Tag Archives: Wolves

Premier League 2021/22 opening day fixtures released

The Premier League returns on August 14th 2021 and the fixtures for the opening weekend have been released, including an absolute banger of a start for the champions.

Manchester City will travel to Tottenham Hotspur in their first game of the season, meaning a potential transfer for Harry Kane could be a nightmare debut against his former club.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season to claim their third league title in four years under Pep Guardiola and will be hoping that with some investment to the squad this summer that they’ll be at the top end of the table once again come May 2022.

Last season’s runners-up also have a tasty game to start the season with, as Manchester United will host Leeds United in a Rose derby at Old Trafford too.

The sides met in the league for the first time in 16 years last season, with the Reds winning 6-2 at home before a stale 0-0 draw at Elland Road, but there were no fans in attendance so this will be a great way to welcome them back to the stands.

Newly promoted Brentford will welcome London rivals Arsenal to their new stadium in their first ever Premier League game, while Norwich City will take on Liverpool in a repeat from the opening day fixture two seasons ago when the Canaries were last promoted.

Chelsea will host Crystal Palace in yet another London derby, where the Eagles will be playing their first game since manager Roy Hodgson left the club at the end of last season.

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester side will look to put the disappointment of finishing outside of the top four behind them when they take on Bruno Lage’s Wolves side on the opening day at the King Power Stadium, while ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will be in charge of Everton when they take on Southampton at Goodison Park.

Newly promoted Watford will welcome Aston Villa to Vicarage Road, while David Moyes’ Europa League-playing West Ham side will travel up north to take on Newcastle United. Burnley will play Brighton in the final game.

Dates of the games will be rescheduled depending on television viewings, although the exact date for the changes is unknown at the moment. Kick-off times will also change depending on television selections too.

With the national ‘Freedom Day’ expected to take place on July 19th, all games should be able to host a full capacity crowd on the opening day of the season although that is not official yet either. Games are currently scheduled for the weekend of August 14th 2021.

FULL OPENING DAY FIXTURE LIST

Brentford v Arsenal
Burnley v Brighton
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester City v Wolverhampton
Manchester United v Leeds United
Newcastle United v West Ham United
Norwich City v Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Watford v Aston Villa

Wolves looking at Bruno Lage to replace Nuno Espirito Santo

While people think it may be the end of an era at Wolves, their next choice of manager seems to make that a bit unlikely.

After Nuno Espirito Santo and the club announced that he would leave the club via mutual agreement following the end of their Premier League campaign, it was revealed that former Benfica boss Bruno Lage is the front-runner for the job.

But who is Lage and what would he bring to the Wolves team? Well for starters, he’s won titles.

He’s not the most experienced manager around, with question marks around whether he is even eligible to take the job based on Brexit imposed work-permit issues, having spent just a single season as first-team manager at Benfica.

During the 2018/19 campaign, he took over the job on January 6th and won the Primeira Liga by two points ahead of FC Porto, being named as named as manager of the month in each of the final three months. He was eventually then named manager of the season too, and was a big reason for why Joao Felix was deemed good enough for Atletico Madrid to spend £170m on after scoring 20 goals in 43 games.

SL Benfica v Boavista FC - Liga NOS : News Photo

Lage led the team to win 18 of 19 games in the league, with the only game he didn’t win being a 2-2 draw with Belenenses in which they blew a 2-0 lead. He did also make it to the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, losing on away goals to Sporting CP in the Taca de Portugal and then 3-1 to Porto in the Taca de Liga. A Europa League run wasn’t successful either, as they were eliminated by Frankfurt on away goals too.

Despite the sole trophy win, it was a mightily impressive Benfica side that he got performing to a very high level. They played fast-paced, attacking football with a real goal threat, while also performing admirably in defence too.

In the 29 games he took charge of during that first half-season his team scored 85 goals, an average of 2.93 goals per game while conceding only 27 goals. Everything pointed to being the start of a magical partnership between the parties.

