Before piling in with too much criticism of a numbingly awful performance we might just engage ourselves with a touch of perspective. The listless no show at Carrow Road comes as no great surprise; this preponderance for mediocrity was fully in evidence as recently as the last away match at Crystal Palace and indeed, last season was liberally sprinkled with a succession of similarly desperately uninspiring performances.
We are operating with the same players with the addition of Trincao and Hwang who have both had their moments of quality. But both of them as evidenced at Norwich can quickly fall seamlessly into a trough of anonymity just like their new colleagues.
As sure as night follows day, there will be further excruciating repeats as this season unfolds. It’s ingrained in the DNA of the players and the process is inevitable. We can only hope that the failing is not rearing its ugly head too often.
That conceded, let’s consider our position in the league table; extremely pleasing I reckon; hovering around the top six. We have garnered twenty points before the onset of December; a very pleasing statistic especially as we lost our first three games.
We are operating with a thin squad; we are short of numbers and all fans are acutely aware that areas of the squad desperately needed reinforcements during pre-season. These glaring deficiencies have not gone away and surely some thoughtful transfer input is required in January.
A new head coach was not welcomed with the ringing endorsement of most supporters and he was faced with revitalising the spirits of a failing squad who had faltered badly. Wolves have exceeded all reasonable expectations so far this season.
Bruno Lage has done remarkably well and surely deserves the opportunity to recruit a sprinkling of new players akin to his way of thinking. Before a ball was kicked, pessimism was rife; we were relegation fodder, the owners we were told had lost interest, Nuno’s dream was well and truly scuppered.
It appears a whole lot more positive right now. After two superb performances against Everton and West Ham the call for ‘consistency’ was rife but at the risk of repetition, the reality is different.
Wolves don’t have the depth of squad or the resources to be solid every game. Only the very top sides can aspire to this aim which is why we shouldn’t get too hot under the collar about the dire drop in standard on Saturday. To suggest that Norwich are a soft touch was a bogus claim to start with; they wasted three gilt-edged chances to win the game and Wolves themselves know a thing or two about wasted opportunities in front of goal.
That we were the beneficiaries this time around sits easily enough with me. Any point secured on the road in this league is gratefully received; this one included with the clean sheet equally welcome. A totally forgettable game and a thoroughly mildewed performance but the trip wasn’t wasted. We’ll play a whole lot better and lose in the future; we didn’t lose on Saturday.
The 6am alarm seemed to coincide with the snow with no shelter now getting heavier and our taxi to town was cancelled. We managed to get to the criminally un-appointed Faulkland Street Coach Park with no shelter or amenities for any of the 100 plus `Hatherton Wolves' folk who stood shivering in a blizzard awaiting the arrival of the coaches.
Unfortunately due to the conditions the coach company cancelled the trip and we trudged into town where Bea and Jay Lane opened the doors of The Duke of York to provide warmth and respite from the conditions. Plans were then made for train or car travel especially when the Wolves football Police called me to advise the route was relatively clear from Rugby onwards. Several made the trip, others-myself included-managed to watch the game on a less than mainstream broadcast that we managed to find elsewhere in the city.
As for the match itself , one to be quickly forgotten. A lack of bite and energy all over but a point away and a clean sheet cannot be sniffed at so we go again on Wednesday. Now just checking my coat and boots have dried out.
An early start, scraping snow off the car roof and it was very cold and windy. It is days like these that you briefly wonder, why do I.....
A hundred miles down the road, passing Cambridge, the car is warm, the sleet had stopped, and things seemed far more positive.
As for the game, that depends on your preference. Defensively we did well. We had eight players who worked tirelessly to protect our goal and thoroughly deserved their clean sheet. Coady and Saiss in particular did well while, MOTM Sa, made his saves look straightforward, when in fact his positioning was excellent on at least three occasions.
Offensively our front three were all disappointing however. Despite our formation, which saw our two wing-backs hugging the touchlines and our front three playing closer together, they struggled to link up with one another. In the first half Jimenez and Hwang failed to retain the ball for any length of time while Trincao always seemed to make the wrong decision with his passes. Their movement off the ball was poor, being very static, which meant most attacks were constructed via balls played out wide to the wing-backs, who then found it hard to link up with anyone inside the box. Unfortunately, it is not the first, or second, time we have seen that happen recently.
By the interval it already had a 'last in Match of the Day' feel about it. Not a game for the neutral.
Far too often we had to be diligent in our defensive third as Norwich's new bounce saw them far more confident going forward. We did at least do well in that area. Collectively we won headers made tackles and covered any gaps and, for all their endeavour, Norwich only had few clear cut openings.
Our own attempts on goal were few and far between. Moutinho, Jimenez and Ait-Nouri had a chance each which was little to show in the ninety minutes. The fluidity and combinations we have seen against Everton and West Ham in particular are not being repeated often enough.
Waiting almost seventy minutes to make a change again felt late. Then once Traore was on there looked no urgency to give him the ball as our attacks mainly went down the other wing. Bruno then took Semedo off, for Dendonker, giving Traore more defensive responsibility, which seemed counter productive.
Defensively we can be pleased with our performance, although sterner tests than Norwich are sure to come. The greater concern however is our attack. It needs to offer a lot more which, in itself, will take some of the pressure off our overworked defence.
It’s difficult to understand how this can be the same team that played so well against West Ham a week ago. Only Podence was missing but this was a dire performance. We made Norwich look like World beaters and have Sa to thank for the point.
Norwich look rejuvenated under Dean Smith and they really went for it from kick-off.
Our defence coped pretty well, although Pukki did get into some good positions without looking like scoring.
Wolves had the lions share of possession, but it became an increasingly frustrating afternoon with so many sideways and backwards passes. Jimenez was having to come too far back in search of the ball; he had absolutely no service from his teammates. Hwang was a big disappointment. He appeared to be playing wide left but he too looked isolated and unable to link up at all with Jimenez.
Trincao had an absolute nightmare and I do not know how he stayed on the field for 68 minutes before being replaced by Traore.
Neves appeared to be the one with most desire to get things going but each time he played a forward ball we had three forwards against two lines of four defenders. Norwich were hard working and well organised and we created very little. I can only think of a Jimenez and a Moutinho effort on goal.
The tactics and timing of our substitutions is causing me concern. We could not break through their “two lines of four” defence so you could say it was the type of game where Traore could make a difference by running with the ball. He was changed and ready to come on at 60 minutes; didn’t actually get on until 68 minutes and when Semedo went off 8 minutes later, he appeared to be playing as a right-back!!!
That was shocking – what a waste.
A point away from home is never a bad thing, but this felt like a defeat.
Man of the match was Sa, followed by Neves, Kilman and Coady.
Very poor performance and at times it was like we were afraid of Norwich. Wrong subs from Bruno but we’re still sixth and we move onto the Burnley game.
Whenever we had the ball, we took so long to go forwards. Against a Norwich side that have conceded 27 goals, I was surprised how poor we were attack-wise.
Jose Sa had another very good game, if not for a couple of good saves and him being so commanding of his box, we’d have lost.
We didn’t make use of the wide areas anywhere near enough but early on we had the space out there to hurt Norwich. We offered very little all game and it was a similar performance to what we produced against Palace.
Neves being banned against Burnley is going to hinder us because we’re now forced to play Moutinho and Dendoncker together due to having a lack of midfield options.
Neves was always going to get a ban before the cut off point when only needing one more yellow in six games, Burnley are missing a couple of players through suspension and at least he’ll be available for Liverpool.