Wolves Vs QPR Preview

After dispatching Sheffield Utd, there are now only three teams yet to suffer a league defeat at the hands of Wolves this season.

QPR are one of them.

You couldn’t begrudge them the victory at Loftus Road back in October. They didn’t park the bus. Far from it in fact. They kept pushing and got their reward.

That was the game that convinced Nuno changes needed to be made at the back. Out went Miranda and Batth and in came Boly and Bennett.

We’ve been stronger for that decision ever since.

QPR

Rangers are that team that went big and couldn’t see it through. If they’d been able to sustain their Premier League status longer, they might still be paying out silly fees and silly wages.

As it is, they’re now having to cut their cloth and even that is probably an understatement.

Survival and stability are the order of the day and in that sense you probably can’t grumble about the job Ian Holloway is doing with modest resources.

They’re 10 points clear of the relegation zone and will be in the Championship again next season. More recently, they’ve won three of their last five so come into this one in decent form.

That said, their away form is atrocious. Just 11 points yielded from 15 matches. Only two wins to go with five draws and eight defeats.

Wolves

Same again yeah?

I remember watching Man Utd in their pomp and Ferguson would just keep turning up the heat if the game wasn’t going their way, introducing more and more attackers from the bench.

With the likes of Bonatini, Afobe and Bright waiting in the wings, Nuno can do the same if this one is getting away from us. That’s reassuring.

Helder Costa has rediscovered his swagger of late and that makes the front three a truly terrifying combination.

Worth noting we’ve scored the most goals and conceded the fewest, so it’s still very much a team effort.

Prediction

I expect us to win and logic dictates we should do so comfortably. The Forest game is still fresh in the memory though and proof positive if you don’t reach the levels, you can be found out by anyone.

There should be a spring in the step though after last Saturday’s heroics and a week to rest up, so I don’t anticipate a blip.

I’ll go for a 2-0.

Three more points. One game less. Keep it going lads.

Up The Wolves!

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Wolves 3 Sheffield United 0

With the night sky thick with smoke from the pyrotechnics, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the early minutes of this match were taking place at the San Siro.

Ruben Neves wouldn’t look out of place at any of Europe’s premier venues and as soon as his dreamy opener kissed the post on route to goal, everybody knew this contest was heading in one inevitable direction.

The Rossoneri can but dream of scoring a goal like Diogo Jota’s these days, with four of our best and brightest ping-ponging the ball around before ruthlessly dropping the axe.

After that, it was the familiar stranglehold to which we’ve grown accustomed.

Complacency was the only danger, but once their keeper was correctly dismissed for attempted decapitation the last quarter hour was spent in full warm down mode.

Benik Afobe got his run out in ideal circumstances and nearly scored too. Bonatini also looked sharp again as the bonus balls kept rolling out of the machine.

Nuno grinned like a cheshire cat from the touchline, the South Bank hit the high notes and everyone just had a jolly good time.

If the Blades managed a shot on target all night, I don’t remember it and despite enjoying some possession and territory, lets be honest, they never laid a glove on the league leaders.

Chris Wilder was magnanimous enough to admit as much in his post-match comments.

They deservedly came out on top in the reverse fixture, but I think this victory lays down yet another marker about just how much this team has evolved since those early months.

There’s more cohesion, better organisation and a total understanding of what it takes to win games in the Championship.

We’ve always had the quality but quality alone isn’t enough.

Meanwhile, the chasing pack are doing an admirable job of chasing, so there’s a hefty workload still to undertake.

But the message booming out of Molineux remains the same – catch us if you can.

Wolves Vs Sheffield Utd Preview

After tonking Brentford, I was probably a bit optimistic with my ‘we could win every home game’ assertion.

Forest soon put pay to that.

But there are nine matches still to contest at Molineux and a solid return will all but guarantee promotion.

This looks, on paper at least, like one of the tougher challenges but in this helter-skelter division, who knows?

We comfortably saw off Villa and Fulham, but toiled against Forest and Sunderland. There’s no second-guessing how these games will unfold.

Sheff Utd

I watched the Blades fall to defeat against Villa in midweek and felt they were desperately unlucky. They were the ones pushing for a winner before Snodgrass administered the last minute sucker punch.

Bristol City stitched them up in similar fashion earlier in the campaign and those two moments alone are the difference between chasing the top two and drifting outside the play-off places.

