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Wolves Fans' Verdict v Leeds: Our small squad cost us!

Our Wolves fans have their say on the opening day loss at Leeds.

Morgan Gibbs-White (Getty)
Morgan Gibbs-White (Getty)

John Lalley

There’s a cost- of- living crisis so we’re not bellowing unreasonably for wanton profligacy, but it seems incoherent to be struck by inertia and fail to address long-standing problems that clearly call for urgent attention.

Maybe there will be some significant input at this late stage but the close-season was a major but not unexpected disappointment. As the days ticked by there was an inevitability that Wolves were unlikely to grasp the nettle; it came as little surprise that fundamental weaknesses so glaringly evident last season would be left to fester on the backburner.

There’s only so much you can wring out of a squad wafer-thin and desperately in need of positive intervention. Take for example our striking options which is a contradiction in terms to begin with. All hope was pinned again on Jimenez who has steadily been losing influence for some time. His injury threatens to further derail his diminishing input and the season-long loan of his anointed successor Fabio Silva suggests that the club are viewing his inflation-busting transfer fee as a strident warning not to be repeated at all costs. Value for money; Fabio Silva or Diogo Jota. Discuss.

Throw in the ridiculous long-term contract extension for Leo Bonatini and the on-going fiasco of Patrick Cutrone shuffling from place to place and it’s crystal clear why we rarely trouble the scorers. And what’s that you say? We desperately need an influential midfielder? Spot on and so far absolutely nothing doing.

When the owners secured the club, their mission-statement was aggressively ambitious and initially they were true to their word. Progress was phenomenal and the Premier League welcomed us as a truly outstanding addition to their ranks but now the modus operandi has considerably diminished. We failed to build on such a promising base and now the limit of our ambition appears to be surviving in this difficult League. Since promotion, we have never been threatened by relegation which is worthy of commendation and let’s hope we don’t settle for drifting into severe trouble of our own making.

We may well have taken something from an average Leeds outfit on Saturday but failed to cash in after a perfect start. When Leeds hit the front, reminiscent of last season, we couldn’t summon any sort of response. We’ve got some excellent players in our squad despite the dismal end we endured last year but my word, they could do with some help!

Liam Kennedy

Leaving Elland road yesterday was a strange one, I felt the performance wasn’t too bad and we showed some potential of what a back four could bring, however losing to a Leeds team that has just lost its best two players isn’t the ideal start.

The difference was Leeds had options they could bring in off the bench that Wolves simply didn’t have, no subs until the 85th minute and that sub is a winger ,who has played very few first team games, and then playing him in a position that isn’t his strongest is one of the clearest signs that Wolves need some more squad depth.

God forbid, but an injury to a Neves, Neto etc and Wolves could find themselves in big trouble this season. At the same time it’s important to remember it’s only the first game and as previously mentioned Wolves did show some really encouraging signs, especially going forward down the left, with Neto and Ait-Nouri causing Leeds real problems, and looked our most likely way to a goal in the second half.

Also, Collins and Kilman looked comfortable for the most part and seemingly will suit a back for with ease but the full-backs did show signs of still adapting to a four back as they got caught out a couple of times as Leeds attacked.

But the main thing to takeaway from this game is the lack of squad depth Bruno has and how important this next month is too deciding Wolves season.

Clive Smith

It is of course how you do over thirty-eight games that counts, but the final seven of last season, with just two points, has been hanging over us like a dark cloud.

The level of uncertainty that is always there at the start of the season feels at a higher level this time around. Will we be as solid defensively if we change formation? Will our attack be more productive given we have not changed the personal? Individually, what will the form of Jimenez, Neto, Jonny and Podence be like? Can the returning Gibbs-White and Traore be like new signings? And the transfer window, final judgement will come on September 1, but, have we done enough to maintain or improve the squad, would retaining Neves and Moutinho be the shrewdest deals? Time will tell and patience is likely to be in short supply.

We started at Leeds with a new formation but, with just one new player, there was a lot of familiarity about the overall performance.

A typically good opening spell away from home brought the reward of an early lead. A sweeping move started in our half by Neves was just the tonic we needed.

All eyes were on the new formation as much as the individuals. The Leeds press made it difficult for us to move the ball forward easily. From the back down our left, the Ait-Nouri / Kilman combo was just not getting the ball forward consistently. Possession was frequently lost in our half. It was contagious too as several times different players gave the ball away cheaply. The alternative long passes also proved difficult to retain the ball as the lack of height and physicality in our front four meant we were frequently beaten in challenges.

The soft approach from the referee did us no favours either. Shirt pulling and a couple of late hits on Neves not counting for anything.

When we did manage to negotiate their press we played some nice football. The give and go’s between our forwards stretched the play and we offered a threat. Too often though Hwang, MGW and Podence treated the ball like it was a hot potato. Step overs, dummies and fancy flicks are only good to watch when we keep the ball – too often it ended in an if-only moment.

