Ahead of the trip to Wolves, we had a chat to the guys at Wolves Fancast on the season so far, thoughts on the game and much more.
Q. With the Premier League finding a way to get back playing again, were you for or against the return and regardless of your opinion, how do you think the powers that be have dealt with it?
This was always going to be a difficult one given the current circumstances we’re facing and the height of the pandemic at the time of these discussions taking place. My personal view was that as long as it could be carried out where all those involved, not just players but coaches, staff and media were protected and it would not take away resources urgently needed elsewhere, then I was fine for it to go ahead. I would have been happy with the season to have finished in March and for the season to be decided on the points per game ratio, with relegation included. So far, I think the football leagues have done a great job keeping this going and protecting everyone involved.
Q. It seems such a long time ago now but what did you make of the game at Selhurst Park earlier in the season?
This was a turn around game for Wolves at the time. We were struggling to pick back up our form from last season and had started the season badly, given the added Europa League games as well. Palace had many chances to put the game to bed in the last 15 minutes and we somehow held on. Jota’s last second goal became the catalyst to the fine form and performances we’ve had since. Had that not gone in, we could be having a different conversation.
Q. How has the season been for you so far and what are you expecting from the run in?
We can’t say that we have been disappointed with the season to say the least. We’ve had some great results followed by great performances. We’ve seen a team evolve over this season in terms of individual players’ own abilities. However, with the high amount of draws this season and dropping points in the closing moments of games, we do feel we should be higher up the table than shown. After the blow of the last second draw to Burnley on Wednesday night, we should still be in an outside contention for a Champions League spot. Now we would be lucky to earn a Europa League spot next season with teams around us. Wolves are aiming to keep a Europa spot now and Palace and Chelsea away in the final games of the season will be tough.
Q. With the bar set so high since Wolves returned to the Premier League, what are fans hoping for next season?
Given how we have progressed this season and how we have been in a good fight for a few weeks for a golden Champions League spot, we would be expecting to be fighting it out over the top 6, or at least a Europa League spot again next season. Some of the league’s powerhouses will strengthen in the summer but Wolves have the financial collateral to do so. All of that depends on where Wolves finish this season…
Q. Which areas need to be strengthened ahead of the next campaign?
This all depends on how we finish the season. If we were to retain a Europa league spot next season, or dare I say obtain a Champions League spot by winning the Europa League in the summer, Wolves will have means to greatly strengthen. The spine of the team will need to be looked at, with a central defender, holding midfielder and a striker on top of the shopping list. However, this plan will change depending on European status and money offers coming in. Jimenez and Traore have in particular been linked with every club across Europe in the last few weeks. If Wolves aren’t holding down a place in Europe next season, offers from others teams may be tempting. If Wolves receive stupid offers for these players in the next few weeks, the club may be tempted to cash in, and use Mendes’ little black book of players to see who else they can bring in.
Q. Who is your player of the season for Wolves?
Adama Traore will get the headlines of course. He has been a revelation this season. He has worked on his control of the ball from last season and learned when to use his pace effectively. But Willy Boly needs to be mentioned here. He has been one of the most under the radar centre backs in the Premier League for Wolves. The team rarely loses when he is in the squad, and he was even injured for about a quarter of the season. How he has not been in the public radar of some of the best teams in the world is beyond us. But, long may that continue so he can stick around at Wolves.
Q. Who will finish top four, which teams will be relegated and who would you like to see promoted?
It seems that our hopes are out of the window following recent results. I think that both Manchester United and Chelsea will gain these spots. Leicester have been so inconsistent since the re-start and they don’t seem to have the staying power to keep that place. Apart from Norwich of course I think Bournemouth and Aston Villa will make the drop. From below, I have a bit of a soft spot for Leeds United since I was a kid through family so I will be glad if they finally make their return. Sadly it seems our neighbours West Brom will make their return also. From the playoffs I would like to see Brentford make the leap. They have played some great football this year and to have a team of that size in the Premier League will be a shining light to similar sized clubs.
Q. What have you made of Palace this season?
Palace just seem to strike inconsistency at the moment. They have a team packed with exciting and pacey players. But they don’t seem to have the all round package to take themselves to the next level. Roy Hodgson has been a great appointment and seems to do well and the type of club you’re at the moment. Mid-table with the potential of a top ten finish. Palace just seem to be a team they either turn up or don’t. Evident with performances against Bournemouth and Chelsea since the re-start.
Q. Name one player from each side that will be the ones to watch in this fixture?
For Wolves it’s Ruben Neves. He has been on great form in the last couple of games and is very much the conductor of the orchestra. Not afraid to track back also, Ruben can split defences open with the simplest, yet creative of through balls. And there’s those worldie’s to look out for. In terms of Palace, it is of course Wilfred Zaha. I know it’s an easy one to say, but Zaha can change games when on form. Back in 2012 when Wolves would go on to suffer back to back relegations, Wolves were at one point 45 mins away from going top of the Championship in that fateful season. Then, a young Zaha announced himself on the football scene, with a stunning 30 yard curler to win the match for Palace. We hope we don’t have a repeat this time.
Q. Your prediction?
Given the importance of this game for Wolves in their race for Europe, it feels like our old playoff semi finals of old in the 90’s. And these would usually end in heartbreak for Wolves. This could go either way, but Wolves need to win. And when they are pressured to deliver a result, they usually do. The typical nervy game at Molineux right to the last second will be on the cards. 2-1 win for Wolves.