It’s another huge game on Saturday, as champions-elect Wolves come to town looking to end Fulham’s seven match winning streak at Craven Cottage. Giving you the lowdown as ever, it’s our stats man George Singer.
Their Recent Results
D: Wolves 2-2 Norwich
D: Preston 1-1 Wolves
W: Wolves 2-1 QPR
W: Wolves 3-0 Sheffield United
W Ipswich 0-1 Wolves
Our Recent Meetings
Nov 2017: Wolves 2-0 Fulham
March 2017: Fulham 1-3 Wolves
Dec 2016: Wolves 4-4 Fulham
Jan 2016: Wolves 3-2 Fulham
Match Odds with Grosvenor Casino
Fulhamish Tip: Over 4.5 goals is at 6/1 with Grosvenor Casino
Hello and welcome to another edition of Before the Whistle! Today I take a look at our next visitors to the Cottage, Wolves, and what to look out for as we aim to take 3 points off the league leaders and strengthen our grip on the playoff places.
Last time we played
In the reverse fixture earlier in the year, the Wanderers earned a comfortable 2-0 win against a stuttering Whites team.
Wolves left back Barry Douglas (and his wonderous left boot) was the architect of Fulham’s downfall, with the Scottish defender topping an impressive performance by assisting both goals. The first an inswinging corner onto the head of midfielder Romain Saiss, and the second a wicked free kick finished by a glancing header from Bonatini.
Fulham’s best chance to score fell to Wolves old boy Kevin McDonald, however the Scot ballooned the shot over the bar from close range.
In all honesty, Fulham were well off the pace and looked a class below the runaway league leaders. So what do Fulham need to prepare for as we look to avenge this defeat, and continue our push for an unlikely automatic promotion spot?
Likely Wolves lineup
So far this season, Wolves have preferred a system made famous by our neighbours in blue: the 3-4-3. It’s a formation that suits their players well, and allows them to balance their strong attacking talent with defensively sound central midfielders.
Whilst it’s brought them plenty of success this season, in many ways this is probably the best time to be playing against this Wolves team. They have hit their first poor patch of form they’ve had this season – with 3 wins from their last 7 league games. The fact that this record, which most Championship teams would snap your arm off for, counts for poor form shows just how strong they have been this season.
Secondly, record Summer signing Ruben Neves will be banned for this game. As central midfield will be an area where Fulham will outnumber Wolves, this may be an area that Slav could look at exploiting.
Where will the danger come from?
As mentioned above – the system suits their roster very well. In particular, it allows them to overload the wide areas of the pitch – which they take full advantage of when generating their rapid attacks. Wingbacks Douglas and Doherty offer support for their interchanging front 3, who use their pace, trickery and crossing ability to create havoc in the opposition defence.
Their style of play, quick attacks focussed down the wide areas of the pitch, have allowed their tricky front 3 to thrive. Whilst Bonatini has recently lost his place on the wing to Helder Costa, the forwards have built up great chemistry and interlink well with each other.
Man to watch
To be honest, it would be easy to pick any of the front 3 here. However, I’ll choose the one who’s arguably in the best form: Ivan Cavaleiro. The Portugese winger, who is equally adept on either side of the pitch, has contributed 4 assists and 1 goal in his last 5 games.
Cavaleiro offers so much to the team. Whether it’s using his pace and trickery when hugging the touchline, or cutting inside the pitch to act as an advanced playmaker, he’s able to adapt and provide attacking support in multiple ways for the men in Orange.
Whilst it’s not the most exciting goal in the world, the above is a good example of a classic Wolves attack: Quick attacks, trickery and interchange between the front 3, and making the most of areas out wide.
Notes for Slav
This was always going to be one of the most difficult games of the season for the Whites. Wolves are a terrific team, with some wonderful players, and are surely going to go on to win this league at a canter. However, there’s definitely an argument that this is the best possible time to play them.
With this in mind, there’s a couple of things that I would want to call out to Slav. Firstly, in defence, we can’t leave pockets of space for the front 3 to move into – especially out wide. With this in mind, a likely return of a fresh Ryan Fredericks to the starting XI should be the perfect tonic against for Cavaleiro. The speedy right back will need to have had his Weetabix to keep up with a quick Wolves frontline, so perhaps it was a smart call by Slav to give him a rest on Wednesday.
Secondly, one of the areas we need to try and exploit is central midfield. Whilst the 3-4-3 offers great attacking width, its major shortcoming is the lack of support in central midfield. Whilst Romain Saiss, the likely replacement for Neves, is a capable player he won’t offer the same defensive presence or comfort on the ball. As we play with a midfield 3, it feels like short central passing may be the best way to exploit a light opposition midfield.
Here’s hoping for another strong performance from the Whites, and some more valuable points!
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.