Archives for December 2017

Sheffield Wednesday Vs Wolves Preview

If you need reminding about the difficulty of escaping the Championship, look no further than the teams that contested last season’s play-offs.

Reading, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday all came close, but six months on are marooned in midtable.

Maybe one of them will rally over the second half of the campaign, but still, their struggles prove that progress is never guaranteed. You’ve got strike while the iron is hot and all that.

Wolves suffered similarly in the post Sako/Dicko/Afobe era. When that little axis was disbanded after failing to crack the top six, we wandered the dessert until Fosun came along.

It’s the same this time. We have the best team, the best players and the best manager. We’ve got to make it count.

Sheffield Wednesday

The Owls were on the charge briefly but haven’t won any of their last five. Midtable beckons.

They’ve got some good players in that squad, but so do a lot of teams. Individual quality isn’t enough.

When you’re successful for a couple of seasons without getting promoted it’s hard to keep things fresh and I get the sense it’s gone a bit stale for Carlos Carvalhal.

The Portuguese man is moaning about decisions a lot and when that starts happening regularly, you sense things are unravelling.

There are noises he could be close to the sack if he loses this one, so it will be interesting to see what sort of response he can get from a decent group of players.

Wednesday have only lost once at Hillsborough this season, so a difficult contest in prospect.

Wolves

Annoying we couldn’t find that winning goal against Sunderland but at least Cardiff weren’t able to take advantage.

This is a challenging period and none of the games look straightforward.

If we can emerge from December still top of the table and with distance between ourselves and third place that will be a great result.

This Wolves team have the pedigree to beat Wednesday, Ipswich, Millwall and Bristol City, but when the games come thick and fast, it’s unlikely they’ll have it all their own way.

I hope to be proven wrong.

Does the team still pick itself? Probably, for this one at least.

The odds

Wolves are 11/10 favourites to win this one. You can get a slightly more generous 7/2 on a Wolves victory with both teams scoring at Betfair. There are promotions at Betfair currently so make sure you check them out on that site to make your dosh go further.

Predictions

I said after the Sunderland game that I thought Wolves would benefit from teams attacking them and I expect Wednesday to show more adventure, particularly at home.

They’ll cause us problems because they have some good creative talent and more worryingly, players who can stick the ball in the net e.g. Jordan Rhodes.

But if Wolves play to their maximum, they’ll win and I’ll back them to do just that.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

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!

Birmingham City 0 Wolves 1

BBC WM, as any local football fan can attest, often makes for interesting post-game listening.

Last evening, in the wake of a sixth consecutive win for Wolves, the phone-in was largely dominated by the topic of Birmingham’s second half performance.

In the eyes of the commentary team, though admittedly few of their fans, they had given the league leaders one of their sternest challenges this season.

Couple this with Steve Cotterill’s rather laughable assertion that we were ‘average’ and that ‘without goal line technology, they might have got away with it’ and the picture of a rather chastening night at the office becomes clear.

And yet, the home side didn’t muster a shot on target all evening.

Which begs the question, if this is to be considered one of the more challenging victories of the season so far, then is anyone really capable of landing a punch on this team?

Labels such as ‘the Manchester City of the Championship’ often prove to be more of an albatross around the neck than lasting compliment, but in this case it’s beginning to look fitting.

Like City, Nuno’s ensemble have begun to demonstrate an aptitude for winning in all manner of ways, whether it be in the vein of recent shellacking of Bolton or this more arduous of successes.

This has been irrespective of how the opposition have performed, with few teams actually standing out as being poor thus far.

Despite their inability to pepper John Ruddy’s goal, the Blues were in the ascendancy for much of the second half.

Nonetheless, I never really feared that we’d let the points slip away from us. Tell me, is that overconfidence or acceptance of the reality that we’re simply too good for the majority of teams in this league?

Much has rightly been made this season of our passing ability but what’s equally impressive to me is the ferocious appetite the players show when closing down their challengers, a skill flaunted on numerous occasions last evening.

