Archives for August 2017

Brentford 0 Wolves 0

A stalemate against the league’s bottom side isn’t traditionally a cause for optimism.

But I agree with Nuno’s assessment that Brentford are in a false position, so in time this result will likely be viewed as a decent one.

Zooming out a bit, 10 points from 5 games is a solid return with that magical 2 point per game average usually good enough for automatic promotion.

When we reconvene after the international break, back to back home matches should provide a good opportunity to return to winning ways.

What we learned from Saturday is something we probably knew already – we need more cutting edge.

Chances were created and squandered at Griffin Park with Bonatini among the culprits. That elusive striker can’t arrive soon enough.

I still think the Brazilian has a lot to offer, but equally I don’t think asking him to lead the line for 46 matches will get it done. With Nouha Dikco seemingly set for an exit, reinforcements are needed more than ever.

Other than the lack of goals this was a decent enough performance and although the woodwork and John Ruddy were both tested, it’s another cleansheet. That’s 3 shutouts in 5 matches, which again is cause for optimism.

The coach kept faith with the team that had done the business prior to Cardiff, with only Ruben Vinagre breaking through.

And the flying wing-back was at the center of everything as Wolves tried to breakthrough. He also stood up to some serious examination in his own defensive third.

I like the player and with Barry Douglas unlikely to give up his spot without a fight, we’re well stocked for the position.

The focus now becomes beefing up the areas of the pitch where we’re not so well equipped before the transfer window closes.

With Dave Edwards departing hot on the heels of Joe Mason and Dicko also on the verge, at least one midfielder and preferably two strikers must be on the shopping list.

The club have done an excellent job thus far in reducing numbers, while adding the right quality and a few more key additions in the next week will complete the picture.

Busy days ahead.

Brentford Vs Wolves Preview

Victory at Griffin Park was the catalyst for survival last season. This time, our aspirations are greater.

It was good to bounce back in the cup, but even more important for rectifying last weekend’s defeat is putting some more points on the board.

That should be an achievable goal given that our next two fixtures are against the two teams currently sitting in 24th and 23rd position.

Yes, it’s early days but both Brentford and Millwall have gone four games without getting a victory and it can’t all be down to bad luck.

Brentford

Brentford logoDean Smith believes his side have been playing well enough to win games and from the bits and pieces I’ve seen of them, he’s probably not wrong.

They play attractive football and have good technicians, but like Wolves they have to earn the right to play their intricate passing game.

Keeping things tight at the back has been a problem and the nine goals they’ve conceded already is the reason they’re at the bottom of the pile.

If they go a considerable way through the season letting in over two goals a game, it’s going to be a long old campaign for the Bees.

But I suspect they’ll come good. They obliterated QPR 4-1 in the cup on Tuesday so that will give them some confidence going into this one.

Wolves

Nuno has some real headaches over team selection for this one after so many did themselves proud at St. Mary’s the other night. I don’t envy his position.

Would I play Vinagre over Douglas? Price over Saiss? Cavaleiro over Bright? Deslandes over Miranda? Honestly, I have no idea.

What I would say is that I don’t want to go back to making three, four, five changes to the team for every single league game so my approach would be evolution over revolution.

You might bring in Cav and maybe one other, but I’d keep the nucleus of the side that has generally performed very well in all the league matches to date.

Predictions

Theoretically, this should be a decent game for Wolves. If both teams want to get the ball down and play and it becomes about who can retain their shape and then find the right passes, you’d back us to win out.

I’m nervous because I think Brentford are due a good result and we’ve put a stonking great target on our chest with our summer transfer business and all the ‘best team in the league‘ plaudits.

But I have confidence in our coach and the group of players, so I’ll back us to get back to winning ways.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

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Southampton 0 Wolves 2

The times, they are a changing.

Not the fact we play our reserves in the cup – that’s exactly the same. More that those reserves are just so much better.

Cavaleiro, Dicko, Graham, these aren’t the calibre of second string picks we’ve come to expect.