By the break Leeds were back level, after Ait-Nouri, Neves and Sa contributed to us conceding a poor goal inside twenty-five minutes. We were perhaps lucky to not be behind at half-time as we could not stop crosses being played into our box although we did then generally cope with the ball well enough.

It must have been a good team talk at half time because we came out and played our best football of the match for twenty minutes. Just after the restart it looked like Hwang had signalled to come off but he continued to run the channels as Neves and Dendonker won possession and kept moving the ball around the Leeds box.

Penetrating the box was difficult as Leeds defended in numbers. Our final pass was just not quite good enough or a moments hesitation meant an opening had gone.

Two corners led to Dendonker and Kilman headers and it was disappointing neither resulted in a goal. Likewise when Ait-Nouri got to the byline inside the area but could not find an unmarked player with a pass.

We were undone by a routine cross that somehow reached the centre of the goal. They had played that similar ball a couple of times, this time it ended up in our net.

With fifteen minutes left all was not lost. Perhaps if Chiquinho or Traore or Jimenez or Moutinho has been available from the bench they could have provided fresh legs and the impetus for an equaliser. Instead the game was over, sadly we faded out of contention from that point.

During the game I have never seen so much touchline coaching from Bruno before. Terry clipboad Connor would have been nodding his approval.

Clearly we are not in a good place at the moment, but equally we are not far away either. MOTM Neves offers quality and our approach today was more forward thinking with far less sideways passing. Hopefully a player currently in the squad can become the goalscorer we so desperately need. Of those playing today Neto looks the most likely and if he can link up with a fit again Jimenez we should be back on track. Let’s hope so.

Rob Cartwright

There is much dismay about the lack of player options for Wolves; and rightly so.

This game only goes to prove the case as our worst fears played out before us.

The bench of nine subs was little more than a youth club outing with only Boly and Coady of note.

The game itself was very good. End to end stuff with Wolves playing a full part in an entertaining game. We got off to a dream start with an early goal.

A Neto run of old down the left, with a good cross to Hwang in the box who laid it back to Podence to score. Leeds came back at us with both teams having chances.

Ait-Nouri was dispossessed in the box leading to Leeds equaliser. I feel Sa should have done better here, beaten at his near post.

Wolves were playing well, though Leeds probably just shaded play in the first half.

However, Wolves got on top and we’re playing and creating much better, in the second half. We had chances to go in front again and we all know what happens if you don’t take those chances?

The significance of Leeds substitutions was immediately apparent. They made two around the 70 minute mark and a further two around 85 minutes. All Wolves really had were defensive options plus the exuberance of youth!

So, against the run of play, on 74 minutes Leeds scored on the counter attack when Ait-Nouri could do no more than put the ball in our own goal from a dangerous Bamford cross.

I felt we had run out of legs and now had the additional challenge of Leeds’ fresh legs to cope with. Campbell came on for a few minutes without impact.

Plenty of positives from the game, but you cannot ignore the fact our squad is woefully short of numbers and experience. To start the season in this way is scandalous.

I watched the game live at an American Sports Bar, in New Orleans.

It was a 9am kick off, in roasting heat and defeat was just as hard to take even though much beer was consumed!

Robbie Meakin

“I don’t want a scarf, I want a striker!” was the shout from my friend Dan, as we saw the effects of our threadbare squad.

In a time in which five substitutes are permitted, we saw Bruno make just one with five minutes to go as we trailed by a goal. Signings need to be made and quick, otherwise we’re in for a long and difficult season ahead.

After a positive start and scoring after just six minutes, it looked like things might have really clicked, but it was same old same old. No options from the bench and a lack of – what we all know to be there – quality from those on it.

I hate to do it, but I have to single out Rayan Ait-Nouri on his performance. Going missing for the first goal and then the same again for the second, before sticking the ball in the back of the net himself. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hugo Bueno given the nod against Fulham.

We got what we deserved on the day and I feel sorry for Bruno having to put up with a lack of activity from the powers that be.

We go again.

Adam Virgo

Great to be back following Wolves again, shame about the result though of course and if we had done transfer business earlier, maybe we could have won the game or at least got a point which I feel like we deserved but Leeds took their chances and we didn’t.

Felt like performance-wise we did OK, great opening goal from Podence, brilliance from Neves and Neto to create the opportunity originally but then we struggled against Leeds’ press until half time, although Dendoncker should have scored just before the break.

Second half I felt like we were in control but then they scored against the run of play and Bruno had nothing on the bench to really change anything. The fact we made one sub out of a possible five says everything you need to know.

We definitely need a couple of attacking players in, along with a central midfielder. With rumours of Batshuayi and Guedes potentially joining, they’d be fantastic additions and hopefully a midfielder on top and I think most fans would be relatively happy.

