What’s worse than an international break and no Wolves game for two weeks? Having to wait over an excruciating weekend until Monday to see them back in action. In recent history, Monday Night Football has been a concoction of emotions for Wolves fans. Cast your mind back to mid-September, the first game of the season; Sheffield United away. A blistering first half had us believing that we may have just addressed our first half woes from last season. How wrong we were!
The next two Monday night offerings saw Wolves face off against Manchester City and Leeds United respectively. Back to the ‘feeling out’ of the opposition in the first half; backfiring with City, but working wonders against the supposed ‘genius’ of Bielsa-Ball.
So what can we expect in terms of performance from Nuno’smen on Monday against Southampton? Wolves fans will be hoping for a strong response after a damp squib of a performance against Leicester last time out. We can complain about VAR and refereeing decisions until the cows come home, but ultimately that result came down to a poor Wolves performance. It took a penalty save to spark a reactionary good 10 minutes to half time and a Neves worldie attempt was the only real chance created.
Which leads to one of the huge issues at the moment; a lack of goals. Wolves have managed just 8 goals in 8 premier league games, with only the bottom four having scored fewer. With a heavy reliance on Raul and his goals this season, now is the time for others to contribute. We had a small glimpse of this at home to Palace, with Podence and Ait-Nouri on the scoresheet. Wolves will certainly be hoping to replicate that last performance at Molineux, where they executed their game plan to perfection. On a positive note, Pedro Neto has been Wolves’ most creative player this season, creating on average 2.1 chances per game. Here is to hoping he carries his current confidence, which was only bolstered by a goal on his Portugal debut, into the game on Monday.
In his post-game remarks at Leicester Nuno stated, ‘We will keep on improving’. Improve they must to beat an in-form Southampton team. The Saints currently sit pretty in fourth, just two points off top spot, and on an unbeaten run that only Spurs can better. Hassenhuttl has got his team into a groove and even the injury to Danny Ings has not set them back as many predicted. They have been handed huge boosts heading into the fixture; with it looking likely that James Ward-Prowse and Ryan Bertrand will be passed fit to start, and Che Adams and Theo Walcott have filled the Ings-void with goals and assists in recent games. A concern for Wolves fans will be that Southampton have netted more first half goals in the top flight than any other team, scoring ten goals-two more than Wolves have managed all season thus far. They will be looking to fire early on Monday and defend a lead, so a strong start from the Molineux men is needed.
Nuno may have some difficult decisions to make in terms of personnel for the tie. Rayan Ait-Nouri withdrew from international duty due to injury, and Leander Dendoncker was replaced at half time in Belgium’s friendly with Switzerland last week. Arguably, Nuno would have been wise to bring Marcal into the 11 anyway following a challenging day at the office for Ait-Nouri at Leicester. The knock to Dendonckercould open up the chance to the maestro Joao Moutinho, who will be itching to reaffirm his place back in the side, and hopefully add some more creativity in the middle of the park.
How do you solve a problem like Adama Traore? The baby-oiled speed demon has made headlines this week over alleged contract disputes. But is it time to give him an opportunity to start this game? In every cameo he has made this season he has looked dangerous, and with Podence putting in a tepid shift against Leicester, perhaps now is the time to unleash Traore from the first whistle as opposed to at the 60-65 minute mark.
Three points would see Wolves go level with Southampton on 16 points. However, more than the three points on offer, a strong performance could set the tone for a tough run of fixtures going into the new year. Both sides have scored in the last three meetings between the two teams, so all the signs point to goals in this game. If Wolves can find their goal-scoring form, it would be long overdue and much welcomed by Nuno and Wolves fans alike. Here is to hoping that Wolves can be the team to halt the march of the Saints.
Predicted 11- Patricio, Coady, Kilman, Boly, Marcal, Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Neto, Traore, Raul.