The following season was far from that though. After starting well, Benfica won just two of their final 10 games together in the Primeira Liga and Lage was sacked in at the end of June. They were eliminated at the first stage of both the Champions League and then the Europa League too by Shakhtar Donetsk, meaning they finished trophyless for the season.

They were eliminated in the third round of the Taca de Liga after failing to win any of their group stage games, before losing in the Taca de Portugal final to ten-man Porto.

Once Benfica hit a wall, he had no way of getting them out of it and that could be an issue if something similar were to happen at Wolves. They have plenty of talent in the squad, including young Portuguese players and while he has experience with younger talent getting out of a rut in the Premier League isn’t easy.

He will no doubt bring some more flair to a side that had gone stale under Santo, and while excitement is always something fans want to see it’s results that are most important. With very little experience at the top level to point to, fans could be quick to turn on him in a bad patch.

Despite that though, it’s a very interesting appointment from Wolves. They clearly want to go in a more attacking direction while maintaining their links with Jorge Mendes and Portugal, and with Lage being a free agent it means they don’t have to spend too much either.

An intriguing, fun appointment by a side in the Premier League with plenty of room to go. It should be a fun season.

England’s centre back options that are better than Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady

As Euro 2020 continues to edge ever closer, there are question marks about who will make it into Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the tournament.

England are currently selecting through their best pool of talent for several tournaments and that includes defensively, where for once they have an abundance of quality options to choose from.

Despite that though, Southgate seems to have prioritised character and leadership rather than actual defensive quality for two of his centre back options and that is a problem.

It seems pretty certain that alongside Harry Maguire and John Stones it will be Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady and Michael Keane as the central defensive options that Southgate will go for. Mings, Coady and Keane however seem like picks based on reputation rather than form or actual ability.

Currently the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Ezri Konsa and Ben Godfrey are absolutely shining at their respective clubs despite inconsistent form from their clubs and yet none seem to be under consideration for a role at all.

England v Switzerland - 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship : News Photo

Konsa is currently the secondary centre-back behind Mings at Aston Villa, but is quite clearly outperforming him this season. Whenever you watch them play together it’s always the younger man who stands out, while Mings has been the man to make the more high profile mistakes including most recently in the defeat to Manchester United where he got far too tight to Mason Greenwood, who turned him before finishing.

Godfrey has been brilliant for Everton too, playing at full-back as well as in a back three under Carlo Ancelotti and shining in the Premier League after his move from Championship side Norwich last summer.

With great pace, great physicality and a very good eye for a pass as shown for his assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin against West Ham this past weekend, Godfrey is a guaranteed future England international. With Stones and Maguire the sure-fire starting pair, seniority as back-up options should’t be a priority.

Holgate and Konsa have been excellent and arguably outshone their club teammates and the fact they’re not even in a conversation for a spot in the now larger squad is beyond strange.

If Southgate is looking for someone similar to his current options and with leadership quality, then Coady’s involvement over Lewis Dunk is just as peculiar.

The 29-year-old Brighton skipper has been excellent this season despite his club’s struggles. Aerially he has been a powerhouse and has proven to be a threat in the opposition box too, scoring five times.

But what’s been most impressive is his ability to play out from the back under Graham Potter, as Brighton have showed a great ability and confidence to outplay teams no matter the opposition. Their league position is greatly effected by the fact their strikers have struggled to find the back of the net, because defensively they’ve not been that bad at all.

Coady’s main reason for getting into the side was his familiarity in a back three for Wolves over the years, but Dunk can provide that now and is better, so why isn’t he under consideration?

Even after those three the most shocking omission is likely to be AC Milan’s young loanee, Chelsea academy graduate Fikayo Tomori.

The 23-year-old barely featured under Frank Lampard at the start of the season, but since joining the Serie A side on loan has been one of the standout defenders in the league. Absolutely rapid, great on the ball, physically strong and with a great reading of the game, Tomori absolutely deserves to at least be in the conversation.

