For the first time since 20 October, Wolves play at 15:00 on a Saturday afternoon at Molineux. That particular game was against a Watford side and it’s a similar game this time around as Wolves host Bournemouth in the Premier League. The similarities are there because Wolves come into the game on the back of two victories and it’s a game Wolves could win. If you recall, Watford scored two quickfire goals against Wolves in the first half and there was no way back for Nuno’s side. Undoubtedly, Wolves need to start strong and keep it tight at the back if they want to get three points against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
Speaking of Bournemouth, after a magnificent start, they’ve hit somewhat of a blip as they’ve lost five out of their last six. That doesn’t look too good on the surface, however, when you begin to scratch beneath, you find out that four of those five losses were against teams that qualified for Europe last season. In case you’re wondering, no, Burnley aren’t included in that. For the record, they did lose 4-0 away at Burnley, although they did batter the Clarets for large parts of that game. On the contrary, their only win since October came at home to Huddersfield. Huddersfield dominated the ball for the majority of the 90 minutes, Huddersfield had 23 shots, six on target. Bournemouth had six shots with two on target. The score? 2-1 to Bournemouth.
We are going to add a new feature today and see how it goes. It’s called ‘attack momentum’ and essentially what it is, is a graph that shows the way the attacking pendulum has swung during the game. What you need to know is that the higher the bar, the bigger the momentum. Considering we know how the game panned out, let’s look at the Wolves vs Chelsea game.
You can see that Chelsea dominated the game for large parts. There’s a bar for each minute of the game, so you can see where Wolves scored their two goals. While this isn’t overly important when it comes to each Wolves game we look at, it can be used to see how their opponents have fared in recent weeks. The two Bournemouth games we are going to look at are two away games, naturally. Fulham and Newcastle respectively. The Cherries wiped the floor with newly promoted Fulham, yet struggled against Newcastle and ended up losing 2-1.
Beforehand, let’s have a look at the graph from the aforementioned Wolves game against Watford. As I touched on, this is the game that is probably the most comparable, hence us looking at the graph. Without further ado…
Two points from the above momentum graph. Number one, it’s worth noting that Wolves created next to nothing with all the possession they had in the second half. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, look at where Watford’s best spell is. Then refer back to Chelsea’s. That’s right, almost identical. More on that timeframe later on. Now, let’s shift our focus onto the away side.
Against Fulham, Bournemouth actually had less of the ball, but the quality of their possession was key. Yes, they took the lead via the penalty spot, nonetheless, they could’ve been out of sight by the interval at Craven Cottage. Take a look for yourself.
Admittedly, Fulham had a player sent off in this game, all the same, it was already 2-0 when Kevin McDonald picked up his second yellow. Rather alarmingly from a Wolves perspective, there’s a strong correlation between where Wolves tend to be weakest and where Bournemouth were strong against Fulham. Hmm, Bournemouth to score first? Perhaps. Prior to making any sweeping statements, let’s have a look at the graph from Bournemouth’s recent trip to St James’ Park, after all, you learn more from defeats than you do wins.
Not the greatest of games if the attack momentum graph is anything to go by. Even though Bournemouth lose this 2-1, they did miss three big chances in this game. Once again, there’s a spell midway through the first half where Bournemouth were on top. So, maybe sweeping statements can be made? Maybe later. What we’ll do now is look at the two goals Bournemouth conceded against the Toon Army and establish if there’s anything that can be taken away from them.
One from the right
While Callum Wilson is not in the shot, every other Bournemouth player is. In this match, Bournemouth are playing a 4-4-1-1. Whether they will utilise the same formation against Wolves is another matter altogether. Eddie Howe isn’t scared to change his system, so we could even end up seeing a 3-4-3 if Howe tries to match Wolves. Anyway, before we get into formation talk and all that jazz, let’s see how Newcastle score from this position. Relatively speaking, Bournemouth have got bodies behind the ball and there doesn’t seem an awful lot wrong…
A quick give & go and Bournemouth are split like a pack of cards. Matt Ritchie’s pace leaves Adam Smith and Ryan Fraser for dead. This is particularly important because of Wolves’ tendency to use the flanks and quick passes. Doherty makes those sort of runs all the time on the right and if Bournemouth are undone by them, as you’ll see shortly, it could be a way in for Wolves.
If you compare the above image with the one that precedes cedes it, you’ll see that Rondon is now completely unattended. In essence, Ake and Cook both run deep and neglect to mark the Venezuelan. Furthermore, Perez is making a late run into the box and the amount of space he’s got is there for all to see. Rondon’s shot cannons off the post, but he puts it away at the second time of asking. Good darts from Rondon. Plenty for Wolves to take away from this, replace Perez with Gibbs-White and he’s almost definitely scoring today. We’ll see.
One from the left
Brooks, Fraser and Ibe have all swapped places from the first goal, yet the same problems arise. The difference this time is that instead of playing down the right, the play is switched to the left. Yet again, a common trait of the way Nuno’s side play. Quick switches could end up being crucial in today’s game. Let’s see what happens once the ball finds its way to Kenedy.
Kenedy’s smart positioning on the touchline gives him the extra yard he needs to put the ball into the danger zone. Technically speaking, this is down to Bournemouth not using five at the back and it proves to be costly as Kenedy puts a ball into the box and Rondon puts a ferocious header beyond Begovic. Jota to Jimenez? It could happen.
Overall, Bournemouth are seemingly rather weak at defending on the wings and (repeat incoming) because of Wolves’ use of them, the game will pan out in one way and one way only. Wolves 7-0 Bournemouth. Wishful thinking.
My understanding is that Wolves will make four changes from Sunday’s win over Newcastle and the starting XI will be: Rui, Boly, Coady, Bennett, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho, Doherty, Gibbs-White, Jota, Jimenez. Jonny’s recovery time has been rather quick and although I wouldn’t personally start him, you can understand the reasoning behind the decision. Bournemouth have Ryan Fraser, one of the most productive players in the Premier League at the moment, on the wing. At what cost is that, though? It’s not surprising that Jota’s form has improved since he’s had a left-footed wing back playing behind him (Vinagre). Gibbs-White’s reintroduction to the starting line up will be more than welcome, especially if Howe’s side decide to pack the midfield.
Bournemouth’s star striker, Callum Wilson is touch-and-go as to whether he will start, but it is thought he will be ok. So, the only decision to make aside from that is what system to play. If Howe is bold, he will play King up front with Wilson and go for a good, old-fashioned 4-4-2. If he’s not, he will go for an extra man in the middle. Let’s see what happens.
Wolves have conceded 11 of their 19 goals in the first half this season while Bournemouth have scored 15 out of 25 in the same period. In contrast, Wolves have scored 76% of their goals in the second half and Bournemouth have shipped 61% of their goals conceded after the break. Ultimately then, it’s likely to be a game of two halves and a game of goals, especially if Bournemouth score first. My prediction? Wolves 4-3 Bournemouth with Bournemouth scoring their first between 15-30 minutes.
Until the next time.
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