Wolverhampton Wanderers – Match Report vs Leicester City 08/11/20

Leicester came into this game against Wolves off the back of five wins in the row in all competitions. Comparatively, Wolves have struggled scoring this season and have been branded very conservative in their style of play, with a defensive approach to games, and when they do they have the ball they tend to move it very slowly creating little chances. This was the story of this game, Leicester dominated the possession in the first half in a 3-4-3 formation, but with Denis Praet and James Maddison playing as inverted forwards, it was practically a 3-4-2-1 formation. Leicester’s wingbacks kept their width very well which enabled the Leicester centre-backs to always have an outlet ball, and this also created lots of space in the middle of the park for Leicester to exploit which helped them keep possession for long periods of time.

Vardy opened the scoring from the penalty spot after a harsh VAR call (you can probably guess it was for handball), and he had the chance to double Leicester’s lead at the end of the first half from the penalty spot again, however this time it was saved. After the break it was Wolves’ time to control possession, however they failed to create any clear cut chances; partially due to a lack of creativity and poor movement up top, but also due to Leicester’s effective low block who didn’t allow any time on the ball for the Wolves attackers. Overall, it was a fairly dull game with a non-penalty xG of 0.49-0.74. But the three points went to Leicester, who climbed top of the league whilst a disappointing Wolves languish in 9th.

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for their level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Pedro Neto

  • Nationality: Portuguese
  • Age: 20
  • Date of Birth: 09/03/2000
  • Current Club: Wolves
  • Career: SC Braga, Palmeiras (Y)(L), Lazio, Wolves
  • Position: Right Wing
  • Secondary Position: Left Wing
  • Preferred foot: Left

Neto was the only Wolves player who brought any energy or excitement to the game, and he was Wolves’ only outlet in the first half. He was always a threat on the break with his speed and acceleration; he liked to knock it past the defender and run after it, especially when he was up against Christian Fuchs. However, his large touches when running into space varied and were largely inconsistent as he took the ball wider than he would have liked. He showed good agility and balance to skip past defenders and to avoid challenges, when he did beat defenders his final ball was lacking. Neto had a few cutbacks that were intercepted and didn’t seem to be played to a Wolves player in particular, but he wasn’t helped by the lack of support from his teammates.

Neto’s passing as a whole was a bit erratic and sometimes overhit which summed up his game. His energy was great and he was always buzzing around hoovering up loose balls which kept the attacks going, however he seemed to lack composure and maturity to his play which I’m sure will come with time. Neto was very confident on his stronger left foot and prefers to use this when passing, he also put in several good crosses with his left foot which were whipped in with pace. The Portuguese attacker was on the majority of set pieces, which is a big compliment considering Ruben Neves is also on the pitch. Neto seemed to try too hard to get whip and pace on his corners and free kicks which sacrificed his accuracy, but with a bit more practice and consistency they can become very dangerous.

Defensively, Neto put his energetic charisma to good use, he always followed the overlapping runs of the opposition wing back, and screened effectively to stop balls being played around the outside and inside of him. He made several interceptions, winning the ball back as the opposition were caught out by Neto’s quick bursts of pace. Neto swapped swings from right to left halfway through the first half, and I suspect it was because Leicester were having more joy on the other side so Neto went over to help protect the inexperienced Wolves left back, Rayan Aït-Nouri, which was a testament to Neto’s defensive capabilities.

Overall, the 19-year-old was Wolves’ brightest spark on the day and was the only player who looked like scoring. The energy he brought to the game was impressive as he easily could have ghosted through the game as the tempo was so slow and dull. One concern I do have about his game is that when he is about to receive the ball or when dribbling with the ball, Neto has his head down a lot of the time which reduces his awareness of his teammates and their movements, and he only tends to look up when he is about to cross or pass. However, this is only his first proper season of starting in the premier league, and I look forward to seeing his development where he hopefully improves the consistency of his technical game.

Rating – A2

Max Kilman

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 23
  • Date of Birth: 23/05/1997
  • Current Club: Wolves
  • Career: Maidenhead United, Wolves
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

This season has been the 23 year olds breakout season for Wolves and he now looks a regular in the Wolves side. Kilman is 6-foot-3 and has an average build for a tall centre-back. The first thing I noticed about Kilman was his composure at the back, he was very comfortable on the ball and had the confidence and ability to play first time passes in his own penalty box, beating the Leicester press. His ball playing ability on the whole was very strong, his passes were always firm and accurate and he mixed up his passing well, including a cross field pass and a bouncing ground pass through the middle channel.

Kilman performed very well defensively, especially when he came up against Vardy 1 on 1. He dealt with him very well twice, giving himself enough space and room to keep up with Vardy’s pace, forcing him wide on both occasions. Kilman’s general approach to defending was to stand up tall and make it difficult for the opposition to beat him, his big build was beneficial when the opposition tried to run at him directly as his physicality and long legs meant he was able to make standing challenges with ease. The young centre-back demonstrated a solid reading of the game throughout, following runners and making key interceptions, he had good awareness of runs in behind him and was able to anticipate where the ball was going to be played.

