Following Sunday’s embarrassing defeat to Burnley, one statistic emerged that has stood out more than any other.
In their 4-0 home loss to the Clarets, Burnley covered over six kilometres more than the hosts across the 90 minutes. The considerable gulf in ground covered was alarming for a team that have done little to appease their fanbase in a difficult season.
One explanation might be that Wolves were on their holidays, having all but mathematically avoided relegation this season after their back-to-back wins against Fulham and Sheffield United.
Okay, this might be partly true, but to accept this would overshadow the very dented armoury on show in a game where they were outworked, outfought and outthought. More worrying, especially with the Black Country Derby against West Bromwich Albion next week, was Wolves’ lack of pressing.
Epitomised by the running statistics, every time Wolves’ defenders had the ball they were harried and harassed by Burnley’s strikers. It led to Conor Coady giving the ball away on the edge of his area, leading to Burnley’s second goal.
Under Sean Dyche, Burnley have traditionally looked to be quite direct moving the ball quickly from defence up the field of play. However, against Wolves they were happy to bide their time on the ball with only half-hearted attempts to retrieve possession off of them.
Such was the Wanderers’ lack of bite in winning the ball back from the front it gave the Burnley players confidence to move up the pitch. So much so, according to Whoscored, right-back Matt Lowton spent more time in the Wolves half than in his own.
In terms of trying to understand the toothless attempts to win the ball back, one finger can be pointed towards recruitment. Two of the front three from Sunday’s game, Daniel Podence and Willian Jose, have both demonstrated they are technically very gifted footballer, but their off the ball work-rate leaves a lot to be desired.
During Sunday’s game, between the two of them only Jose made one tackle in the opponents’ half while neither recorded a block or an interception in the game. Diogo Jota, now at Liverpool, and the injured Raul Jimenez typically offered more off the ball.
Another reason may be the tactics. Wolves boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, decided to play Podence behind Jose while Adama Traore was out wide-right. This meant that Wolves had nobody on the left-wing. The imbalance this created allowed Lowton to spend more time in the opponents’ half and give Burnley more time on the ball and deny Wolves a lack of variation going forward themselves.
Once again there will be calls to ring the changes ahead of the match against West Brom. You suspect if they apply a similarly shaped front line, Baggies boss, Sam Allardyce, might just relish it.