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Watford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 (27/04/2019) 28/04/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Probably best to start off by stating what should be obvious.  There is absolutely no justification in being anything but delighted with this season.   With the unflinching trajectory of the club, league position, cup final, stadium, team, head coach, and so on.  None at all.

Nonetheless.  Me writing this report is the equivalent of Charlie Austin being interviewed at the end of the game at St Mary’s earlier in the season, presumably when his press officer had nipped to the loo or something.  I could really do with a day or so to get things into perspective such that I could put some feeling into the words above, say them with my heart as well as my head.  Thing is, if I don’t write it now this one’s going to go the same way as the abandoned Huddersfield report, such is life unfortunately.

(Seeing as we lost, based on previous evidence, none of you buggers are going to be reading this anyway so it doesn’t much matter what I write I guess.  I could wander off into any number of alternative topics and see whether anyone notices.  I’ve got a new patio, how’s that?  And I’m watching Quicksand on Netflix which is great, and reading a book on the History of Germany which is better. No?)

Suffice to say I’m pissed off.  I know it’s not fair or balanced, but I’m in a sulk.  And only partly because of the knowledge that having wondered, at 2-0 down at Wembley, how my co-editor always manages to dodge the miserable ones in allocation of blogging duties.  A legendary finish (mine) and two underwhelming home games later (his), there was something karmic about this one.

2- Not that it was unexpected, in all honesty.  A more limited team than Wolves exposed our lack of a target man on Tuesday night to good effect, today was hardly going to be any different.  Amidst all the pondering about Which Team Is Equipped For Europe (media consensus: Not Watford, obviously), the fact that we have excellent cover throughout most of the side whilst Wolves have fielded the same eleven for much of the season has been missed.

Nonetheless, the player we could least afford to lose for, effectively, four games was Troy.  He’s the one.  Not the best player in the side, perhaps, but the one we are least equipped to cope without.  It was harsh, yes, the red card.  He made it possible too, undoubtedly.  Equally beyond doubt that, like Ben Foster and Craig Cathcart he’s well, well in credit.  “People who do things make mistakes”.  We’ve paid heavily for this one…  at least three points across the four games by any reasonable reckoning.

So, the welcome return of the mad Greek bastard at left back notwithstanding, there was a sense of trepidation before kick off as the vicious wind whipped around the stadium, holding up the flags and threatening to carry Daughter Two away.  We should have had the psychological edge of course… after all, we won the bloody semi final, not to mention that fine victory at Molineux earlier in the season.  Three of our five goals against Wolves before today made it into the twice-repeated reel of Goal of the Season contenders… the fourth would have been my choice, given the option.

But from the moment that a Wolves fan on Vicarage Road turned his back on the ground pre-game, stuck his arms in the air, raised his head to the skies and bellowed “Two-nil, and we f***ed it oop!” the boot was on the other foot.

And that’s before we even get to the lack of Z-cars…

3- The line being drawn between the dismissal of Z-cars as the run-out tune and our subsequent run of one point from three home games is clearly a nonsense.  Nonetheless, and irrespective of whether for you, individually,  Z-cars is a bizarre anachronism whose removal is either overdue or an irrelevance, or something that matters deeply, something that is evocative of matchday and that subconsciously sets your spine tingling, the decision to switch it now, at this stage, was a particularly witless one.

As the teams run out you want to rouse the crowd.  What you don’t want is grown men gently booing at each other, albeit with smiles on their faces, or expletives peppering the applause.  It doesn’t need to piss everyone off to be disruptive.  For those who miss it, it kicks off the game with resentment and negativity.  Not the way to inspire noisy support at a critical time of the season.

Football?  Oh, OK then.

3- It’s a very even, competitive game throughout and played to a very high standard albeit one we’ve gotten used to.  There’s a certain caginess about the first half in particular… certainly no suggestion that we’re going to pile forward and invite Wolves to counter-attack, as is their wont.  Wolves, in fact, have more possession early on but we have perhaps the best chance as Deulofeu scampers through but declines to shoot on his weaker foot and the chance goes.