Chris Wilder has really got it going at Bramall Lane. They play on the front foot and press high, which sometimes leaves them exposed at the back. An away record of won six, lost six and drawn two underlines their ‘all or nothing’ approach.

They completely overwhelmed Wolves in the reverse fixture. Even before Coady was sent off they were swarming over our midfield and forcing mistakes.

Several new faces were brought in during the window to refresh their flagging promotion hopes including Lee Evans. He’s started well and will return with a point to prove.

Richard Stearman is another likely starter, along with Leon Clarke who scored twice against his former club back in September. It’s a right old reunion.

Wolves

Does he start? That’s the immediate dilemma facing Nuno. You would assume Benik Afobe hasn’t come to sit on the bench, but I reckon that’s where he’ll begin his second stint at the club.

We played so well against Ipswich, the same starting eleven seems the logical choice. And I think the power of N’Diaye will be important for winning the midfield battle and freeing up Neves to do his thing.

The more fluid, interchanging front three is better suited to away games, but if it’s not working there are now a couple of options at the head coach’s disposal.

Someone pointed out you can only have five loan signings in your matchday squad, so that means one of Afobe, Jota, N’Diaye, Boly, Bonatini and Vinagre will always miss out. That’s something else Nuno will have to contemplate on a game by game basis. Vinagre seems an obvious choice but he’s the only cover we have at wingback.

Predictions

I know I always predict a win these days, but this season you can’t question the logic. Wolves have won 20 out of 29 matches.

They’re going to push us hard and ask a lot of questions. If they do what they did at Bramall Lane and cancel out our midfield, it will be another long night.

But I think Wolves are more streetwise these days and the more cohesive unit.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Back in the pack

In the pantheon of great contemporary Wolves strikers, Benik Afobe would certainly rank in my top three.

If you discount the godlike Steve Bull on the grounds that this is for mere-mortals, Benik would probably sit between Dean Sturridge and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, with Steven Fletcher somewhere further behind.

The methodology used here was simple: When presented with a chance, you just knew that these players would score. Pound for pound, Sturridge was arguably the most unerring.

That tantalising air of inevitability – be it sidefoot, dink, lob or laces – seemed to envelop these players in a golden hue where it mattered most, where all others would fail to convince. For once, a YouTube montage would probably do justice.

With all this in mind, having Benik Afobe back in a Wolves shirt can only be a fantastic bit of business and one worth stopping up until midnight to savour with the insufferable Jim White.

Just like when Benik would be played through on goal, I just sensed that the Sky Sports reporter down at Bournemouth would utter the words that we’ve all been waiting for – and so it proved in a brief moment to encapsulate a season.

The success our new no19 enjoyed in Jackett’s 4-2-3-1 system will surely stand a chance of being trumped by an even greater yield when operating in Nuno’s 3-4-3, as he’ll function at the very fulcrum of the formation, in way more meaningful areas of the pitch. At times during his first stint, I felt that an obvious goalscoring talent was slightly peripheral as he worked in a less threatening role behind Dicko, making his fantastic goal return ever more impressive. (By the end of that 78pt season, I actually felt Kenny should have played in tandem in a 4-4-2 in a bingo-or-bollocks assault, but I digress).

Shorn of Sako, van la Parra and Dicko for his second season, it was a wonder he scored 10 goals, with a dark cloud hanging over his exit.

For the here and now, I can’t see how Afobe can’t be a success if the likes of Jota, Cavaleiro, Costa and co stay fit. In fact, he should absolutely feast on the service, on the presumption that he’s still the same player we remember so fondly before he left.

But back to his initial exit before we all check that YouTube montage and salivate over the weekend…

…Am I alone in feeling like Afobe deserves a chance to set the record straight, having incurred the wrath of Moxey and Thelwell when leaving? Ok, so Fosun have righted a lot of wrongs since the asset-stripping regime of Morgan, but does this vindicate their attempts to rewrite history?

Like Matt Jarvis and even Robbie Keane before him, Jez Moxey was all too quick to paint a picture of a mercenary money-grabber to create a narrative to pacify the masses.

Speaking to an apathetic fans’ parliament, which I distinctly remember with bitterness, Thelwell said: “Benik was no longer trying to play for us. That was undermining everything we were trying to achieve.”

Afobe responded: “I wasn’t going to comment but this is too shocking and very hurtful. I did my best.”

