Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis

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There’s a certain amount of gloom following me around this week. I like to think that over the years, I’ve got better at handling defeats, however, Saturday’s defeat against Watford hurt. It’s difficult to explain why; maybe it’s because we didn’t even put a shift in. Maybe it’s because I’m just not a massive fan of Watford. Anyway, it is now time for me to lift my head off the ground, stop worrying about the result and analyse what actually happened. You’ll notice I’ve been true to my word about the headline as well. Enough about me, let’s crack on.

Beginning with the respective lineups, Javi Gracia surprised a lot of people and opted to change his system altogether. While I was expecting their usual 4-4-2/4-2-2-2, dependant on how you look at it, Success was deployed on his own up front with Deulofeu ever so slightly in behind. As per, Nuno stuck with the same XI that had served him so well for this season.

Deulofeu Is Influential On His Return

The ex-Barcelona man, Gerard Deulofeu, wasn’t an out and out striker as the formation image suggests and was regularly back helping his teammates. As I touched on the preview for this game, Watford were on a dreadful run in the run-up to this game. Nevertheless, they couldn’t be taken lightly as they had started the season well prior to their blip. It was a decent start from us, although it was apparent from the get-go that Watford were going to pack their midfield and defence and make it very difficult for us.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Space was at a premium in the Watford half.

Two solid banks of four ensured that we weren’t going to make an early breakthrough. While it may seem like it’s a standard 4-4-2 in this picture, later in the Deulofeu makes the midfield four a five, thus making it even more tricky to exploit the half spaces and what have you. Whenever Neves or Moutinho picked the ball up deep, the wide players, Hughes and Pereyra would push, leaving Capoue and Doucoure in behind.

First Big Chance To Nuno’s Side

I’ve used ‘big chance’ quite loosely here. In terms of our xG throughout the game, it was our third best chance. A corner was delivered from the right-hand side and Bennett couldn’t quite get there. Being harsh, it seemed like the Watford defender perhaps wanted it a little more than the ex-Norwich man. In all honesty, the fact that Bennett’s header was our third best chance according to xG sort of sums our afternoon up. The two ‘better’ chances were pretty dull as well.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Our three ‘main’ chances wouldn’t qualify as half chances to many.

Jimenez’ was a ball in the box from halftime substitute Vinagre which looked like it went all the way through to Foster. Boly’s was a backheel. Nothing sums up our afternoon quite like that. Our second best chance was a backheel from our centre-back after a corner. Now, we shall look at that minute where the game was won and lost.

The Cleanest Shot You Will Ever See

It must have taken a deflection. Surely? That was my initial reaction when I saw Capoue’s opener at Molineux. I said the same thing the second, third and fourth time I watched it as well. It was incomprehensible that it had gone through that many bodies without taking a deflection. Lo and behold, it did just that. It all stemmed from Bennett giving a free-kick away on the halfway line. No real issues at that point.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Despite having several men behind the ball, what happens next is outrageous.

Nine bodies behind the ball if we include Rui. Four players marking Isaac Success while Deulofeu is left completely unattended. It’s not the Spaniard that’s the problem though. Neves has to be closer to Doucoure, albeit, it’s hard to envisage what happened next. Contradicting myself, Neves does do the right thing in the end as he shows Doucoure away from the goal…

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
A thunderous drive from Capoue. All the same, could Patricio have done better?

Capoue lets rip from here. It goes through an obscene number of bodies before flying beyond a static Rui. Now, a keeper of Rui’s calibre should be expecting the worse. Surely he knows that the shot is coming? Admittedly, he won’t have seen the ball come through Coady’s legs until the last second, but he was far too flat footed and should be doing better than that. Like I was with Bennett’s chance earlier, I may well be being overly critical because it’s the first time we’ve lost in a while, nonetheless, questions should be asked.

A Quick Turnover Of Possession Screws Us

In the blink of an eye, it was two-nil. Rather annoyingly, I can’t find video footage of what exactly happens after the kick-off, so it’s not the easiest to understand. From what I’ve looked at, I’m under the impression that Moutinho (I think) is caught in possession and then it all happens rather quickly. The decision making once Watford have won the ball back isn’t the greatest across the defence.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Doherty is already behind the play on the far side which causes a negative knock-on effect.

Pereyra has already got a couple of yards on Matt Doherty which essentially rules the Irish international out of the game. Bennett (far right with the marker under him) is next in the proverbial line of fire. He is focusing on Pereyra rather than the ball which is a good start, on the other hand, his body shape suggests he believes he can get to the ball before Pereyra. Either that or Bennett believes he can beat Pereyra in a foot race. On both counts, he was wrong.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Coady’s decision to not cover Bennett ends up making Pereyra’s mind up.

By moving towards the Watford man directly, Pereyra’s mind is made up as it only takes one touch and he’s through to that gaping shaded area of space. If Coady (the more central of the two) moves where the arrow is suggesting he should, it will still be a chance, but nowhere near as much as one. Coady’s role as sweeper should mean that he sweeps the space up, rather than what actually happened.

