Saturday was a day of mind-boggling statistics in the Premier League, as match after heady match veered towards the remarkable and goals swept the land like a nasty case of the clap. Forty-one were scored in total, the most ever in a single day of the league’s current format. A record seven penalties were awarded, too. And with a single winning goal, Wolves’ Kevin Doyle brought Manchester United’s 29-game unbeaten run to a screeching halt. It was in short, the kind of afternoon most football fans dream of.
Wolves fans will have been most concerned with breaking their own run of four straight losses, some of them unfortunate (they played devilishly handsome football in their 4 – 3 defeat to Manchester City), some of them thoroughly deserved (they were, to put it mildly, feckless against Liverpool in their 3 – 0 defeat). This 2 – 1 win was richly merited by the Old Gold though – they harried United throughout, defended uncharacteristically well, and in Kevin Doyle had the best forward on the pitch (Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and substitute Javier Hernandez included).
A strange season
That said, it is hard to figure out just whether such a resounding result will spur on Wolves to turn their season around. So far, they have already put several of the League’s big boys to the sword including Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City, only to then flounder against fellow minnows. “It’s been a strange season for us,” said Doyle on Saturday after scoring the 700th Premier League goal of 2010 – 2011, and he was not wrong.
Even with the clock ticking down on this memorable victory and the Molineux rocking from the vociferous home fans, this result was in doubt. Going into the game, Wolves had conceded more last-minute goals (seven) than any other side in the league. Concentration at the back has been abysmal at times and Ronald Zubar’s midweek brain fart against Bolton was a case in point. His sloppy last-minute back pass at the Reebok allowed Daniel Sturridge to snatch a winner and all three points, when a creditable away draw was on the cards.
Here though he played his part in a stout defensive performance and benefited from the home crowd’s generous support. Throughout the second half, Zubar and his fellow defenders proved they can retain their shape, even when forced to sit deep against pacy attackers like Hernandez and Nani. If Wolves can continue to be so resolute at the back, they may yet dig themselves out of their drop-zone misery hole. Goal difference is today keeping them off the very bottom and a few more clean sheets would consolidate their slim advantage over fellow trapdoor-botherers West Ham.
Goals of their own though have been in short supply for Mick McCarthy’s indefatigable scrappers. Doyle’s winner was only his third league strike this season, despite his excellent contribution overall. His industry is always impressive and he runs the channels with zeal, holding the ball up excellently when it is fired up to him by the Wolves’ defence. If he could just rediscover the deadly goal-scoring knack he showed for Reading in both the Championship and Premier League, he might turn the shuddering Wolves super tanker round and get it pointing north again.
O’Hara is a battler
On Saturday, he was supported by loan signing Jamie O’Hara from an attacking midfield berth. O’Hara hinted at a good understanding of Doyle’s game, consistently foraging for knockdowns from the Irish striker. If the two can click further, and capitalise on the excellent service from tricky left-winger Matt Jarvis, an improved record at the sharp end of the pitch might be yet be forthcoming. O’Hara himself is a battler, who performed valiantly for Portsmouth last season in the Premier League’s grotty basement. His combative attitude and experience at the bottom of the table should make him an astute addition to the Wolves squad for a run in that will be fought tooth and nail.
Boss Mick McCarthy meanwhile will have to pray the lessons learned by his team at the weekend stay with them past Match of the Day. “We keep beating the bigger teams,” he said after the game. “Now we have to beat the teams around us, that was my last word to the lads.” His side are probably better than their position in the table, and it is to McCarthy’s credit that he has reined in the excesses that saw Wolves labelled thugs in the early season. Whether McCarthy has done sufficient else to preserve the Midlands club’s place in the top flight is debatable, but with their next three matches against Arsenal (psychological wrecks after farcical Newcastle implosion), West Brom (rudderless after Roberto DiMatteo sacking) and Blackpool (great fun but winless in five), the time for a big push is now. Saturday was no full moon but needs to be transformational: Bare your claws Wolves, or depart the Premier League with your tails between your legs,
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An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 25: Passports
Nach seinem Louis Vuitton Man-Tashe, seinen Riese Köpfhörer und seinem Haargel, ist das Pass, die notwendige Accessoire, die jede reisenden Profi-Spieler braucht. Leider diese Woche hat Tottenhams glücklose Ledley King seins vergessen. Eigentlich, konnte Der Verteidiger es nicht sogar bei ihm finden und musste deshalb eine wichtige Operation im Ausland verpassen. Peinlich. Falls ihr es findet, sagt bitte Bescheid. Sein Passfoto ist vielleicht noch peinlicher.