Analysis & Ratings: Wolves v Sunderland
Yesss! We did it. And you could sum it up in an analysis in just three words, really. PACE CREATES SPACE.
I promised you there would be some goals yesterday, and I was not wrong. But at first it looked like I was mistaken.
It was a first half without goals, but both teams went as close as you can get without scoring. Stearman actually headed one in after about twenty minutes, but it was correctly dismissed because of an offside, something that was very hard to spot when watching it live. But Stears was a couple of inches ahead of the Sunderland keeper when the pass was launched.
And the beautifully taken Richardson free kick – after handball by Elokobi after about half and hour in – was also about an inch from resulting in a goal for the Black Cats.
That was the two biggest chances in the first half, but Wolves were the team with the most chances and we had most of the play. Doyle had a great chance after a quarter of an hour in perfect position, but the ball flew over the bar.
And the team played soo good! Everybody did their part in chasing the holder and marking when Sunderland had the ball, making it very difficult for them to produce any constructively organised play. We are really becoming experts at closing teams down and that is due to very hard teamwork and determination.
But it’s that thing about scoring – or rather not doing it. Close but no cigar. How come? I’ve offered an explanation and a remedy when I’ve discussed this before and I believe that Wolves used it in this game. At least in parts of the second half.
Maybe it was because play opened up a little bit more in the second half – as both Sunderland and Wolves went for it – not satisfied with a draw. But you could also recognise a faster passing game from Wolves with the team turning quicker when they snatched the ball from an opponent and played it up in the deep.
Milijas is of course an asset when it comes to this type of play, but also the defenders. With Zubar back – and remarkably fit despite only an hour with the reserves after rehab – we had a force who always looks to go forward with pace or pass the ball up to midfield.
You who have read me before knows that Karl Henry is not one of my favorite players and I believe that I have proof now that Wolves actually turns play and goes forward with more pace when he is not around. Wolves did it after his read card and they are doing it again. He stops the ball moving forward to often when he is on.
Coming up to the Sunderland defensive area and finding it crowded with people is not a good environment to score in. And maybe especially not for Wolves, as we lack the tall striker at the moment.
That was proven many times in the first half and we should really score more on all the chances and all the corners we have. The corners are very good taken, but despite that we don’t find the goal.
I watched that especially on a rerun of the game and came to the conclusion that – else that we lack the height – the team are too immobile when they wait for the ball to come in. They have already settled on a spot and are much more easily taken out by the opponents defense.
The remedy to that is in my opinion to start a run from further out the area when the kick is launched, to get a much more hard to defend movement of the players. The headers gets harder too. Some teams practise this with very good results and I’m sure Wolves can do this aswell.
The Foley goal was a real relief. He showed that he has a killer instinct by being ready for a rebounce from the Jarvis shot and it paid off. Many of my friends wrinkled their noses when the teams were in and Foley was set to play on the wing. But from last season I knew that Zubar and Foley link together very well and that the lineup was not too defensive at all.
After Wolves had scored there were only one thing to do for Sunderland, to go forward. They did so with some success and could score an equaliser. Partly because not close enough marking by the Wolves defence, but mostly because the strength of the Black Cats are their world class forwards.
But their going forward more also opened up play and Wolves didn’t lack chances and they went forward with pace finding a not so crowded penalty area. But a defensive error gave Sunderland the lead and I admit that my thoughts were darkened then.
The pattern from previous games said that ‘this is it’. No points and Wolves firmly placed at the bottom of the tables. But the players didn’t think in those terms at all. They fought for their lives and the points and believed they still had a chance, and looking at how they played they of course were in the right.
It was Elokobi who made the equaliser with a very hard header that Gordon could stop but not get hold of. And the goal-thief Hunt – who came on as a sub for Jones after an hour – could benefit from it.
You could almost see the hope rise in the team after that and that Wolves wanted to win more than Sunderland. And it looked like Hunty was instrumental in getting his players to believe in victory. And when McCarthy brought on Ebanks-Blake from the bench my hopes were raised too.
And it only took a fast turn and run with pace by Doyle in the 88th minute to unlock the Sunderland defence by a beautiful cross to the foot of Ebanks-Blake – who found himself with enough space and time to shot a three-pointer into the back of the net. What joy!