He’s shown leadership qualities too but is also the perfect covering defender alongside the more dominant type like a Harry Maguire. He has experience within the senior set up in both a back three and four under Southgate and his performances should see him in the squad ahead of more senior options.

Southgate’s mind seems made up, but the defensive lapses that have cost them previously are a problem. For that reason, they should be looking to use the most in-form defenders to try and eradicate them.

Pedro Neto out for six months is huge blow for Wolves and Portugal

Wolves and Portugal winger Pedro Neto has suffered a serious knee injury and has been ruled out for six months, meaning he will miss the rest of the Premier League season and Euro 2020.

The 21-year-old had been excellent for the Midlands side this season, notching five goals and six assists domestically which earned him a maiden call up to the national team. He scored on his international debut with a goal against Andorra and then notched two assists against Luxembourg as Portugal came from behind to win 3-1.

But now his season has come to an end prematurely after a knee injury was aggravated in the win over Fulham last week and the problem has been found to be more serious than originally thought.

Neto was used by Nuno Espirito Santo as a ready-made replacement for his international colleague Diogo Jota at Wolves this season, after Jota was allowed to move to Liverpool in a near £40million deal.

With his pace, skill and ability to go either way he caused plenty of issues for opposition defences and has arguably been Wolves’ best player throughout. He has created 51 big chances this season, the fifth most in the league, which when you consider Wolves’ performances this season and current position of 12th in the league tells you just how good he has been.

He’d also proven important to Portugal manager Fernando Santos, who was a big fan of his crossing ability during the most recent international break.

It was expected that the Braga academy graduate would be selected as one of the Seleccao’s attacking options for this summer’s European Championships, where they look to defend the crown they won back in 2016.

Along with Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva, Neto was seen to be winning the race between himself and Rafa Silva for a place in the squad and was almost seen as a wildcard because of his versatility across the front line and age.

Being out for six months is a bigger blow for Wolves, who will now have to contend with the fact they’ll be without their star attacker for the start of next season too.

With Adama Traore breaking a duck in the win over Fulham with his first goal in over 40 Premier League games and Daniel Podence also injured, Wolves’ wide options aren’t great even as it is. Loan signing Willian Jose is yet to score since signing while Raul Jimenez is continuing his recovery after fracturing his skull against Arsenal earlier in the campaign.

Neto was the bright spark, the light at the end of the tunnel, the shining hope for Wolves fans. Now, he will become a memory as he looks to recover from a knee injury.

Luckily for him he has age on his side, so missing an international tournament won’t harm him too much. The World Cup is next year anyway and he’s still young enough that even missing that tournament he’ll only be 25 by the time the tournament after that comes around.

The hope will be that he returns with the spring in his step that he had this year and that there won’t be any long term effects from the injury, but Wolves now must get used to being without their superstar winger.

Diogo Jota returns to Molineaux with winner as Fabinho shows importance

Liverpool got back on the winning trail in the Premier League thanks to a goal from the returning Diogo Jota, as they beat Wolves 1-0 at Molineaux.

The Reds and Wolves traded chances in the first half until Jota’s opener right on the strike of half-time, a fine left footed strike inside the box that goalkeeper Rui Patricio probably should have done better with.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men created some good openings, with Adama Traore’s final decision letting them down several times as Liverpool held on for all three points. The game was marred by a clash between Conor Coady and Patricio in goal as they tried to stop Mohamed Salah from scoring – only for the offside flag to be raised after Salah put the ball in the net. Patricio was stretchered off after a near 15 minute delay.

The Reds made it back-to-back wins in all competitions and secured their first Premier League win in three games, following defeats to Liverpool and Fulham. It was a fairly solid performance from Jurgen Klopp’s side, who were arguably only missing three players from what would be considered their strongest lineup.

Fabinho returned to a midfield role for the first time since Virgil Van Dijk’s injury back in October in the Premier League and he was imperious once again as the Reds kept their third clean sheet since the turn of the year in the league.

