By: Rex Eastwood (@REast_Eazy)
After a slow start to the season, Wolves put their foot on the gas. Gaining four points in six matches (0-4-2) was not the ideal start. Since those first six matches, they rattled off 39 points in the other 23. Their slow start could be due to Europa League qualification, but they weathered the storm and sit sixth in the table (10-13-6). The 13 draws are tied for the most so far in the Premier League. Wolves are letting crucial points slip there but are not losing matches, which is more key. The six losses are tied for second best and only Liverpool have less through their historic season. It is impressive not to see a “sophomore slump” from the Wanderers in their second season back in the Premier League, and they aren’t missing a beat.
When analyzing expected goals difference (xGD), Wolves would be fourth in the table with a +16 xGD. Only eight clubs in the Premier League have a positive xGD, for what it’s worth. They are slightly underperforming but supporters cannot be upset with where they currently are in the table. Fun fact: Wolves are the club that ended Liverpool’s seven consecutive matches with a clean sheet streak.
Best League Win
It could be argued that either win against Man City, a sweep of the reigning champs, is something to write home about. The most impressive of those two would be the 3-2 home win, especially since they were down 2-0 in the second half. Falling behind to a possession-heavy side, let alone one managed by Pep Guardiola is a recipe for disaster. Yes, City was down a man due to Ederson picking up a red card but still a daunting task. Adama Traoré and Raúl Jiménez scored the first two, then came Matt Doherty’s winner.
Worst League Loss
Wolves 5-2 home loss to Chelsea was their worst of the season but there is another match for a close second. The drubbing by Chelsea was well deserved due to their poor play throughout the entire match. Being down 4-0 and finally breaking through with an own goal by Chelsea in the 70th minute is far too late to show up to a match. Wolves had no answer for Tammy Abraham who netted a hat-trick. The match that may be most disappointing for the club would be the 2-1 loss against Liverpool. Wolves ended up with more quality chances on goal and won the xG 1.91 to 1.51 but lost the final score line.
Best Goal: Neves
Raúl Jiménez may have some complaints about my selection, but Rúben Neves takes it for me. Against Espanyol in the Europa League, he struck the ball into the corner over the keeper. Two things stood out that showed the difficulty of the finish. First was winning a 50/50 ball off his chest into a volley with a defender on his back. Second was his accuracy with two defenders closing out on him and striking it between them.
Prior to this season, the last time Wolves participated in European play was the 1980-81 season. They are back and making their presence felt. So far, they are 11-2-2 and are in the second leg of the quarterfinals. After a 1-1 draw at Olympiacos Piraeus, the return leg will be at a neutral site in Germany. More noteworthy, the Wanderers have forced 37 goals while allowing 13. Taking down Torino in both legs and winning 5-3 on aggregate showed they can be title contenders. However, Wolves struggled against Braga in Group play with 1-0 loss at home and 3-3 draw on the road. With the competition slated to resume in August after the season concludes, Wolves can focus their attention there without having to worry about the Premier League simultaneously. Winning this tournament would slide them into the Champions League for next season.
Get to sixth. According to InfoGol, Wolves have the third easiest schedule remaining behind Man United and Man City. The top clubs they will face for the remainder of the season are Chelsea then Sheffield United. The other seven matches are all clubs below them, so they will need to take care of business. Four of these clubs are positioned within three to six points of them so Wolves control their destiny.
There are two concerns that would keep the Wanderers out of the top six. How are they going to perform at home without the supporters? Wolves went 5-7-3 for 22 points at Molineux Stadium and that was 11th best before the break. They cannot afford to drop points at home to lower table squads in the restart. Their away form was just as good as their home form with 21 points, so expect Wolves to continue to perform well on the road. The other concern is their depth. With nine matches in 36 days, lack of fitness or injury could provide too great of a challenge to move up in the table. The midfield is where Wolves lack the most depth and itcould bite them.
From Joe Brunk (@_JoeyB23): “This break may be a blessing in disguise for Wolves. Instead of having to compete in both the Europa League and Premier league simultaneously, they can now use the five weeks to focus solely on the domestic league. They should be able to use this to their advantage and I believe they can finish fifth, ahead of Man United. Their first three matches are going to be huge for them when they face Arsenal, Sheffield and then Everton. If they can get through those matches with good results, their remaining schedule is much easier.”
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