The light from Wolves’ bright start fades away

A run of six games without a win for Wolves has created great concern for their manager, Nuno Espirito Santo.  He has been unable to prevent a decline in his team’s form, which begun with a 2 – 0 home loss to Watford.  Since that occasion, Wolves have secured only one point from a possible 15.  It was from a 1 – 1 draw with Arsenal, during which many of the qualities that defined their bright start to the 2018 – 2019 English Premier League season were evident.

Indicative of the quality of Wolves’ performance is that it took an inspired display from opposition goalkeeper Bernd Leno to prevent them from winning.  They were very unfortunate not to do so because in the closing moments of the game, Morgan Gibbs – White struck the cross – bar with a fine shot. The disappointment which Espirito Santo and his players expressed at only drawing against Arsenal away from home highlighted the belief, confidence and momentum which they’d built up in the early part of the season.

To earn home draws against Everton [2 – 2] and Manchester City [1 – 1] they were required to show a great deal of resilience.  There was more than merely application, determination and graft in their play. The guile, intelligence and skill of the central midfield partnership of Portuguese duo Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves contributed to Wolves playing fluent passing football, which they continued to produce in successive 1 – 0 wins over West Ham and Burnley.

Those victories propelled them into the top half of the English Premier League, which is where they remained because of a 1 – 1 draw with Manchester United.  A sublime Moutinho strike, earned his team a deserved point.  There was even better to follow for Wolves since they beat both Southampton [2 – 0] and Crystal Palace [1 – 0].  As they did so, they and Espirito Santo set a new English Premier League record by naming an unchanged starting XI for an eighth consecutive opening game.

The first change which the Wolves manager made was for their 10thgame as he replaced Diogo Jota with Adama Traore.  Along with his teammates, he was frustrated against a Brighton side which won 1 – 0. Their goal was scored against the run of play, since Wolves dominated the game but failed to convert any of their many opportunities into a goal.  There were a lot of positives, including creativity, incisive passing and inventiveness, for Espirito Santo to be pleased about.

The loss however, combined with their 2 – 0 defeat to Watford, taught Wolves the harsh lesson that once you make mistakes in the English Premier League, you will get punished for them.  They did so emphatically.  Rather than being demoralised, despondent or downbeat because of the losses they experienced, Wolves’ spirits remained high, as proven by their fighting comeback against Tottenham.  From 3 – 0 down, they recovered to lose 3 – 2, as penalties from Neves and Raul Jimenez nearly earned them an unlikely point.

A run of three successive defeats was ended by their 1 – 1 draw against Arsenal.  Good opportunities presented themselves to Wolves to return to winning ways, either at home to Huddersfield or away to Cardiff, but both passed without success.  For a third consecutive home match Wolves lost.  They were beaten 2 – 0 by Huddersfield.  The light from their bright start to the season faded further as they lost 2 – 1 to Cardiff despite taking the lead.  Their confidence has wobbled and the only way in which they can retain it is by beginning to produce good performances again.

To try to find those, Espirito Santo has made changes to his team.  They worked to an extent against Cardiff, since Romain Saiss – one of only six Wolves survivors from the pre – Espirito Santo era, the others being Gibbs – White, Conor Coady, Matt Doherty, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa– slotted well into a solid defence, whilst Traore and Ruben Vinagre injected pace into a talented Wolves’ side.  Although they repelled a lot of pressure, they still conceded twice, which consigned them to a sixth game without a win.  It is important that Wolves rediscover their form to avoid slipping down the table.

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