Pre-Match Review | Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Sheffield United 01/12/2019
English Premier League
Blades fans will be hoping for a better result and performance after their last visit to Molineux. Can Sheffield United take advantage of Wolves’ midweek European exploits?
Last Time Out
Wolverhampton Hotspur 3 (Neves 5, Jota 30, Cavaleiro 76) vs 0 Sheffield United - 03/02/2018
Simon Moore, George Baldock, Enda Stevens, Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and John Fleck all started in this fixture, as well as the game against Manchester United last week. Billy Sharp and John Lundstram were also on the bench, and Leon Clarke started.
If you include Richard Stearman who also started at Molineux that evening, it makes ten players who are part of our 25 man squad for the Premier League.
Wolverhampton Wanderers had seven players that evening in their squad who are still part of theirs today. They are Ryan Bennett, Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Matt Doherty, Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Morgan Gibbs-White. This highlights the importance of keeping a strong core of the squad that got you to where you are in the first place.
The game itself was a non-starter for the Blades, Ruben Neves put the home team ahead in the 5th minute with a brilliant strike into the top right-hand corner. Ivan Cavaleiro and Jota linked up beautifully to score a wonderfully well-worked team goal, and United were 2-0 down within half an hour.
We couldn’t lay a glove on them, we never really threatened and Wolves were able to play through us with ease. Our only shot on target was a James Wilson effort which was relatively easy for John Ruddy to save.
It didn’t get any easier in the second half either, Simon Moore was sent off in the 73rd minute when he got into a collision outside the penalty area with Jota.
Three minutes later, Cavaleiro’s freekick took a massive deflection off the Sheffield United wall, and it was 3-0. The result meant wolves went 12 points clear of the automatic promotion places and would gain promotion that season comfortably. For Sheffield United, it meant they were now 5 points off the playoff places, and they would have to wait another year for promotion.
Summer at Wolverhampton Wanderers
Notable Ins: Raúl Jiménez (£30m - Loan made permanent, Benfica), Patrick Cutrone (£16.2m, AC Milan), Leander Dendoncker (£12m - Loan made permanent, Anderlecht), Pedro Neto (£10.8m, Lazio), Bruno Jordao (£7.2M, Lazio), Jesus Vallejo (Loan, Real Madrid)
Notable Outs: Kortney Hause (£3m - Loan made permanent, Aston Villa), Ivan Cavaleiro (Loan, Fulham), Helder Costa (Loan, Leeds United), Rafa Mir (Loan, Nottingham Forest), Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Undisclosed, Shrewsbury Town)
Options were taken up on their leading goalscorer and player of the year Jiménez and utility man Dendoncker after successful loan spells last season. While their first choice 11 arguably picks itself, the squad will have needed to be bolstered, what with Wolves now in European competition for the first time since the 1980-81 season.
Patrick Cutrone will provide competition and cover for Jiménez following his move from AC Milan. In a surprising move to see him leave the club after being so highly thought of in Milan, he scored 27 goals in 90 appearances. An impressive record for a player who is still only 21 years old. Nevertheless, he has a lot of work to do to dislodge Jiménez.
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Recent Form
Since their first league win of the campaign on the 28th of September, Wolves have been unbeaten in the following seven fixtures, jumping from 19th in the table to 5th.
A slow start is understandable, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side started their campaign in late July with Europa League qualifying, meaning that their pre-season has been reasonably unconventional compared to others.
Like night follows day, a slow start to a top-flight campaign follows participation in the early round of the Europa League. With pundits encouraging clubs to sack it off in favour of finishing higher up the table. But what is the point of giving up on it to entertain the possibility of qualifying for it again next year?
Wolves appear to have ignored the noise and given both competitions their full attention, 5th in the league and qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League is a testament to that.
View from Chris Wilder
On the fitness of Lys Mousset
“He’s recovered. We all feared the worst when Lys pulled up. He’s been outstanding for us. He just ran out of gas. The amount of effort he put into that game was phenomenal. Delighted he’ll be involved Sunday.”
On Wolverhampton Wanderers
“They’ve got a positive approach, players that excite you, a front three that are very, very talented. They’ll want to keep their good form going; it’s all set up to be a really good game.”
Opposition Style of Play
Most Sheffield United fans will be familiar with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ style after they took the Championship by storm in the 2017/18 season with their forward-thinking and efficient style of play.
Dating back from his time at Porto and Valencia Nuno Espirito Santo has always been a tactically astute coach and has played a range of formations in his managerial career so far, but 3 at the back has been his staple since coming to England but did use it on occasions when managing Valencia.
In Wolves’ first campaign in the Premier League under Nuno, they started to play a little deeper. They had more emphasis on the counter-attack, understandable given that they had just been promoted to the top flight and had probably anticipated that they would not have as much time on the ball as they would in Championship.
They stuck with the 3-4-3 formation that served them so well. There was a slight tweak in the winter period, however. Moving Jota into a more central position and adding another man in midfield but the fundamentals stayed the same in forming triangular connections in defence and attack and allowing them to gain numerical and positional advantages in all areas of the pitch. Something which was taught to him by his mentor, Jesualdo Ferriera, when part of his coaching staff at Malaga.
In Europe this season they have played with two up top, most of the time, but in the Premier League, they have reverted back to the 3-4-3 as Adama Traore appears to have developed an end product to go alongside his frightening pace.
It’ll be a tough fixture, but I can see us coming away from Molineux with a point. 1-1.
Lys Mousset to score anytime at 12/5 (Skybet); Connor Coady to be carded at 5/1
Same team as Manchester United, just swap Egan for Jagielka and Henderson for Moore. Looks like Mousset is fit to start.