Nuno’s teams always feature pace to supplement the rigid defensive shape and tippy tappy approach, which makes for a pleasing balance.

Then you’ve also got youngsters likes Vinagre, Norris, Deslandes, Ronan and Wilson who all look ready and capable.

Sprinkle in the battle hardened old school like Batth, Price and Edwards and you’ve got a formidable group.

What connects the three camps is that they’re all hungry and motivated to try and force their way into the side.

The head coach said after this win that there’s no first eleven. His team selections in the four league matches to date beg to differ.

But after the Cardiff defeat where a few deficiencies were exposed, who might now enter the equation at Brentford?

Ruben Vinagre has impressed in both his Carabao cameos and looks like a more effective attacking option at left wing back than Barry Douglas.

His compatriot Cavaleiro was already first in line having come on at the weekend and made a few things happen.

He twice setup Nouha Dicko last night and swung over the corner for Batth to score. Enobakhare and Jota have been good but one could find themselves sitting it out at Griffin Park.

With a hat-trick of first half chances spurned it’s difficult to say Dicko warrants selection over Bonatini, but he’s certainly an option.

Donovan Wilson took his only chance with aplomb so maybe he could even jump the queue? He’s consistently done it for the under 23s so why not?

I personally wouldn’t tinker with the back three, despite Miranda’s weekend struggles, but Batth, Bennett and even Deslandes might feel they’ve got a claim.

Will Norris in goal was so ridiculously assured, even John Ruddy might be pushed harder than he’d anticipated.

Whatever Nuno decides to do, it’s a pleasing situation to be in and fantastic to progress.

With a home tie against the lowest placed side left in the competition, we should go even further too.

Yes, times are changing and definitely for the better.

Southampton Vs Wolves Preview

If recent League Cup form is anything to go by, this will be the end.

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The pattern is traditionally either lose to lower league opposition or progress narrowly against lower league opposition and then lose to first semi-decent opposition.

We managed to scrape by against Yeovil so logic dictates that last season’s finalists will almost certainly end our hopes, particularly on their own soil.

Or maybe, just maybe, we’ll break the cycle.

Southampton

I thought the Saints were unlucky to lose to Man Utd in that final back in February. They were the better team for much of the game.

A cup victory would have been the least the club deserved having had to contend with the top brass poaching their players and coaching staff for years on end.

They’ve stood firm this summer with the Virgil Van Dijk saga, but you sense he too will get his move at some point.

Mauricio Pellegrino is the latest manager brought in from abroad to carry on their good Premier League form and he’s had a solid start with four points from his two games.

They’ll play a second string tonight, but that’s still likely to include people like Shane Long, Charlie Austin and James Ward-Prowse, so ample quality they will feel to get the job done.

Wolves

I can’t imagine Nuno will play his strongest side, even against Premier League opposition. I’d like to progress so I’m hoping for a decent XI though.

This is a good opportunity for fringe players to make their claim though, following our first defeat at the weekend.

A solid outing in this one and they could find themselves in the team for Brentford. I expect Dicko and Cavaleiro to be at the front of the queue.

The above team still has some really good talent involved, so maybe I shouldn’t be quite so down?

Predictions

As you can probably tell, I’m not confident about our prospects, but that’s purely on the basis we’ll ring the changes and be more disjointed.

If we were heading down to play Southampton reserves with our first eleven that would be a very different proposition.

Maybe we will? But more likely a weakened team and a predictable exit.

3-1 loss I’m afraid.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Cardiff City 2

I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

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Cardiff, as expected, made it difficult for Wolves to play; marking tightly, giving away niggley fouls and generally denying their opponents any sort of fluency.

Unlike the wins over Middlesbrough and Derby, we didn’t win enough of those mini battles and you always felt the momentum was with Neil Warnock’s side.

They’re an impressive, powerful team, full of pace and menace. Zohore and Mendez-Laing were the danger men and really exploited the space down the sides of our back three.

Miranda struggled to get to grips with the impressive Zohore in the second half and that was the root cause of their opening goal.

