Wolverhampton Wanderers have started the season in a pretty deflating fashion under new boss Bruno Lage. Three consecutive 1-0 losses have condemned Wolves to 18th place and though there is plenty of time left, one cannot help but wonder what if.
Move over Brighton, Wolves are the new 'Team xG' this season.
They've earned 6.91 xG this season and have 0 goals to show for it.
— BiRInsights (@BiRInsights) August 30, 2021
The fact that they have played some fluid, attacking football without scoring has certainly brought out the “xG” jokes. Indeed, Wolves have created the highest xG amongst all the teams so far (4.3) without netting a goal.
In their most recent match against Manchester United, the home side outplayed the Red Devils across all departments. 15 shots to 10, 10 chances to eight, six SoT to three and an xG of 1.80 to 0.94. Wolves could have been 2-0 up inside six minutes such was their dominance in midfield.
Raul Jimenez had more shots (3) and created more chances (3) than any other player in the first half vs. Man Utd.
Finding his feet after his lengthy lay off. 💪 pic.twitter.com/IY0oHVWR6S
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 29, 2021
The most interesting thing about all of it is that they have played like this in all of their matches. Against Spurs and Leicester, they had a combined 42 shots with an xG of 2.84. From all of this, it is clear that finishing has been an issue with the team. Furthermore, it makes for stark reading as their opponents combined have had an xG of 2.9.
xG map for Wolves – Man United
your official hard luck team of the early season right here pic.twitter.com/HntjCxve7k
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) August 29, 2021
The attacking trio Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and Trincao have been causing havoc for opposition defences. They have added striker Hwang Hee-Chan from RB Leipzig on loan who is sure to add some goals as well. The underlying theme of their matches so far has been exciting, if disheartening.
🔍 LOAN WATCH: Francisco Trincão played 70 minutes in Wolves' 1-0 loss to Manchester United.
• 45 Touches.
• 26/32 Passes.
• 2 Shots. (1 On Target)
• 9/10 Duels Won.
• 3 Dribbles Completed.
• 2 Fouls Won.
• 2 Tackles.
• 6 Ball Recoveries. pic.twitter.com/ReFpwy84tZ
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) August 29, 2021
Football sees goals and that is where Lage’s men have been lacking. Traore was imperious against United, completing the most duels and creating the most chances. That continued his theme of being almost unplayable this season. Through a combination of last-ditch defending and supreme goalkeeping, they were denied their much deserved breakthrough.
Wolves had 15 shots and an xG of 1.91 today, of which 1.43 was on target — yet they failed to score.
Vintage DDG. 🍷 pic.twitter.com/fabWJwoCVK
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 29, 2021
His usage of 3-4-3 employs a very high press along with fast breaks which can be seen as the best resort against the big teams. Despite getting into clear goal-scoring positions many times over, they have squandered those chances. They have outshot their opponents by 21 yet only 24.6% of those have been on target, a worrying sign.
4 – Since 2003-04, only West Bromwich Albion (5 in 2010/2011) have lost more consecutive Premier League games in which they had more shots than their opponents than Wolves' current run of four. Misfortune. pic.twitter.com/21x2xB6r2I
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 29, 2021
Last season, Brighton & Hove Albion had the undesirable moniker of aggregating the most xG as opposed to goals scored. This campaign looks like it could be Wolves and Lage, if he does stick around for the end.
Lage has mirrored the start that Frank de Boer had during his time as Crystal Palace manager and everyone knows how that went. He has also not been helped by some of his players not recapturing their previous form.
3 – Bruno Lage is the first manager to lose his first three Premier League games without his side scoring a goal since Crystal Palace's Frank de Boer in August 2017. Punished. pic.twitter.com/J3G2f0ybLJ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 29, 2021
Jimenez returned in time for the season opener after his skull fracture last season and has looked shorn of his supreme prowess in front of goal. He has only 1/12 shot on target across three matches which indicate more game-time will be needed in order to get up to speed. Traore has looked the most likely to score or create something, using his pace and strength to great effect.
⚠️ | QUICK STAT
Coming into the international break, Adama Traoré successfully completed 28 dribbles in the EPL this season – no other player in the top 5 leagues completed more than 17.
He also has the highest success rate (82.4%) among all players with 11+ completed dribbles! pic.twitter.com/XhvwuEnfwk
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) August 30, 2021
In fact, he was one of the most active players on the pitch across all three games. However, his one Achilles heel- finishing has let him down time and again. One of the most consistent performers from last year, Pedro Neto has also been laid low with an injury which has robbed them of an experienced forward.
Fabio#Wolves striking options when everyone is fit 🤤
Lage Ball 🥰 pic.twitter.com/qf8ZkhRK3Z
— Wolves Fancast (@wolvesfancast) August 28, 2021
Trincao has managed well but between him and Fabio Silva, they will need more first term matches in order to hone their skills. Lage has also not chosen to use Willy Boly in the centre of the defence so far, persisting with Max Kilman who has only had one regular-ish season last campaign. The team as a whole needs to step up their game in defence as they did look vulnerable last time even though they were on top for most parts.
MATTER OF TIME
There is little doubt that Wolves will end their goal drought sooner than later given the number of chances they are racking up. They have out-shot their opponents in every match and were it not for some wasteful finishing, they would easily have been much further up the table.
"It's too many chances, good opportunities to score and we didn't score."
A familiar story for Bruno Lage, but confidence will grow from that performance.
— Wolves (@Wolves) August 29, 2021
No player in the team has a positive xG so far with only one having more than one. Chang will surely be heavily relied upon to improve the lagging stats but Lage knows he has to turn around fortunes quickly. Wolves have been solid performers under Nuno Espirito Santo and following those footsteps are never easy. However, he has most of the tools needed to succeed and will hope they pay off soon.