Are Wolverhampton all the way back or was it a one-off?
Nuno Espirito Santo is hoping for the former Saturday as his Wolves look to build on a monumental victory at Molineux versus Southampton.
It was the upset of the early part of the Premier League season ahead of the international break, with Wolverhampton (2-4-2) springing two clinical counterattacks to stun two-time champions Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad. Adama Traore, whose finishing skills were often lamentable, turned ruthless finisher with goals in the 80th minute and again in stoppage-time, beating Ederson after Raul Jimenez supplied the passes.
“I cannot deny that last week was a very good week,” said Nuno, whose team also righted their Europa League campaign before that landmark win with a victory at Turkish side Besiktas. “The weekend was fantastic, the performances were good, and it was a very good moment for the club. Our preparation for Sunday was on how we could stop City, because they are so good and the idea of football of Pep’s is so difficult to go against.
The only solution was for the players to run – and they ran. The high speed running to get to the covers, to get to the points of pressure, was amazing. Everybody is proud because the players worked so hard and they ran so much until the end of the game. To be able to go and celebrate with our fans was a great moment of happiness.”
Wolves, who began the season with three points in four matches, now have 10 from eight and are comfortably mid-table and ready to kick on further. The blips on defence that registered in shipping eight goals in defeats to Everton and Chelsea appear to have disappeared in recording three consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.
“The best thing about this football club is the fact that everybody is one. I think about it all the time, the way everybody moves forward as one,” defender Connor Coady added. “You saw it in Besiktas on Thursday night, the effort everybody put in, supporters to come and support us, players on the pitch that night.
“To go and do it again at City, to travel in their 1000s, you saw how much it means to them, this football club. This football club’s huge to Wolverhampton, the city and the club as well, so I can’t say thank you enough to them because they’ve been absolutely fantastic.”
If Traore can further tap into this goal-scoring vein, Wolves could make that ascension up the table more rapidly. The 23-year-old drips with pace but had scored just once in 46 matches in all competitions since joining the team last season before his breakthrough moments versus the champions.
As Wolverhampton flowed into the break, Southampton ebbed into it. The Saints (2-1-5) are trying to avoid a fourth loss in the spin and are perilously perched directly above the drop over Everton on goals scored.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team is in the midst of a difficult stretch of schedule that sees them face top-four side Leicester City next Friday before two matches versus Manchester City – one of them a round of 16 clash in the Carabao Cup. Southampton shipped nine goals in their three league defeats, including a 4-1 thrashing by Chelsea on Oct. 6.
“I think against the big teams, they show immediately what lack of quality you have in some situations of your game and I think the biggest one we had, or biggest issue we had, was after losing the ball the transition to defence was not quick enough and committed enough, and that’s the reason we conceded goals more than normal,” Hasenhuttl said when asked to assess losses to the Pensioners and Tottenham in their last two contests.
“We’ve been working in these two weeks on our defensive stability and work against the ball as well – which is absolutely important – and we will need this at the weekend.”
Southampton have been held off the scoresheet just once this term, but the problem is they have rarely found a second goal – doing so only in their 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion on Aug. 24. The Saints have claimed both of their victories outside St Mary’s, where they also defeated promoted Sheffield United.
Hasenhuttl said striker Moussa Djenepo and right back Cedric will be unavailable for this match due to injury. Danny Ings, though, is looking for the first four-match goal-scoring streak of his career and has four goals in his last three matches in all competitions.
The home team won both matches last term, with Wolves running out 2-0 victors on late goals by Ivan Cavaleiro and Jonny. Southampton, though, ended a six-match winless spell (0-2-4) to the Midlands club with a 3-1 win at St Mary’s in the most recent meeting as Nathan Redmond had a first-half brace.
(Raul Jimenez photo courtesy Wolves official Twitter account)