Wolves 4 Leeds United 1

It’s not often that a sky full of fireworks greet your arrival into Wolverhampton for the game, but such is the dazzling fare on show at Molineux these days that you’d think they’d been organised especially.

Something to do with the Christmas lights in Queen Square apparently, but if Nuno had have arranged them as a pyrotechnic precursor to the football then you wouldn’t have been surprised. A sign of things to come.

Everything else the great man touches generates similarly explosive results and at times during last night’s 4-1 drubbing – particularly in that first half-an-hour or so – I was more in awe of Cavaleiro and co as I was when the Roman Candles were going off.

Molineux was crackling under the night lights and only a handful of seats remained in the house before kick-off, primarily due to the traffic around Wolverhampton with those lights being switched on. Gunpowder in the air, gridlock around the city and for the first time in years, Wolves and its immediate surroundings feel positively aspirational.

From where we came and all those mind-numbing seasons which seemed to roll into one, the transformation has been quite astounding. Only a year or two back it was a former CEO of Stockport County no less – commissioned by Jez Moxey – to tell us that if we want success, we should think again.

‘We believe in much more than the results on a Saturday afternoon,’ Jez once said. ‘We believe in these young players. It is working. (as we sat somewhere in the region of 13th place).

‘If you say you will not renew your season ticket unless X, Y or Z, then that is not a relationship I would want with supporters.’

I shudder when I think back to those days of managed decline, when expectations were managed as if we were Proles in an Orwellian world. Now we get fireworks before a ball has been kicked!

It is precisely those M&M seasons of doom that this 4-1 victory – and all the others before – feels so difficult to comprehend because after years of footballing abuse, I feel like another kick is on its way. Another slap around the chops to bring me back down to earth. To midtable obscurity.

Like a liberated state, free from the clutches of repression, it feels like we’re breathing, living and dreaming again for the first time in years. Perchance to dream, ay, there’s the rub!

Last night it was Leeds United and an accompanying bag of worry about their spritely front-line and an inevitable good result following a morale boosting win against ‘Boro at the weekend. Before that it was Villa, with a different bag of the same worry, who must surely knock us off our perch as they were so good on paper. And it was Villa, basically.

All attentions turn to Saturday and Bolton now. Maybe I’ll dust down a hessian bag of Trotter angst for their arrival too. They have always had the sign on us, broke my heart in 1995 and are showing signs of a revival under Parkinson.

Old habits die hard, I guess. After last night’s beautiful win – and the sum of Nuno’s drooling parts making a mesmerising whole – I should pack it in. Replace my ingrained pessimism with a more intoxicating brand of feels.

Let myself free. Fly on the wings of Cavaleiro, Jota, Neves and friends and enjoy this ride like the South Bank are doing. Live in the moment like those players last night and think positive thoughts.

No matter how many negative ones I put in the way of this phenomenal side, they keep kicking them away. In style, of course.

Wolves Vs Leeds United Preview

The one thing Wolves haven’t managed yet is a long winning run.

Mick McCarthy’s title success in 2008 was underpinned by two runs of seven consecutive victories in the first half of the season.

His team limped and struggled down the final straight, but the gap they’d created with that lightening start proved the difference.

To be clear, I’m not complaining.

Even if Wolves lose tomorrow, they’ll still have won two thirds of their games and the current points average will see them blow away Mick’s 90 point haul.

But if we can add to this current sequence while the going is good, it just gives us some breathing space if the sticky patch ever arrives.

Leeds

Talking of sequences, Leeds were on a stinker prior to Sunday having lost three on the spin to send them spiralling towards midtable.

In fact, based on the last 10 matches they’d be in the relegation zone such has been their fall from grace after briefly reaching the summit in September.

But a good win over Middlesbrough at the weekend, made all the sweeter by getting one over former boss Gary Monk, might be the catalyst for a comeback.

Goal difference is the only thing keeping them out of the play-off places so it’s all up for grabs again.

As is increasingly the fashion in the Championship, they’ve shaped their team with foreign talent and I’m looking forward to seeing Sáiz and Lasogga (if fit) in particular. I’ve heard good things.

Away from Elland Road they’ve won 4, lost 4, scored 12, conceded 12, so do with that information what you will. Maybe they’re due a draw?

Wolves

Injuries are as crucial to a promotion push as anything else. If you keep your best players fit, half the battle is won. In that sense, it’s nice that Nuno is still playing with a full deck.

