Will Wolves halt City again?

Adam Smith

Data and Analysis @datasmith101

Manchester City vs Wolves live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Monday

Last Updated: 11/01/19 11:46am

Wolves travel to Manchester City live on Sky Sports this Monday, having already shared the spoils with Pep Guardiola’s side this season – but how did they do it and can they halt another big-six side this weekend?

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side held both Manchester clubs to draws earlier this term before enduring a seven-game run without a win, which ended with a 2-1 victory against Chelsea early last month.

Since then, Wolves turned over Tottenham at Wembley during the festive period and eliminated league-topping Liverpool from the FA Cup last week.

Man City vs Wolves

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The Midlands club have adapted remarkably to top-flight football, sitting ninth in the Premier League table with just 25 goals conceded – a stark contrast to tallies shipped by fellow promoted clubs Fulham and Cardiff.

Wolves have gleaned a league-topping nine points against the big-six sides in the top flight this term and were rightly lauded for holding City to a 1-1 draw at Molineaux in August.

Meanwhile, City are back to their free-scoring best after suffering a dip in form, beating Southampton and Liverpool before scoring a combined 16 goals and conceding none against Rotherham and Burton in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

So how did Wolves hold City last time out and will Nuno deploy similar tactics when his side visit the Etihad on Monday We take an in-depth look at their tactics…

Wolves 1-1 Manchester City, August 25, 2018

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Highlights of the 1-1 draw between Wolves and Manchester City in the Premier League.

Highlights of the 1-1 draw between Wolves and Manchester City in the Premier League.

Wolves raised eyebrows in August by earning an exciting draw with the reigning Premier League champions. City struck the woodwork twice before Willy Boly put the hosts ahead – with the help of his arm – and, although Aymeric Laporte levelled with a powerful header, Wolves held on for a morale-boosting point.

Wolves set up in a 3-4-3 formation, with front three Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Helder Costa sinking deep to stifle City’s midfield – creating an inverted defensive triangle – with midfielder Ruben Neves sweeping up in the central defensive region.

In possession, Wolves primarily advanced from defence down the flanks. Without the ball, they forced City’s wide men into central areas – with Ryan Bennett and Matt Doherty nullifying Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy down City’s potent left channel.

Matt Doherty has been in fine form this season

Matt Doherty has been in fine form this season

Right wing-back Doherty was the primary outlet, recording a team-topping 20 passes in City’s half, and combined effectively with Joao Moutinho – while Boly, Jonny, Neves and Jota linked successfully down the left flank.

Costa ended up being Wolves’ most advanced player down the right, with numerous runs exposing City’s rampaging left-back Mendy.

The graphic below shows how City dominated the game, with Wolves only recording a superior number of passes during two three-minute intervals towards the end of both halves.

In addition to Boly’s goal being incorrectly given, it came against the run of play after Pep Guardiola’s side had dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half.

In attack, City dwarfed Wolves across a raft of stats, including shots, chances created, dribbles crosses and touches in the opposite box – firing 18 attempts at Rui Patricio’s goal, of which six were on target and two hit the woodwork.

Ruben Neves attempted more shots than any Wolves player against Manchester City, hitting four from outside the box - three were on target

Ruben Neves attempted more shots than any Wolves player against Manchester City, hitting four from outside the box – three were on target

Wolves had to be clinical with limited chances, which were primarily created by Jota and Moutinho. Boly’s controversial goal was one of only two shots on target – the other coming when Costa’s shot was palmed wide by Ederson.

In terms of general play, unsurprisingly, Guardiola’s side controlled possession with 644 passes compared with just 260 attempted by the home side.

Helder Costa could pose a counter-attack threat on Monday

Helder Costa could pose a counter-attack threat on Monday

Neves was busiest for Wolves, attempting a limited but team-topping 34 passes – 23 in his own half – while also winning a team-topping four tackles and making two blocks.

Wolves’ success was achieved with rearguard effectiveness, which bears out in their league form: their impressive defensive record of only shipping 25 goals countering a relatively poor return of 23 goals scored.

Goals against big six

Ten of Wolves’ 23 goals in the Premier League this season have been scored in seven contests against big-six opposition.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were superior across a raft of defensive metrics, including tackles, blocks, interceptions, clearances and saves – which would be expected when on the back foot, but their efficiency ultimately earned the draw.

So, Wolves achieved the result from a fair share of good fortune, defensive efficiency, counter-attacking with Costa, Neves breaking City’s flow in defensive midfield and advancing with wing-backs Jonny and ​​Doherty, while forcing City’s wide players infield.

Can Wolves yield points from another Big Six opponent? Watch Manchester City vs Wolves live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Monday.

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