Wolves 0 Sunderland 0

This was bound to happen at some point.

You don’t always get the set piece opener or force that mistake or produce that moment of magic to unlock the door.

No, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Sunderland lined up at Molineux as they would at The Nou Camp with every blue shirt behind the ball defending the width of their penalty box.

To their credit, they did it very effectively.

If we’re honest, Wolves didn’t squander any glaring opportunities all afternoon and with 72% possession, 23 shots and a third of the game contested with an extra man it’s disappointing that their goalkeeper never had to extend himself beyond fielding crosses and routine saves.

Neves sprayed his passes, Jota made those incisive runs and Cavaleiro twisted and turned his man for fun, but when the final ball came it just never landed near a gold shirt.

Hardly a surprise. Bonatini was crowded out half the time and in more disappointing instances, simply not in the right place when the crosses rained in.

The introduction of N’Diaye and later Helder Costa created a few more cracks, but you felt we needed more bodies in the box rather than two more floating around on the periphery.

When Plan A is so effective you don’t need to worry as much about the backup, so I’m not going to get my knickers twisted about our lack of striking options at the first shutout we’ve suffered for months.

But certainly some support for Bonatini must be priority number one in January. I doubt the Black Cats will be the last team to park the bus.

Three of the next four games are away and that isn’t a bad thing. This team are definitely at their best when the opposition are rushing forward rather than camping out.

Nuno says he’ll find the solutions to deal with both and based on everything we’ve seen so far, you’d be foolish to doubt him.

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!

Talking Fletch with a Sunderland fan

With the Steven Fletcher transfer saga looking set to drag on for weeks to come, I took the opportunity to chat with Sunderland fan Steve from Salut! Sunderland.

Fletcher

Shall I stay or can I go?

Thomas: Hi Steve. I suppose the first obvious question is what do you think of the player? Are you as keen as Sunderland appear to be to see Fletcher arrive? Do you think he’s the man to replace Darren Bent’s goals?

Steve: I have admired Steven Fletcher for quite a while now. He’s one of these players, certainly from an outside perspective, where you maybe don’t notice him initially but then once you do you wonder how  he’s off the radar of most of the Premier League clubs. Since his double against us last year and the impressive work rate displayed, particularly for his second in that game, I have watched with admiration how he appears to finish most of the chances that come his way. With McClean and Larsson flanking him, I could see him become prolific here, absolutely. I was delighted when it became apparent we were after him.

Thomas: Yes, I think his goal/chance ratio must be right up there with the best. We put a lot of crosses into the box last year, but they weren’t always of the best quality and often when teams had chance to get man back and re-group. He scores all types of goals too, which is nice. A lot has been made of his heading ability, but he’s actually incredibly skillful and light on his feet. I don’t want to use the term ‘complete striker’ but he’s certainly got a bit of everything. Blimey, even I’m beginning to think he’s worth £15 million! Speaking of which, what about the fee? Looks like Wolves are holding out for the full 15 million smackers. That’s a massive slab of dosh isn’t it? I thought £10-12 million was a fair price myself.

Steve: It’s surprising and disappointing that Wolves had turned down £12m for him. People here have generally been split over that particular sum to start with, never mind anything more. A lot of people see a player from a relegated club and automatically associate that with the assumption that any of their players must be rubbish. All clubs possess these small minded fans, however, and the consensus amongst the rest of us is that he will change the whole dynamics of our side.  We have had a poor pre-season and  the main reason for that is that we appear to have played a system without the focal point necessary to make it work- i.e the centre forward who can hold and finish. A proven Premier League player providing this will always cost over £10m. Maybe Wolves know this and know how badly we need him.

Thomas: I think that’s exactly it. Wolves know how badly you want the player. They’ve set their stall out to get the full amount and don’t see a reason to budge. It’s now just a case of who blinks first. I would have been happy with £12 million. In fact, I wouldn’t have slated the club for selling at £10 million. What do you make of this tug-of-war between the two clubs? Fletcher handing in a transfer request? I suppose it’s just the way high-profile transfers are conducted nowadays?

Steve: It appears to be standard these days that clubs have to think of their own PR when conducting deals publicly. I always sensed Fletcher would hand in a request to force a move.  I thought Wolves may go for it then and devoid themselves of any blame. I feel O’Neill has done brilliantly in refusing to talk about it though, and I feel Wolves are simply trying to show their fans they won’t be pushed around. If this goes on any longer it will be even more counter productive, however. It is reflective of men in suits running football clubs that the board fail to see that the manager would rather have the cash in now so he can bed his own new players into the side. Moral and positivity can’t be underestimated in football. How we loved Niall Quinn being in charge here, a real football man.