The swirling wind is making life interesting at both ends;  Andre Gray does a better job of holding the ball up, opting for flick-ons and spins rather than taking on the monstrous Boly in a physical battle, whilst Mariappa marshalls our own dogged and disciplined backline.

Clear chances, shots on goal, are few and far between.  It really isn’t that sort of game at all.  Boistrous and engaging yes.  Thrill a minute, no.  Not until half an hour in was there a serious goalscoring chance, Jiménez coming close to scoring but for an insane goalline clearance from the peerless Capoue, who stomped all over the midfield for much of the game.  Rúben Neves chased referee Simon Hooper back up the pitch in remonstration and should probably have been booked for sheer stupidity.

But eventually Wolves did get the lead, and in common with the other two goals in the game it was essentially a cock-up, Pereyra failing to adequately contest a ball on the edge of the box, Jota capitalising and Jiménez tucking home.  As on Tuesday Andre Gray had the chance to equalise almost immediately and again he didn’t take it, a great first touch seeming to take him clear before he lashed a hurried shot wide when he appeared to have time to take it in on goal.  Half time, grumbling.  The girls are both exhausted and miserable.

4- So the gift at the start of the second half was most welcome.  There’s something to be read into the fact that so many were still in the bowels of the stand and missed it, both daughters included…  one minute Wolves are knocking it airily around the back line, the next Gerard Deulofeu is being presented with a red carpet to goal.  He doesn’t quite capitalise, but he does enough… Andre Gray tucks in the rebound to the Spaniard’s blocked shot.

And for a while it was all a lot of fun. Like when you were at school and a disciplinarian teacher nips off to the staff room to pick up something he’s forgotten and the class runs riot in his absence, here both sides suddenly abandoned the shackles and went for each other.  This should have suited Wolves of course, this is What They Do…. but actually we looked more of a threat on the counter than the visitors did.  For all their defensive organisation they really don’t like being run at, and we did plenty of that;  twice we had shouts for a penalty kick, the first of which provoking particularly animated protests from Will Hughes and Deulofeu after the former went down on the edge of the box.  Difficult to see from our angle.

So it felt as if fate had been kind to us.  Given us a break, and we were making the most of it.  A more open game, yes, and we were far from all over them, of course but… the better side.  In the ascendency.  In spite of grim portents and a limited first half, seventh placed was looming back into view.

5- Good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes.  Heaven knows Javi has proven his mettle with tactical surgery countless times this season.  But on any level this change was odd…   removing the energetic Hughes to bring in an extra centre back.  A conservative move, aimed at making us more solid and matching up Wolves’ formation but…  given that we were on top, an odd choice leaving Gracia open to criticism, particularly as it was followed so closely by the decisive goal.  Perhaps it played no part, perhaps the fact that Jota was afforded so much space to apply a finish after Foster flapped at Neves’ fine deep cross was nothing to do with altered formations but the wheels had visibly spun off in the brief period between the sub and the goal.  We were suddenly losing control of a game that we had previously been more than competing in.

6- A second change followed, changing the formation again.  I’ve since read suggestions that Cathcart limped off – self-evidently we could do without that.  Either way we went back to a flat back four, (or three, since Christian Kabasele spent the brief kitchen-sinky bit as a surrogate centre forward).  It never looked like happening.

As an aside, one has to ponder on the future of both Isaac Success and Nathaniel Chalobah.  The former stuffed up possession immediately after his introduction and vanished thereafter, bereft of confidence;  I would have had him front and centre rather than wide having helped turn the tide from that position after another late introduction on Tuesday simply by virtue of knocking people over.  As for Chalobah… fitness questions or no he’s not only fallen behind both Cleverley and Quina, he’s not being seen as an option when he’s on the bench and we need something, his propensity for a quick clever pass not trusted.  This strikes me as a crying shame.

7- So… from a position where seventh was in our control we are now needing snookers, and dropping into the bottom half at the expense of West Ham a likelier outcome, another crying shame.  Fortunately Javi’s post-match reflections were defiant enough to suggest that we’re not binning off the rest of the League programme just yet.  Hurrah, and so forth.  I’ll be bloody-minded and positive again by the time Stamford Bridge comes around. Promise.

