DAVE PORTER TALKS ABOUT THE THINGS WE LEARNT FROM WOLVES V CHELSEA
1. The Benefit of Getting It Right the First Time
While there can be discussions about which formation Wolves would play against Chelsea, few would have argued about the personnel in the starting line-up. Aside from a discussion about the left-back, most would have been satisfied and in general agreement with the team selection. There had been fan agreement around several areas of the team, and finally, Lopetegui either caught up to what most could already see or moved to appease supporter pressure. As a result, the need for wholesale changes at half-time was not required, and the team looked more settled. Previous selections had been so left-field that substitutions at half-time had become an inevitability caused by poor initial choices rather than as a reaction to the game.
2. The Neves Conundrum
Ruben Neves is comfortably Wolves’ best player, having arguably one of his best seasons. He will certainly be at the top of most people’s player of the year lists come the end of the season. The question had been what would we do without the star when the inevitable 10th booking was received. Well, what happened was that Wolves gained mobility, energy, and balance. The midfield and the team generally looked better without Neves there. This is a one-off game, of course, but this was no second-rate opponent. The Chelsea midfield was full of European and international stars but was generally overrun by the energy, dynamism, and aggression of the Wolves midfield. For whatever reason, Neves’s absence, while a clear deficit in terms of quality of player created a net benefit overall. It’s one game, of course, and no one is suggesting that Neves should not come straight back into the team when available, but another strong showing against Brentford next week may give Lopetegui his biggest headache thus far in being required to bench his best player.
3. Toti Gomes Is Better Than We Think He Is
Maybe it’s the way in which he joined the team from Grasshoppers as emergency cover, or maybe it’s the way that he looks like he might lose possession at any moment. For whatever reason, few have Toti Gomes anywhere near a first-choice starting eleven. Whenever selected, though, for all of the optics, he rarely has a bad game. He was excellent against Chelsea, completely negating the threat of Sterling to the extent that the England man was withdrawn with little to no contribution to the game. One of the star performers on the day and is keeping the young player of the year elect on the bench. It is perhaps time we all treat Toti the footballer a little bit more seriously.
4. Amongst the Swings, Finally a Roundabout
It hasn’t been talked about much, but Wolves arguably got away with one from the officials today. A second-half penalty against Joao Gomes looked a certainty given recent decisions. While the ball was struck fiercely at close distance against the Wolves midfielder, the ball was traveling toward the goal and struck an arm that was raised and well outside of the silhouette of the body. It wasn’t given in open play, but it looked far clearer a decision than the one that benefited them in the home win against Nottingham Forest. Perhaps the incident leading to a swift Wolves counter-attack, which should have seen the lead doubled, took some attention away, but it would have been hard to have raised much of a complaint if this decision had been given. The ordinary fan knows this isn’t handball, of course, but the rule makers would say this should have been a penalty. Wolves will feel they have many more roundabouts to experience yet before they feel anything close to balance across a season.
5. It's Nice to Be in the 30s
Psychologically, 31 seems an awful lot closer to the finish line than 28. It’s only a three-point difference, but it feels so much bigger and so much closer to the finish line. Like a marathon runner turning for the home stretch, this feels almost like a second wind. A point in the season that you can call on the reserves easier because you can almost see the line. There is work to do still, but these three points feel much more valuable than most.
6. Things Lopetegui has learned (we knew it already)
Four central midfielders don’t work. Hopefully, we will not see any kind of return to shoehorning any kind of midfield foursome into a starting formation. You could argue that Nunes remained out of position to an extent depending on your view of the formation, but clearly, he was given license to operate more centrally as well as operating the right channel as required.
Cunha is not a lone striker. It’s been obvious from the outset that Cunha needs support, and it is no coincidence that arguably his best performance to date has come when deployed just behind a target man in Diego Costa.
Moutinho and Adama are effective weapons from the bench. While Adama again came on after the central striker was removed, both he and Moutinho impact games from the bench. Players want to start games, but football has moved on, and it is just as important to finish the game as it is to start one. Players need a shift in mentality and understand where they offer the best value.
7. WE ALL PREDICTED THIS ONE
Not this result in particular, but there isn’t a Wolves fan that hasn’t thought at some point that you must persist with Nunes because sooner or later in the season, he is going to win a game with a wonder goal. It took a long time coming, but what a goal it was. Nunes’ stunning finish had been a story waiting to be told, and the timing was as sweet as the strike.
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.