44 min “What do you think is the reason behind so many very early goals this season?” asks Justin Kavanagh. |There seems to be a serious increase in scores in the first five minutes of games. Are keeping it tight and early reducers now a thing of a long-distant past?”
I wonder if the absence of crowds means that players are more relaxed on the pitch so more disposed towards hitting their stride early and being careless early.
42 min Cut to Dele Alli sat under a blanket. I really hope he gets his career going again – I love the devil with which he plays. He’s not really what Paris need unless he’s ready to play deeper, but I’d not be surprised if Pochettino takes him there anyway.
40 min But have a look! Neves drives down the left and crosses long, Traore retrieving the ball and digging out a pass to round about the penalty spot. Sanchez is up but his clearing header is weak, falling nicely for Podence, whose volley is dragged a little and ends up as an easy save for Lloris. That was Wolves’ best chance so far.
39 min Wolves look to have run out of ideas already – their combination play isn’t really good enough – but as I type that, Neto and Podence exchange passes, the ball not dropping quickly enough for the latter to shoot.
37 min Reguilon has been given a lot of licence, collecting a pass slid into his stride by Kane but unable to find space to shoot or give it back thereafter.
35 min Spurs are disappearing time wherever they can, knocking the ball along the back 17 and asking Wolves to try and take it, while they attempt to pass around them.
33 min Wolves need to get Podence and Traore on the ball more than they have done so far, but I’m not sure how he makes that happen. Tell Neves and Moutinhoto move it quicker, I guess.
32 min It’s gone a little quiet, which will delight Mourinho.
30 min This is a much more open game than I feared. And even if Wolves lose it, this seems like a much better way for them – they score far too few goals for a team with such good attackers, and sing them properly is the only way they’ll get to the next level.
28 min Hello! Semedo squares up Davies and lanks by him on the outside, snapping over a low cross that Silva is onto! He does everything right, using its pace to flick towards the near post, but his radar is off and he can only ruffle the side-netting.
27 min Why are Spurs playing in Arsenal’s away kit from 1983-84?
26 min Traore races towards the line and digs out a cross, that flies well beyond the far post.
25 min Wolves were starting to come onto a game just before that stoppage but it’s Spurs who start the stronger after it, Ndombele – who’s proper enjoying himself – beating a man before sliding a ball in behind Coady for Kane, Under normal circumstances, Kane’s getting nowhere near that, but Coady looks to have lost a step, so he’s beaten by the ball not by the defender.
22 min Coady goes down holding a long limb. We’ve not yet seen what happened to him, but I don’t think it was in a challenge.
21 min Brilliant from Ndombele, intercepting a pass and driving forward while wearing various challenges. As he nears the Spurs box, he has an option either side – Kane right, Reguilon left – so of course he picks the latter, who plops a poor shot straight at Rui Patricio.
20 min Wolves move the ball about midfield before Neto tries to finds Marcal down the line, overhitting his pass to his obvious disgust.
19 min I really enjoy Podence’s calmness on the ball and low centre of gravity, skills he deploys to good effect when squaring up Reguilon down the side of the box. But after some nice feet and just when things open up, he slides a square pass to no one.
18 min …and he curls directly into the wall. That was not a good effort.
18 min Wolves win a free-kick 25 or so yards out, just right of centre. Saiss is going to have a dig…
14 min Ndombele picks up possession just outside the Wolves box and ducks back inside, sending Marcal for a bag of balti before clipping a fine cross into the middle that Reguilon – that is not a misprint, please do not adjust your television sets – heads wide.
13 min Podence goes down in a tackle with Sanchez, out wide, and stays down suggesting he’s had his achilles felt. It didn’t look like much, but he asks for treatment before getting up as good as new.
12 min Lovely from Traore, who weaves infield and around two half-hearted challenges before sliding a square pass to Podence. His best chance to shoot comes immediately, but on the edge of the box, reckons he can fashion a better one so winds up bobbling a poor one that Lloris saves easily.
9 min Wolves are struggling to get into this. I’m not sure how Neves and Moutinho will be able to compete with Hojbjerg, winks and Ndombele, because even if they have the passing, they don’t have the legs.
7 min Mourinho will be delighted with Spurs’ start to this game. They made the goal because Davies passed forward and Son was alive to opportunity , and they’ve carried on making the running. As I type that, Winks slides a pass into space for Doherty and Marcal does well to poke away from him, only for the ref to appraise a foul. The free-kick comes to nowt.
6 min Ndombele needs to score more – Spurs can rely on Son and Kane to get most of their goals, but there’ll be times when other players need to get involved. Ndombele has so many attributes that he must be capable, it’s whether he can get into the right positions.
4 min As we thought, Wolves are playing a back four, Spurs a back five – or seven when the midfielders drop in. Meanwhile, Podence dashes in behind Doherty and smites a low cross that eludes everyone.
3 min For the sake of the spectacle, a Wolves goal would probably have been better, but this is still helpful.
GOAL! Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Ndombele 2)
This a very soft goal, but Wolves are bang in trouble. The corner is a poor one but makes its way over to the far side of the box, where, Davies lays back for Ndombele. From 18 yards, he connects well enough, but doesn’t hit the corner or even close to it, it’s just that someone, Saiss I think, sticks out a leg to block and misses. If we’re being kind, it blocked Rui Patricio’s line of sight and his dive comes too late to stop the ball fizzing by, but ye’ve gottae stop those.
