Wolverhampton Wanderers followed up their excellent win over West Ham United with a hard fought goalless draw at revitalised Norwich City on Saturday.
The Canaries, who have now collected four points from a possible six under the management of Dean Smith, were the better side but Wanderers’ back three turned in an excellent characterize across the back to ensure they left Norfolk with a proportion of the spoils.
All in all, this was a point that was hard earned by Wolves, who while they were uninspiring in attack defended supremely well and completed a second subsequent clean sheet.
Here are the talking points from Saturday’s stalemate.
Smith learns lesson
Wolves really got the ball rolling when it came to piling the pressure on Smith towards the end of his tenure at Villa. A little like with Southampton, one of his final opponents as Villa boss was among his first at Norwich – and the performances were very different.
At Villa Park on that afternoon that visiting Wolves supporters will never forget, Villa conceded soft set pieces around the edge of their area, conceding ground generally and Wolves duly made them pay.
Norwich, a side you could say are nevertheless enjoying a new manager bounce, were the better side here and already in the closing stages they were the ones who were coming onto their opponents. Wolves for great periods of the second half were just hanging in there and did so, thanks to their excellent defence and goalkeeper.
Which brings us on nicely to Wolves’ new number one. He had large boots to fill in the summer when Portugal number one Rui Patricio departed, but steadily he’s filled them and now must be considered one of the best keepers in the country.
It’s not like Sa is regularly producing world class fingertip saves throughout the afternoon, though. Many of the things he does are quite simple, but he does so with such assurance and commandment.
Throughout the game at Carrow Road, Sa dominated his box, coming for crosses with his positioning always perfect. On the occasions he was called upon, when Norwich did truly lurk past the excellent trio of Coady, Kilman and Saiss, Sa was equal to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki.
Sa set Wolves back just £7m, despite the fact that they managed to sell predecessor Patricio. Week by week, it’s becoming quite clear that that is a quite bright piece of business.
notice the call
Bruno Lage cut a very frustrated figure in his post match press conference. The boss had been pleased with the opening exchanged by Wolves, who got Rayan Ait-Nouri involved plenty down the left and Ruben Neves pulled the strings with his raking diagonal passes, switching play quickly without reward in front of goal.
That was the story of Wolves’ game. Francisco Trincao and Hwang Hee-chan didn’t do anywhere near enough to affect Wolves’ play in the final third and, as a consequence, Raul Jimenez was often secluded.
It meant that Norwich dominated the stats, when it came to shots on goal, and shots on target. Thankfully on this day, while Wolves forwards fired blanks, their defenders stood tall.
Lage’s message to those forwards, who of course will have to compete for places with Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto in time, was simple – start taking more risks, and start with Burnley.
Neves has been largely back to his best this season, a player revitalised by Lage after questions were raised as to where he was going under Nuno.
Despite the fact that he is back to playing regularly in a midfield two, along with the ageing Joao Moutinho, and that often in the Premier League method being outnumbered against sides who pack the middle of the pitch, Neves covered so much ground here.
It wasn’t just his passing which caught the eye; at one point in the second half, as Norwich broke from a Wolves corner in strong numbers, Neves intervened with a sliding challenge to cut out a pass which surely would’ve caused Wolves problems.
He was superb on the day, but he did collect a yellow card – his fifth of the season, which method he’ll be missing at Molineux in the week. Leander Dendoncker is the obvious substitute against Burnley, but what Neves brings to the table will be missed.
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