Overall, Kilman had a very solid game and looked very confident and composed considering he was playing in the national league two years ago, and he has continued his fine form since wining MOTM against Leeds earlier on in the season. The only criticism of his game today was that he made a needless foul in added time after being teased with the ball, which showed a lack of experience.

Rating – A2

Ruben Neves

  • Nationality: Portuguese
  • Age: 23
  • Date of Birth: 13/03/1997
  • Current Club: Wolves
  • Career: FC Porto, Wolves
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

The Portuguese playmaker got on the ball on most of Wolves’ attacks, but he failed to create any chances for the front three ahead of him. Neves acted as the quarterback today and always picked the ball from the centre-backs as he was the only Wolves player who actively looked to progress the ball forwards. He was allowed ample of time on the ball and was never pressed, this enabled Neves to scan the pitch when he received the ball and pick out a pass. Neves’ passing was fairly basic and mainly passed side to side to the wingbacks, Neves was much more effective when Wolves controlled possession in the Leicester half as Neves was able to play more penetrating passes through the lines.

His pass map below shows the sideways nature of his passes in his own half but more progressive passes in the opposition’s half, he did however have a 90% pass completion rate and completed the most passes on the pitch. Overall, Neves had accurate passing and had good weight on them which helped Wolves keep the tempo of the game high. Neves’ first touch was sound as well which made him able to control the ball then pass it first time as his first touch was always out of his feet. Neves showed his technical capabilities when he struck a lovely first time shot that was heading for the top corner before Kasper Schmeichel parried it away, he also put in a nice deep cross and I was surprised he didn’t rotate the set piece duty with Neto.

Defensively, Neves didn’t have a lot to do but he wasn’t very useful in stopping the Leicester counterattack. Neves lacks pace and acceleration, especially in the last 15 minutes of the match when his fitness levels were depleted, he picked up a yellow card after finally bringing down James Maddison on the break after trying to keep up with him for 20 yards. Neves had very little turn of pace and was practically invisible in defence when a Leicester player ran around him at speed, even Leicester’s centre-back Wesley Fofana dribbled past him with ease which was a concern. Neves is average height, standing at just under 6ft which meant it was difficult for him to get his legs around the opposition to win the ball back when the opposition got their body in the way. However, Neves showed good effort in defence and blocked a few cross when he found himself defending out wide.

Overall, Neves has the technical ability to play for a team in the Champions League. However, to make the step up in the Premier League he will have to show more penetration in attack or mobility in defence to start for a top 6 side.

Rating – B1

Rayan Aït-Nouri

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 19
  • Date of Birth: 06/06/2001
  • Current Club: Wolves
  • Career: Paris FC (Y), SCO Angers, Wolves
  • Position: Left Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

In just his second Premier League start, Aït-Nouri looked very nervous and had a poor game. His defensive approach was very passive, he tends to maintain a metres distance between him and the attacker which means the opposition doesn’t attempt to go round him 1 on 1, but his opposite man did have ample time and space to pick out a pass. His passive nature also resulted in crosses getting in too easily from his side as he failed to get close enough or get out quick enough to block the cross. Aït-Nouri had sound positioning, he did well to track runs and follow runs in behind. However, he gave away the second penalty after he read a long ball well, but he tried to control the ball with his left foot in the air which didn’t come off and he then brought down James Justin when attempting to clear the ball for the second time. The young wing back clearly wasn’t comfortable in controlling the ball on his right foot and it cost his team, he was also unaware of his surroundings and who was near him.

Aït-Nouri was equally poor on the ball as he was off it; the 19-year-old seemed to lack confidence on the ball. His first instincts was to always pass the ball backwards, he doesn’t even try to look ahead of him and pick out a pass which was frustrating to watch as a simple forward pass down the line was on most of the time. However, it was made hard for him due to an energetic James Justin who didn’t give Aït-Nouri any time or space on the ball, which exemplified the contrast between the two defensive styles. When Wolves had more possession, the Frenchman got forward well, arriving at the back post on several occasions, he was lining up a volley when Raul Jimenez selfishly took it off him. It just required some communication from Aït-Nouri and some confidence but maybe he didn’t want to take the ball from a senior player as a youngster. Aït-Nouri had very inconsistent crossing, he put in two decent crosses on either foot which was impressive, but he also fluffed his lines on several occasions, failing to make a good connection.

Aït-Nouri is relatively skinny and is 5 foot 9, but he’s still a teenager and has plenty of time to bulk out, as he lost out on a 50-50 challenge on the edge of his box which was disappointing. Aït-Nouri got subbed off on the 70th minute as Wolves were chasing an equaliser which was unsurprising as it was very unlikely that he was going to contribute to a goal.

Rating – C

Written by Andrew Hunter – @HunterAnalysis on Twitter

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