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Wolves don’t win often away from home; Wolves don’t play well away from home. The two wins this season have had elements of fortune about them and required last minute winners. The away form has been troublesome for years. Wolves especially do not travel well to the capital. Fourteen successive trips to London have failed to bring a win of any kind. Wolves do not travel well to West Ham in particular, the last four games giving an aggregate score of 10-0 to the hosts. Wolves do not play well in a back four. We all know this by now surely! Wolves do not manage Jared Bowen well; his record is starting to have the same kind of feel as Chris Wood or Kevin Phillips. Add all the above together and the outcome of a regulation away defeat, in which Jared Bowen would be amongst the scorers had an air of inevitability about it and so it proved.


2. The weekly VAR issue is back, it has not been missed.

Two moments of particular interest in this one. Firstly, the disallowed goal. In real time this looked offside. I am surprised that Wolves fans bothered to celebrate at all given the propensity of decisions like this to go against them. On first replay however this looked remarkably closer than it first appeared and more in favour of a goal being awarded. A delay of three and a half minutes followed the original awarding of the goal, in which guesses were made in terms of the moment of Semedo’s pass and the length of Pablo Sarabia’s size eighteen clown feet were assessed. Was it really any surprise that the still that was chosen was the one that was to rule the goal out. Sarabia himself though should have been more aware of the positioning. There was no real need for this to be close. It felt quite lazy of the Spaniard to have made this an issue that VAR could gleefully jump upon. 

The second incident was much more obvious. An elbow from Coufal who for all the world looked like he wanted to spend Christmas back in the Czech Republic whilst suspended. Coufal’s ridiculous assault (as it would transpire, the first of two) on Bellegarde was horrific. Only Jared Gillett will know how he can deem Lemina walking somewhere in close proximity to him in a game last season to be worthy of a red card, yet a player being violently elbowed in the head to be just fine. It is another outrageous decision that Wolves will feel rightly aggrieved by. Gillet seems to be endlessly attached in some way to Wolves fixtures and there is always controversy. 


3. Jose Sa is underrated.

You only really notice something when it is missing. There were no major goalkeeping errors in this game from the deputising Bentley, but Sa being the exceptional shot stopper that he is, probably saves at least two of the three goals that West Ham scored. Sa has his issues of course, but keeping the ball out of the net is not one of them. Sa is an international level goalkeeper and whilst Bentley didn’t make any outright mistakes, Sa is just a better shot stopper. These are the differences that separate the very good from the average. Wolves will want their number one back as soon as possible. 


4. O’Neil does not trust the squad.

Preference was given to changing Wolves tactical formation to fit the players that O’Nell has confidence in. This meant that with Ait-Nouri remaining not fit enough to make the starting line up, O’Neil elected to change the shape of the team rather than utilise players that he does not trust. The list of players on the naughty list however continues to grow and now appears to include: –

Hugo Bueno: Now comfortably third choice left back behind Ait-Nouri and a tactical change to move Toti to left back in a four-man defence. 

Santi Bueno: Toti could have been moved to left wingback as a like for like replacement if O’Neil had confidence to allow Bueno to be the third centre half, but again, wholesale tactical changes were preferred.

Sasa Kalajdzic: His dwindling minutes were reduced to a sub not used despite Wolves making no headway at all up front and players such as Hwang and Sarabia looking exhausted and ineffective. 

Fabio Silva: This is now well documented and likely to be finalised in January.

Matt Doherty: Several ineffective substitute appearances have all but ruled out any ongoing contribution at left back. 

As a result, O’Neill opted for a move away from a system that had served Wolves well since its introduction and an untimely return to the four at the back, which exposes the issues of other players such as Dawson, Toti and Kilman. Wolves simply do not have the personnel to play a four at the back and the change was a damning indictment of the depth of squad that O’Neil has and trusts.


5. Wolves are carrying players.

Wolves had too many players on the pitch that are currently only offering one thing to their game. When that one thing doesn’t happen, their overall contributions are so poor that they end up as passengers contributing little to the overall game. Hwang has fired eight Premier League goals this season, but his current form aside from goals is poor. He looks tired and in desperate need of a rest. Sarabia is in the team for the final ball, but routinely slowed Wolves play up and looks lightweight in all other aspects of the game. Gomes is there to win the ball, but the midfield often bypassed him and offered little in possession. Players need to offer more than their primary function alone. 


6. Substitutions didn’t seem to be made to impact the game.

Wolves made just three substitutions yesterday in a game that just wasn’t working for them, and you could argue that all three were either forced or made with future games in mind. None of them appeared likely to impact the game or result. Toti was removed because whilst being poor, he had already been booked and was making clumsy challenges. A red card was probably close. Lemina and Semedo being replaced felt like the towel being thrown in on the game and to preserve them for battles to come. There was word of illness in the camp and I’m sure those also played their part in the decision making, but the substitutions felt passive and unlikely to impact the game.


7. It wasn’t as bad as we think it was.

It is easy to read too much into this defeat (I certainly have in the above) but as frustrating as the result was, the performance wasn’t terrible. There wasn’t much between the sides. Key moments and goals that followed periods where Wolves were in the ascendency were critical and badly timed. All goals were counter attacking and were moments where West Ham out-Wolvesed Wolves. There was a naivety to the approach coupled with lapses in concentration that took the game away from them before they could get into it and kept them at elbow’s length. Wolves have given a lot over the opening months of the season, and they look physically and mentally tired. They do however have to shake the malaise quickly. Whilst at the moment the table and position continue to look optimistic, a few more bad results will see Wolves looking over their shoulder again. There was always going to be difficult periods in the season, and this feels like one of them in terms of performances. Wolves need to rally themselves so that the blip doesn’t turn into something more permanent. There is still a lot of work to do this season, the job is far from done. 


Dave Porter, Always Wolves Fan TV


Wolverhampton born, East Sussex based supporter. Old enough to have seen the descent to the bottom, young enough to not have experienced the days my friend. Not many Wolves fans to celebrate or commiserate with round these parts, so had to find an outlet to discuss the enormous highs, crushing lows and share the frustrations that only come with following Wolves.  

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