1. There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip
After impressive form and off the back of successive wins, most felt that Wolves had seen off the worst of the relegation threat. A win would have seen a huge gap to the bottom of the league and the ability even with a faltering end of season, to at least be able to stumble across the line. Not many would have taken the draw if offered at the start of the game, but avoiding defeat would have maintained a healthy distance. A defeat however has seen Wolves dragged right back amongst it. Yes it is a position most would have accepted after the World Cup restart, but this felt like an obscene waste of an opportunity. In truth, it was never going to be this easy. Wolves had played well in previous games, but had still had to rely on a timely save or a lucky escape here of there. Form has improved but the ghosts of managers past lurk deep within this team, and it was probably too optimistic to think this was going to be plain sailing. A win against Fulham now looks a requirement with big six opponents on the horizon.
2. OFFICIALS ARE HURTING US
Starting with the hangover of the officiating of the last game, The Lemina suspension really hurt the balance of the team. Where Lemina can be a one man Pivot, the team was adjusted to require that to be two, with Moutinho employed further forward. There was a lot of change caused by one man being missing from the line-up, and the changes offset the front to back balance of the side.
This weeks horror show was more subtle. No horrendous decisions as such and certainly no one can blame Bournemouth for the ludicrous amounts of time wasting. What you cannot accept however is the way in which this was allowed to go way beyond brinkmanship, and into the farcical. Punctuated by a mere six minutes of added time. Notwithstanding all of the delayed restarts and substitutions, the Bournemouth physio probably had more time on the pitch than many of the outfield players. Wolves have done this in the past, there can be no blame on Bournemouth here. If the referee is not going to control the behaviour in any way, then why would they change. The ball was barely in play for the ten minutes between 55 and 65 mins and it didn’t improve much afterwards. Something has to be done. The breaks in play clearly agitated the Wolves players, and that agitation quickly turned to desperation as complacency was replaced with panic the longer the game went on.
3. New faces, same issues.
Wolves are as toothless now as they have been all season. Five goals in two games has been a vast improvement, but the goals have not come from expected places, own goals being the top scorer of the five. It’s never easy coming to the Premier League and players need time, I think most supporters understand that. Time is not however a commodity Wolves have much of. We must talk about the contributions and performances of Sarabia and Cunha. They are players who clearly have ability, and no one will be writing players off at this moment, but you do have to question their readiness to be in the starting eleven. Cunha in particular has joined for an eye watering fee, but seems to be a player who does not have a position. Whilst there is probably theories about what his best position may be, it is starting to become painfully obvious that this is not an orthodox number nine. Simply put, they both need to offer more.
4. What do you do with Adama Traore ?
Probably Wolves best player on the day, one bit of ridiculous skill and acrobatics in particular, which although involved smashing the ball into his own face, really was bordering on the sublime. Threatening throughout, he can at least be reasonably satisfied with his performance. The curious and almost nonsensical issue though was this; Adama was on the pitch, but you felt you wanted to bring Adama on to change the game. As it transpired, he was replaced for the part of the game that you really wanted him to be on for. When Adama starts, the temptation is for plan A to be get it to Adama, that can be to the detriment of the team. Players seem to want to shirk responsibility rather than make the most of the space that Adama creates just by being on the pitch. One thing is for certain, there is very little point in Adama starting games without an orthodox number nine also in the line up. Sign the contract Adama, starting games may not be for you, but there are few better substitutes in world football.
Lopetegui has earned plaudits for the way in which he has made proactive and major changes in games. There would have been a few winces at the changes being made in this one however. Cunha was ineffective as a central striker, the change looked obvious at half time. Moutinho is not the advanced midfielder you are looking for against a team set up to smash and grab. The obvious change appeared to be to bring a target man on and perhaps play Cunha, in what hopefully is a stronger position alongside or just behind the main striker. It didn’t happen. When strikers did come on to replace not work alongside Cunha, it was quickly followed by removing Adama, the main supply of the crosses that they brought on to connect with. Should have been played in by Cunha in the second half for a free strike at goal. Sarabia managed to baffle everyone by remaining on to the end. Nunes had a poor game but you still felt he was capable of creating something when he was removed. All of the changes raised eyebrows, they didn’t feel cohesive. Changes aren’t going to pay off a hundred percent of the time, so its difficult to be too critical when they don’t work out. The overall record on this front is still very good.
6. Joao Gomes is a walking red card
Booked correctly having just come on, he was a whisker away of connecting again near the dugout. He clearly has a Pitbull element to him, but that is not going to play for long in this league and he definitely will not play for long with those challenges. He will need to adapt and calm down slightly. It didn’t feel like the right game or time for his style either. Bournemouth probably gained about 5 minutes reacting to every tackle he made, but again its hard to say that he shouldn’t have come on given the heroics of the previous week.
7. NUNES PASSING
What has happened here? This was virtually every pass. Short, long didn’t matter, they were not finding a Wolves shirt, with a series of reasonably simple cross field passes going way beyond and wide of their target. He is going through a rough patch of form and needs a goal desperately. He still offers a real threat when driving with the ball, and for that reason It was still surprising that he was taken off. You do have to accept being yanked off the pitch if every pass you make goes astray though. He did get himself into good positions in front of goal but as with his passing, his decision making felt wrong. Confidence appears to be a problem.
8. WOLVES CANNOT FORCE GAMES
The first half was pretty enough but despite periods of absolute domination of the football, few chances were created. No saves required from Neto in the Bournemouth goal. Bournemouth will feel, with some accuracy, that they controlled the game without the ball and were worthy winners. Wolves in contrast look like a team that has no alternative than to play counter attacking football. They appear reliant on teams making mistakes rather than creating things themselves. They appeared almost clueless against a team that has dug in to defend and very vulnerable to being counter attacked themselves. More teams this season will come to Molineux with a similar set up, Lopetegui has to find a better way, a braver way to approach these games. Moutinho as the advanced midfielder is not the answer. Like an echo of the past, he must find solutions.
9. THIS LEAGUE IS HARD WHEN YOU'RE AT THE BOTTOM
Picking up points when you must is difficult. In fairness it is one of the things Wolves have done quite well this season, but it was inevitable that this run would end at some point. It doesn’t make it any easier though. We have enjoyed the added benefits that come with beating fellow relegation candidates, these games seriously impact the table. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. A draw would have been a much frowned upon, but underrated result. Wolves had earned the right not to have to win this game, but it was definitely a game they should not lose. Fulham away, tricky at the best of times, now becomes hugely important as the games that follow look progressively more difficult. The pressure is very much back on, anyone who thought this was going to be a cruise up the league, may be in for some disappointment. Wolves will feel like they have enough to stay clear, but this is likely to go to the wire. Hold on to your hats.
ARTICLE BY DAVE PORTER
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.