REACTION: LIVERPOOL 1-2 WOLVES

Quite simply one of the best performances we’ve pulled off in decades

Remember how we played at the back end of November in Paul Lambert’s first home game against Sheffield Wednesday? If you’d told anyone that a few short weeks later, we’d managed to beat Stoke, Aston Villa and Liverpool all inside a month and deserve to do so on each occasion, we’d have seen some Peep Show style sectioning on the cards. But that is the scale of the improvement that we’ve shown in a short space of time. Some notes on today’s game – I won’t do individual player ratings for this one as everyone is going to get 9/10 or more and no-one likes reading anything that saccharine.

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But they will read guff like this. The world’s gone mad.

A tactical masterclass from Lambert

Lambert really did get everything spot on today. From his selection – retaining faith in some of those fringe players who got the job done at Stoke in the previous round – through to his instructions to press extremely high and force mistakes out of a shaky looking back four and for us to break with purpose whenever we won the ball back. It’s no exaggeration to say that we could have won this by three or four clear goals. It is a novelty to see a Wolves manager vary his approach from game to game depending on the qualities of the opposition – and not in a Dean Saunders way of “I’ll do something absolutely batshit mental in the hope that the other team are driven delirious by my obvious and contagious insanity”. We’ve played this style today and our second goal – breaking from just outside our own box to the ball being in the back of the Liverpool net in about six seconds – is endemic of a style which many Wolves fans will be very happy to see going forward, fast, ruthless attacking play. It’s been done today with Bright Enobakhare unused on the bench, Ivan Cavaleiro not in the squad at all (Andi Weimann did a superb job in his stead on his full debut) and with Jordan Graham and Michal Zyro to return eventually. If we carry on in this vein, there are exciting times ahead. We certainly won’t be dull to watch.

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Deano hears that I might soon have to pay everyone in this blog by the mention. He’d be coining it in from yours truly. Probably pick up more than that time he made up a story about Brian Clough’s alcoholism on national radio for a cheap laugh and a few paltry quid. The fucking maggot.

Helder Costa is worth every penny

News has broken this evening courtesy of Tim Spiers that we are set to complete a permanent deal for Helder in the region of £13,000,000. And who am I to doubt Tim. Crazy money you might think for a Championship club – especially one that has a less than 1% chance of promotion this season – but he genuinely is worth it. In this market, where Crystal Palace have just spent a combined £26,000,000 on Jeff Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt (two footballers who don’t have a quarter of a brain between them), that fee is daylight robbery on our part. He is every inch a Premier League player. His ball carrying ability is of a standard I have never seen from any Wolves player as long as I’ve been watching – dare I say it, there is a hint of Gareth Bale about him when he flies at defences. He has noticeably bulked up over the course of the season to the point where it’s now very hard to shrug him off the ball, even allowing for his diminutive stature. His record for involvement in goals is absolutely top drawer by any standards. At very least, even if his stay in here is only a relatively short one of between six and eighteen months, we stand to make a hefty profit on him. In an ideal world, he’ll stay here for longer. I’ve rarely been so excited to watch someone in a gold shirt, not even Bakary Sako hit these heights so consistently and so thrillingly.

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Football genius.

Everything but the goal

The struggles of both Nouha Dicko and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in finding the net are well documented. Clearly, it’s not sustainable for any first choice striker to be going 20+ games without a goal. However, both are providing so much in terms of general play that it’s tough to be too hard on them. Dicko’s pace – not in any way diminished, no matter what has been at times rumoured – is invaluable to us in stretching defences and working down the channels, and Bodvarsson’s hold up play and baffling ability to seemingly miscontrol the ball out of play only to retrieve it and beat a defender out of nowhere are frequently a source of great discomfort for defences late on in games. It’s true, both need to stick a few away between now and May, we cannot go into next season with forwards who simply don’t score. But there really is so much to recommend about the two of them as footballers, hopefully one or both can get off the mark soon and start to go on a run. It’s testament to their work rate and genuine affinity for the club that despite such a long barren streak, neither are attracting much by way of overt criticism from the stands.

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This pair only had a couple of major hits and everyone still liked them.

George Saville is doing his best to extend his Molineux stay

It would be fair to say that George Saville’s impact since arriving from Chelsea two and a half years ago has been limited in a Wolves shirt. There was a brief run of goals last spring but otherwise he’s been largely consigned to the sidelines and then was horribly miscast as a left sided midfielder in the very early Lambert days. It should be remembered though that we have rarely played him in a deep lying midfield role which is broadly where he played through his Academy years. In 2017, he has made two starts there against Stoke and Liverpool as well as a brief cameo in that position against Aston Villa and done very well on each occasion. Full of willingness to make tackles, a renewed energy in his closing down and simple use of possession that rarely goes to waste. Helder Costa was my Man of the Match today but Saville was genuinely not far behind. It is never likely that he’s going to be a fans’ favourite at Molineux, but if he continues this improved form and can finally nail down what kind of midfielder he actually is, it’s not out of the question that he’ll get a fresh contract when the current one expires in the summer.

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I’m even willing to overlook his scarecut for now.

