Not for the first time this season, Wolves’ Fantasy assets underwhelmed on their own turf.
We discuss the fall-out from this latest home defeat at Molineux, with the salient FPL talking points, manager quotes and injury updates covered in this Scout Notes piece.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Jordan Ayew (£5.7m), Luka Milivojevic (£6.1m)
- Assists: Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m), Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m)
Nuno Espirito Santo admitted that his side need to address their form at Molineux after this latest 2-0 reverse at the hands of Crystal Palace – their fifth loss in seven home matches.
The Wolves boss also pinpointed exactly where the game was won, with the West Midlands club’s usual effectiveness in wide areas somewhat lacking:
We have to improve at home, we have to find solutions. Different scenarios.
Today, Crystal Palace took the space and we were not creating enough in the wide areas. This is our game, wide areas, one v. ones, combinations. When this doesn’t happen, the game starts coming inside and it’s easier for who’s defending. So we have to find solutions at home.
Wolves might be one of those sides who are more potent away from home or playing against “big six” clubs, able to exploit their undoubted strength on the flanks much more easily when they are hitting teams on the counter-attack: see their recent 3-1 victory over Spurs in Gameweek 20 and the exhilarating 1-1 draw with Arsenal in November.
When the onus is on them to attack at home, their somewhat one-dimensional set-up (Santo steadfastly sticking with a 3-4-3 or variations thereof) is easier for defensive-minded opponents to negate by funnelling them into central areas where they are less effective: see the 2-0 home defeats to Watford, Huddersfield and now Palace.
Santo’s outfit have actually got more points and conceded five fewer goals on the road than they have on home soil, with three of their four victories at Molineux coming in wide-open, counter-attacking matches in which the visiting side had registered more shots on goal.
All three of Matt Doherty’s (£5.2m) goals have come away from home, meanwhile.
Doherty’s owners needn’t lose much sleep over this defeat, however.
For all Palace stymied Wolves’ creativity on the flanks – Doherty and Jonny (£4.3m) only registering one key pass and take-on apiece – the Irish wing-back still popped up in some dangerous areas and could so easily have scored his fourth goal of the season.
Both of the hosts’ big chances came in the same situation, with Willy Boly‘s (£4.6m) completely mistimed free header bouncing awkwardly for Doherty, who could only nod over from close range.
Doherty then couldn’t react in time when Ivan Cavaleiro‘s (£5.2m) cross found him on the edge of the six-yard box, the ball bobbling off his midriff and into the arms of Vicente Guaita (£4.2m).
Raul Jimenez (£6.4m) cut an isolated figure up top, with one ambitious 30-yard effort summing up Wolves’ attacking endeavours.
The Mexican striker wasn’t helped by some middling displays from Cavaleiro and Helder Costa (£4.8m) either side of him, both of whom were hooked in the second half.
Romain Saiss (£4.2m) took a knock to his knee in the closing stages and had to be replaced, but Santo said he didn’t think the injury was serious:
It was impact on the knee, but everybody that trains and works every day has problems they have to deal with.
Palace have struggled for goals this season but their defence has provided Fantasy managers with plenty of joy – or not, for those who serially bench Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.4m).
Only Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs have kept more clean sheets than Palace this season (eight).
In the 15 matches in which Wan-Bissaka, James Tomkins (£4.3m), Mamadou Sakho (£4.9m) and Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) have played 90 minutes together as a unit, Palace have kept seven shut-outs and conceded only 16 goals.
Sakho was the pick of the Palace backline last night, picking up a bonus point – his ninth of the campaign, all gained without an attacking return – to go with his clean sheet.
That double-chance for Boly and Doherty was Wolves’ only real clear opportunity of the evening and as the game grew on, Palace posed more of a threat at the other end of the pitch.
Jordan Ayew (£5.7m) was brought back into the starting XI as Roy Hodgson switched to a 4-3-3 and the Ghanaian repaid his manager’s faith by opening the scoring on 82 minutes, controlling a wayward van Aanholt shot and firing past Rui Patricio (£4.5m).
Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) had more penalty box touches than Ayew in Gameweek 21.
Hodgson paid tribute to Ayew, who has been a bit-part player for much of 2018/19:
He has done a lot of good work and he did a lot of good work tonight before the goal. I thought his defending and his stretching of the defence, and his hold-up play when we got the ball up to him, all of those things were good.
But when you are a forward you do need goals, if people are really going to regard you as a good forward, and he has had to wait for that goal.
The games against Manchester City and Chelsea, you sometimes modify your line-up, or system at times. We stick to the same principles, but we are lucky enough to have that flexibility to sometimes play with one, two or three up front, like we did today.
Occasionally, he gets sacrificed in those moments when I decide it will be Wilf and Andros up the front, but it was good to bring him back in the team tonight and it was good to see Wilf and Andros do so well in the wide positions.
Ayew might be given an extended run in the team, too, with Hodgson confirming that a deal for Dominic Solanke (£4.7m) was now dead in the water.
Christian Benteke (£6.3m) is nearing a return, however, as Hodgson revealed in his post-match press conference:
We hope he will get fit and train with us tomorrow, and be hopefully back with us over the course of the next week. He is probably technically able now, but if he gets himself match-fit that to some extent will be like a new signing this year, because we haven’t really seen him at all.
If there are other players the club can bring in, I certainly won’t be averse to that because we have a very small squad and we don’t have a lot to back us up, and there is a risk that one or two players in the squad may be going out.
Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) hasn’t scored since Gameweek 5 and was largely well-shackled by Ryan Bennett (£4.1m) down the Palace left, though the Ivorian did get the better of his marker in stoppage time to win the penalty that Luka Milivojevic (£6.1m) converted.
Wolves XI (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Saiss (Neves 73’), Jonny; Costa (Gibbs-White 64’), Jimenez, Cavaleiro (Adama 84’).
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; Kouyate, Milivojevic, McArthur; Townsend, Ayew (Wickham 88’), Zaha.
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