Swansea City 2 Wolves 1

The dream is over for another year.

But this low key exit is barely a blip on my radar. In truth, I’m pleased to be rid of the distraction.

Whereas last time out the FA Cup represented a welcome vacation from our depressingly poor efforts in the league, this season I viewed it as a pointless detour.

I wanted to win, but with danger lurking around every corner, a clean and swift eliminiation wasn’t unappealing.

Jota’s introduction last night had me hiding behind the sofa and I spent the final half hour preying our star man wouldn’t come a cropper in the tornado-like conditions.

Thankfully he didn’t and with a bit more luck his heroic cameo may have been enough to see us through. But it didn’t and the point I’m labouring is that we shouldn’t waste time pining over what might have been.

We have to think bigger.

There is a unique opportunity within our grasp to not only regain Premier League status, but truly make it stick. This squad and manager, backed by ambitious owners and high profile contacts can take us places.

And if it plays out as it should, there will be plenty of opportunities for cup runs in the years to come.

In isolation I think this defeat served as a useful reminder to Nuno that his squad aren’t infallible, particularly the second string.

The defence has been the bedrock of our success this year, but the back three were far too easily breached. Hause in particular had a night to forget.

Gibbs-White and N’Diaye both bring admirable qualities, but neither are Ruben Neves. Neither can do what he does. We shouldn’t have expected the same kind of fluency through the middle.

And up top, the cutting edge simply isn’t there when Jota and Cavaleiro aren’t in the team. They are the players sticking the ball in the net or putting it on a plate for others.

But I’m not downbeat. Quite the opposite in fact.

We can only beat ourselves and with one less distraction, it’s a direct sprint to the finish line. Lets bring it home.

Swansea City Vs Wolves Preview

The cup competitions have highlighted just how much Wolves have progressed this season.

Without using hardly any of his key performers, Nuno has routinely taken on Premier League opposition and emerged in credit every time.

Yes, you can point to a good FA Cup run last year, but that was real backs to the wall stuff. Wolves have taken the game to the opposition more this time.

Swansea were lucky to get this replay on the balance of chances created, despite enjoying a numerical advantage for a good chunk of the game at Molineux.

Tonight’s winner is rewarded with a fourth round tie at Notts County.

Swansea

The Swans took a useful point away to Newcastle on Saturday, but left disappointed it wasn’t two wins in two league matches for Carlos Carvalhal.

They should been given a penalty that would have also resulted in a straight red for Mo Diame, but the handball was missed by the officials. VAR anyone?

But having taken the lead anyway in the final third of the game, they can only blame themselves for not hanging on.

With West Brom and Bournmouth both winning, they’re still rooted to the bottom and four points from safety. It’s a tall order for them to stay up. Not impossible, but very tough.

After this game they’ve got home games against Liverpool and Arsenal, so all the more reason to rest their best and brightest. I don’t think they’ll be overly disappointed if they’re eliminated.

Wolves

Looking back at the highlights on Saturday, Wolves did enough to get the win. Having watched the game, it was a scrappy old affair, but when you see the chances back-to-back you realise we were the dominant force.

Still, it’s going to be all change tonight. Batth is back from his suspension so will likely start. Miranda has been frozen out lately too so might get some game time in a second-string back three.

Wing-backs are tricky with Vinagre out and no immediate cover for Doherty. Marshall is an option but he looks like he’s heading for the exit. Our first choice picks may have to fill in.

Jordan Graham is back from the wilderness of Fulham reserves, so must be another contender. Not sure where he slots in though. Perhaps down the left instead of Costa in the above lineup.

Mir should get a start. Why not?

Predictions

This one could go in any direction, but based on the first match I’ll back us for a win.

2-1.

Impossible to say with any certainty given that both teams will use their squad and it then just becomes a case of who gels better. Hopefully it’s us as victory here opens up a good opportunity to make it into round five.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Swansea City 0

Given the contrasting fortunes of the two teams, the scene was set for an upset.

Considering the paucity of the Swans’ current team, it would hardly have been a giant killing but the prospect of putting Premier League opposition to the sword was enticing nonetheless.

Unfortunately, some goalkeeping heroics from Kristoffer Nordfeldt deprived us of that opportunity.

Even the most ardent of opposition supporters would agree that this was a game bossed by the home side.

Frankly, we looked streets ahead of Carlos Carvalhal’s team at times and should have been a goal up well in advance of the first contentious decision of the day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the ever mercurial Bright Enobakhare that was guilty of spurning the best of a few good goalscoring opportunities.