Thomas: Definitely. I think it’s already been counter-productive. Our season starts on Saturday and we’re short in a few areas, despite having vast numbers of average players for most positions. Wolves as a club are definitely guilty, and not just in this instance, of trying to run it like any other business. Football is a business of course, but it’s a unique business where other factors come into play. Like you say, having a football man like Quinn at the top is never a bad idea. Still, while this is ongoing are you concerned another club might swoop in and pay the money?

Steve: I was, when figures of £9-10m were being floated around. I think he’d be a great foil for Darren B£nt at Aston Villa. The reason that Villa have B£nt however, makes me conclude that paying over £12m for another striker wouldn’t be in their best interests and I’m not sure they have that kind of money anyway. I feel we will sign him for around £13m and it well be after the season has started. As frustrating for both sets of fans as that is.

Thomas: That’s definitely the most likely conclusion. I suppose for both teams, the important long-term issue is that when the transfer window shuts, we’ve got our houses in order. Wolves still have plenty of business to do, so it promises to be a long month.  What did you make of the talk about Connor Wickham being part of the deal? Were you keen to offload him? Would he be a useful player at Wolves?

Steve: Wickham is another who has divided opinion with fans. He came with a big transfer fee and people have sometimes allowed that to cloud their judgement on him. We have some kids who have graduated from the academy who are the bee’s knees in some fans’ eyes but Connor is even younger than them. He was starting to look handy before he was injured last season and he looked very decent in our games when we played in South Korea a couple weeks back. He’s extremely raw but he’s an O’Neill kind of forward and i think he will come good. If you got him i feel it would be on loan only and he’d be more than capable in the Championship. More realistically, I feel Frazier Campbell may be one more mediocre performance away from being offered permantley in any deal. He could be a real star in the right environment and he probably needs a fresh start somewhere.

Thomas: Very interesting. We’ve of course got Doyle, Ebanks-Blake and two other new signings, so I think our reluctance to take on another striker is probably hampering the deal as much as anything else. Lets just hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later. In the meantime. You’ve also been linked with our forward come left-back Stephen Ward. What do you think about that deal? He’s certainly a good outlet going forward from deep positions, but defensively he’s been found out on numerous occasions. Interested?

Steve: Reports today that appear to disregard any interest in Stephen Ward have been met with a huge sigh of relief. With all due respect to the player, we are surely in a position to attract better players than that standard. I couldn’t see any positive spin on the speculation that he was being chased by us, not by anybody. All the best for the season in an ever improving Championship. I hope the actions of your board aren’t to the detriment of both of our sides for much longer.

Thomas: Thanks Steve. Good luck for the season and in the remaining days/weeks of this saga.

* If you enjoyed the post please do leave a comment, even if you’re reading it via email subscription. And if you’d be so kind as to share the post on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, we’d thoroughly appreciate it.

Sunderland 0 Wolves 0

It really is completely unjust that no additional points are handed out for fighting on admirably after the battle is already lost.

If there were, Wolves probably wouldn’t be marooned at the foot of the Premier League table.

There’s no doubt this team are lethal in the art of showing their mettle just after the worst has already happened.

Not today

The kind of steely determination and togetherness we saw against Arsenal and indeed yesterday at the Stadium of Light were admirable, but ultimately pointless as the survival ship set sail five or six games ago.

TC sent out a side purpose-built not to lose, rotating our best players from midweek onto the bench in favour of a more rigid 442 formation boasting two holding midfielders.

For their part, I thought David Davis and particularly Karl Henry did an excellent job of shielding the back four. It made for a pleasant change to see us making the opposition work for an opening as apposed to handing it them on a plate.

Anthony Forde was given a surprise start and it was nice to see him cutting inside and actually taking a shot on goal, something we haven’t done nearly enough of this season. Will he have a more prominent role to play next season?

Fletcher, SEB and Dave Edwards all missed presentable opportunities that on another day could have given us an unlikely win.

Had any of the above found the net, I don’t think Sunderland could have had too many complaints about the result.

It was a tight game and although the home side pressed at times as you’d expect, Wayne Hennessey certainly enjoyed one of his quieter afternoons (by comparison of course) only forced into one real save of any note.

The back four deserve credit for this, with the old-guard of Stearman and Berra keeping the door shut for a change. I have to wonder would we have done any worse had we played those two there all season? Probably not.

