Just when you thought you would get some light relief. The Europa League has been the warm blanker in the winter, the lighthouse on the cliff and the hark back to better times and better performances so far this season. Until last night.
Fortress Molineux is ringing with some familiar sounds at the moment. The one that greeted Braga’s goal wasn’t though – the unmistakable ‘GOL’ as opposed to the ‘YES’ that usually erupts when a British team scores. It was eerie though, there was movement from the away bench, but also a kind of dumbstruck silence, like watching a television on mute.
The familiar sounds certainly began in earnest thereafter though. Ryan Bennett, the unfortunate man who made the most obvious error in the 90 minutes that was capitalised on, further endeared himself to the crowd by doing exactly the opposite to what he did in conceding the goal – going back to Conor Coady. Cue groans and moans in their thousands, despite the fact if he had done that 5 minutes earlier, we would still be at 0-0.
There seems to be a genuine acknowledgement that Wolves are now in a poor run of form. The ‘remember how far we’ve come’ shouts have faded and concern is etched across the faces of those in the crowd. In a competition where we’ve basically swept aside all before us – for much of the Torino fixtures as well – this was a chastening defeat to take. Braga really weren’t that good.
Yes, they were solid and obdurate and didn’t give us an inch, but we’re not going to get an inch from teams. We have to force and inch and then force the mile. The team that walked out of the tunnel yesterday evening was exactly the side that should have started against Chelsea, and vice versa in my eyes.
We’re notoriously slow starters – quite deliberately might I add – and for much of last season the only goal we had scored in the first half of a match was Ruben Neves’ free-kick on the opening day of the season. These slow starts are not doing us any favours any more though. We are ‘marked men’. Teams know about us, respect us and will duly come up with plans to stop us. We’re becoming far too easy to stop. All of our best work this season going froward has been from having Adama Traore in the team and this is a worrying position to be in.
As the season rumbles on, Nuno’s words will begin to wane on the players. The messages may be the same, but the results are different. Did someone say something about insanity? There has to be a step change in our approach and it has to happen now. Crystal Palace are no mugs as we saw in our first game of 2019 and they will have had their ‘Wolves 101’ sessions with Roy Hodgson and be able to reel off the script in their sleep. We know this and must prepare for it.
Take the game to them Nuno, reignite the spark that took us to this stage and show them that we mean business again. Our passive start to the season is allowing teams the opportunity to get on top of us. This starts with the reintroduction of Diogo Jota and Romain Saiss, two of our most tenacious players whose personality is able to affect games as much as their ability. Raul Jimenez deserves a rest and Patrick Cutrone has shown enough to warrant a run in the side – the chances just keep coming for him.
I have plenty of faith in the team and the management, but decisions have been a little baffling recently. Back to the drawing board, a simplified approach and remembering what we are good at will get us back on track.