Now that the international break has been and gone, we finally found ourselves arriving back at Molineux after an absence of little over three weeks. If we cast our minds back to then, we put in a determined comeback in the second half against Spurs, however, it was ultimately a game where we failed to take our chances. We will be looking to rectify that tomorrow when we entertain Huddersfield Town in WV1. A game against Huddersfield on a Sunday afternoon definitely won’t have the same lure for Wolves fans as a Saturday night game versus Spurs, all the same, it’s arguably even more important.
Going into tomorrow’s game, we find ourselves without a win in four. Huddersfield have only won once all season. It’s the perfect game to get back on track and with a trip to South Wales next on the agenda to face Cardiff, there’s every chance we could pick up six points from the next two games. Before we get ahead of ourselves and start plotting our assault on the Europa League, let’s put the spotlight on the game against Huddersfield. Abnormally, we have something to talk about regarding the Wolves starting lineup as well after Jonny was injured on international duty for Spain. As per, we will begin with the opposition, which on this occasion is David Wagner’s Huddersfield.
A Game Of Pressing
We are going to look at Huddersfield’s trip to Turf Moor to try and better understand what is likely to happen at Molineux. This game works because Burnley scored an early goal which brought Huddersfield out their shell, but that’s not to say that Huddersfield weren’t closing Burnley down high up the pitch before the goal. Prior to looking at different phases of that game, I’m going to make a statement. At least one goal will be scored from a team overplaying it at the back and losing the ball. Whether that be Wolves or Huddersfield, we will have to wait and see. Without further ado…
It’s difficult to second-guess what system Wagner will play as he tends to change his mind on a regular basis. While the formation might be next to impossible, the style isn’t. In a rather typical German manner, Huddersfield press high when needed and don’t give the opposition time to think. From the Burnley game, you can see the Wagner’s side lined up in a 4-2-1-2 formation at the beginning of the second period.
From here, it seems that Huddersfield are mirroring Burnley as such, by playing a loose adaptation of 4-4-2. They’ve played with three at the back in some games this season and if Wagner tries to match Nuno, there will only be one winner. Gulps. Alternatively, we might see Wagner begin with a 3-5-1-1 and if Huddersfield go a goal behind, don’t be surprised to see an extra striker chucked on. Let’s take a look at their pressing game.
Wagner’s side pressed Burnley from the get-go at Turf Moor and in the end, it almost paid off. To give you some context, what I am about to show you is while the game is 0-0, so it can’t be attributed to the fact that they’re losing.
Due to Burnley’s formation, they are vulnerable if they lose the ball here. Our shape allows us to play around with the ball because we have an extra man in central defence, furthermore, Neves comes short centrally, so if that is Boly on the ball in a similar situation, we could take out three of their ten outfield players with one ball. It’ll be interesting to see if Wagner authorises his players as high against Wolves, although one would imagine he probably will.
In this instance, Huddersfield win the ball back and are immediately in the ascendancy. As mentioned, if this happens to us, we are covered because Coady would be on Depoitre and Bennett would be where Tarkowski is. In the end, Tarkowski makes an amazing recovery and blocks the Belgian’s effort. He could’ve left it for Van la Parra who was in arguably a much better position, but if you’re a striker and not going for goal there, what’s even the point?
If the Terriers press us as high as they did Burnley, it could end up shooting them in the foot. A simple pass into Neves, as I’ve already gone into and we would be away. As you can see in the top right-hand corner of the above image, Huddersfield have a player pressing the left-back as well, so it’s all about making sure we are quick and incisive in our break away. We can seldom afford to dally too much on the ball (Boly!) as they will be hounding us. Onto the defence…
Playing Out From The Back
Not only are there similarities in the way the Huddersfield press high up the pitch, there are also comparisons that can be drawn from their build-up play at the opposite end of the pitch. Case in point, Burnley are pressing them high up the pitch. Do they panic? Do they hell.
Perhaps in another day and age, the ball would have been pumped long by Lossl in the Huddersfield goal. Not under Wagner though, oh no. Once more, the difference between ourselves and Burnley in this scenario is that we would have an extra man pressing Huddersfield’s back line. Of course, it’s not the same story if Wagner opts for the three centre-backs, which he probably will. Nevertheless, if we are pressing three against three, one of two things will happen. One, they will make a mistake or two, we will intercept a pass and bang, we have our goal.