With the goal seemingly at his mercy courtesy of a rather frenetic first half defensive scramble, he contrived to screw the ball wide.

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It was a glaring blemish on an otherwise enterprising performance, and will no doubt have given Nuno food for thought about where the young forward fits into his long term strategy. Perhaps a loan move would iron out some of the shortcomings that are currently holding him back?

Other fringe players that impressed were Alfred N’Diaye, who did a first rate job of playing the midfield destroyer role. What a complement it is to Ruben Neves and Romain Saiss that he can’t get into the eleven on a regular basis.

Alongside him in midfield was our World Cup winning prodigy Morgan Gibbs-White, who thrilled the home crowd with some really enterprising play that included one truly delicious ball over the top of Swansea’s defence.

Sadly, his was a performance we weren’t able to enjoy for long due to Anthony Taylor’s decision to give Ruben Vinagre his marching orders for a dangerous but unintentional foul on Nathan Dyer.

Vinagre was later joined by Leroy Fer, who saw red for a petulant but ultimately harmless flick of the leg after a mightily impressive Helder Costa managed to evade his initial tackle.

Like many, I at first thought that Vinagre had been most unlucky to be given his marching orders but video replays have proved the decision to be an astute one.

That being said, I will point out that various Wolves players, though mostly Diogo Jota, have been on the receiving end of far worse tackles this season and the culprits – whether playing for Cardiff, Birmingham, Preston or otherwise – have gone unpunished. I’ve no issue with our players being corrected when they fall out of line but find the inconsistency in decision making most frustrating, as I suspect Nuno does too.

That frustrating sideshow aside, it was perhaps the performance of Costa which was the most notable feature of this stalemate.

After a stop-start first half of the season which so recently featured a truly dire showing in our triumph at Bristol City, the winger was back to his diminutive best and often careened past the opposition backline in a manner akin to last season’s vintage.

Hopefully it’s a level he can sustain as competition for places are only set to increase up front on account of the exciting addition of Rafa Mir to our ranks. Though limited to a cameo today, the Spaniard looks as if he possesses the physical attributes needed to add further variety to our attacking play.

Despite the presence of Mir, Costa and Cavaleiro, however, this tie fizzled out into somewhat of a damp squib that is likely to be remembered best for the two sendings off.

Still, encouragement should still be taken from the fact that we once again more than held our own against top flight opposition – albeit one that is likely to be swapping places with us at the season’s end.

Wolves Vs Swansea City Preview

For years I’ve bleated on about putting together a cup run to see Wolves play at Wembley.

But that was before the age of Nuno.

Now the easiest route is finishing the job in the league and waiting for Chelsea to take up temporary residence in the national stadium.

It would be nice to get there the old fashioned way of course. However, our promotion push is so intoxicating I’m struggling to summon the appetite for anything else.

This will be battle of the reserves and I doubt either set of fans will be too distraught whatever the result, beyond the 20,000 or so who are going along.

Swansea

I liked Carlos Carvalhal’s thoughts on their January transfer business – ‘We have money for sardines and I’m thinking lobster. I will look to the lobsters and sea bass, but if not we must buy sardines. But sometimes the sardines can win games.’

The sardines he inherited after replacing Paul Clement won him his first game at Vicarage Road to temporarily lift them off the bottom of the table.

They were then comfortably beaten by Tottenham, but I doubt that fixture was part of his master escape plan.

Scoring goals has been their problem. With only 13 in 22 matches, it’s little surprise they’ve only managed 4 victories.

Losing Llorente and Sigurdsson was the catalyst for another tough campaign. They brought in the highly rated Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich (who should have been a lobster) but the youngster simply hasn’t performed.

Wolves

I was trying to put together a completely different eleven to the win over Brentford, but I think Batth’s suspension might have scuppered that.

Someone has to play at the back. It might as well be Coady as he looks like he’s coasting through every game.

I’m also assuming new signing Rafael Mir is eligible. If he is, he might as well play and get a soft introduction.

Price, Marshall and Hause have been out in the wilderness lately but are all very handy. It’s not impossible to imagine they could all leave in January depending on who else comes in.

I think Costa has been lucky to get the minutes he’s been given lately. Bright should have shared some of those opportunities. Both should get a start this time.

Predictions

No PL points up for grabs in the cup, so all just for fun.

I’m assuming both teams will play the second string and I think our second string is pretty useful.

Swansea left players like Routledge, Fer and Bartley out of their team against Spurs so they’ve also got a bit in reserve.

