Wolves 3-2 Fulham
By Tom Bason
January 13 2016
The Wolves juggernaut kept on rolling last night, with a 3-2 victory over Fulham at Molineux. Michał Żyro scored twice in the opening 13 minutes, but Vigen Christensen halved the deficit before half time. A wonder goal from Michael Doherty made it 3-1 before Ross McCormack made it a tricky last 15 minutes.
- Kenny Jackett made just one change to the personnel that lost to West Ham on Saturday, albeit with a completely changed the formation. Jordan Graham was restored to the team instead of the unfortunate Björn Sigurðarson, with Jackett changing to a 4-4-2 formation. The back five was the same, with David Edwards playing deeper as a more orthodox central midfielder alongside Kevin McDonald. Jordan Graham played on the left, while Conor Coady sat on the right hand side of midfield. Michał Żyro partnered Rajiv van La Parra upfront.
- Having Graham on the left and Coady on the right ensured that Graham was the main outlet from the midfield. In the first half in particular, he gave Jazz Richards a torrid time, turning him inside and out, and crossing for Żyro's opening goal. Giving a youngster such as Graham the freedom to play has given a freshness to the team that was not there before, not unlike the introduction off Dominic Iorfa last season. I'm in no way saying that he's a Premier League player, but I can't help wonder if his former club, Aston Villa could do with some of that enthusiasm to invigorate their current team. However, it is slightly worrying just how reliant on Graham we are. There's a definite feeling that if Graham doesn't create, then no one else will.
- Aside from Graham, we had one clear tactic to attack Fulham. We played two banks of four, with van La Parra and Żyro upfront, miles away from the rest of the team. As soon as the midfield got the ball, we looked to play the ball over the top, using the pace of two wingers against a pair of central defenders who aren't blessed with speed. This paid immediate dividends, as a ball from Edwards over the top found Żyro in on goal in the left hand channel. For a left footed player, this was not the easiest of chances, but he kept his nerve to calmly stroke the ball through goalkeeper Andy Lonergan's legs. At West Ham on Saturday, one of the most notable things about Żyro was his finishing in the warmup, and both of his finishes were calm and well taken.
- Given that the Wolves tactic from kick off was to sit deep and spring Żyro and van La Parra on the break, it was not surprising that after going 2-0 down, Fulham started to dominate the ball. Fulham played a very narrow 4-1-3-2 formation that relied on fullbacks Jazz Richards and Luke Garbutt supplying the width. Fulham had plenty of nice footballers through the middle, but like against West Ham, they were often squeezed out space. Apart from Alex Kačaniklić almost dribbling straight through us, Fulham's nice football only ever really found a sea of Wolves shirts, and were ultimately forced out wide to the fullbacks. It therefore wasn't a surprise when this led to Fulham's first goal, as midfield runner Lasse Christensen met Jazz Richards' cross and planted a firm header past Carl Ikeme.
- I couldn't work out whether Jackett played Coady on the right to combat the attacking left back Garbutt, or go give us an extra man against their narrow midfield. I was slightly surprised how Garbutt didn't attack more; Coady did a decent job defensively, but Garbutt could attack knowing that Coady is never really going to punish him if he got caught out. I do feel that sometimes playing a more advanced winger can also stop a fullback going forward; Richards on the other flank would have been far warier of Graham getting in behind him than Garbutt would have been with Coady. One of the issues that Coady had is once he in the first half he thought like a central midfielder, and found himself way out of position on the other side of the pitch. No-one tucked in on the right to cover him, and when the ball was well worked out wide by Fulham, Garbutt and Christensen had a 2 on 1 situation against Iorfa. Fortunately, they weren't able to do anything, and Coady was eventually able to get back into position.
- Today gave a perfect respite to those who feel that playing two strikers automatically means that a team is going to be attacking. Just as a 4-5-1 can be an attacking formation, 4-4-2 can be an effective defensive formation. We sat two banks of four, and effectively relied on van La Parra and Żyro to forage for themselves upfront, chasing numerous balls over the top. It was interesting that when Fulham attacked, and we left both van La Parra and Żyro upfront, Fulham didn't really know what to do. They were pushing the fullbacks forward, but this left Fulham's defence two v two with our forwards. It was not as if Jamie O'Hara, who was the deepest of Fulham's midfield was dropping back into the defence. But as the game went on, van La Parra came deeper and deeper out of possession, leaving Żyro as effectively the lone striker to battle with Fulham's defenders. Still the same tactic prevailed, looking to play him over the top, and he did have a chance to claim a hat trick but his effort was saved by Lonergan (he had actually had a far better chance in the first half, but someone put his shot wide of the near post). There were a few issues with this, as Żyro was continuously judged offside. I felt that at times he seemed happy to be a couple of yards beyond the Fulham defence, but at other times the pass was too delayed.
- Having done a lot of running, Żyro was visibly tired after about an hour; transfermarkt has him as playing just 11 games this season before signing, so I'm not sure what his fitness levels are likely to be like. Similarly, Graham went through a period where he gave the ball away a couple of times, and I was expecting both to be substituted. Adam le Fondre and James Henry went out for a jog, and I thought they would be the natural changes. But it took until the 83rd minute for Jackett to make a change, by which time Fulham had made two changes and changed a comfortable 3-1 lead into a tricky 3-2 score line. I've discussed Jackett's reluctance to make changes in the past, and I felt that the game was crying out for a change. Ten of the players against Fulham also started against West Ham, in a game that will have taken a lot out of them and I thought a spark of energy was needed with about 20 minutes to go. This seemed to be even more frustrating given that le Fondre cannot play against Cardiff in Saturday, and so I'd have thought that brining him on tonight would have been ideal.
- Finally, a word for Rajiv van La Parra. I've never been his biggest fan, but I thought this was one of his best performances in a Wolves shirt. Given that just a couple of weeks ago he almost certainly thought his Wolves career was over, his performance was very good. He worked hard, and linked up with Żyro nicely at times. I moved my seat tonight to sit in the Billy Wright stand, and found myself surrounded by five or six players who dislike van La Parra more than me. Despite van La Parra having a good first half, they were all wanting him to be taken off at half time, and were then amazed that he wasn't substituted before he was. I couldn't work out if I was watching a completely different game to them, but the reaction of the crowd when he was taken off suggested I wasn't completely losing it.
- Finally finally, what a hit from Matt Doherty. He doesn't get many, so make sure you see this one.pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2016:01:23:14:06:17 by Badge32.