A simple return ball means that the pressure begins to mount and that’s where the cracks start to appear. Let’s have a look at what happens next.
While Lossl may not have played the ball long, the same can’t be said about the player who he passes it back to. Schindler, I think it is, has two options on which guarantees that they keep the ball, signified by the red arrows. Despite it still being early in the game and the score being goalless, Schindler plays the long, hopeful ball. If that’s how they act under pressure, Wolves will have a field day.
Huddersfield’s defence hinges on one thing and one thing only – confidence. If they are confident enough to play the short balls and not overly worry about the pressure that the Wolves front three will undoubtedly put them under, we could have a rather aesthetically pleasing game on our hands. If, as demonstrated above, they fail to keep hold of the ball and relinquish possession far too easily, Nuno’s side will have them for breakfast.
A Blessing In Disguise?
Switching our attention back to Wolves and Jonny. Now, this isn’t aimed to take anything away from Jonny, who has been one of our most consistent players this season, but his injury could totally change our dynamic. It will mean the introduction of a certain Ruben Vinagre, one of the brightest wing-backs in world football at the moment. The strange thing is, that statement is not even a little bit outlandish, he is unbelievable. Most importantly, he is left-footed which will allow us to have a more balanced approach to the game. Let me show you this with pass maps from Doherty and Jonny from the home games against Burnley and Southampton.
We’ll accumulate the top six passing totals from each image. So this is from the Burnley game. Doherty’s total is 94. Now, we go onto Jonny.
Jonny’s total is 77. The gap of 17 isn’t that significant, but it’s a gap all the same. You start to see a pattern emerging when we look at the Saints game as well.
This game wasn’t as productive for Doherty and Wolves due to the fact that Southampton were much more expansive and had more possession. So much so, Doc’s total is 63. Irrespective of the pattern of play, the gap in Doherty’s and Jonny’s numbers are still there for all to see.
54 is Jonny’s magic number and still nine fewer than the Irishman. In summary, Doherty has the ball more than Jonny because we tend to favour playing in that direction, also Jonny usually plays backwards and the play switches to Doherty.
Whether or not you believe Doherty was meant to be starting this season, what with the Zinchenko bid and all, there’s no denying that on the whole, he’s played pretty well. If Zinchenko moved to the Black Country and the Ukrainian played on the left and Jonny on the right, who knows what might have been? We may get taste of what might have been tomorrow. Albeit Doherty will be on the right and Vinagre on the left, we will have natural-sided players on the relevant sides.
It’s only happened once this season with Vinagre and Doherty and that was against Sheffield Wednesday in the cup. We’ll discount the Leicester game in the cup because Jonny and Bennett both played at RWB so it wouldn’t be a fair test. How does the Sheffield Wednesday game compare, though?
Doherty lands at 70. Now, bear in mind that in the two league games that we’ve looked at, Doc has been comfortably above Jonny. How does Vinagre match up?
And bang, Doherty is beaten by the left wing-back. 75 for Vinagre. No doubt, if you looked at any other league game as opposed to the Burnley and Southampton game, Doherty would come out above Jonny. If that’s not reason enough to tell you that we need a left-footed player on the left, I don’t know what is! Yes, having a left-footed centre-back in Hause (#30) would’ve meant the ball naturally found its way out wide more, but the numbers really do speak for themselves.
Asides from Vinagre for Jonny, it’s hard to foresee any other changes for Wolves. What we may see, if Wolves have a comfortable lead around the hour mark, might be the introduction of Dendoncker to Premier League football as he must be chomping at the bit. Huddersfield wise, Mathias Jorgensen or Zanka as he’s sometimes known is suspended and will likely be replaced by Stankovic. Elsewhere, Chris Lowe is injured and will probably be swapped for Erik Durm.
This game will go one of two ways. Either it’ll be won by a single goal, probably from Jimenez and that’ll be that or Huddersfield will score in the first fifteen minutes from a corner and we’ll win 3-2. It will hopefully be the former as we could do with a 1-0 just to get back into our routine. Our next five games are crucial and potentially season-defining. Let’s start the five games with a win and a game to remember.
Until the next time.
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