The kids are alright

As I’ve said previously, it is of critical importance that we use our Academy properly and don’t let the better players in our youth teams have their development stunted and eventually see them drift out of the club without them getting a proper opportunity. Like so many managers, Lambert expressed his desire to play youth when he was appointed as manager. Unlike so many managers, he wasn’t merely paying lip service to the idea in attempt to curry easy favour with the fans. How many managers, entering a high stakes cup tie at the team currently 4th in the Premier League, at one of the most hallowed stadiums in the country, would have played Harry Burgoyne (2 career appearances) ahead of Andy Lonergan (almost 400 career appearances)? It would have been very easy to leave at least one of Connor Ronan, Morgan Gibbs-White or Bright Enobakhare out of the matchday squad in favour of more experience, but Lambert decided it was better for them to take in the feel of a big game atmosphere. The message from both him and the club is now clear to any aspiring talented players; not only do we have top class training facilities here, if you are good enough then you will play. It’s as simple as that. I would very much hope that Christian Herc, Conor Johnson and (subject to fitness) Niall Ennis also get some first team football this season – no longer should we see decent players farmed out on endless loan spells to lower league clubs and going nowhere from a promising start.

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I can’t pretend I’m *that* thrilled that we now have someone playing for us who was born in 2000, but I’ll have to get used to it. Just like policemen will start looking younger and all music will start sounding like old stuff.

The cup can provide a feel-good factor of its own

Today was the first time we had participated in a Fourth Round FA Cup tie since 2011. Our Fifth Round tie next month will be the first time we have reached that stage since 2008. You have to go back to 2003 for our last appearance in the quarter finals. For far too long we have disregarded the FA Cup and treated it as an inconvenience more often than not, with predictably awful results. However, you can sense the uplift in mood amongst the fans from the victories against both Stoke and Liverpool, and it is widely acknowledged that our run in 2002/3 was the catalyst to our superb second half of the season run which pushed us into the playoffs. When we talk specifically about this season, it is clear that the cup is now our only serious focus – we have too much talent and are playing too well (we have now won five of our last eight games in all competitions, and should really have beaten both Sheffield Wednesday and Queens Park Rangers in that sequence too) to be in any serious danger of relegation, and we are way too far back to make a tilt at the top six. In future years, we should remember how special victories like today are and continue to make a proper effort in the premier cup competition (I will accept that the League Cup is an increasing irrelevance) – there is no reason why a club of our size cannot challenge on two fronts.

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2 thoughts on “REACTION: LIVERPOOL 1-2 WOLVES

  1. Spot-on analysis Dan, of a match and a day that will live long in the memory. Watching in my regular pub for televised games, with half a dozen ecstatic fellow fans and a few bemused onlookers, the game unfolded as we could only have dreamed in our wildest dreams.
    Fully agree about the stars of the show. All of them from 1 to 63, or however far they go up nowadays. But special mention from me to one Richard Stearman.
    Many of us were shocked at his sale to Fulham and he himself was obviously deeply hurt that the team he’d devoted most of his playing career to had flogged him at the height of his powers. Things didn’t work out at his new club and he must have thought his best days were behind him. But now he’s getting more regular games back at his beloved Wolves, he appears to be reborn and he’s swashing his buckles as well as ever. Love the guy. So pleased to see him back wearing the Old Gold. Overjoyed to see him score against the ‘pool.
    Heroes one and all. We can all be proud of them today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful result. What an organised/effective/exciting performance. We appear to have gone from a team who could not defend against St Teresa’s Under 12s, to a team who put in a classic defensive performance at Liverpool. As someone who has got a couple of coaching qualifications, and a lifetime of watching footie, I am not sure how Lambert has achieved this. I can understand how to organise a defence. What I really cannot comprehend is how you do that whilst regularly changing personnel in those positions. Let’s be honest, most of us wanted Lambert to sign at least three new defenders in the January transfer window. Personally, I was not over impressed with any defender on our books. It now looks like we have lots of accomplished performers at the back!! That particular transformation has been unbelievable. One slight note of concern – Iorfa does not possess the touch, balance or decision making to play at this level. I have never thought that he did. We need to get rid while there are still people out there who see him as a future international, and are prepared to buy him based upon that delusion.

    Wolves now appear to have almost two ‘first’ teams. With the obvious concerns in relation to our strikers, Lambert cuts and pastes his players into sides that seem to get results. I know some people groan at this, but I am almost more enthused by our performances, than by our results. Clearly, there is no point playing like Barcelona, and getting beaten every week. What good performances do is give me an optimism that this is not a club build upon sand. I love the fact that we are bringing through youngsters. Apart from anything else, a football academy costs millions to run. If they are not producing players for the first team, I cannot see why they exist – unless clubs get paid for loaning players out. Chelsea must be on a fortune if that is the case!

    I have supported Wolves since 1967 when my Dad took me to watch them play against Newcastle United. For almost all of those 50 years since then, Wolves have massively underachieved. I have tried my hardest to adopt the ‘it’s only football’ mantra over the years, in an attempt to cover up my huge disappointment at their many defeats. Whether I like it or not, a positive Wolves result can completely transform my weekend into something brilliant. Wolves do matter, and I , tentatively, look forward to a new, successful era under Fosun and Lambert.

    I watched yesterday’s game at my friend’s house. He lives on a hill looking down on Liverpool. That’s what all Wolves fans did yesterday – and didn’t it feel good!

    Wolves ay we!

    Big Bad Wolf

    Liked by 2 people

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