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The international break is officially over meaning this weekend saw the return of Premier League football. Wolves faced Watford at home and named an unchanged starting eleven for the ninth consecutive time. Heading into the match in seventh place off the back of two clean sheet wins, you would think Wolves would be the most likely to get the three points. Especially considering they had only let in one goal in their previous six matches and their opposition were without a win in five. However, the Hornets were not to be underestimated. They were simply better than Wolves in so many ways and after scoring two goals in the space of one minute, there was no way back for the boys in gold and black. Let’s take a look at the statistics to see what happened.
International Break Took Its Toll
The first thing I want to discuss is how tired a lot of the Wolves players looked. With seven out of the 10 players who went out for international duty named in the starting eleven, this may have been one of the main reasons behind their first home defeat of the season.
None of the players looked sharp. The usually dazzling midfield duo of Neves and Moutinho looked dull and out of options, and Rui Patricio could do nothing but watch helplessly as the ball went through the legs of Conor Coady and past him into the net for the first goal. The team were then dealt a massive blow when the second goal went in 58 seconds after the first. They had barely had time to catch their breath. A goal before the break would have helped to give Wolves back some confidence but it was not to be.
After a disappointing start with lots of errors, things started to look better when Vinagre came on for Jonny in the 46th minute. However, even the introduction of him, Cavaleiro and Traoré couldn’t change the outcome. Foster was never really challenged and Wolves struggled to break down the solid Watford defence. They only managed to get one shot out of ten on target with no really big or threatening chances. Wolves just didn’t have the bite to get back into the match. Overall, they only managed to keep 44% of the possession and their passing accuracy was a poor 77%.
By the end of the 90 minutes, Wolves had committed a grand total of 23 fouls which is much higher than we are used to seeing from them. Prior to this, the highest number of fouls committed in a match by Wolves this season was 17 against Manchester United. Whether you put it down to frustration or some baffling decisions by the referee, it’s not a pretty statistic to analyse.
They picked up three yellow cards, one of those for Diogo Jota when he booted the ball away after being blown up for a challenge. These are the kind of things that are silly and avoidable. In a game where you are down by two goals to nil, the last thing you need is to be picking up unnecessary cards.
The referee can only be held partially responsible for what went wrong on the day and it was so much more than a few questionable decisions. The defence was not up to its usual high standard with Wolves only winning 55% of the tackles they made. Watford, on the other hand, won 71% of theirs and were quick to shut down many of Wolves moves. Wolves were dispossessed 11 times and won fewer duels and ariel duels that the Hornets.
You can’t win them all and most Wolves fans will see this as no more than a bad day at the office. Hopefully, this will have shocked the team enough to work harder next time around and not become complacent. The one thing I do admire is that Nuno is able to admit when the team is not performing as well as they should be. He doesn’t try to shy away from it or make excuses.
Wolves next match is Brighton and Hove Albion away, which could be another tough one if they don’t improve. After some well-needed rest and preparation, it will be interesting to see how they respond to this one.