WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1-1 NEWCASTLE UNITED
- Goals: Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) | Jacob Murphy (£4.9m)
- Assists: None | Callum Wilson (£6.5m)
- Bonus: Jimenez 3, Murphy x2, Romain Saiss (£5.2m) x 1
Newcastle United repeated their Gameweek 3 trick of wrestling a scarcely deserved point from the clutches of a miserable defeat at Molineux on Sunday.
Jacob Murphy‘s (£4.9m) late free-kick brought Steve Bruce’s side level, ten minutes after Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) looked to have given Wolverhampton Wanderers all three points with his fourth goal of the campaign.
While not quite a bogey team, the Magpies have proven to be a tough nut to crack for Wolves since their promotion back to the top flight: this was the fourth league meeting in a row between the two sides that has ended 1-1.
The supposed fixture swing for Wolves in Gameweek 3 hasn’t led to a glut of goals, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side scoring on just three occasions in the last four matches – despite facing the likes of Fulham and Newcastle in that time.
After a promising start on Sunday, the game became a bit of a non-event and it underscored an ongoing issue with Wolves’ attack, particularly against the also-rans of the division.
Twelve of Wolves’ 16 shots against Newcastle, including Jimenez’s goal, came from outside the box, with the hosts not really creating a single gilt-edged chance all match.
Asked about whether other players bar his Mexican striker should be sharing the workload on the goalscoring front, Santo said:
Yes, of course. We want all the players to score the goals, of course. I want every player to score 30 goals if possible. That’s what I’m trying to work on, trying to improve.
We had a lot of shots, not all of them on target. Let’s try to improve on the final delivery and the clinical moment of shooting on goal, making the keeper work. We didn’t test the keeper too many times, not too many shots on target.
Perhaps the Gameweek 3 thrashing at West Ham was a turning point.
Since then, Santo has proceeded with caution in tactics and personnel: Adama Traore (£6.4m) hasn’t started a single game, the defensive-minded Leander Dendoncker (£4.9m) has started all three in central midfield and centre-half Romain Saiss (£5.2m), admittedly through necessity at first, has been deployed at wing-back.
Wolves have seldom battered sides since their return to top flight and, despite his early-season words about wanting more goals and giving his players “more freedom”, it could be that the defeat at the London Stadium was a reminder to Santo that his success so far has been predicated on solidity further back.
The loss of Diogo Jota (£6.3m) and Matt Doherty (£5.8m) has also deprived Wolves of two sources of goals, with their replacements impressing but so far not offering that same threat in front of goal.
PODENCE-IAL ROTATION RISK
Those Fantasy managers who moved for Daniel Podence (£5.5m) ahead of the aforementioned fixture swing have seen little for their investment, with the budget midfielder blanking again on Sunday.
The Wolves winger started the game very promisingly, chancing his arm from distance twice in the opening 10 minutes and forcing Karl Darlow (£5.0m) into one of just two saves he had to make all match.
A lovely bit of interplay beween the hosts’ front three led to another blocked Podence shot just after half-time, with the Portugal international then setting up both Jimenez and Pedro Neto (£5.0m) for chances of their own.
It all counted for nought though as he was hooked not long after the hour-mark for the third game running and the clamour for Traore’s return may be getting louder, with Podence potentially most at risk.
That’s because the equally-impressive Neto has been an ever-present starter this season and it’s perhaps significant that it has been Podence who has been hooked first in each of the last three Gameweeks, with Traore taking his place on two of those occasions.
SITTING ON DEFENCE
Wolves were already joint-top for clean sheets heading into Sunday’s match but they would have had an outright lead had Murphy’s free-kick not found its way past a poorly formed wall and an equally culpable Rui Patricio (£5.5m) in the dying minutes.
The visitors had created next to nothing before that, with their total of five efforts on goal the lowest of any side in Gameweek 6 so far.
Santo said of his side’s defensive display:
We were solid and didn’t allow chances to Newcastle, we were solid on that part. But, of course, we’re upset.
All the game we were in control, managing well. It was a good goal, but it was disappointing to make a mistake in the final moments of the game. The ball cannot go on that side of the wall. The set-up was not the correct one.
There is little concern about the competency of the Wolves backline (they have banked 12 clean sheets in their last 20 league games) but there may be a degree of uncertainty about the personnel within it.
Conor Coady (£5.0m) and Willy Boly (£5.5m) are nailed at the back and Nelson Semedo (£5.5m) looks fairly secure at present, but the left-hand-side of the defence is tougher to call.
Saiss cheekily banked a clean sheet and a bonus point thanks to his 68th-minute withdrawal with the score at 0-0, with that haul catapulting him back to the top of the FPL points table among Fantasy defenders.
The substitution itself might be a medium-term cause for concern, however, with Saiss understandably offering little in the way of attacking threat from left wing-back and replaced by a more natural fit in the shape of Marcal (£4.9m).
Wing-backs have been crucial to Wolves’ set-up under Santo and if Marcal is recalled this Friday, which is by no means a given, then it could be Saiss and Max Kilman (£4.1m) who are competing for that third centre-half spot alongside Coady and Boly.
The decision would have been an easier one to make had it not been for Kilman’s recent displays, with the former futsal star again turning in a solid showing on Sunday and denying Callum Wilson (£6.5m) with one fine challenge early on.
With Newcastle short of numbers in the middle of the park – a half-fit Isaac Hayden (£4.9m) only on the bench and Jonjo Shelvey (£5.4m) now set to be sidelined for a long period after groin surgery – Steve Bruce turned to the tactics of his predecessor for this match.
The resultant display was, not for the first time this season, predictably short on attacking threat, with Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.3m) cutting a frustrated figure despite given a free role and eventually taken off.
It did lead to a more solid defensive display following the 4-1 loss against Manchester United, however, with Wolves comfortably kept at bay for the most part and Jimenez only breaking the deadlock from distance.
It remains to be seen if the Magpies again set out with a defence-first approach to stop Everton in Gameweek 7, with Bruce explaining after the game that he wants his side to be “hard to beat” while also evolving from the Rafael Benitez era:
We didn’t have any natural midfield players who want to win the ball back today. We have to defend better than we have done of late, we have to be hard to beat.
We are trying to find a balance to the team, it won’t happen overnight but we are trying to change the way we play.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI: Patricio, Kilman, Coady, Boly, Saiss (Marcal de Oliveira 68′), Neves (Moutinho 83′), Dendoncker, Semedo, Neto, Podence (Traore 68′), Jimenez.
Newcastle United XI: Darlow, Murphy, Lewis, Fernandez, Lascelles (Carroll 88′), Schar, Almiron, Hendrick, Fraser (Joelinton 78′), Saint-Maximin (S Longstaff 78′), Wilson.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FPL GAMEWEEK 6
- Aston Villa 0-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 1-1 Manchester City
- Fulham 1-2 Crystal Palace
- Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
- Liverpool 2-1 Sheffield United
- Southampton 2-0 Everton
- Wolves 1-1 Newcastle United
- Arsenal 0-1 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
- Burnley 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
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