He proved what many have been saying for a while that Klopp should have trusted his younger defenders earlier in the season and kept Fabinho in midfield during the injury crisis rather than putting him into an unnatural position.

With him at the base of the midfield, Liverpool are still solid at the back and have a better passer to keep possession ticking over and sustaining attacks. He is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world and it showed in this game.

Further forward, Diogo Jota proved that it wasn’t just a hot streak at a new club as he got on the scoresheet once again in his second Premier League start since November. He provided an injection of pace but also a versatility to be able to move to both wings and allow Sadio Mane and Salah to move centrally on occasion too.

With Roberto Firmino struggling hugely in the last 18 months or so to make a real impact, his place is most certainly up for grabs and Jota is making Klopp seriously consider giving him that role on a more permanent basis with his performances.

As for Wolves, they continue to struggle to create and score goals without Raul Jimenez leading the line. They’ve scored only 17 league goals in the 19 league games since the Mexican striker’s injury in the Arsenal game and Adama Traore made it 47 games without a goal in the league and despite having some impressive runs going forward, he constantly made bad decisions or had a poor final product.

It’s an area that needs addressing for them as they sit just nine points clear of the relegation zone with nine games to go. Liverpool moved up to sixth in the league, five points behind Chelsea in fourth and two points behind fifth placed West Ham having played a game more than the Hammers.

Diego Costa to leave Atletico Madrid in January – Where next?

Diego Costa’s second spell in Madrid is to come to an end in January after it was revealed that Atletico Madrid will not be offering him a new contract.

The Brazilian-born Spain international striker is due to become a free agent in June 2021, with the contract he signed upon returning to Atletico Madrid in 2018 due to expire at the end of this season.

With the former Chelsea man now available and several clubs looking for a striker in January, where could the 32-year-old end up?

The obvious choice is a move back to Brazil, where he started his career. After coming through the Barcelona-SP academy, Costa moved to Portugal before he made a senior appearance. He could look to return to his homeland for a run in their top division, although which team is hard to decipher.

Another option could be a reunion with Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte in Serie A. The two were together at Chelsea when Conte won the Premier League in 2017, before a very public falling-out led to Costa’s return to Atletico.

It’s been several years since though and with Inter looking to put pressure on local rivals AC Milan and Juventus in the chase for the Serie A title, a boost in firepower could very well help. His injury problems are a concern and his wages would likely be high, but with Christian Eriksen almost certainly leaving that could free up some space.

Another option could be a return to the Premier League. The likes of West Ham could be interested but one club who could look to use him on a short-term deal are Wolves.

After Raul Jimenez fractured his skull against Arsenal, Wolves have found themselves playing young Fabio Silva as the starting striker. He is yet to score a goal in the Premier League and Wolves have scored only four goals in the five games since the Mexican’s injury.

Recruiting Costa on a short-term deal could allow them to play their usual style of football with a target man in the box to build off, while also taking the pressure off young Silva.

The club already have a great relationship with the player’s agent Jorge Mendes and with Atletico the party making the decision to part ways, a deal should be relatively easy to do if Costa is willing to move to the Molineux.

Jose Mourinho Still Hasn’t Learnt His Lesson As Spurs Drop Points Late Again

Tottenham Hotspur were victims of a poor mindset yet again as they conceded late to throw away yet another lead in their draw with Wolves on Sunday night.

Tanguy Ndombele scored after just 57 seconds with a strike from the edge of the box, before Spurs sat back for the next 85 minutes with ten men behind the ball looking to counter through Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.

Wolves were able to nullify those moments well and controlled the game, with Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence dangerous throughout. They struggled to create clear cut chances though, while Fabio Silva could’ve got a penalty very early in the second half. When Wolves finally equalised in the 86th minute, it was thanks to a corner kick headed in by central defender Romain Saiss.