Most will say it’s water under the bridge and lap up Benik’s second debut on Saturday. But before we all sing his name, a chance to have his say is just the right and proper thing to do, is it not?

Irrespective, I welcome him back with open arms in a deal that can only be seen as a win-win for all concerned.

Ipswich Town 0 Wolves 1

There was a time when getting the deck chairs out was a sign of complacency.

But after a well publicised week of fun in the sun, Wolves were all business under the clouds at Portman Road.

If anything last weekend’s limp defeat to Forest now looks like the holiday with normal service so comfortably resumed.

The vitamin D certainly did the trick for our wingbacks who combined to finish a flowing pass and move sequence with the game’s only goal.

They weren’t the only ones with a notable spring in their step. Jota and, much later in the game, Bonatini were two others obviously refreshed after soaking in a few rays, but in truth the whole team looked better for the experience.

The only disappointment is that this comprehensive away performance wasn’t given the resounding scoreline it warranted.

Bartosz Bialkowski made many fine saves, denying Douglas, Bonatini, Enobakhare and Jota (several times) when a second goal felt inevitable.

Better decision making could have opened the floodgates too with Jota in particular guilty of fudging what looked a simple lay off to give Costa a tap in.

Nuno despatched a fluid front three with Cavaleiro, Costa and Jota all taking turns up top and that extra pace in the final third caused Ispwich problems. It’s a compelling alternative to playing a traditional number nine.

Just as important was the selection of Alfred N’diaye who benefited from a minor injury to Saiss. He was colossal alongside Neves and his powerful presence introduced athleticism we’ve missed through the middle. Now could be his time to hold down a regular place.

With the chances passing us by the defence had to withstand the predictable late bombardment. Ruddy nearly gifted the Tractor Boys a point they never looked like getting when he came for a long ball and failed to claim, but recovered with a smart stop.

That was a minor blip in another afternoon where Wolves were so well organised out of possession they were only ever vulnerable to mistakes and misfortune.

With the 12 point gap re-established, temporarily at least, the same it would seem applies to the season.

But with Nuno still preaching focus, while the rest of us dream of glory, I doubt we’ll be talking about deck chairs again until May.

Ipswich Town Vs Wolves Preview

It’s pretty low to blame a bad result on the pitch, but I’m going to do it anyway.

As soon as the game kicked off last Saturday, you could see it was heavy under foot. A few passes held up and it was obvious it effected the team’s fluency.

Yes, it’s the same for both sides and please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – Forest deserved the win and were comfortably the better side.

But inevitably when the opposition bank up you’ve got to move the ball quickly to create chances and the pitch made that trickier than it’s been all season at Molineux.

Wolves have been successful because they’ve been able to adapt to whatever the opposition have thrown at them. The playing surface in our last two league games has been a bit of a leveller in my opinion.

Just saying.

Ipswich

Portman Road is normally pretty lush, so I’m already in confident mood. But jokes aside, this is a tough one when you’re trying to bounce back.

Expect space to be at premium. Assume little to no time on the ball. Be prepared to scrap it out and take your chances.

The Tractor Boys are nestled in midtable, but just 6 points outside the play-offs. I think Mick is swimming against the tide a bit looking at the teams above them, but you never know.

If they do finish closer to the top, it will be because of their home record. 8 wins from 14 matches is as good as anyone (apart from Wolves).

They made life very difficult in the reverse fixture in December, but I think they’ll have to show more adventure as an attacking force at home and that could be to our advantage.

Wolves

I can’t fault Nuno for his team selection against Forest because I would have picked the same eleven.

And if a week in Marbella has revitalised everyone, it’s tough to consider wholesale change to a side that’s continually delivered.

Leo needs to get back among the goals sooner rather than later. I do expect another striker to come in before January is out.

I’d also like to see another midfielder too if possible. N’Diaye is an able deputy but I don’t want to rely on the potential of Morgan Gibbs-White to close the deal if injuries and suspensions pile up.

Ipswich

We haven’t experienced back-to-back league defeats this season. There, I’ve said it. But even tempting fate, I don’t think we’ll be derailed again.

Derby and Villa aren’t playing until Tuesday and Cardiff miss a week due to the FA Cup, so it’s an opportunity to put more daylight between ourselves and the chasers.

I’ll back us to do that, just.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

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