12 min “You make a good point about this Wolves team,” emails Stephen Carr. “The spine in particular is a match for pretty much any side in the league.”
They could maybe do with a bit more power in the middle of midfield, but yes, they’e got a lot going on.
11 min I’m watching this without crowd noise because I want to hear what the players hear, so if they piped noise into the grounds, I’d listen to that. Was that something they considered?
10 min Nice from Djnepo, who rushes in to win a loose ball, but Walcott can’t quite control his attempted through-pass. [Ctrl C, Ctrl V].
8 min I was encouraged by what Nuno said pre-match about matching Southampton’s tempo, and Wolves do look less lethargic than usual. If they go for it, we could not only have a game, but a team on our hands.
6 min Moutinhi clouts straight into the wall but the ball drops nicely for Semedio, who powers a drive that McCarthy plunges left to save, but Dendncker is first to the rebound, power-clipping from close range and poised to wheel away having put his team in front, but the keeper is up quick as you like to parry over the top. Excellent save.
4 min I love the intensity with which Southampton win games but here come Wolves, Bednarek swiping an air shot as Podence runs at him, forcing Romeu to run across his man like he’s been doing it all his life, which he has. Incredibly, he escapes a yellow card and Wolves have a free-kick 20 yards out, just to the left of the D; this is dangerous.
4 min Here’s our report from the early game.
3 min A pair of corners duly follow, the first of which causes minor panic and yields another, which hits the first man.
2 min Here come Southampton, Djnepo finding Bertrand who finds a really good cross, but Adams doesn’t gamble on Boly making a hash of it, which he does.
1 min BREAKING NEWS! Wolves are playing a back four! Semedo is on the right, Kilman and Boly are in the middle, and Ait-Nori is on the left.
The players take a knee. Black lives matter.
I was actually saying to a mate – yes I’m boasting – that when our team meet Southampton next weekend, I’d go with three at the back to make it easier to play through their press. My guess is that Djnepo moves inside to help.
Howe is interested to see how Southampton press Wolves’ three at the back from their 4-4-2, and recalls a game against Hasenhuttl where both managers changed their formations three times. “It was like a chess game,” he says.
Ralph Hasenhuttl says his team have developed their game and have been clinical at the right moments, and that today will be a tough challenge. He is particularly wary of Wolves’ ability on the counter, or in transition as we’re now obliged to say, and his team need to concentrate.
The battle in the middle of midfield should be an interesting one. I imagine Southampton will have Stuart Armstrong playing narrow to try and win the numbers game, and wonder if his energy, plus that of Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse, will be too much for Neves and Moutinho, who are technical but one-paced.
Jamie Carragher then says that Wolves aren’t really the best team for him, and he’ll be delighted to know that I agree. I wondered if Man United might’ve gone for him if they weren’t prepared to pay for Jadon Sancho, and Arsenal could also use someone in his position.
Eddie Howe is in the studio and talking about the unique challenge of Traore. He tried five at the back, and always wanted to “take away the grass on the pitch”, never allowing him to get anyone one-on-one.
Nuno says it’s a big blow to be without Coady and Saiss, and that the former has been self-isolating, tested negative, already had the virus and is maybe immune, but this is one of many things that don’t make sense. “It is not a good moment for anybody.”
On Dendoncker, he says he has many players in his squad who can play different roles, and that Saiss is self-isolating, but he doesn’t want to give details because “It’s very personal.” He’s asked if this is a big game for Traore, but says it is for everyone, and that his players need to match Southampton’s tempo. He says his team have started the season ok, but need to try and be better every game, and that he’s pleased to be getting fans back as well as pleased the kids will be able to resume playing.
Only joking. I’d hoped to post a pic of the actual Gary Stevens of Spurs but our library is silent on the matter, so here’s a different one to enjoy. This country.
“I think you have the wrong Phil Parkes in the photo,” says Gary Naylor. “Incredibly, there were two near-contemporary players, both goalkeepers, both called Phil Parkes. One at Wolves, the other at QPR and West Ham.”
Yes, the caption was meant to reflect that but on reflection it probably wasn’t clear enough. By way of compensation, here’s Gary Stevens (also of Spurs) with Paul Bracewell.
Email! “Evening Daniel,” says Stephen Carr. I’m looking forward to this one. Hopefully it’ll be a stark contrast to Burnley – Palace game which has basically resembled a convention for big lads.”
Yeah, a fixture that absolutely reeks of Monday 5.30.
Burnley have beaten Palace, leaving West Brom and Sheffield United as the only winless clubs among the 92. Blades have more overlapping centre-backs than points.
Some back in the day fun from October 1971 – featuring, of all things, a retaken penalty!
As for Southampton, they’re still without the injured Danny Ings, an absolute boon for Wolves. As well as being their biggest goal-threat he’s so important to how they play, though Theo Walcott offers something different and is a much better finisher than many people assume. Bertrand for Stephens is the only change from the home win over Newcastle.
Of course Wolves are set up as they set up, but after 121 consecutive league games, they’ll be without Conor Coady, who’s been left out of the squad after being forced to self-isolate. In typical style, he trained alone and did everything possible to be ready, but his watch is over, six short of Phil Parkes’ club record. So Lender Dendoncker drops back into defence with Joao Moutinho returning in midfield, while on the left of the defensive three, Max Kilman plays despite having lost his father; long life, old mate.
Otherwise, the only other change is Traoré replacing Neto. He’s played nowhere near enough so far this season, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he gets on tonight, because in the history of football there’s never been anyone quite like him.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (a contradictory 3-4-3): Patricio, Boly, Dendoncker, Kilman; Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Ait-Nouri; Traoré, Jiménez, Podence. Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Marcal, Neto, Silva, Vitinha, Otasowie.
Southampton (a hyper-modern 4-4-2): McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Walcott, Djenepo, Adams. Subs: Forster, Stephens, Long, Obafemi, Tella, Diallo, N’Lundulu.
Elsewhere, Chris Wood has given winless Burnley the lead at home to Palace. There’s 15 minutes and change left of that one.
This should be really interesting – not words said very often about games involving Nuno’s Wolves, but absolutely so of tonight.
They’re a strange thing Wolves, replete with lovely and exciting footballers, constrained by a frustratingly cautious style that, on the face of things could barely suit them less … which in reality has bought them continuing improvement and success. Which is to say that it’s difficult: no team in the league has more clean sheets in 2020 than Wolves, but no team outside the bottom three has scored fewer goals this season and no team in the top eight scored fewer goals last season. For a squad boasting Adama Traoré, Raúl Jiménez, Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Rúben Neves, that is absolutely shameful.
Southampton, on the other hand, are as fun as Wolves can be dour, a harrying pack of, er, wolves, who force things to happen and refuse to let opponents settle. There’s not a chance they’ll be narcotised by slow, sideways passing, nor exhaust themselves chasing the ball to be picked off by the only goal in the 78th minute. They may still lose, but they’ll lose their way.
So all being well, we’re in for something decent, and there’s also plenty on the line. If Wolves win they leap five places to 7th, and if Southampton win they vault Leicester and Chelsea to settle in 3rd.
Kick-off: 8pm GMT