Saturday sees us travel to the black country to face Mick McCarthy’s struggling Wolves, currently amidst a relegation scrap and looking to climb out of the bottom three with a win in the days early kick off.
Wolves strategy and Intel
The Molineux outfit play something of a 4-1-4-1 system and predominantly attack down the flanks. Whilst at the back they are not too shabby, its going forward where they have struggled this campaign, registering the second fewest shots (264) with only shot shy Birmingham having mustered less.
Going forward, with Kevin Doyle on the sidelines the chief goal threat will be Sylvain Ebanks Blake who scored in the reverse fixture earlier this campaign. The formed Man United academy graduate has 7 league goals this term and averages a shot on target every 74 minutes. He will be looking to the flanks for the supply with Jarvis and ex Kopite Hammill likely to occupy the wing spots. Both play on their natural foot so expect them to provide genuine width and look to get crosses in rather than cutting inside. Jarvis is the most creative man in the Wolves ranks with 5 assists from the 51 chances he has crafted for an opponent this campaign – that’s a chance created every 50 minutes.
Whilst Wolves away form has been disappointing they are a match for anyone on their own patch, with impressive wins against Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and a draw against Spurs evidence of a solid home record. Indeed, with 7 games won at Molineux, they have recorded more home victories than any of the bottom 9 clubs, as well as ourselves.
Blues strategy and likely line-up
The one change from last weeks team which David Moyes will be pondering is giving Magaye his first start for the Blues. The French U21 International was superb in his second half cameo last week and with Seamus Coleman not 100% fit this represents an ideal opportunity to blood the direct winger /forward. There isn’t really much else in terms of options for Moyes, with last weeks bench not possessing a single premiership start and only Jack Rodwell of the injured players close to a comeback at this stage. As noted in last weeks Villa report though, Moyes is often better when his options are reduced in terms of offensive players, as was shown earlier this campaign when we had all our big hitters available and yet struggled to find any form.
One of the key battles will see our inform Leon Osman up against Karl Henry. The Wolves midfield anchor plays quite a rigid role between the midfield and defensive lines similar to the role Lee Carsley used to occupy for the Blues. Osman is in great form with 2 goals and 2 assists from his last 5 league starts and has looked the most threatening player for the Blues since coming back into the side. Aside from that, expect the usual threat from the Blues, with Leighton Baines looking to get forward at every opportunity and add to his mammoth 11 assists this campaign.
Whilst I would be confident that the Blues will score, its defensively where we still look vulnerable. We haven’t kept a clean sheet on the road since October last year and even last week when we had 7 defenders in the starting line up the nature of the goals we gave away where very avoidable. This campaign we have kept just 6 clean sheets – thats just a 19% chance then of keeping Wolves out. Compare this to the season we reached the cup final in 2009 when the figure was 45%. As a defensive coach, this is something which must be giving Moyes sleepless nights this campaign.
The Sky pundits will no doubt trot out the usual ‘Wolves need it more than Everton’ line before tomorrow’s match, and nobody would deny Wolves position is perilous. However, after the season we have had its vital that we cling onto this current momentum and at least finish the campaign on a high. Wolves are a solid outfit, especially at home, and they will compete for everything. If we can match this endeavour I am confident we can get a result, although it might be another draw. 1-1.