Fulham 0-1 Wolves
- Goals: Adama Traoré (£6.0m)
- Assists: Fábio Silva (£5.2m)
- Bonus points: Nélson Semedo x3 (£5.2m), Rui Patrício x2 (£5.3m), Rayan Aït-Nouri x1 (£5.0m)
FEED THE PACK
Fantasy Premier League managers prepared to back Wolves’ appealing run of fixtures were rewarded by Friday night’s 1-0 win at Fulham.
A switch to a three-man defence played an important role in the clean sheet although it took an injury to Pedro Neto (£5.7m) to bring it about.
So, yet again, Fantasy managers may need to pay attention to Nuno Espirito Santo’s next press conference if they want to predict Wolves’ defensive shape for Double Gameweek 32.
“Let’s see how he is. Let’s assess. It’s been tough moments not able to settle down the team. Always players with knocks going out. Let’s see how he is then let’s try to recover him.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
The Molineux side has been at the heart of transfer and Wildcard squads for some time with Monday’s 3-2 defeat against West Ham causing potential suitors for Conor Coady (£4.8m) to look elsewhere.
Without Jonny (£5.4m) and Willy Boly (£5.4m), the Hammers created serious problems for Wolves’ back-four but even before an enforced formational change, they went largely untested at Craven Cottage.
Such an outcome will certainly chalk one up for the fixture-over-form school of thought and is one that suggests Wolves defenders can still offer some value between now and the end of the season, possibly even regardless of shape.
THREE’S A CROWD
Despite Monday’s poor defensive showing, Nuno opted to go with the exact same back-four against Fulham, rather than revert to his side’s tried-and-tested three-man defence.
That meant back-to-back starts for Rayan Aït-Nouri (£5.0m) at left-back, while Nélson Semedo (£5.2m) operated on the other side of Romain Saïss (£4.9m) and Coady.
However, when Wolves gained greater control of their defensive third came in the 32nd minute when Neto, operating on the right-hand side of attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, was forced off with an injury.
Central midfielder João Moutinho (£5.2m) replaced his compatriot, triggering a reshuffling of Nuno’s pack.
Leander Dendoncker (£4.6m) dropped out of midfield to join Coady and Saïss in a back-three, pushing Aït-Nouri and Semedo forward as wing-backs.
“Fulham were very organised and intense. Both teams were very compact.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Further up the pitch, Daniel Podence (£5.3m) held onto his number 10 role while Adama Traoré (£6.0m) tucked in from his left-winger role to join Willian José (£6.8m) in a two-man front-line.
As mentioned above, whether or not Nuno deploys a similar set-up against Sheffield United, could be dependent on what happens with Neto.
Meanwhile, Boly is expected back in training on Tuesday following his positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test and period of self-isolation. He has operated both in a two-man centre-back pairing and three-man defence this season.
Despite coming away from Fulham with all three points, Wolves’ Friday-night win did little to inspire investment in their attacking assets.
Neto is comfortably their best performer in that department this season with five goals and eight assists in the Premier League, so losing him for any length of time is sure to damage their goal-scoring potential, regardless of how appealing their fixtures look.
After Neto left the Craven Cottage field, Saïss’ league tally for the season (three) was equal to that of Wolves’ front-three (Podence, Traoré and José) and he even came close to finding an opener in the 68th minute when he shrugged off competition from Ruben Neves (£5.1m) for a wayward direct free-kick.
That rather damning statistic admittedly nearly changed in the first half when José nodded home a Podence cross, the effort ruled out only after the latest token contentious VAR call.
And Traoré finally dispelled the aforementioned statistical nugget with his impressive stoppage-time strike, assisted by Fábio Silva (£5.2m).
Still, despite appealing upcoming fixtures, the fact that it was his first goal since December 2019 shows just how unreliable an asset Traoré remains.
“I’ve been working hard on aspects with the manager, working on my feet and my runs in behind. If I can grow like a player it will help the team. I know the moment will come. I had one chance with my left in the first half and another chance in the second half. The final chance come and I take it.” – Adama Traoré
“Very pleased, very pleased. Adama is unique. He played in different positions. He started on the left and he go to striker. He worked very hard and with his speed and his talent he can really punish teams.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Fulham XI (3-4-2-1): Areola; Kongolo, Andersen, Aina (Cavaleiro 84′); A Robinson, Lemina, Reed (Maja 74′), Tete; Loftus-Cheek (Zambo Anguissa 63′), De Cordova-Reid; Mitrovic.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (4-2-3-1): Patrício; Aït-Nouri, Saïss, Coady, Semedo; Neves, Dendoncker; Neto (Moutinho 32′), Podence (Gibbs-White 74′), A Traoré; Willian J (F Silva 78′).