Chances with Wolves
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 2 October 2020 at 8:25pm
Written by: Jonathan Lee
To the delighted surprise of the vast majority, if not all, of us we saw a wonderful team performance on Sunday evening against what is generally regarded as a more than decent Wolves outfit. There were potential men of the match scattered everywhere and the fact most social media outlets came out with someone different tells you how good we were throughout the squad – take your pick from two-goal Bowen, workhorse Soucek, Mr Assist Fornals, the Beast that is Antonio, our cool Italian Ogbonna or King Arthur himself with his dazzling feet. This is what the team is capable of when they all bring their ‘A’ game.
And of course we will allow ourselves to dream that this is the kind of football we will start seeing each and every matchday, but we’ve recently been here before … a very good display on new year’s day against Bournemouth and a convincing 4-0 win but things fell away after that until such time as the season was temporarily halted. What ultimately separates the average/struggling team from a regular top 6 or top 10 team is the consistency with which 8 or 9 out of 10 performances are delivered. Great players do it most games, average players have their moments from time to time, and on Sunday night everyone to a man brought their A game – but make no mistake that is hard to produce every time a team takes the pitch. What we saw against Wolves certainly makes us think the players have the ability and clearly the attitude when it is applied correctly.
What was particularly pleasing was how we played when out of possession, and the two man wall of Rice and Soucek sitting in front of a back three seems to work, but clearly other teams will know this might be the way we are going to set up going forward and adjust their own formation. But we have four tough games around the corner and will need the whole squad to contribute, fingers crossed we hold onto Rice for a little longer (as clearly he will one day go and realise a huge profit for us and we will wish him well when that day comes) and the core players who inspired us against Wolves will stay free of injury. The friendship that is often seen on social media between Arthur and Haller (and Diop) could be a vital cog in our play going forward; they have a relationship that translates onto the pitch and could be very exciting to watch. We cannot expect Antonio to start up top every game or to avoid injury all season, so you would hope Haller will see more game time other than just in the league cup, which we have now exited.
The full back areas that so terrified a lot of us seem to have been addressed, for now, through the three centre back / two holding / two wing backs approach and Cresswell in particular looks more comfortable, and crucially more competent, as the left side of that centre back three. With Fredericks now out for a few weeks, we cannot expect Ben Johnson to cover alone and you would hope a loan in that area is completed ahead of the 5 Oct transfer deadline. Talk continues in the papers around various centre half options but if Balbuena can achieve some level of consistency, and play like he did against Wolves, he may just be able to provide the necessary back up – although four centre halves to draw from is usually the ideal option given there is always likely to be one that is injured, out of form, or suspended.
On the sidelines there is a musing among some as to whether Irvine might actually be a better motivator than Moyes. We understand that DM was in full control from wherever he watched against Wolves as he continued his self-isolation, but Irvine’s record is pretty impressive if you also include the pre-season matches. That said, this arrangement of Irvine being the main man in the technical area was always going to be a temporary thing and we hope DM can continue in similar vein when he returns.
Three of our next four games are away (Leicester, Spurs, Liverpool) with a home game sandwiched at home against Man City; the lack of crowds largely negates any home advantage from the aspect of the ‘12th man’ and make no mistake – these will be tough challenges but let’s hope the boys continue to show signs of the form they have recently produced.