FA Cup Swan-song

So,  there we have it. Wolves have lost a game of football. It feels familiar, yet strange at the same time. It’s brought out some odd, old feelings. That snarl and snap that overcomes you when we go a goal down. It’s just there. You can’t escape it, regardless of the significance of the fixture. Perhaps it’s more pronounced in the context of our more recent success. For sure, the social media outpouring of gloom is accentuated in this rosy garden, bereft of thorns.

So what happened? Again, I wasn’t there but it feels a little like our reserve team had a dip in form. Just like our first team often does. Now answer me this: if you were asked to do something that benefits from regular activity, on an intermittent basis, and each time you were required to perform this task to the best of your ability, only to be stood down as soon as you’ve done said best, would you expect to keep your performance levels up? This is the situation facing many players. Yes, in the media it won’t be accepted as an excuse, but seriously consider that conundrum.

As an example, KortneY Hause, probably our best defender from last season, has only started 3 games this season, all against Premier League opposition. In 2 out of 3 of those games, he has been excellent. If he managed to keep up a ratio of 2 out of 3 excellent performances at Premier League level, he’d probably be playing for England. This from a 22 year-old. I can only hope that offers some sense of perspective. It’s true that where we are heading, we cannot afford to carry passengers, but writing off talents such as Hause is hasty in the very least.

If anything was highlighted by this performance, it’s the importance of Conor Coady to the structure and discipline of our team. Despite the fact Jordan Ayew is a genuine talent who makes some PL defenders look silly, the frantic nature of the defending for that goal is not something we’ve witnessed all season long. The familiarity of a defence cannot be underestimated, as well as the importance of a genuine communicator. Coady may not be the man to mark someone out of a game, but he definitely brought the best out of the likes of Hause in the recent cup performances as the proverbial glue that holds the back three together.

In what were shocking conditions, from what I could see, I have sympathy with Hause. Yes, he could have dealt with the ball better, but it’s arrived at an awkward height having gone past two players who perhaps should have got a head on the ball. That doesn’t excuse mistakes, but that is exactly the kind of situation a well-oiled, well in-form player deals with. Hause is not that right now.

Others faltered clearly too, but our first response to a player who isn’t playing regular football that under-performs is that they need a run of games – so why do we write players off so quickly? Why are we surprised that these players may not be at their best? I know a lot of Wolves fans are level-headed in their assessments, especially after such a game, but I’ve even seen some question the validity of Rafa Mir’s signing. Seriously?

If Mir’s ever played in a game with such conditions, I’d love to know where. If you’ve grown up playing football in sunny Spain, or elsewhere on the continent, and your confronted with this kind of inclement weather, it’s going to affect your performance. Factor in that Mir has never played first team football for anybody and you must come to the conclusion that he needs time to find his feet in English football. Leo Bonatini, despite the fact he came from Saudi Arabia, had at least experienced different footballing cultures in his upbringing, thus assimilating  better than he might otherwise have done.

The other element of this is that we had a freakishly good transfer window. If you ignore Phil Ofosu-Ayeh, every signing since Nuno has come to the club has been a success. Rafa Mir is a relatively low-risk, high-reward signing at £1.5m. Give him some breathing space and allow him to prosper.

In more positive news, we had the delight of a Diogo Jota offering from the bench – and what an exciting prospect that is. Perhaps holding him back and unleashing him on tiring defences is a way of circumventing our lack of threat in some games. It gives Cavaleiro and Costa a chance to rekindle some of what was good about them last season, whilst affording Jota some respite and opposition defences absolutely none at all.

It’s natural to get excited. It’s natural, given our form to expect us to beat Swansea. I myself had us down to win this fixture, but football as we know too well doesn’t pander to consensus. The fact remains Swansea’s team was littered with some serious talent – Wilfried Bony was deemed good enough for Man City at one point, Alfie Mawson is considered international class and Federico Fernandez is an international colleague of Lionel Messi. The fact also remains that had we chosen our best available line-up, we would have come out victorious, I’m pretty sure of that. But our team is growing. it’s developing and evolving. Like Nuno said in a recent interview with The Coaches’ Voice, they will take this experience, put it in a box and draw from it when required. It’s the Nuno Way.

Onwards to Forest.

Gully

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