The main decision is whether to bring Douglas back in for Vinagre after his suspension. The Scot was instrumental in the win over Fulham in our last home game, so I imagine he’ll play.

There must be a temptation to try Costa again from the start after using him sparingly to rebuild fitness and confidence?

Flashes of last season’s Player of the Season won’t have gone unnoticed by Nuno. But then again, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Betting

If you fancy a flutter on a fourth consecutive Wolves win, you can get 11/20 at 888 Sport according to the Bookmaker Advisor. Their key bet, interestingly, is a Wolves win with less than 3 goals scored. Visit the site for a full preview for the game.

Predictions

I suspect this might be a draw and I wouldn’t be overly upset by a 4 point return from the next two matches.

But like everyone else I’m buoyed by how things continue to shape up so have to back us for another win.

Leeds are a decent side and will bring a big crowd as always so it should be a good battle, but 2-1 to us.

Up The Wolves!

Leeds United 0 Wolves 1

If you can’t have your own party, you might as well ruin someone else’s.

‘You’re going nowhere, we’ll see you next year’ was the gleeful chorus emanating from the away end as Wolves helped ensure Leeds ended the bank holiday outside the play-off places.

Thanks to Nouha Dicko’s well constructed first half strike and favourable results elsewhere, we will indeed be here next year.

Phew.

As for Leeds, they’ve got three games to scramble back into the top six and escape the same fate.

This match was a painful reminder for them about how unforgiving this division is and just how difficult it is to forge an escape.

Wolves, hopeless in their last two outings, carved Leeds open for fun in the first half and could easily have been over the hills and far away before the home side bothered turning up.

But with just a one goal deficit to overturn, they made it an uncomfortable finale, launching high balls for their giants to attack.

Jansson, Doukara and Wood could all have done better with good headed chances, while we have Kortney Hause to thank for keeping Kemar Roofe’s late effort out.

The recalled Stearman and Williamson mopped up the rest in highly accomplished outings. Will either earn a new deal I wonder?

Andi Weimann seems certain to sign up on a permanent basis and he looks a good addition for second tier football – full of energy and commitment with enough quality to hold his own.

The Austrian played through the middle alongside Nouha Dicko and should have added his name to the scoresheet, but his smart runs in behind remain a good option.

As for fellow January recruit Ben Marshall, the former Blackburn man continues to go from strength to strength.

He’ll be an important player next season and more additions of his Championship-proven pedigree should be the first order of business for Thelwell and co.

The mere fact that Paul Lambert used the term ‘bare bones’ in his post match interview when describing his bloated squad shows how little he thinks of much of the supporting cast.

Summer starts now.

Leeds United Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves have managed to achieve yo-yo club status without leaving the division.

Five consecutive league defeats here, five consecutive league wins there and now back to back losses and a strong possibility of another setback tomorrow.

That’s difficult to accept as a football fan and shows exactly how difficult it is for any manager to get a handle on this group of players.

There’s obviously talent within the group. Our cup exploits and occasional league upturns show that Paul Lambert has something to work with.

But he’s got to discard the dead weight sharpish, develop a settled group and with that will come greater consistency.

For now though, we can expect a typically bumpy landing to finish the campaign.

Leeds

It did appear in the early months that Gary Monk would be just another manager Leeds use up and toss on the scrap heap.

But he’s worked wonders in a limited period and with limited resources to give them that consistency that has alluded Wolves for years.

It’s helped their cause no end to have Chris Wood rattling in goals left, right and center proving why we pursued him, albeit unsuccessfully, for so long.

Their win at Molineux earlier in the season was as ugly as they come, but you could see they were compact and difficult to break down, ingredients for success at this level.

A late goal at St. James’ Park on Friday (Woods’ 25th of the season) got them a useful point, but 7th placed Fulham are now breathing right down their necks, just three points back and with a superior goal difference. Only a win will do for them.

Wolves

Over to you Paul. I have no idea what team I’d pick other than knowing that the difference between any lineup that includes Helder Costa is considerable.

If Ikeme is back I’d put him back between the sticks. Andy Lonergan had a great games versus Forest but should have done better with goals conceded in all three of his other recent appearances.

It seems like madness to me that Weimann banged in a few goals when played through the middle and has subsequently been shifted out wide. I’d give him another go as our main striker.

Who knows what we do in midfield. I’m starting to think that none of the individual players we have in there are good enough.

Saiss has played poorly and nearly cost us goals in his last two performances, while Edwards, Price, Saville and Evans have their own deficiencies that counter balance their positive attributes. I’m not sure I’d hang my hat on any of them to get us promoted.