But as we’re at home and tails are up, I think we might dig it out.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Swansea City 4 Wolves 4

Although this screwball game of Premier League football once again highlighted the crippling deficiencies of Wolverhampton Wanderers, it also served to show what might have been.

Defensively, we left our calling card.

Too much space, no closing down, non-existent marking.

Down but not out

Stand off. Stand off. Stand off.

It’s amusing to think that last season we were accused of being ‘overly physical’. Without doubt, a major problem with this current Wolves team is their aversion to ruffling feathers.

There’s just no menace, no desire and no hunger to win the ball back. The opposition do what they want.

When that’s the case, good players and good teams punish you. And for 15 traumatic minutes, Swansea did just that.

A fourth goal just before the interval after Steven Fletcher’s fantastic looping header dragged us back into the contest seemed to be the definitive nail in our coffin.

But as bad as the first half was defensively, Wolves trumped that in the second with a fantastic display of attacking football.

All of the goals were well constructed, the pick of the bunch being Dave Edwards cool run and finish after a sumptuous reverse pass from Michael Kightly.

Two other well made and well taken Matt Jarvis goals are proof positive that our offensive players can do enough damage.

The likes of Jarvis, Kightly and Fletcher are good enough for this level.

Our problem is that we’ve just never given them the platform to shine because both individually and as a team, we’re desperately weak in defence.

It’s often said that Wolves lack quality on the ball, but I believe our biggest problem is that we don’t possess enough physically strong players to upset the opposition, thus allowing our better players to show how good they can truly be.

We needed warriors over the summer, players that could add presence and put themselves about.

Presumably, this is what Mick McCarthy hoped Roger Johnson would bring to the fold back in August and what Emmanuel Frimpong would deliver when he arrived in January.

Failure and misfortune are words that immediately come to mind when you evaluate these signings.

They wrap up our season quite nicely too.

Swansea City Vs Wolves Preview

Along with many others, I was wrong about Swansea.

I thought they’d follow the much-traveled path of newly promoted sides who try to play football in the Premier League; the road that ultimately saw the likes of Burnley and Blackpool relegated.

Off the hook in the home fixture

But hats off to Brendan Rodgers and his team, they’ve been smarter, cuter and ultimately better than those sides over the course of a season. They deservedly sit comfortably in mid-table, just 3 points behind Liverpool in 8th.

What they’ve achieved in a single top-flight season is something Wolves have failed to do in 3 – find a system of play that works and stick with it.

Regardless of results, injuries and suspensions, they’ve never once flinched from their preferred method and have been handsomely rewarded. Wolves have continued to change shape on an almost weekly basis, too often resembling a group who’ve never played a single game together.

We desperately need a manager who has a clear idea about how he wants the team to play and knows the type of players he needs to achieve it. That, and only that, can bring about a sustained period of success.

Norwich, Newcastle, Stoke, Swansea and even Wigan to an extent are all clear proof of this.

Tomorrow’s game ultimately serves no purpose to either side. A dead-rubber if ever there was one in Premier League terms. Still, the home side will be clear favourites, not least because they’ve only lost 4 times on their own turf all season, plundering 7 wins and 6 draws.

The Team

I’d be keeping a 5-man midfield for this one. Otherwise I just think we’ll be pulled around the pitch as we were for large periods of the reverse fixture. Quite how we salvaged a draw out of that game, I’ll never know. This is my team:

De Vries, Foley, Stearman, Bassong, Ward, Henry, Davis, Milijas, Jarvis, Kightly, Doyle

Poor old Dorus is likely to come in for a bit of stick tomorrow, having left Swansea on a free in the summer. But footballers make these decisions and have to live with the consequences. Hopefully the 10 in front of him can help him out by delivering a result to ease the pain.

I’ve been screaming for Milijas to get a start for weeks, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. What have we got to lose now? Might as well give the bloke a few games to see if he can make an impact.

Doyle for Fletcher up front is just a personal choice. I thought he was superb against Arsenal and subsequently very unlucky to be left out against Sunderland and Man City.

Prediction League

No real surprise that an avalanche of people correctly predicted we’d lost to Man City last weekend. 32 in total.

Only two of those pundits correctly bagged the scoreline though. Or should I say one? sleachy took the cunning step of copying Kowloon Wolf (who leads the overall table) and reaped the benefits for doing so. Both get a 3-point boost.

Well done lads.

I reckon we might get a result in this one. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the old ‘nothing to play for, pressure off’ scenario?

I’ll plump for the same score as the reverse fixture – 2-2.

If you’re heading to Wales tomorrow, have a great time and get behind the lads as you did superbly last weekend as the ship finally sunk.

Up The Wolves.