A Smart Finish

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
If Rui stopped on his line and covered his near post, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a goal. Take nothing away, it was a magnificent finish, it was just slightly unavoidable.

Once again, Pereyra doesn’t need to think about his options as Rui rushes off his line. If we picture this scenario differently, with Coady on the corner of the six-yard box and Rui still on his line, we may well have been ok. There is every possibility that the ball would’ve been squared to Success and he would’ve scored anyway, but at least that would have been mildly excusable. Having three players chase after a player, a keeper off his line and two goals conceded inside a minute is not excusable, not in the slightest. You can blame it on fatigue if you want. The only problem with that is Bennett didn’t get an international call-up and Rui only played once, which was more than a week before this game. Doherty played 180 minutes, though. Maybe that was a problem. It shouldn’t be.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Even though their xG is a lot lower than ours, they came away with three points.

In stark contrast to our expected goals, Watford, it could be said, defied the xG model to score both their goals. Their two goals combined don’t have the same xG as the worst chance that we looked at from our perspective (Bennett’s header). This means that while we struggled to create any chances of note, so did Watford. The difference being that they have two goals to show for their relatively poor chances, we have nothing.

Difficult To Penetrate The Watford Wall

After the Hornets went 2-0 up, it was going to take something special for us to get back into the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough in the locker to do that. Arguably, we didn’t have anything at all in the locker. Or on the subs bench.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Neves’ pass to Doherty resulted in the winning goal at Selhurst Park. No such joy here.

Normally, when Neves plays the ball out to Doherty, we are quick to make something happen. Case in point, our winning goal against Crystal Palace. Watford’s block didn’t allow us to do this.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Watford’s use of an extra man in defence means we weren’t able to effectively penetrate their back line.

Rather sensibly, not only did Watford transition very quickly to defend against Doherty, but they also doubled up on our RWB. Moreover, Cathcart has shifted across to track any runs that Helder Costa might make. In a normal situation, defending teams have one play on Doherty and one on Costa meaning it’s easier to fashion an opportunity. Not in this case.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
No switch was available for Moutinho due to Watford’s resolute defence.

Ultimately, the ball had to be played back to Moutinho and instead of Moutinho switching the play to the opposite flank, he had to go back to Doherty because of the lack of options available. Only in the second-half when Vinagre came off the bench did we have any real creative flair. Even then, more often than not, our play went down the right and Watford would find a way of stopping us.

Lopsidedness Is There For All To See

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis

92% of all interceptions made by the Hornets were made on either their left side or in the middle. Masina made the most by four and he was set up as their left-back which gives you all the info you need. Our right-sidedness was blown up even more after Nuno brought on Cavaleiro and Traore. Traore was brought on for Doherty and Cavaleiro was put on for a tired Raul Jimenez. To illustrate this, the pass map & average positions tell their own story.

Wolves Watford Premier League Tactical Analysis
Far too much of our play comes down the right. And the problem is, we have seemingly been sussed.

Cavaleiro (#7) gave us more impetus on the attacking front and offered something different to Jimenez. What we really needed was a proper central striker to bring off the bench and Bonatini isn’t the answer. The fact that Nuno opted for Traore and Cavaleiro over the Brazilian suggests that we might be shopping in January for another forward. Speaking of Traore (#37), I know he was brought on for Doherty, does he have to play so deep though? Neves had the ball countless times in a deep position and the situation was crying out for Traore to be on the last shoulder and a goal reminiscent of Portugal’s second against Poland would have been on the cards.

When you take into account that none of our wide players feature in the top six links, you sort of know that it wasn’t the best of days. Doherty and Jonny were both taken off and it’ll be interesting to see if they both make the starting lineup against Brighton.

Time To Ring The Changes?

I will preview the Brighton game in due course. Beforehand, let’s speculate at what should be done. For me, Dendoncker has to come in for Bennett. Dendoncker is a better player than Bennett and it’s not worth pretending otherwise. He is cool and collected on the ball, much like Boly and Coady. It does seem strange to suggest a centre-back on attacking talent if you will but that’s precisely what I’m doing. Jota needs a break; his confidence is shot and Cavaleiro has looked lively off the bench. Finally, I would start Vinagre on the left-hand side as we are crying out for a naturally left footed player on the left. Either Doherty or Jonny can start on the right, I’ll leave that one up to Nuno.

One More Thing

All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing us to bounce back on the South Coast with aplomb. 8-0 to the Wanderers. Famous last words, indeed.

Until the next time.

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I've got an unhealthy obsession with Wolves, Wolverhampton Wanderers, WWFC, whatever you fancy calling us today. When we win I'm on top of the world, when we lose I'm a nightmare to be around. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and people tell me that you're meant to grow out of it, however, I don't envisage that happening anytime soon. Anyway, I'm the lead analyst on here and while I try and keep my opinion out of my writing, sometimes it's too difficult to do that. I also use the terms 'we' and 'us' when talking about Wolves and I do try and remain impartial although it's debatable whether or not I do. In hindsight, I'm probably over critical of Wolves in the same manner that I'm over complimentary, so I guess it all balances itself out in the end. Grab yourself a cuppa and have a look around.