“Hey! I got one!”
“That’s great kid. Don’t get cocky!”
There’s a cold chill in the air, and football is trying to throw one last disconcerting blast at Wolves.
Six points clear of second and ten of third.
Two league defeats in nineteen games.
A side capable of some mesmerising football.
12 games to go.
In context, there really isn’t anything to worry about following Wolves 2-0 away defeat to in-form Fulham.
Yet after losing out to win mid-week against Norwich and recent performances following the 2-1 win v QPR, the bigger picture looks a bit scary.
Context is one thing, bigger picture is another.
A gap has been cut, Cardiff and Fulham are hitting form. Optimistic chants are getting a bit quieter.
The funny thing is, once you think you have something and think it might be taken away, you start to panic.
I’ve been labelled as pessimist for not jumping on the promotion party. Yet my cautious approach to talking about potential promotion is, sadly, being justified with recent weeks.
Yes, if the gap was still around 11 & 13 points as we edge clearer to the last few games, we would all be starting to get that bus ready.
Wolves have built up a gap, but this is the business end of the season. This is where the performances and points really matter.
The performances have shown that this team is something special. Yet, this team is also human.
Fans will say ‘Nuno will sort it’, yet he can’t physically control the players on the pitch like a game of FIFA.
People will say ‘This isn’t the 2002 side’, yet this side are still capable of the human errors at the end of the season as most players are.
Our run of form has boosted our ego’s and made us braggy. We’ve gotten a bit too loud for our own good.
Perhaps now in order for us to get over the line, it’s time to be humble.
We’ve all talked about certain teams ‘minding the gap’, yet this period is showing us that perhaps we’ve all got a bit too carried away too early.
We can all get as carried away with optimisism as much as we can with negativity.
Sometimes you can tell when a bad run is about to happen. You might feel it now, but there is no reason why that should be the case.
Wolves have tough run of games to come, but also some winnable ones.
We might have needed this reality check, but all of our talking means nothing.
So, what can Wolves do to get back on track and what is in their favour?
Wolves are without their talisman Ruben Neves for one more game against Reading.
Win without him and it will be a huge psychological boost for the side, showing that this is truly a team effort rather than individual.
The mid-week break
With no games mid-week, it’s a chance for the players to get back on the training ground, go through their routine most importantly, rest.
The marbella break did the side the world of good. A similar routine, now at home, should help.
So far this season Wolves seem to bounce back after poor results. Given recent performances and the Fulham defeat, this game to game break and defeat may have come at the perfect time.
Ruddy calm down
John Ruddy has come under increasing pressure following his Norwich mis-hap.
Should he be dropped? No.
It would be a bold gamble to drop the experienced and former promotion winning goalkeeper.
Norris is going to be a fantastic no.1 in the future. However, with only 6 apperances this season in what you can argue as one off games, it’s not the right cauldron to throw him into.
Ruddy to hold his place.
Mix up the starting XI
Wolves greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.
Wolves have been able to get the results with a consistent starting eleven and ‘touch wood’, no injuries.
Yet the Neves exclusion has shown that sometimes one missing piece makes the structure wobble.
Wolves may need to mix things up at times with their game management and will need to look to the bench. And at the moment, it doesn’t looks appealing.
Mixing up the starting eleven should give Wolves more options and keep the players fresh.
What to change then initially?
No Neves? Bring in MGW.
I’ve been wary of looking to start the youngster, but he already looks apt at this level and his drive and creativity will compliment a defensive role of N’Diaye or Saiss.
Afobe. Got him. Use him.
The honeymoon period is well and truly over for Benik, but if we’ve got him we need to use him.
It goes against instincts to break up the force that is Cav/Costa/Jota. Yet having one of the three on the bench (Perhaps leaning to Costa) can help Wolves bring on a different edge as the game progresses.
The Coach Bombay Moment
Should we panic? No.
Just like when Coach Bombay in Mighty Ducks 2 put a cardboard cut out of himself in a burning trash can, it’s time for us to not be so loud in ego, but focus that in support of the team.
Now is the time to, as a whole, re-group, think less about gaps of other teams and stay focused on the prize to get us over the line.