Total football was on show at Molineux as Wolves blew West Ham away. Nuno’s side put three past the Hammers when in reality, it could’ve been double that. As much as Wolves were slick and stupendous, West Ham were poor and offered very little on a cold Black Country night. All the same, in this Premier League tactical analysis we shall look at how Wolves took West Ham apart and how, despite the scoreline, Lukasz Fabianski was West Ham’s star man.
There were no surprises from Nuno as he stuck with the team which beat Leicester 4-3 last time out in the league with one minor change. Matt Doherty returned for Ruben Vinagre which meant that Jonny switched back to the left-hand side.
Pellegrini, on the other hand, made three changes to the side that lost away at Bournemouth. Arnautovic came in for Andy Carroll, Snodgrass for Nasri and Aaron Cresswell was replaced by Arthur Masuaku. Out of those three changes, the latter two were enforced by injury which would’ve disrupted the West Ham team. Either way, it shouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
To illustrate Wolves’ domination over their London counterparts, I’m going to show you two images. Firstly, we shall begin with one that we haven’t used before.
Wolves’ utter dominance is borne out by the statistics: 87% of the chances, 20 shots on goal, nine on target. The rest is there in plain sight. It is worth noting that the xG total of 2.02 is less than what can be found in other places, with some sources having it as high as 2.56. Irrespective of whether you look at the 2.02 or the larger figure, West Ham’s total of 0.13 doesn’t change.
‘Deep’ refers to how many passes were completed by either side within 20 yards of the goal excluding crosses. PPDA (passes (allowed) per defensive action) hasn’t got a great deal in it which has more to do with the pace that Wolves attack than anything else. To clarify, essentially Wolves made 14.05 passes on average before West Ham would manage a defensive action, such as a tackle, interception or block.
As if more proof was needed, xPTS (expected points) stood at 2.72. All of this means is that considering all of the statistics from the game, it would’ve been a travesty if Wolves hadn’t have won.
Not much explanation is needed for the above image. Apart from a few brief spells, Wolves had the better of West Ham over the 90 minutes. Once the first goal went in off the head of Romain Saiss, there was only ever going to be one winner.
What you will notice is that at the start of the second half there is a bit of blue. For the third game running, Wolves were slow to start in the second half. After conceding to Leicester and Shrewsbury early doors in the second period you would’ve thought they’d learnt their lesson. Evidently not; after that phase of West Ham pressure though, Wolves turned it up a notch and the rest was inevitable.
Joao Moutinho set up the first goals with two superb deliveries. He’s been criticised for failing to beat the first man on a few occasion this season. However, he seems to have been putting in extra work on the training ground as the Portuguese maestro now has four assists in two league games.
The quadrangle of Dendoncker, Bennett, Saiss and Doherty are always going to cause problems in the air if the delivery is in the right place. Snodgrass does his best to prevent Saiss from getting a run on him, but the sheer strength of the Moroccan brushes him to one side and he puts it home.
Note from the group, Jimenez and Jota are standing outside of the shape. This is important for Wolves’ second goal.
The starting shape is massively different this time. Instead of forming a quadrangle, Wolves opt for five in a row. The circled area is where the ball actually ends up. In addition, it highlights the fact that Bennett is seemingly being held in a headlock. Be that as it may, West Ham are unable to thwart Wolves. Jimenez beats Rice to the ball and sticks it in the bottom corner.
If Moutinho can continue to put the ball in the same area time and time again, Wolves’ productivity will multiply from set pieces regardless of the starting shape of the attacking players in the area.
Wolves’ third goal came from a swift breakaway and a well-timed pass from Diogo Jota to set Raul Jimenez free. Credit where it’s due, Jimenez still had to beat Fabianski and he did so by delicately dinking it over the Pole. It all came about from a lovely lofted through ball from the mercurial Moutinho.
Jimenez’ starting position is slightly behind his Portuguese striker partner, but it doesn’t take Raul long to get alongside him. Once Jota and Jimenez are ready to go, it’s all about the timing of Jota’s pass. Have a look.
Jota waits and waits for the West Ham man to close him down before sliding it through to Raul Jimenez. The Mexican takes one touch to set himself and remains as cool as a cucumber.
West Ham had a lot of players committed forward to try and find a way back into the game and Wolves took full advantage of that situation to make it 3-0. As I mentioned earlier, Fabianski made a number of outstanding saves to keep the scoreline as low as it was, not to mention Wolves’ disallowed goal. All in all, it was a comprehensive, resounding victory for the Molineux side.
Moutinho, Neves and Dendoncker have started three games in midfield with one another against Manchester City, Leicester and West Ham. The City game is null and void because Boly got dismissed early doors. Apart from that, Wolves have got a 100% record when the trio have started and played in the middle of the park for a majority of the game.
West Ham will be no doubt worried about the lack of cohesion in their side. With Arnautovic going off injured, Pellegrini must be wondering what to do next. Wolves and West Ham both face sides from Merseyside at the weekend. Wolves travel to Goodison Park to face the blue half, meanwhile, West Ham host league leaders Liverpool on Monday night at the London Stadium.
Until the next time.
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