Nothing like a slug-fest in the torrential rain at Bramall Lane to bring you back down to earth with a bump.
But then there’s nothing like a Wolves fan to feel like it’s the end of the world when in fact, a miserable showing in South Yorkshire just has a knack of looking that way.
In an attempt to draw a positive from an absolutely stinking performance (for a second game in a row), I’ll state a case for it being the best thing that could happen to us, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
In short, we’re not quite good enough for the place we dare believe we might just get to, so if the past two anaemic efforts have taught Nuno anything, then it’s that two or three players are needed to improve a wilting side.
Maybe it’s the workload? But there again, so many late goals suggests we finish games stronger than many others. Maybe players are simply underperforming individually? A head scratching performance from Willy Boly would bear testament to that.
I’d put it down to both of the above, underwritten by a general thought of not quite being good enough for an assault on the top six, or four, or however you want to slice up the league table. There’s no harm in the fact as it’s such a lofty ask in the first place. And perspective is needed too. If Fosun had a three year plan to get into the Premier League – which they did – then a sixth place in the Premier League in our first season back with a few games to go would surely be the stuff of dreams? This is where we are, only with the unforgettable experiences of 2018/19 in the memory bank for good measure.
Pains me as it does to write it, we surely need an upgrade on our right back, a new centre half and most definitely a midfield leader for fixtures like these. And let’s not forget a player who can play ‘between the lines’ to carve out an opening when our obvious threats ahead are nullified. But to reiterate the point, this would be to give ourselves a shot at the Champions League. The. Champions. League.
Blogs in the past have been idly splashed with Johnstone’s Paint so it’s with no sense of entitlement I write the above. Far from it. And from a fan quite content with a mid-table finish and a European adventure before a ball was kicked this season, it’s hardly a hardship if we continue to tail off.
But there’s just a small whiff of a missed opportunity right now, that’s all. And, for the first time in Nuno’s glorious tenure, a question mark or two about team selections. This has always gone with the territory for any manager in the Molineux hotseat in the past, but Nuno isn’t any manager in the Molineux hotseat; born on a different cloud and floating high above such questioning – until now?
Obtaining special dispensation to select Podence, only to leave him on the bench when we were crying out for a different option, seemed utterly unfathomable, while the decision to substitute Adama was perplexing when he was our only likely outlet for a goal. One substitute in total, with so many available, just doesn’t stack up.
And to adopt an old fashioned train of thought which a progressive mind like Nuno’s would scowl at…How on earth can you go 90 minutes without getting more shots off on a slippery surface in the driving rain? Judging by our attempts to retain possession out there, it couldn’t have been easy for the goalkeeper to get the ball under control if it was zipping in his direction a bit more often? One solitary shot on target told its own story.
As it was, we played exactly how we did against Arsenal a few days before. I.E. exactly how Dean Henderson, David Luiz or any other opponent would have wanted us to.
It was too laboured, too passive, too predictable and, dare I say, a bit too weak in the face of a beefed up side who easily won more of the first ball, and then the second thereafter if they weren’t successful to begin with.
And for the goal itself, check out Neves’ misplaced pass down the right flank which was easily cut out a few phases before and then Saiss, under no pressure, shanking a panicked clearance out for a throw-in by the corner flag which led to a save from Patricio that he probably didn’t have to make.
In other words, it was entirely preventable and all of our own making.
We all want it correcting ASAP with Europe still a possibility. On current evidence, I’d say we might need to wait a little longer.