Predictions

We need one more win to be absolutely certain of safety and if we get stuffed tomorrow and other results don’t go our way, there might be some pressure on that Blackburn game next weekend.

I think we’ll probably lose here, but even a point would be welcome to stop the latest rot.

2-1 Leeds.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 0 Leeds United 1

The things is, Leeds weren’t very good.

 

That makes this inept, clumsy, one-paced performance all the more difficult to stomach.

With 20 minutes left when Silvio poked the ball into his own net following Matt Doherty’s horror show, why did it feel like there was no way back?

Probably because Wolves couldn’t complete two successive passes, let alone find a way to break down a resilient, albeit rarely threatened back four.

Even when they went direct the usually reliable Bodvarsson flapped and flailed, unable to reach his usual superhuman standards.

The dream of 442 with the Icelander alongside Nouha Dicko made for a grim reality, with the latter still some way off match sharpness.

Costa and Teixiera shone occasionally but were guilty of trademark physical weakness and poor decision making.

In their defence, Wolves’ build up play was so laboured and one-dimensional it meant playmakers were rarely able to get up the pitch and occupy meaningful positions.

Edwards was combative and Saiss tidy but neither dictated the play or offered a meaningful platform to work from.

In short, Zenga’s selection and tactics didn’t work.

And with just a single point from that last 15 available, patience is wearing thin with a manager who continues to bemoan misfortune rather than the shortcomings of his team.

We’ve spent most of the season pointing to early mistakes, but it was a second half vanishing act that cost us today.

Wolves simply didn’t re-emerge after the break and without any sort of consistency over 90 minutes, it’s difficult to see how this team can be successful.

Accompanying these hot and cold performances is a lack of identity.

How do we characterise Zenga’s team?

Do they press? Do they pass? Do they look to go wide and get crosses in? Are they direct? Are they compact defensively? Do they break quickly?

They’re everything and none of these things at different times and that’s a problem. The game plan is neither obvious or decisive.

The Italian says he’s 100% sure things will improve and after this limp outing, it’s hard to believe he’ll be wrong.

But will better be enough?

Increasingly, I’m not so sure.

Wolves Vs Leeds United Preview

Mick McCarthy reckons Christophe Berra is the best defender in the Championship.

 

This from a man who once went on record as saying Kevin Doyle put in the best performance he’d ever seen by a striker following a game in which the Irishman didn’t even score.

Anyway, Mick’s logic was that the Scot is ‘big and powerful and wins it in the air, he’s quick, he blocks things and is good at defending corners’.

Fair enough, although I’m not sure I agree with the quick part.

What’s funny is that in describing the former Wolves man, it made me realise this type of defender is exactly what we’re lacking.

The goal at Brighton once again felt soft, after similar disappointments against Norwich and Wigan where stronger defending may have changed the outcome.

Leeds

leeds01Gary Monk’s team are (statistically anyway) a lot like us in that they don’t concede loads but don’t score that many either.

Hence why we’re both in and around midtable and needing a few wins to get closer to the top than the bottom.

Perennial Wolves target Chris Wood has been their talisman thus far and his 8 goals in a team that aren’t blessed with finishers have been crucial.

Given what I’ve previously said about our inability to defend crosses, his considerable presence would seem an obvious route to goal for Leeds tomorrow.

After a good winning run that saw them climb the table, they lost at Derby and drew at home to Wigan in midweek.

Wolves

It was good to see Nouha Dicko get some minutes but I’m not sure he’s the man to lead the line in the current system.

team-for-leeds

Like many people I’d be interested in seeing him get a sustained run alongside Bodvarsson rather than in place of the Icelander.

I also wonder whether deploying two deep lying central midfielders and playing two out and out wingers might be worth a go at home?

The composition of the above team seems about right, with my only concern being physical power in the center of midfield. We could get overrun depending on how Leeds setup.

It’s about time Cavaleiro started showing the same type of form his compatriot has been producing on the opposite flank. If we can get the two of them playing well, it could be a game changer.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

Call me an optimist but I think we might win this one.

I don’t know enough about Leeds to be definitive in that opinion, but looking at their results and our recent performances (notwithstanding the scores), I’m hopeful.

As always, team selection will be key. It looks to me that Zenga is closing in on his first choice eleven, so I hope he’s not tempted into wholesale changes.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

*Prediction League fans will be happy to know I’ve finally updated the table.

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