Wolves v Southampton: Nuno’s plans keep opposition guessing

Flexibility could be the key to success when Wolves return from the international break tomorrow.

Adama Traore of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA/Sam Bagnall)
Adama Traore of Wolverhampton Wanderers. (AMA/Sam Bagnall)

It is handy to have the ability to keep the opposition guessing, and Southampton will have been pondering as to how Wolves will be set up at Molineux, writes Joe Edwards.

Will they stay with the 3-5-2 formation which was used flawlessly in the sublime win at Manchester City before the international break?

Or will they revert to the 3-4-3 system which blew away Watford last time out at Molineux, and was also deployed in the last-gasp Europa League victory at Besiktas?

It is difficult to predict which one Nuno Espirito Santo will go with as Wolves look to keep up their hot streak.

What is for sure, though, is that it is lovely to be able to shift from one set-up to another – keeping that all-important identity along the way.

In fact, this is the most versatile Wolves have been under Nuno.

In the Championship-winning team, 3-4-3 was used exclusively.

And when that was ditched for 3-5-2, that was stuck by for several months.

But now, Wolves are unpredictable – in a good way.

If things are not working in one formation against the Saints, Nuno can switch to the other.

Adama Traore could start at right-wing-back, as he did at City, or up front – from where he scored both goals at the Etihad.

You would back him to do a fine job in either position, too. Matt Doherty, who was on the bench at City but could easily start this one too, is a fan of the flexibility.

“We played with wingers the whole of the Championship season and first half of last season, so it is something we are used to,” said Doherty.

“We played it really well when we did play it.

“So, it is two kind of shapes that we are able to play as well as each other which is good because we have the opportunity to change from one to the other.”

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton have also shifted between two systems – a 4-2-2-2 and a 4-3-3 – but with less success.

They are outside the drop zone on goal difference having picked up two wins, one draw and five losses.

Hasenhuttl reckons it will be a tight affair and all about who is strongest on the counter-attack – an area he feels Wolves excel.

“I think they’re a very well organised team. Good strength on counter attacks,” he said.

Wolves are assessing the fitness of Diogo Jota (foot), Romain Saiss (hamstring), Pedro Neto (heel) and Morgan Gibbs-White (back).

None of the injuries are thought to be severe.

Leander Dendoncker is looking to be involved after he missed Belgium’s games over the international break through illness.

Meanwhile, Cedric Soares and Moussa Djenepo have been ruled out through injury for the Saints.

Likely line-ups:

Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Boly, Coady, Bennett; Otto, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Traore; Jimenez, Cutrone.

Subs: Ruddy, Vallejo, Kilman, Saiss, Doherty, Gibbs-White, Jota.

Southampton (4-3-3): McCarthy; Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Danso; Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong; Redmond, Adams, Ings.

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