It’s the third time in the last four Premier League games that Spurs have conceded a goal in the last ten minutes of the game, costing them points each time.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League : News Photo

First was against Crystal Palace, where they once again took the lead in the first half and just decided to sit off and defend for the remainder of the game. Against Liverpool they had chances to win through Steven Bergwijn, but ultimately they gave Jurgen Klopp’s side the ball and invited the pressure on. This led to an injury time header from Roberto Firmino giving the champions all three points, before the trip to Wolves.

Mourinho has been doing this for years though, it shouldn’t be new to any fans of the sport.

He has made a career off getting very talented squads to defend well in a low block and be able to soak up pressure against teams that can cause them a problem.

But there is a time and a place for it. If a game is tight and you revert to that style late on, then fair enough. If it’s a game where you’re expected to get battered, fair enough. But after going 1-0 up in the first minute against a team who had previously only scored 14 goals in 14 games? Seems excessive.

All it did was invite pressure from the opposition, leave them nothing to worry about themselves and as the team sank deeper and deeper into their own half, a mistake or lapse in concentration became inevitable.

The longer you are defending for, the more likely it is that you will concede. You have to concentrate more, for longer periods of sustained pressure and eventually the mistake will happen.

There is a reason that the top teams try to see tight games out with the ball rather than without it. The likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus will all look to keep possession of the ball in the opposition half late on in the game and will take minimal risks.

It’s the complete opposite of what Mourinho does and we’re seeing the results of it when the defence isn’t up to scratch. After six years without a league title, you’d expect him to have realised that things change and this approach just doesn’t work in the same way it used to.

At the moment, his pride and stubbornness is costing Spurs points just as much as their performances on the pitch are.

The players are responsible for giving their all and winning the games, but the manager is responsible for preparing them the correct way for each game to get the best chance of a positive result.

From genuine title contenders to falling out of the top four in a matter of weeks, Spurs need to freshen up their approach and fast.

Pedro Neto – Wolves Winger Is One To Watch

When Wolves agreed to sell Portuguese winger Diogo Jota to Liverpool in the summer, questions were immediately raised about who could replace him.

Fans wondered if someone would be brought in, while media questioned the decision to sell him without already having a replacement brought in prior to letting him go.

When the lineup was announced for the opening game of the season a front three of Daniel Podence, Raul Jimenez and Pedro Neto was announced – with Adama Traore at wing-back. Wolves were showing that they had options and they won the game 2-0 pretty comfortably, with the entire front three getting involved in the goals.

As the season has progressed the two wingers in that game have gone on to cement their place in the side, keeping Traore out of the side for the most part with summer signing Nelson Semedo coming in at wing-back.

Neto has shown a lot of the same attributes that Jota was showing during his time at the club too. He’s electric in possession, direct, skilful and has an eye for goal. He also has boundless energy and is willing to work back for the team.

What makes it even better though, is that he’s only 20.

He’s got four goals for Wolves this season with strikes against Fulham, Southampton, Arsenal and Chelsea while also getting two assists too. His international debut led to a first goal for Portugal also, a fine strike in the win over Andorra.

Plenty of clubs will be keeping an eye on his development over the next 12-18 months and if he continues his rapid rise in the Premier League then don’t be surprised to see the big boys make a move.

For Neto though, he shouldn’t be thinking about the next step just yet.

Focus on playing regularly, developing and learning. This run of form won’t last forever, it never does. Young players are supposed to be inconsistent and Nuno Espirito Santo has acknowledged that in the past.

What’s important is how Neto reacts to an eventual run of form where things aren’t quite going his way or he isn’t getting the rub of the green. That will tell an awful lot about his mentality, which is just as important as his ability at the top level.

Wolves have got themselves another Portuguese gem on the wing. Keep an eye on him, because he looks likely to deliver just like the last Portuguese winger they had did.

Kai Havertz Continues to Struggle as Chelsea Fail to Beat Top Half Side Again

Chelsea slipped to consecutive defeats in the Premier League against Wolves on Tuesday night, with record signing Kai Havertz once again struggling to make any sort of impresison.

