This was the second “one of these days” home games this season but different to the Stoke game. We gave Wolves the lead inside three minutes and failed to create clear cut chances of note despite much industry throughout. There are going to be games like this as we transform ourselves from relegation certainties when Harry was appointed to champions league qualifier if we do achieve this. What the team has to learn is how to deal with opposition who are not going to let you play and so far this season we have not yet done that.
Yesterday Hahnemann sat back in the dressing room thinking about how that could have been much much worse for apart from getting a deserved booking for time wasting he had really had little to do thanks to the great work of his centre backs. When the teams were announced I could not see the Wolves back line holding out but give them credit they stuck to their jobs really well and two lines of four stayed deep all afternoon allowing us little opportunities in front of goal. Even the introduction of Peter Crouch did little to upset although the referee was looking away an awful lot when man handling was going on and Crouchy did not get much rub of the green.
Our build up play was slow, too slow in my opinion. As a consequence when we were ready to strike or get the ball to Lennon Wolves were back and in position to close us out. These games also call for a piece of individual creativity and whilst Lennon is often the provider of such magic it does not always have to be him. Step up Tom Huddlestone who played some beautifully weighted long balls but did not really ever threaten going goalwards carrying the ball instead always looking to the flanks.
I thought Michael Dawson played well at the back and some of his long passes across to the left were both accurate and perfectly weighted. It is an area he has struggled with but yesterday he was on form. Often his colleagues were not at the same level of performance. Keane and Defoe linked but not as we would like and when Crouch came on and won aerial battles JD was never well positioned for the knock down.
We did see a welcome return for Luka Modric – who I expect to start against City in the week – and Giovanni Dos Santos who must get some playing time to see if he can replace Pav as fourth striker or be an asset come January. Otherwise he may become another moved on to increase the quality of the squad for the top 4 push. Unfortunately neither made much of an impression but it is tough coming on a goal down and with a well organised side in front of you.
Wednesday may be another matter. City will fancy their chances and play a more open game. Space will be easier to find and we may see a better spectacle. We can’t blame Wolves for playing as they did. They must get points to stay up and taking on a side who can score freely could for them pose problems on the road. Our responsibility is to use our guile to unlock these defences to make them come out and play a bit more. Against Stoke we were unlucky, yesterday the same cannot be said.
The last three weeks have been disappointing but we did get points on the road at Villa and Everton. We need to kick on now and get back to winning ways before we get detached. Thankfully most results went for us but because Villa won they leapfrogged us into third. If you look at the table and add on points for wins over Wolves and Stoke we’re right up in the mix but we haven’t and we’re on a bit of a slide. Last year we were in West Ham’s position – I’d still rather be where we are than where they are so let’s be grateful for what Harry has done and support him through this patch and into the January window.