As for Z-cars…  well it does matter to me, as you’ve probably gathered.  I’m in that camp.  Because… whilst it obviously matters far less than, you know, us actually being good at football I almost feel I could cope without the latter to a greater extent?  Because… the ups and downs are kind of how it’s always been and much as I love us being great, love us being as great as we are, I know I can cope with us being a bit shit too because we’ve all been there.  I don’t wish it, far from it, and I know that just like Troy and Ben and Craig the club are well in credit and have done lots more right than wrong…  but Z Cars is part of the pillar that’s a constant.  The pillar that I lean and rely on, as so many of us do.  So it feels more permanent and painful when it’s taken away.

So I’ll close with a picture that sums up another part of that constant pillar.  It would, should have been a cornerstone of that Huddersfield report but, you know, stuff happens.

See you at Chelsea.  Yoooorns.

 

Foster 2, Femenía 3, Holebas 3, Cathcart 3, Mariappa 3, Hughes 3, *Capoue 5*, Doucouré 4, Pereyra 3, Deulofeu 3, Gray 3
Subs: Kabasele (for Hughes, 74) 2, Success (for Cathcart, 82) 0, Janmaat, Sema, Chalobah, Masina, Gomes

Comments»

1. John - 28/04/2019

From the heart Matt, as always! Thanks, as always!

2. Ants - 28/04/2019

Chalobah: my fond hope is that he’s to partner Capoue after the profitable departure of Doucoure. The “fond” (ie clutching at straws) part being that he’ll be entirely recovered and properly fit after a full pre-season.

Yesterday? Bum. And agree completely with your Troy point — Success is no replacement at all on the decision making and mental strength front (plus, in footballing terms at least, he’s plain dim). Pity.

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

Chalobah… absolutely

Success… is still have had him at centre forward. More so on Tuesday but even yesterday. But yes… think there’s a player there but a lot of convincing to do still

3. Martin B - 28/04/2019

I am not against replacing “Z Cars”. But if we do, it has to be with something that – over time – has a chance of acquiring the values that you mention. As we are creatures of habit this won’t happen overnight. I doubt everyone liked “Z Cars” at first.

The tune must – in your words – be “spine tingling”. Something that can rouse us and fill us with hope even after years of defeats. Above all – if we are going to chose a tune that has lyrics – then they must have some relevance so that the crowd is compelled to sing along. Think, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or – a personal favourite – Brighton’s “Sussex by the Sea” with its “stand or fall” line. As far as I can see, “I’m Still Standing” is about a bloke who’s been ditched but is getting over it …

P.S. Not sure what German history book you are reading, but I recommend; “The Germans and Europe: A Personal Frontline History” by Peter Millar. It intersperses key moments in German history with the relationship Germans have with (in order) food, cars, beer, music, sex, money and … football.

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

“The Shortest History of Germany” by James Hawes.

Agree with your reservations about the choice of replacement. But replacing it at all, and now in particular, come higher up the hit list. Feels like trying to get away with something whilst everything’s going well which, instead and inevitably, poisons that mood.

James - 01/05/2019

I’m not against having an Elton song play as we come out, but I agree that I’m Still Standing isn’t ideal.

Surely they could ask Elton to write something specifically for it? That would then be completely unique to us (unlike Z-Cars) and genuinely fitting for the occasion.

4. Peter - 28/04/2019

People forget that the Wolves away performance had Success at CF – he was excellent, he held the ball up intelligently rather than just flicking on – he has loads of potential still if he could industrialise and replicate that type of performance. And yes I know the word IF is the pivotal one in that sentence.

I think the strange slightly unsure reaction to the lack of Z-cars was similar to the player reaction to the Hughes-Kabasele and formation switch – a lull where momentum and energy dissipated into questioning position, direction and lack of clarity. People will say quite rightly that Fosters decision to come and then stop and leave himself in no mans land was the reason we lost, but I think that was in part influenced by the changes. The whole should I shouldn’t I seemed to not only be with Foster but everyone in the wake of change that everyone thought seemed strange.

