How Nuno’s system switch earned Wolves a point
In a game marred by some horrific refereeing decisions, Bournemouth and Wolves shared the spoils at the Vitality Stadium. The man in the middle, Roger East, got a number of things wrong including, but not exclusive to, a handball by Chris Mepham in the penalty area which went unpunished, an elbow from Jefferson Lerma which only warranted a yellow card and awarding a penalty when supposed contact was made outside the area.
Rather than looking at those decisions, we will analyse how Bournemouth and Wolves matched each other pound for pound throughout the 90 minutes and how, ultimately, a draw was a fair result. Admittedly, both Bournemouth and Wolves only scored from their respective goals from the spot. All the same, let’s embark on a journey to find out what happened as the rabid Wolves of Wolverhampton faced the Cherries of Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe’s side were without Callum Wilson and David Brooks which meant that Dominic Solanke and Josh King had a chance to form a partnership. Also, Mepham came in at centre-back for Steve Cook and the Welshman was involved in a number of incidents throughout the game.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were as you would expect. Ruben Neves, Rui Patricio and Diogo Jota came back into the side after being rested for the cup win over Bristol City, or in Jota’s case injured
Patterns of play
Both sides stuck to their guns and much like Wolves’ 1-0 win over Bristol City, it was very much a game of two halves. In the opening 20 minutes, Wolves were on top and despite not creating many clear-cut chances, all the balls were being played in the right areas.
Interestingly, Wolves focused most of their first-half attacks down the left-hand side. This is made all the more strange by the fact that Adam Smith was booked inside the first minute for crudely apprehending Doherty.
It was down the left-hand side where Jota was causing many problems for the Bournemouth back line. Just before Bournemouth were awarded their first penalty, Jimenez thought he had put Wolves 1-0 up.
Jota, forever the bullish attacker, muscled Mepham off the ball before squaring to Jimenez who had no problem firing home. In the eyes of East, though, it was deemed to have been unfair. For King to then be awarded a penalty as soon as the ball went up the other end, Wolves were beginning to feel rather unjustly done by.
First 15 minutes
While Wolves dominated the ball in the opening 15 minutes of the first half, it was Bournemouth who dominated the start of the second. Since the turn of the year, Wolves have been on the backfoot in the majority of the games in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. It would’ve been game over if Solanke had kept his composure after Coady got turned too easily and Willy Boly slipped.
As you can see, just before the 60-minute mark, Bournemouth had a big chance (0.39 xG) and at that point, the difference was a full goal on the xG scale. After that, Wolves slowly wormed their way back into the game. Boly and Leander Dendoncker both had good chances from corners but couldn’t get their headers beyond Artur Boruc.
It’s almost as if the Wolves players have a collective mental switch and they kick back into gear as soon as the 61st minute is entered.
Nuno gets Wolves back into the game
With Wolves a goal down and struggling to create anything of note, it was time for Nuno to earn his pennies. Ivan Cavaleiro was brought on for Jota as Nuno looked set to stick with his guns and not mess with the status quo of the 3-5-2. It was only once Dendoncker was withdrawn for the ever-improving Adama Traore that Wolves really got back into it.
Most people know what Traore’s game is: beat you with pace, and get the ball in the box. And yet nobody can seem to stop him. He teed up Doherty not too long after coming on, but the Irishman failed to produce the goods.
It was Doherty he won the penalty after he was brought down (again) by Smith. How it wasn’t deemed a second bookable offence, East only knows. Jimenez, not Neves, took the spot kick and coolly sent Boruc the wrong way from 12 yards.
Nuno accepts the draw
Cavaleiro brought Ryan Fraser down two minutes after Jimenez had equalised. Contact appeared to be made outside the box and even then it was debatable if it constituted a foul. However, the referee saw it fit to award a spot kick. As justice goes, King hit the outside of the post and the game remained finely poised with just over five minutes remaining.
It was, however, at that point that Jimenez was hauled off and replaced by Romain Saiss. This signified a change of style for Wolves as they sacrificed the 3-4-3 which had drawn them level and reverted to a 3-5-2 with Cavaleiro and Traore up front. Traore is a lot of things, but a striker is not one of them. Saiss slotted in seamlessly alongside Joao Moutinho and Neves and it was enough to see the game out.
The key question that needs to be answered here is why would Nuno accept a point? Thankfully, the answer is an easy one. Wolves’ next two games are against Huddersfield and Cardiff and providing Wolves pick up maximum points from those two games, the decision to protect the point at Bournemouth will be acknowledged as the right one. Wolves fell to Huddersfield and Cardiff in the return fixtures earlier this year though, so they need to be wary of lightning striking twice.
Howe’s Bournemouth side will no doubt feel they should’ve won the game. After all, if you have a penalty to win the game with five minutes left, you’d stake your life on the game being won. Wolves will feel aggrieved about a number of decisions that went against them, but as we’ve touched on a point is a good result in the grand scheme of things when you consider Bournemouth stuck four past Chelsea not too long ago.
On the menu next, Wolves travel to Huddersfield and Bournemouth face Arsenal in North London. Tasty.
Until the next time.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.