Boly too had a few shaky moments and when he let the ball bounce between his legs, Mendez-Laing was quick as flash to run on the overlap and power home the winner.

That was a costly mistake because Wolves had got back into the game thanks to a well developed Bonatini equaliser and tails were up.

But once Cardiff got ahead for the second time, it felt like there was one inevitable conclusion.

Those are the moments that determine these horrible, knife-edge contests and Wolves were five per cent off it today.

There were positives in the shape of Enobakhare who I thought was excellent again and unfortunate to be taken off.

Jota too stuck to his task well and didn’t allow himself to be bullied by some rough treatment. He looks like he can handle the physical challenges that lie ahead.

Another goal for Bonatini too and those are the finishes we need, inside the box latching onto any little flick that might come his way. He had a strong second half.

Neves and Saiss weren’t able to influence the game as they have done previously and that really restricted our attacking potency.

I lost count of the number of inch perfect diagonal passes we saw at Derby, affording our wingbacks acres of space to play in the forwards.

Today, against a well disciplined Cardiff side, we rarely got into those key positions and for that you have to credit the opposition.

We saw some some dark arts for sure, as you’ve come to expect from a streetwise Warnock team, and they could easily have been a man down before half time, but these are the challenges you need to rise above if you want to be a top Championship side.

The time wasting, the gamesmanship, the off the ball fouls – it’s a dog-eat-dog league and the refs can’t see everything. You’ve got to find ways to win whatever the opposition are doing.

There’s still lots to feel good about moving towards what looks an easier run of fixtures, but this was a reminder about how hard this team has to fight to play their brand of football.

It was never going to be easy.

Wolves Vs Cardiff City Preview

You need only look at the teams sandwiching Wolves in the table to remember how easy it is to come crashing back to earth.

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Lose 10% out of your performance and the Warnocks and McCarthys of this league are ready to gobble you up whole with their belligerent brand of football.

It’s been wonderful to see Nuno’s boys silkily navigate these tricky looking opening fixtures with a degree of comfort but there would be something particularly satisfying about winning this one.

I’ve got nothing against Cardiff or Neil Warnock, but the combination of their impressive start and the powerful makeup of their side means they’d be a notable scalp.

After all, if none of the promotion favourites can beat us and none of the archetypal Championship powerhouses can get it done, who else is left?

Cardiff

I did a pre-recorded interview for Radio Cardiff ahead of this game and the presenter asked me if I was surprised by how well they’d started. Hardly.

If you look at what they’ve done since Warnock took over midway through last season and the side he’s put together, they were always going to be up near the top.

They’ve got three giants at the back in Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba and Ecuele Manga, which immediately makes me sweat thinking about defending set pieces.

Further forward you’ve got the pace and trickery of Hoilet, Tomlin and intriguingly the former Wolves man Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. Looking forward to seeing what he’s got to offer.

Then big Kenneth Zohore up front, whose been a revelation since Warnock took over and was subject to a failed £10 million bid from Hull just yesterday.

They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at this burgeoning Wolves team and if they enforce their game, it’ll be a difficult afternoon for the home side.

Wolves

It’s amazing what happens when you keep a settled side with players all in their best positions isn’t it? I think too many managers over complicate the process in search of a winning formula.

Cavaleiro and Dicko are the only two really pushing for a start, assuming no injuries to other players. But both of them have done well coming off the bench so why change?

Right now you just want everything to stay the same for as long as possible to see if we can continue riding the crest of the wave.

I still think the club are planning to introduce another striker before the month is out, but given how well we’ve started and the players to come back, it’s probably not the mandatory acquisition it was once deemed.

Predictions

Unfortunately, my hands are tied once again. We’ve won all three games and I’ve predicted draws in each of them so I can’t buck the trend.

If you’re less superstitious than me and fancy backing the Wolves, Bethut have a a range of predictions, tips and bookie offers which you might find useful.

This will ultimately come down to who can enforce their style of play on the game. If it becomes about power and physicality Cardiff will be on top, but if Wolves can get their technical players to dictate it will be an entirely different contest.

I’m confident, lets just say that.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

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