Wolverhampton Wanderers fell to defeat against Arsenal on Saturday, their first defeat since the restart and in fact their first defeat in eight games. It was a disappointing home result, with the club having closed the gap on Champions League contenders in recent weeks. Many saw it as a bad day at the office but in many ways, the performance was no worse than we have seen in recent games, it was just that the opposition were more capable than Villa or Bournemouth of capitalising on the opportunities they created.
Writer: DJ Wolves
The pattern of the game was quite similar to what we have become accustomed to with Wolves this season. The first half played out like a game of chess with the men in old gold just looking to earn control of the game. That tactic is fine when they go into the break level, but having conceded the first goal, as they have on many occasions this season, then against decent opposition like Arsenal it does make it more difficult. Nevertheless, Wolves came out in the second half playing a quicker more positive game and dominated for half an hour, But on this occasion, they weren’t able to find the goal they needed.
It was no surprise that Leander Dendoncker kept his place in midfield after being a contender for man of the match at Villa Park last week, but Adama Traore was given a starting chance instead of Diogo Jota, and in my opinion, on this occasion Nuno got his selection wrong. Traore has been excellent this season on the right of a front three but against Arsenal he was given a more central role alongside Jimenez and that wasn’t a role that suits the Spaniard. When played wide he can receive the ball in space, line up the defenders and beat them with pace and trickery and deliver his much improved final ball. When played centrally he often receives the ball back to goal and in crowded areas, and that just isn’t his game.
Late in the game when Wolves were chasing an equaliser Neto was introduced to the fray with Doherty making way and Traore dropping to wing back. I thought Doherty had been one of our better players and we lost some balance after that change and Arsenal were able to regain the initiative in the latter stages and sealed the win with a second goal. I think the message for Nuno on the day was that Traore needs to play in his best position wide on the right and the experiment of playing him as a central striker or as a wing-back just isn’t the best use of him.
As it was Wolves never looked a well-balanced team on the day and Arsenal were good enough to take advantage of that. But worth noting the stats where Wolves had slightly more possession than Arsenal. had more touches of the ball, made more passes and had more shots. Arsenal only had higher stats in defensive measures. They made more tackles, made twice as many clearances, conceded more fouls and had more yellow cards.
Patricio 7 – made a couple of smart saves to keep it 1-0.
Boly 6 – not quite as assured as usual on the day.
Coady 6 – also got troubled by the flexibility in the Arsenal front line.
Saiss 5 – not been at his best since the restart and remains prone to giving away unnecessary free kicks. Got another yellow card and committed another foul afterwards that could have led to another.
Doherty 7 – got forward well on the right and caused Arsenal some problems.
Neves 6 – tried to create something but not until Jota came on did he find a good target to play through.
Dendoncker 6 – usual hard work rate but not as effective as last week.
Moutinho 6 – also struggled to produce anything positive in a crowded midfield.
Jonny 6 – not as effective as last week with more of Wolves attacking coming on the right.
Traore 6 – had some good moments and had the two best opportunities to score, but not played in his best position.
Jimenez 6 – some good touches but never seriously threatened the Arsenal defence in what looked an unbalanced attack.
Jota, Neto and Gibbs White were used as subs.
Wolves will be looking to bounce back when they go to Sheffield United on Wednesday and we shouldn’t be disheartened with losing for the first time in eight games. During that eight-game measure of current form, Chelsea have lost two. Man Utd three and Leicester four, so Wolves can still be competing with them come the end of the season.