Joe Chacksfield gives his inital reaction to the first two league games under new manager Bruno Lage
We are two games into the new premier league campaign and though Wolves have failed to get off the mark, there are significant signs that they are going to be a VERY different outfit this season. 180 minutes in and already Wolves have registered 42 shots, falling short to only Liverpool who share top spot as it stands. The 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup has shown they can score against, at least against lower level opposition After seeing Wolves perform first hand I’ve provided my overview on what fans can expect to see from the stands this season.
To apply some perspective, Wolves had 21 shots after two games last season, however did manage see the net bulge on three occasions, and it must be said that though Sundays outing against Spurs was far more exciting, Wolves failed to create many ‘clear cut chances’ and really work Hugo Lloris, scoring an XG of only 1.66. The stats aside, Wolves were far easier on the eye, they looked a threat every time they came forward and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, (58%) a complete contrast from previous seasons under Nuno, and lets not forget, with the same formation and starting XI bar Joe Sa and Francisco Trincao. Wolves created 23 registered chances (Fotmob stats) and enjoyed over half of their possession in the opposition half, playing much higher up the pitch. As a spectator, the pressure felt far more relentless on the opposition; it’s safe to say that apart from the result, there isn’t much else the Spurs players would have enjoyed about playing in that game.
Aggressive in midfield
Joao Moutinho and compatriot Ruben Neves have been the first choice anchors since Wolves were reinstated in the Premier League 4 years ago. Particularly last season, the duo have been criticised for being too negative and being dominated in the middle of the park, however yesterday’s outing saw a much different performance from both the Portuguese internationals, creating far more forwards passes, more expressive in their play (Moutinho, in the middle of the park left two plays for dead, and Neves quick feet on a few occasions to get out of danger), and WAY, WAY, WAY more aggressive out of possession. The pair won battles in midfield, winning several tackles and interceptions, and were quick to double up to help out Semedo and Marcal. A noticeable difference was the instinct to not only win the ball back, but immediately looking to make something happen, demonstrated by the moment all Wolves though would surely be a goal in the 61st minute, but we’ll come onto that later. Overall the pair controlled the midfield, created more chances and were far more tenacious out of possession… Imagine a third man in there, what new doors that might unlock.
Adama off the leash
Adama Traore has been Wolves main threat going forward since the start of the season and produced an outstanding performance against Spurs on Sunday. The Spanish international gave Japhet Tanganga the run around for 90 minutes and left him treading on egg shells after receiving a yellow card in the 38th minute. The speedster breezed past not only Tanganga but a number of the Spurs defenders down the flank but also when drifting infield. Traore completed 90% of his attempted dribbles and got to the byline to produce successful crosses on 4 occasions. Its clear to see that Bruno intents to use Traore from the off, and the past two games have showed that Traore can produce a good performance over 90 minutes, rather than being bought on like some secret weapon at the 60 minute mark. His positioning within games is also noticeably different, he’s found himself bursting through the middle, getting into goal scoring positions in both matches so far.
However, many Wolves fans will be left frustrated and quickly forget all about his overall performance focus on those missed opportunity. There is no doubt that though Adama Traore is like no other player to have played at Molineux or even currently in the Premier League, but his finishing needs to improve, drastically and quickly if he is to be a regular started under Bruno Lage and fulfil his full potential. With his stock currently high, its an ongoing debate between Wolves fans; whether he should be given a boosted contract or whether he should be sold. Though he is an explosive powerhouse and unplayable at times, is he actually impacting the game and heling Wolves towards getting the wins consistently and often enough?
Exposed at the back
As positive as the performances have been, going from a regimented system where all players have their own roles and responsibilities to a much freer style of play was going to leave question marks over the Wolves defence. Playing a high line and committing bodies forward to close down, caught Wolves out on a couple of occasions against Tottenham, handing them chances which could have killed the game. Fans will argue that retaining the three central defenders shouldn’t have seen these opportunities arise, though playing 3 centrally but in a flat line is no more effective than playing two if the third defender isn’t dropping deeper to sweep up any danger. The question most Wolves fans will want to know, is that does this free flowing, high press philosophy by default mean we can expect to see more goals conceded through counter attacks and long balls over the top? Or is this something that with the right players, Bruno will look to shore up? Playing to outscore your opponent may be great to watch, but only works if you are prolific in front of goal, which hasn’t been a feature of Wolves game for some time now. Wolves fans will be hoping this clicks into place over the coming weeks and the feeling of ‘how did we lose that game’ isn’t a regular one this season.