1 min A long, straight ball from Davies seeks Kane but finds Son, and he dashes by Saiss before swivelling into a cross that wins a corner.
The players take a knee. Fight racism and injustice – it’s incumbent upon all of us.
Email! “This title race,” says Digvijay Yadav, “presuming there will be one between United and Liverpool – is 2008-09 in reverse and I am not sure I quite like having the shoe on the other foot.”
Yep, I see the similarity – although that Liverpool side was much closer to its peak than this United one. They do look like the two best teams, but United don’t have the necessary ruthlessness at either end of the pitch. If they win their next two then also win at Anfield, we’ll see – the kind of run they found at the end of last season would take them close – but usually, the best side gets however many points they need, and that’s Liverpool.
Looking again at the Spurs team, I guess it’s possible that Davies plays left-back with Reguilon ahead of him. That would give a good buffer against Traore, but might expose Doherty on the other side, whose used to playing as wing-back alongside a three.
Nuno tells Sky that Raul Jimenez will be in the crowd and it’s nice to have him around. He hopes Adama Traore will show his talent, but is not after revenge following Spurs’ late win at Molineux last term.
Mourinho has made four changes, nit because of poor play or fixture congestion, but because “It’s just normal”. He has a good squad and lots of options, so has picked the best team available to him, but won’t say hether he’s gond to five at the back.
Of course you can. “Really good organisation” was how he put it, but what he really meant was:
Geoff Shreeves has just asked Sam Allardyce what the key to today’s result was. Can you guess what he answered?
All that said, the class of Son and Kane remains the factor most likely to decide this match, and though they probably expected to be up against a three centre-backs, they’re probably looking forward to bullying two. Wolves don’t have a particular antidote to that, because they’ve only two central midfielders and neither is into that kid of thing, but if Spurs allow them the majority of the possession, they might be able to keep the ball closer to the other end.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Podence does today. He looks a really good player, full of confidence, attitude and bustle, and I think Spurs’ three centre-backs might find him hard to find. Similarly, I’m excited to see Adama Traore have a go at Sergio Reguilon, who might be able to match him for pace but will have to come up with something when they’re involved in a physical tussle.
I’d love to know what Mourinho thinks Spurs can do this season, and how he thinks he can bring it about. He’ll fancy himself to nab the League Cup – if he can, that’ll satisfy most of Spurs’ support – but for a whole it looked lie he thought the title was in play too. And it is, but surely not to a team who sit back in every game, thereby inviting pressure onto a sketchy defence.
This should be a more entertaining match than I feared. With that XI, Wolves have little choice but to push the pace, and Traore and Podence in particular have the chops to find space between wing-backs and centre-backs. Spurs will still be stodgy, but hopefully we’ll get a clash of styles, which will make for something enjoyable.
At Anfield, West Brom snatched a late equaliser against Liverpool. Rob Smyth has all the reaction.
As for Spurs, they move to a back five – perhaps Mourinho wanted to match up with Wolves, then back his better players. So he brings in Sanchez, with Alderweireld dropping to the bench, and Davies; outside them, Aurier is punished for his Leicester misbehaviour and replaced by Doherty, returning to his former club. Otherwise, Sissoko drops out of a midfield that’ll be missing Lo Celso for the entirety of holiday period, with Winks coming in, which is to say there’s not loads in the way of creativity here. However, given Wolves’ line-up, there should be joy to be had on the counter.
So what does it all mean? Well, Wolves have been struggling with things recently, forcing Nuno to try things outside of his usual three at the back. But tonight, he’s got no choice because Willy Bly isn’t fit, so he goes for flat four, leaving out Kilman and bringing in Marcal for Ait-Nouri at left-back. This allows him to deploy an extra attacker, so as well as Traore replaing Otasowie, Silva also comes in to act as a focal point, which is to say that with a two-man midfield of Moutinho and Neves, Wolves are absolutely going for it.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (a quizzical 4-2-3-1): Patricio; Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Marcal; Neves, Moutinho; Traore, Podence, Neto; Silva. Subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Ait-Nouri, Vitinha, Perry, Cundle, Kilman, Otasowie, Corbeanu.
Tottenham Hotspur (a scroogalacious 5-3-2): Lloris; Doherty, Sanchez, Dier, Davies, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Winks, Ndombele; Son, Kane. Subs: Hart, Alderweireld, Lamela, Rodon, Sissoko, Alli, Bergwijn, Aurier, Tangana.
Football is a sport of eternal questions, but with this particular fixture, one in particular stands out: will the ball leave the centre-circle? What’s bizarre about it all is that both sides have excellent attackers who are far better than their defenders, problem being both also have managers for whom risk is boardgame played by other people and joy a frivolity indulged by other people.
Given a three-year course of dealing, along with the injury to Raul Jimenez and the absence of serious pressure, we can’t expect Wolves to get after it today, but with Spurs there is hope. Most likely, that’ll incite José Mourinho to even greater acts of dourness, but he will surely suspect that his counter-attacking strategy is especially unsuitable against today’s opponents, and will absolutely know that his team badly need a win, which is to say that isn’t actually working that well.
Of course, he might just blame the players, but ultimately he’s a pragmatist not an idealist, and getting Harry Kane and Heung-min Son more involved in things is not all that much of a reach. Similarly, if ever there was a time to pick a second attacking midfielder to play with Tanguy Ndombele, this is it.
Yeah yeah, alright – who am I trying to kid? This could be devastatingly dire, but there’ll be so many good players on the pitch it might also be really good.
Kick-off: 7.15pm GMT