There is naturally a sense of relief to end a run of 7 successive defeats, but this was nothing more than a training match; a damp squib of a contest that started slow and then petered out completely.

It counts for nothing and that in itself is a damning indictment of this seemingly never-ending pantomime of a season.

Sunderland Vs Wolves Preview

Victory at the Stadium of Light last season ultimately gave us the points total we needed to survive in the Premier League.

How sad then that we return a year later all but relegated barring the most astonishing turnaround in the history of the game.

A rare win at the Stadium of Light last season

Looking across at the home dugout, I’m sure Steve Morgan will be wondering what might have been had he dropped the axe on Mick McCarthy back in November after a run of five defeats on the bounce.

Around the same time of course Sunderland relieved Steve Bruce of his duties, brought in Martin O’Neill and sat back comfortably in their chairs to watch the Black Cats storm up the table.

On the weekend O’Neill took over, Wolves won the reverse fixture at Molineux to move them away from the relegation zone at the expense of their opponents. Sunderland now have 42 points, nearly double our current total.

7 home wins, 5 draws and just 4 defeats makes the Wearsiders ground a formidable place to visit these days, so Terry Connor has a job on his hands if he’s to gain any sort of temporary rest bite.

The Team

We know there will be one change to the side at least with Bassong suspended. That space will almost certainly be occupied by Christophe Berra. Dave Edwards is also a doubt I’m hearing, so assuming he’s out, this is the side I would send out:

Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Ward, Davis, Henry, Milijas, Jarvis, Kightly, Doyle

I think if recent weeks have taught us anything, it’s that our wingers are our matchwinners. The tactic must therefore be to get the ball to them in good areas as quickly and as often as possible.

Therefore I’d definitely play 5 in midfield with just a lone forward up top. Kevin Doyle was fantastic against Arsenal I thought, so he should definitely keep his place, assuming we adopt an identical system. That said, I’m never disappointed to see Steven Fletcher in the side.

Prediction League

Unsurprisingly most of you correctly said we’d lose against Arsenal. 26 pundits in total went for defeat and 6 of those got the 3-0 scoreline too.

Well done to Bagsy, Haywood Wolf, geordiewolf, Ade in China, sleachy and Philly Pete for all getting the maximum 3 points on offer. It’s a single for everyone else.

Call me an optimistic fool if you will, but I think we might get something this weekend. Only a point though.

2-2.

If you’re making the long trip up north, have a great time and get behind the lads as you always do. To the end.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves Vs Sunderland Preview

When I clicked onto the BBC Sport website this morning, the breaking news was that Martin O’Neill has agreed to become the next manager of Sunderland.

Should that report prove accurate it’s a gigantic coup for the Black Cats and will surely provide them with a timely boost ahead of Sunday’s crucial six pointer at Molineux.

Wolves have won their last 3 Premier League matches against Sunderland

Brilliant.

And in a week that’s seen the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season, the heat is well and truly on Mick McCarthy to deliver a result in front of an expectant home crowd.

Really, this has to be a win.

Make no mistake about it, if we don’t see a significant return from the three vital home matches prior to Christmas, we’re deep, deep in the brown stuff.

Sunderland arrive with the same number of points as Wolves having lost at home to Wigan the previous Saturday, signalling the end of the road for Steve Bruce.

Results certainly haven’t going their way, but there seems to be a consensus that they’ve perhaps not been playing as badly as their current league position suggests.

The Team

So what does Mick do this weekend with Karl Henry suspended? I dedicated an entire post to this subject earlier in the week simply because there are so many different options and it’s practically impossible to second guess our manager at the best of times anyway.

Hennessey, Zubar, Berra, Johnson, Elokobi, Jarvis, O'Hara, Edwards, Ward, Doyle, Fletcher

I just have a suspicion Mick will fancy the 442 in this one, with Ward remaining further forward in the midfield and Doyle joining Fletch up top.

Personally, I’d play 451, with Ward returning to left-back, a midfield trio of O’Hara, Edwards and Milijas with Jarvis and Hunt out wide.

Prediction League

33 people correctly predicted we’d lose at Stamford Bridge.

A stonking 11 of those got the 3-0 scoreline spot on too and take home the maximum 3 points on offer. The rest get a point.

A shout out then goes to Bagsy, Oli Baker, Louie, Stourbridge Wolf, Philly Pete, Clemens, Morph, alf white, Rich, Exeter Wolf and Yoda.

Well done.

It has to be victory this weekend so that is what I shall predict.

For no particularly logical reason I shall say 2-1 Wolves.

If you’re going to Molineux on Sunday, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.