No complaints with Javi he is the only one whose actually decisions take place and are therefore debated and analysed – often to death. He has and will continue to get more decisions right than wrong.

Now tell us more about that Patio…..

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

Agree with every word.

Patio… nine years overdue. Black, which as my neighbour has pointed out will… require footwear. But beautiful.

SteveG - 28/04/2019

Early on in his tenure, Javi got quite a lot of stick for his substitution policy (or lack of it). I think he’s got better with this over time and certainly more recently he’s been more likely to have been praised for his decisiveness, as on Tuesday.

Having said that, I was baffled by Kabasele for Hughes (even if he was tired), but if we are to forgive (as I think we should) Cathcart and Foster an occasional lapse in an otherwise excellent season, I guess Javi’s entitled to a dodgy substitution from time to time. If we’d snatched the game through Holebas or Femenia surging forward from a wing-back position to score the winner, he’d have been hailed as a genius again.

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

True enough

Rupe - 28/04/2019

Pereyra – Unforgivable to simply not bother to challenge and this Is now becoming a continual theme with this player. Incredibly talented etc etc but we saw earlier in the season a Pereyra who also added bite to his game so why has this once again disappeared from his game?

Chalobah – With the caveat of my sympathies for him on a personal level, if he can’t enter the field of play when Hughes came off then it is simply a waste of a substitutes spot. Put Peneranda, Cassidy, ANYONE capable of the physical act of playing if he can’t currently.

Seventh place – The squad are buggered and hats off to them for an incredible season but it is in danger of imploding. Unless the squad is going to be dramatically enhanced with 6 or 7 additional first team quality players in the summer then starting the season in July would do no good. Play the squad players who don’t normally get a game for the final two games and give the FA Cup Final everything with a fresh first team.

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

Hello, Rupe….

5. Tapps - 28/04/2019

Just comparing the anguish Bolton supporters must be going through with The Buffoon’s current machinations, against our current disappointment at the loss of Z-Cars. Makes me think there but for the grace of God…

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

True. Rich mans problems. Still crap and unnecessary tho.

6. Old Git - 28/04/2019

When Success comes on as sub, he seems to think he has to rush around and crash into people, perhaps taking the notion of an ‘impact sub’ rather too literally.
In contrast, when he’s on from the start he looks more focussed, as his excellent performance and goal in the Spurs League Cup tie showed.

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

I think knocking people over is what we needed, especially on Tuesday. But I agree with your general point. Seems to have brittle confidence, responds well to the badge of approval of starting.

7. Sequel - 28/04/2019

I seem to remember having serious reservations about Deeney during his first couple of seasons here: “Three hundred grand for that donkey, and we don’t know where to play him?!” We HAD to make him fit somewhere, to justify the outlay. We don’t need to have that sort of patience with Success, much as I’d love to see him fire.
Another problem with the new tune is that it’s only an excerpt of I’m Still Standing. At least with Z-Cars you get the full intro to make sure we’re all…still standing.
My patio is made of buff-coloured Indian stone, complete with fossils, and far more interesting than much of yesterday’s game.

8. Harefield Hornet - 28/04/2019

I too took this defeat very badly for some reason which I’m not quite able to fathom out? Perhaps after the Arsenal debacle we were lulled into a false sense of security by the win at Huddersfield and then treated to a reality check against Southampton and now Wolves. I think the possibility of us falling away as we have in previous seasons is at the back of most people’s minds, which is a shame after such a fine campaign. I think it’s the old success breeding expectancy syndrome? Lets just hope we’ve got our act back together again by the 18 May!

Matt Rowson - 28/04/2019

I don’t buy that expectation thing, which you’re not the first to mention. Don’t buy it at all. Think it’s perfectly normal to be disappointed with the outcome if not any individuals.

