The defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend continued a common theme throughout the season that Wolverhampton Wanderers have a lot of areas to improve in this summer’s transfer window.
However, one aspect which is less frequently discussed is the need for a player who possesses set-piece prowess.
During the past month, Wolves’ set pieces, whether they be short routines or direct, have often infuriated the fans. Not a single direct free kick has been scored this season, as Ruben Neves seems to have lost the swagger which he used to possess a couple of seasons ago. So much so, that he rarely takes them nowadays.
As for indirect free-kicks and corners, since Pedro Neto’s season -nding injury over a month ago during the game against Fulham, Joao Moutinho has largely taken responsibility.
On the face of it, for a team who have not scored a direct free-kick, Wolves have been very fruitful with their set-piece deliveries, recording ten goals from them. According to WhoScored, this is the joint sixth highest tally in the league, especially impressive given it also highlights how the club are the fifth lowest scorers this campaign.
Yet delve deeper and the statistics that underly fans’ frustrations begin to become apparent. Moutinho, who is the club’s highest corner taker this season (84), has yet to record an assist from one. In fact, for a player who has also been responsible for many of their indirect free-kicks, he has only recorded one assist this season – in the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City.
Next up on the corner tally is Neto, whom for all of his creativity this season leading the club’s assists charts, has only had one assist from a corner in 80 attempts.
The lack of direct goals from set pieces shines light on why they often decide to play corners short. Another issue is that without Willy Boly and Raul Jimenez for large parts of the season – the duo have missed a combined 43 games in the 2020/21 campaign – they have lost two of their most potent aerial threats.
The hope is that Boly and Jimenez will make a full recovery for next season. That should at least increase their threat in the air. Yet, although it is not an absolute priority, Wolves may be wise to look at adding a player with with an eye for a free-kick, and another with the ability to capitalise from it.