As Florent Malouda’s 90th minute goal made the score Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion, Wolves fans nationwide struggled to stifle a smile as their great rivals were torn apart by the Champions. With an impressive home victory over Stoke already secured, the Molineux men already looked streets ahead of their Black Country adversaries.
In the seven games following, however, it is the newly promoted Albion who have taken the plaudits and the points, losing just once and amassing an admirable twelve points. Contrarily, Wolves have stuttered, struggling their way to just three points from the same period. It is worth mentioning the standard of opposition; West Brom have earned four points from trips to Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates while Wolves have taken just the one from matches at Everton, Fulham, Tottenham and Wigan.
Why, one must ask, is it that newly promoted West Bromwich Albion have been so impressive, while the expensively assembled Wolverhampton Wanderers squad languish in nineteenth position? Yesterday’s matches go some way towards explaining the disparity in league position.
While both teams earned a point, the manner in which they did so speaks volumes about the current mentality of the clubs. Wolves dominated the first half of their basement battle against West Ham. Richard Stearman and David Jones could, and possibly – Stearman certainly – should have added to Matthew Jarvis’ tenth minute goal. As it was, however, Wolves went in at half time just one goal up, a position they have now been in four times this season. And, just like the previous three, Wolves failed to hold on to their lead. Mick McCarthy’s men seemed to lose their self-belief after Mark Noble leveled from a somewhat dubious penalty; a point was scant, yet fair, consolation for the home fans.
West Brom, on the other hand, went into the break two goals down to Manchester United – a truly unenviable position. Nevertheless, they refused to abandon their attacking principles and, through a combination of pressure and luck, dragged themselves back to 2-2. One would have forgiven, perhaps even commended, Di Matteo for playing for a point from that position, but the Italian manager sensed victory and urged his team forward. The fact that United were lucky to escape with a draw is testament to the quality of Albion’s second half performance.
If Wolves are to improve, they would do well to emulate the attacking style promulgated and implemented by their neighbours. They have the daunting proposition of four successive games against the top four, but, as Albion have shown, this does not necessarily mean four beatings. McCarthy must now hope his players rise to the occasion; another series of second half capitulations and Wolves could find themselves propping up the Premier League table, not to mention being the butt of their Black Country rivals’ jokes.