9. JohnF - 28/04/2019

Good stuff Matt. I would take some issue with giving Doucoure a 4 and Hughes only 3. First half Doucoure did not look any where near his best but Hughes gave the team energy and dida good deal of the midfield disrupting as well as working openings. The substitution did seem bizarre and certainly took the wind out of their sails and they hadn’t really sorted themselves out before the goal. I thought Foster looked rather nervous from the off with some of his kicking. Hope they can get back on track for Saturday. We do need a bit of positive momentum before the cup.

10. Rupe - 28/04/2019

Hello Matt! Your thoughts on my points please.

Matt Rowson - 29/04/2019

Pereyra – don’t know. Agree with prognosis. Bit odd.
Chalobah – don’t know if he’s not physically capable, did ok in a cameo at Huddersfield. Think Gracia doesn’t rate him.
Third point – don’t think I agree that it’s THAT bad. We need strengthening in a couple of positions, we patently struggle without Troy in particular. I also worry about going into the cup final on a bad run… not sure I’d rotate either.

11. Lincoln Hornet - 29/04/2019

Good report as usual Matt and I am assuming also as accurate as usual. I skipped all of the bollocks and meltdown on Facebook in favour of an accurate game description. For the first time in many years I had absolutely no idea how we were doing or playing as I was down in the Cavern Club in Liverpool with some mates and they have zero signal amongst the deep brick arches. Imagine my disappointment when exiting about 5 to see the score on a tv screen in the pub next door. I can only think it was probably for the best that I had not known how we were doing, it would have ruined the singalong to ‘Can’t buy me love’. Onwards and upwards!!

12. 1958starter - 29/04/2019

First experience of this site,but fully agree with you Matt.I am old enough to believe in tradition so miss Z Cars, although wasn’t used when I first followed the “Brewers”. Crazy decision to replace Hughes with Kabasele, and that is not in hindsight. Yes Success played well at Wolves,although his decision making was poor. Problem is he hasn’t progressed. Can bring strength to a physically depleted forward line without Deeney but needs to learn to use that strength for the benefit of the team and not be a liability.

Matt Rowson - 29/04/2019

Hello and welcome. Don’t disagree with any of that… but that physicality is what we were missing I think.

13. Rs - 29/04/2019

Some observations;

The Hughes/Kabs swap kind of made sense to me at the time IF Kiko and Holebas had gotten the opportunity to bomb forward and get in behind Wolves. This opportunity never materialised as Cathcart seemed to take the opportunity to start either “feeling” his hamstring or getting cramp (which seems to have been a problem for him of late) maybe he’s the one that needs a week off (the rest of the defensive set up has been given a breather unless I’m miss-remembering?). With Cathcart struggling they still persisted in playing the ball across the back to him.

Z-cars; I can take or leave it (I’m old enough to remember it on tv) but I’m of the view that, whatever the choice, it works better without a lyric. Given the intent seems to be to pay homage to Elton (no problem with that) then I’d go for perhaps the guitar riffs from The Bitch is Back or similar; just something a bit less polished, more raw??

Despite all the apparent gloom, it’s been a great season and it’s hard to imagine the players don’t have the cup final game in the back of their minds and are playing with a bit in reserve?

14. David - 29/04/2019

Matt, Please note that your musings/thoughs/insights are followed by a great number of people, win, lose or draw.

Always difficult to scientifically measure but I believe it is easier to narrowly lose to a top six side than beat anyone else. I’m not blind to the 10 men effort against the Arse but of the last 3 home games; I would say the Wolves game was our best performance.

Other positives, I thought Grey had his best game as a No.9 and Capoue had as near a perfect centre mid performance as is possible.

concerns.

Pereyra either has to deliver more going forward or do a better job of protecting our back 4. I accept that if he could attack and defend he would not be playing for us but his performances in 2019 have not been enough.

15. Paul H - 29/04/2019

Great repot as ever, puts into words what I can’t following a game. Win , lose or draw. On the subject of Z cars, which I hav heard for more years than I care to remember if there is to be an alternative that “grows” into fans phsyce then we could do worse than Yellow

RS - 29/04/2019

Isn’t there some association with Naarrrwich here? (Yellow)

Aberdeen ‘Orn. - 01/05/2019

No no no! Not “yellow”! I’d be in an unwakeable sleep before kickoff.


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