Tactical View: Wolves
I’ll admit that being a Villa fan and being based in Australia, I haven’t watched a lot of Wolves this year - but from what little I have seen, they look very good with a clear style. Despite going down in Villa’s last punch-out with Wolves, a new look attack in Grabban, Hogan and/or Jack Grealish (previously Kodjia and Davis) gives me optimism going into this game.
The Wolves System
Wolves play a 3-4-3 that drops back to a 5-4-1 in defence, they press up high, they press hard and need their wingers working hard to track back to shut it down at the back. Wolves will bottleneck opposition attacks away from the flanks into the centre where the 2 defensively strong midfielders and 3 centre halves are organised. In attack these central midfielders and central defender act as deep lying playmakers, distributing the ball quickly to onrushing wing-backs and wingers, making Wolves extremely dangerous on the counter attack.
Threat: The Wings
Wolves rely heavily on their attacking trident to score with Ivan Cavaleiro able to drift in or go wide to put a ball in (8 goals, 10 assists) and equal club top scorers Diogo Jota (12 goals) cutting in from the left and Leo Bonatini (12 goals) more than able to put away opportunities. Barry Douglas (11 assists) plays a more attacking role from his left wing-back position as the clubs top creator and scoring on occasion. Wolves are also capable of scoring through central midfield and at set pieces but almost all opportunities are created come from wide players and Bonatini.
The Key For Villa
Win the wings, Villa will field 2 defensively strong fullbacks in Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor with Albert Adomah & Robert Snodgrass willing to track back.This will be essential to limiting Wolves chances. We’ll need to work just as hard as they will.
Opportunity: Central Midfield
Wolves willingness to allow opposition to play through the middle plays into their defensive strengths, but also Villa’s attacking strengths. Conor Hourihane is more than capable getting things moving centrally and this season Jack Grealish’s dribbling & passing has made opposition defences nervous regardless of the manpower they field. The ability to combine attacks through the middle with wing play will allow Villa to play around and through Wolves attacks while limiting risk of being countered on the wings.
Risk: Long Balls
Steve Bruce will be tempted to continue with his trusted winning 4-4-2 of recent weeks with Lewis Grabban and Scott Hogan up front however this approach is dangerous. Wolves 5 central defensive players are aerially/defensively strong and playing long balls will lead to giving the ball away.
I’ll be watching the lineups closely, however if Jack Grealish is sat behind a lone striker then sit back and be ready for an entertaining afternoon of attacking football through the middle. It starts with winning the wings to limit Wolves chances and landing the knockout blows when the opportunities arise. If Villa can get this done then they’ll be taking the first big step on the path to promotion.