A competitive first half ended goalless before French striker Olivier Giroud put the Blues ahead in the second half, when his volley was fumbled into the net by Rui Patricio. Wolves continued to apply pressure and equalised thanks to fantastic solo effort from Daniel Podence in the 66th minute.

Frank Lampard’s side were dealt the killer blow in injury time as Pedro Neto broke away on the halfway line, before beating Kurt Zouma for pace and slamming a left-footed strike into the far corner to win the game.

Chelsea struggled to create any real chances without Hakim Ziyech in the side once again, as Lampard persisted with using Timo Werner out wide with Christian Pulisic. Havertz was once again fielded in a deeper midfield position rather than his preferred number ten role and struggled to make an impact before being replaced in the 71st minute.

It means that the Blues have failed to beat any side placed 12th or above in the Premier League so far this season.

Since signing for £72million in the summer from Bayer Leverkusen, Havertz has scored just four goals and registered three assists in 17 appearances for the club. Three of those four goals came as he scored a hat-trick in the League Cup against lower league side Barnsley too, so his start to life at Stamford Bridge has been a real struggle.

But aside from numbers, his overall performances have really failed to impress. He looks slow with and without the ball, physically he is struggling against the more aggressive sides and he’s not looking particularly creative either.

Chelsea FC v FC Krasnodar: Group E - UEFA Champions League : News Photo
Havertz has struggled since his £72m move from Leverkusen

Part of that, for sure, is that he is still adapting to a new league and new country. Part of it is also likely to be that he suffered with a bout of COVID-19 earlier in the season and he may still not be 100% sharp.

But it certainly seems like more than that to the naked eye. Lampard’s tactics almost seem to be shoehorning him in right now, with an insistence on including Mason Mount in the team also.

Mount deserves his place in the team right now undoubtedly, but Havertz does not. A potential change to a 4-2-3-1 formation to get Havertz into his best position with Mount and Kante behind him would be the same lineup but with different responsibilities.

Havertz would have far more creative burden placed on him but he’s at his best in that situation, where he can get closer to goal and be involved in the final phases of play rather than the build up.

Some Chelsea fans are beginning to grow frustrated with him and it’s more than warranted. Lampard needs to start getting the best out of the 21 year old attacking midfielder, or relieve him of his misery by not playing him in a formation that doesn’t suit him.

Kai Havertz is struggling and it’s now making Chelsea struggle too. Tick tock, Lampard.

Arsenal Defeat To Wolves Marred By Gruesome Head Injury To Raul Jimenez

Arsenal’s poor performance at home to Wolves saw them beaten 2-1, but it was a gruesome head injury suffered by Raul Jimenez that took the headlines.

Goals from Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence cancelled out Gabriel Magalhaes’ equaliser in what was a truly shocking performance from the home side, but the big incident happened before any goals.

A corner kick floated in for Arsenal saw a sickening clash of heads between David Luiz and Raul Jimenez, which saw both men knocked unconscious. Jimenez didn’t move for almost ten minutes as he was stretchered off the field of play with what was later revealed as a fractured skull.

Wolves announced the following morning that the Mexican striker had undergone successful surgery for the injury and was now in a ‘comfortable’ state.

The big story of the game however was the fact that despite being unconscious and bleeding from the head, Arsenal allowed David Luiz to continue playing for the rest of the half.

The club insist that all protocols were followed when making the decision but anyone watching the game, who heard the thud of the two players’ heads connecting, knew the correct decision was to bring him off.

Luiz seemed dazed following the incident and as the half progressed, blood began seeping through the bandages wrapped around his head.

Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League : News Photo

The decision to let him play on was odd, but proved even odder as a decision was made at half-time to substitute him due to the injury.

Concussion is a common injury in football but it needs to be taken more seriously, clearly. The injury suffered by Jimenez could potentially be a career-ending injury so considering it was caused by another person’s head, common sense would suggest they’re damaged too.

The introduction of concussion substitutes has been discussed recently, but it’s pretty irrelevant if clubs don’t seem to like using them.

Football needs to take concussion more seriously; this game has epitomised that.