With Ruben Neves’ enforced absence a glaring feature of our inability to penetrate a resolute (if appallingly over-competitive) home guard, the need to suffocate Blues’ play was more pressing than it likely would have been had our Portuguese maestro not been missing.

And press they did, with potential threats such as Jota and Lukas Jutkiewicz squeezed out of the game almost entirely.

Willy Boly was integral in this respect, turning in a performance as good as any I’ve seen from a Wolves defender past or present.

Though our success to date has been resultant of the efforts of all our players, it’s clear to see who the key individuals are within this current outfit and the gargantuan Frenchman, along with the rejuvenated Connor Coady, is certainly the key cog in our resilient defence.

Also standing out was the unrelenting work rate of our wing backs, a feature of our play that I feel is slightly under appreciated at present.

I shudder to think what training actually entails for Barry Douglas and Matt Doherty, but they’re both fit as fiddles and two of the stand-out performers at present.

It was a more fitful evening for our lauded front three, but some of the play conjured was a marvel to behold with Diogo Jota once again earning the acclaim of pundits in spite of his challengers’ cynical attempts to halt him in his tracks. Whether he stays beyond this season remains a topic for discussion, but it’s been a privilege to watch him play in old gold regardless.

Ultimately, despite Cotterill’s Scooby Doo villain-esque remarks to the contrary, it was another win for Nuno’s promotion chasing juggernaut and, with our perceived counterparts in sky blue chasing a 14th successive win in the Premier League, it’s left to us delirious supporters to ponder when this remarkable run will end.

With basement boys Sunderland in town next, you wouldn’t bet on it being any time soon.

Birmingham City Vs Wolves Preview

The last time I expected victory at St. Andrew’s it bit me on the behind.

Benik Afobe even put us ahead, but Blues won it thanks to a scrappy set piece equaliser and a Scott Golbourne brain fart.

We missed out on the play-offs on goal difference and things unravelled from that point for a team that had been on a rapid upward curve.

A few years on and those expectations are heightened with an even better Wolves team rolling into town.

We’ve won on our last two visits, but navigating this local derby under the floodlights, away from Molineux would be a further statement of intent from our table-topping group.

Blues

I always said Gary Rowett was overachieving with the group of players he had, so it didn’t surprise me that Zola and Redknapp both failed.

They splashed a bit of wonga late on in the transfer window in true ‘arry fashion. But with the remnants of several managers efforts they’re a team in transition, which is reflected in their league position.

Steve Cotterill just needs to keep them up this season and form something cohesive out of the random parts he’s inherited. Easier said than done.

Hopes must rest on ‘the other Jota’. It was a major coup for Blues to get him from Brentford, but injury has curtailed his progress thus far.

Che Adams scored in this fixture last season and he’s a useful player, as is reported former Wolves target Sam Gallagher.

However, they have easily the feeblest attack in the division with just 10 goals so far. To put that in context, Wolves have scored 40.

All four of their victories have come at St. Andrew’s and all by narrow margins. They’ve only mustered 6 goals in their 9 home matches to date.

Wolves

It’s a blow to lose Ruben Neves, but I’m intrigued to see how the team cope without him and how Nuno addresses his absence.

When Romain Saiss was suspended against Norwich, Alfred N’Diaye just slotted in and played very well. That’s the most obvious solution.

But Jack Price is the most like-for-like player, so one could argue he would be the better choice. The fact it’s a derby though and likely to be more physical probably nudges it back towards Big Alf.

Assuming no injuries, further surgery on a team that’s won five consecutive matches seems unlikely.

Prediction

As good as Wolves are playing, they haven’t been bullet proof away from home. QPR, Reading and Sheffield United all got about them and dominated for periods.

Steve Cotterill will be trying to emulate what those teams achieved and I expect them to make it difficult.

But all logic points to a Wolves win so that’s exactly what I’m predicting. 3-1.

Up The Wolves!

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