Definitely some positives to take from the game though, we looked a lot more creative than last season and like we can actually control games with the ball. Once we get Semedo, Moutinho, Adama and Raul back, with those potential additions, our squad will be much stronger and hopefully we can have a good season.

It’s more frustrating we couldn’t have had our transfer business done before the Leeds game, or at the very least got a striker in with Jimenez being injured and us loaning Fabio Silva out.

Chris Ward

Oh, wolves how I have missed you ruining my weekends again.

I was hoping my first fans verdict would be full of optimism and hope but instead I’m left deflated, disappointed and furious.

A weak Leeds team who scraped premier league safety at the end of last season were there for the taking but again our lack of killer instinct in front of goal has continued into what is now our third season.

Our squad depth desperately needs resolving, has there been a worse bench in premier league history? It’s borderline neglect to not invest in your asset like the hierarchy have let happen and unless something significant happens over the next few weeks we potentially could be in for a long old slog.

If a striker already wasn’t a priority, then this showing proves it most certainly is.

We created chances, 15 shots with 61 per cent possession in fact but one goal simply put is not good enough.

At times we looked fabulous, especially for the goal, the build-up that came with it and for the first 20 minutes of the second half.

Ait-Nouri for all his excellent pre-season was defensively naive, Jonny was sloppy, Sa looked shaky and Dendonker just doesn’t offer enough. Good to see Neto has that yard of pace back and that match sharpness, just wish he could have used it a little more at times. We are screaming out for legs in the middle still and that showed once again.

We have quality, there is no doubt about that just not enough of it. This is a squad game now with the option of making five subs but unfortunately, we just don’t have the numbers.

All in all, we just weren’t good enough in spells but there were glimpses of what these players can do in a new system which could make for an exciting season providing we add quality to this threadbare squad. A huge couple of weeks coming up for the Wolves recruitment team, which could very much define our future.

Fraser Bishop

Despite the result, it was great to have the Premier League back, or more specifically Wolves; however I had not missed the feeling of disappointment on a Saturday night after a defeat.

That being said, it was only game one, and Bruno’s side can take positives out of the loss and be encouraged by some of the football on display, particularly in the second half.

Daniel Podence could be in for a big season as Wolves’ switch to a back four hopefully enables more creativity and goals, so it was great to see him open his account for the campaign.

Pedro Neto and Rayan Ait-Nouri looked lively throughout and combined well down the left, and Leander Dendoncker managed to find himself in good goal scoring positions, as he often does, and could (should) have put Wolves ahead going into the break, meaning it could have been a different story.

However, Jose Sa looked uncharacteristically vulnerable. Not only did he get beaten at his near post for their equaliser, but he was fortunate in my opinion not to give away a penalty in the first half. But I won’t be too critical as he made just one appearance in pre-season and has showed time and time again just how capable he is.

A genuine concern however would be the youthful bench on Saturday which was another reminder of Wolves’ lack of depth at this moment in time. It’s been well documented that Premier League clubs can now make up to five substitutions during a match, however Wolves unsurprisingly did not take advantage of this making just one with five minutes remaining.

Whilst players who are currently injured, such as Jimenez, Adama, Semedo, Moutinho and Chiquinho would undoubtedly have made the bench look stronger, it is unlikely to have everyone fit at once, meaning our small squad provided limited options for Bruno as we looked to get back into the game.

Gabriella Mansell

After a bit of a bleak finish in May, a failure to recruit exciting new players in pre-season and a host of injuries, I entered our first game of the season fearing the worst.

Last season, we’d gone from a team contesting a top five position to finishing 10th. Hoping to put that to the back of my mind, a different back four and a promising start from Podence, got me excited.

We played some promising football, particularly the first 25 minutes of the second half where I thought we had it down. A lack of Raul or a suitable back up certainly cost us.

An unfortunate own goal from Ait-Nouri put our chances of a draw to an end. I’d say overall I’m feeling optimistic going forward, news of a deal for forward Guedes is reassuring but I hope it’s not at the cost of selling Neto.

James Pugh

Frustrating result after what I thought was a mostly positive performance. Always tough to throw away a lead, especially to a few silly mistakes from players who usually excel for us.

Ait-Nouri and Jonny just weren’t at the races, and may need some more time to fully adapt to a back four.

Podence looked lively, Collins is a tank, Hwang did an OK job and Dendoncker didn’t do too much wrong (when he’s not trying to shoot), I can see the latter being an important player this season.

What this game really did highlight though was the importance of the last few weeks of the transfer window, with the bench being extremely light.

I like Campbell but I was really hoping for a loan for him this season, with the view to excel the ways Gibbs-White, Corbeanu, Sanderson and Giles have, but it doesn’t look like Lage will have that option.

We need to find new ways to score goals and I am frothing at the thought of a Pedro Neto and Guedes link up, but an additional midfielder and a seasoned striker is essential. I can see us being one of the teams that the five sub rule really doesn’t help.

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