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The Joe Edwards debrief - Crystal Palace 1 Wolves 1

By Joe Edwards | Wolves | Published:

Diogo Jota’s late, late leveller saw Wolves pick up a morale-boosting point at Crystal Palace.

Diogo Jota of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

It prevented a run of four straight losses, which would have been a first under Nuno Espirito Santo, and could prove to be a massive moment in the season.

Turning point?

Diogo Jota’s goal – and more importantly, the timing of it – could prove crucial in the context in Wolves’ Premier League season

Down to 10 men, under the cosh for most of the second half, but Wolves found a way to grab a point. And the character displayed while at a numerical disadvantage cannot be underestimated.

This was not classic, eye-catching Wolves, but they were definitely the better side in the first 45 minutes – and would have been two to the good had it not been for a solid block from James McArthur, and a magnificent save from Vicente Guaita.

Their second-half slump – conceding shortly after the interval – carried on the concerning knack of only playing well for spells of games instead of the full 90.

But good teams, with strong-willed players, get something when they are not at full-flow.

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And Wolves kept clawing, kept scratching. They refused to throw in the towel and accept defeat.

When Jota slammed home from point-blank range, the emotion was palpable. All of the players ran up the pitch to congratulate the Portuguese. The travelling fans jumped for joy, and then let out a collective sigh of relief.

The win over Chelsea, when Wolves debuted the 3-5-2 system, was the game that started a thrilling journey last season.

And although this was less grand, and may not lead to quite such dizzy heights, we could well look back at this as the moment things changed for the better.

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Old becomes new

Nuno Espirito Santo reverted to a 3-4-3 system which served Wolves so well in the past

Speaking of the formation, Wolves started with the 3-4-3 which served them so well in the Championship.

Jota was on the left of the front three, Raul Jimenez through the middle and Adama Traore on the right.

And with it did come more fluency. Against Chelsea and Everton, there was a significant gap between midfield and attack.

The front two were isolated, holding the ball up and waiting for runners which, quite frankly, did not arrive.

But, with Jota drifting inside from the left, the link between the thirds was there for all to see.

It did not bring a goal in the first 45 minutes, but Wolves were certainly creative.

A 3-5-2 was adopted again in the second half, and then Pedro Neto came on and it was almost a hybrid of the two.

A 3-4-3 will not work every week.

After all, it was ditched in the first place because it left Wolves too exposed in the middle of the park.

But it is nice to see it has not been dropped completely.

Even if it is only a case of going with it for certain periods of specific matches, it is another ace up Wolves’ sleeve, and makes Nuno’s side less predictable.

Saiss silliness

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss (centre) receives a red card (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

With Ryan Bennett again denied his 100th Premier League appearance, being left out of the squad for the second league match running, Saiss was handed a chance to impress at the back. But, in a similar fashion to Willy Boly at Everton, he got sent off for two bookable offences.

The frustrating thing with the sending off was that it was completely and utterly avoidable.

Yes, Wilfried Zaha was giving him a difficult time, but after hacking him down for the first yellow, he should have known better than to clearly pull him down for what was a thoroughly-deserved second caution.

The silver lining is that he will only miss Wednesday’s League Cup clash with Reading – a match where Wolves are likely to use fringe players anyway – but it carries on the problem as to who completes the defensive three.

Conor Coady, even though he has not performed at the level we expect him to this term, is undroppable as there is no other player in the squad like him, and Boly – barring those moments of madness at Goodison Park – has shown himself to be Wolves’ most dependable defender.

But Saiss has been sent off and Bennett dropped after a few below-par displays, while Jesus Vallejo has underwhelmed since coming in on loan from Real Madrid.

That place in the backline is firmly up for grabs as none of that trio have made the most of their respective opportunities.

Will one of them step up to the mark soon? We’re all hoping so.

Patricio prowess

Rui Patricio of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

There is a reason why Wolves decided to bring in Rui Patricio upon promotion to the top flight. John Ruddy had been superb en route to promotion, but the club sought out that little bit extra – and with Euro 2016-winner Patricio, they have a man who thrives in important moments.

Christian Benteke, with Palace 1-0 up, tried to be clever by taking his time to shoot, waiting for Patricio to make his move one way, so the striker could put it the other.

But the Portuguese was not to be fooled.

He stood his ground and turned the tables back on the Belgian, who crumbled.

The shot ended up going straight at Patricio, who firmly won the battle of wits.

Then Jeffrey Schlupp tried his luck, racing through one-on-one and trying to slot the ball into the net.

Again, Patricio was having none of it as he quickly closed down the angle to make another vital save – before Jota equalised.

There were a few teething problems with Patricio, his distribution in particular costing Wolves on a couple of occasions.

But he has now cemented himself as one of the Premier League’s top shot-stoppers.

He rarely drops a clanger, and here he played a large part in coming away with a point.

Final thoughts

If Wolves are to build on this and get that first victory in the league against Watford on Saturday, it would help if they scored first.

They are yet to do this campaign and, in turn, have made it an uphill battle in every match.

Before the Hornets clash is the meeting with Reading at Molineux, though, and the general feeling is that Nuno may field a fair few of the squad’s younger players.

But while League Cup progress is not a high priority, winning a game of football very much is. Hopefully, the blend is right, and they do the business.

Joe Edwards

By Joe Edwards
Multi-Media Sports Journalist

Wolves fan turned Wolves correspondent for the Express & Star.

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