I would like to bring to the attention that both of the replacements yesterday scored. That is good coaching and management by Mick McCarthy. Perhaps he should really be my Star Man in this match, but I only rate the players. Starting now.
Hennessey – 7 – Him starting was a surprise to many, but not to me. Hahnemann not only made a big mistake against Blackpool, he has acted unsecure in many games and his distribution was not good either. It’s a lot of pressure for a goalie in a team that lose many games. I think it got to him. Hens did very well and tipped an early chance over the bar and acted resolute and without faults. And he will get better and better for sure.
Zubar – 8 – This was a surprise for me and I was a little afraid that McCarthy had made him a starter too soon. But even more surprising he did very well and had the pace and timing necessary to compete on this level. He had very much to do on the right back, but stopped many attacks from completing. When going forward he was as good as last season and many of the Wolves attacks were originating from his runs and passes – often in close cooperation with Foley. I have a couple of players to choose from for my prestigious award, but Ronald Zubar was so essential for Wolves play and winning ways so he is in fact Paddytheflea’s Star Man!
Stearman – 6 – Yes, he let Bent slip through and score, but it’s a big club of players out there that has done the same. Sunderland owes their success to their world class forwards – in particular Bent – and it is close to impossible to take him out completely. Once or twice he is bound to get through. And Stearman is such a good passer, which is not common among Wolves central defenders.
But Stearman did well in the match as a whole and would have got a seven was it not for these slips. Nine referees out of ten would have given him that offside goal, so he could have been our hero – but he is not at all our zero in this game.
Elokobi – 7 – Maybe a surprise to some, but Elokobi has played as a central defender in the reserves and against Reading in pre-season and he did that well on those occasions aswell. But he made a couple of mistakes. Maybe he could have defended closer for that first Sunderland goal? But the same goes for Elokobi as for Stearman. And Big George was even better going forward than Stearman. And, as said above, he made a goal.
Ward – 6 – Not so much to do for him as for Zubar on the other side in the defensive work. But he linked with Jarvis very well going forward and had some very good crosses in the game. Spotted some of his weakness when Zenden went forward on a occassion. He backs off too much and should engage more in his defensive play. Otherwise a seven.
Mancienne – 7 – On the rerun I bettered his ratings. He runs for miles and had a very good game yesterday, protecting the back four. He was in the Sunderland forwards faces all the time and didn’t give them time to organise their attack. A better holding midfielder than Henry as he is taking the ball forward more and faster.
Foley – 8 – Captain for the day, but doubtful before the game. But there is no doubt that Foley had a great impact on the game. One of the driving forces going forward and now he masters the art of scoring aswell. Hats off for captain Kevin Foley!
Jones – 6 – He is a hard grafter, but not in the form we have seen him before. Perhaps because he has to play more games to get that timing that is essential for his role in going forward. Was substituted after an hour for my next rating subject.
Hunt – 7 – I said after the Blackpool game that I could spot some progress and he has been close to score in several games. He has a sense for being in the right place at the right time and used that to score yesterday. Well taken and an extra point. And he works very hard and runs miles aswell, trying to disrupt the opponents play.
Milijas – 8 – He was the creative force of the midfield yesterday and the playmaker that holds it all together. Not so close to score this time, but he was the king of the midfield and seemed to have less opposition from the Sunderland team than other we have met. Or is he getting better and better? Perhaps the most important player in Wolves play now.
Jarvis – 8 – We’re getting used to Jarvis’s high standard now. Without getting too much critique I could give him the star in each and every game. Lately he has changed his game and goes more inside the area and tries to score himself. Was very close on a couple of occassions and I want to see a goal against Blackburn, Matt!
Doyle – 8 – Many eights here, uh? Inflation? No! We were really this good and Doyler gets an extra point for his assist to the Ebanks-Blake goal (SEB will not be rated, as he played only for ten minutes, but those minutes were a tenner). He should have scored himself early on in the game, but I’ve forgotten that. What stands out is of course his work rate and the way he can hold up the ball and run, run, run.
Link to video highlights as always in the right margin below ‘Highlights 2010-11’ (Please tell me on comments if it doesn’t work).