathomable regularity and bountiful character has been shown just as games have grown irretrievable.

That is more or less the story of our season so far and today was no different, though the first half showing did manage to set a new barometer for sheer awfulness.

Incoming manager Paul Lambert (a good choice in my opinion) knows a thing or two about haphazard defences from his arduous time in the Villa Park hotseat but today’s defensive quadrant, not to mention those behind them in reserve, promise to provide his toughest challenge yet.

Danny Batth was disgracefully signalled out as the chief offender but the reality was that, despite him being at fault for Derby’s second goal, he was far from alone in the mistakes making department.

Dominic Iorfa, Matt Doherty and the laughably overrated Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (who has looked more like a FC United loanee than Manchester United since his arrival) were all guilty of error throughout the 90 and it’s hard to imagine that the opposition will have an easier first half than the one they enjoyed today.

However, our problems are certainly not restricted to defence. Though our attacking players are certainly not short of quality, one or two were exposed today as being devoid of the sort of character and commitment that is expected at the Molineux.

Joao Teixeira is a player I’ve struggled to warm to since his arrival and his rotten attitude was there for all to see today, with the deputy gaffer deciding after a mere half hour that he wasn’t up for it.

Meanwhile, Ivan Cavaleiro continued to make his pitch for the moniker of worst record signing of all time with another fitful display that does little to dispel the suspicion that he’s actually no better than the chap we farmed out to Bolton this summer.

Perhaps more patience needs to be afforded to our contingent of summer signings but with almost half the season gone we ought to think about when’s fair to label Jorge Mendes’ stable of foreign imports as flops.

Credit where it’s due though – we had a go at Derby in the second half and may have taken a point had the referee been a bit more consistent in his decision making.

It’s hard to bemoan bad luck when you consistently make life difficult for yourself though and until Wolves can cut the amateur mistakes out of their game it’s hard to see us getting anywhere close to realising Fosun’s ambitions for the club.

Over to you Paul.