The Breakdown | Wolves vs West Ham

Wolves return to Molineux on Saturday looking to build on a solid point in midweek and, as West Ham United visit the West Midlands, here’s everything you need to know.

#1 Inside both camps

Speaking after Tuesday’s draw with Burnley, head coach Gary O’Neil confirmed Hee Chan Hwang and Craig Dawson “have a chance” of featuring against West Ham on Saturday, but more likely Nottingham Forest the following week. Hwang has been missing since injuring his hamstring against Brighton & Hove Albion in late February, while Dawson has missed the last four with a groin problem. Their imminent returns will help O’Neil’s squad significantly. Pedro Neto and Jean-Ricner Bellegarde remain unavailable for the visit of the Hammers. Matheus Cunha’s return against Burnley was a big plus and, whether he’ll earn a start or come off the bench again, his involvement is expected to increase.

For West Ham, they welcome back Edson Alvarez from suspension. The Mexican midfielder missed their matches with Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur after picking up ten yellow cards. Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who has been their first-choice stopper this season, is currently out with a groin injury. David Moyes confirmed he’ll be “out for a little while”, meaning Lukasz Fabianski is expected to start at Molineux. One man who could feature at the weekend is defender Nayef Aguerd, who returned to training this week following injury and, although he didn’t face Spurs on Tuesday, his return is nearing. Moyes didn’t make a substitute on Tuesday night, so may be tempted to freshen up his 11.

#2 Coming into it

Wolves got themselves back on track after back-to-back defeats on Tuesday night with a positive display and point for their efforts. Rayan Ait-Nouri’s third goal in the space of four matches earned a point against Burnley and it could have been more, had Ait-Nouri or Mario Lemina taken second half chances. At Molineux, Wolves’ last outing was that painful FA Cup loss to Coventry City, but in the Premier League, they’ve won the last two, beating Fulham in mid-March and Sheffield United in late February.

Wolves’ last three | D 1-1 Burnley (A) – L 2-0 Aston Villa (A) – L 3-2 Coventry City (H)

West Ham also drew 1-1 at Tuesday evening, also coming from a goal behind. Kurt Zouma’s header cancelled out Brennan Johnson’s opener as the Hammers drew with Tottenham Hotspur. It proved a much calmer event than the previous Saturday when West Ham were 3-1 up at Newcastle United, but eventually ended up 4-3 losers. The Hammers are without a win in four in the Premier League, having drawn with Burnley and Aston Villa before that.

West Ham’s last three | D 1-1 Tottenham (H) – L 4-3 Newcastle (A) – D 1-1 Aston Villa (H)

#3 Since last time

West Ham 3 Wolves 0 | 17th December 2023

Back in December, West Ham punished Wolves for one of their most uncharacteristic performances of the season. An illness bug surrounded the Wolves camp and the Hammers took full advantage from the moment Mohammed Kudus fired home the opener, before hitting the Old Gold on the counter attack for the second. Pablo Sarabia had a goal chalked off by VAR before Jarrod Bowen rolled in the third on the break.

Wolves | Bentley, Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Toti, Lemina, Gomes, Bellegarde, Sarabia, Hwang, Cunha.

All 11 of Wolves’ starters that day remain at the club, but a number are unlikely to feature in the return fixture this weekend. Bellegarde is absent through injury and Hwang and Dawson are more likely to feature against Nottingham Forest the following week, rather than the Hammers. Dan Bentley started in goal in place of the injured Jose Sa. For West Ham, Michail Antonio has returned since then and is back leading the line, while Konstantinos Mavropanos has been deputing for the injured Aguerd recently.

West Ham | Fabianski, Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson, Soucek, Alvarez, Kudus, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta, Bowen.

#4 In the media

Emma Smith, BBC Sport journalist, praised West Ham for their showing in midweek and looked at how Bowen compares with a Hammers legend.  

“While West Ham never seem to be far away from crisis mode, at London Stadium they are incredibly tough to beat - as this game showed. David Moyes' side have now lost only one of their last 16 home matches in all competitions, and despite falling behind early were good value for a point. The Hammers limited Spurs to very few chances following Brennan Johnson's early opener, and had the better opportunities to find a winner.

“Michail Antonio should have scored when one on one with Gigi Vicario, while the Italian made a couple of good saves from Antonio and James Ward-Prowse. Jarrod Bowen meanwhile was a creative livewire as ever, although he will have to wait to match Paolo Di Canio's 1999/2000 high mark of 16 league goals. West Ham also could not quite secure their third Premier League double over Tottenham, having done so in the 1998/99 and 2013/14 seasons.”

Nick Mashiter, senior football news reporter, highlights the absence of Craig Dawson as a reason Wolves have struggled for wins recently.

“Without their main strikeforce and a key defender Wolves have been sucked into a perfect storm. Matheus Cunha did at least return from his hamstring injury weeks ahead of schedule, replacing Leon Chiwome in the second half of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Burnley, while Hee Chan Hwang is closing in on fitness. Yet missing defender Craig Dawson has caused boss Gary O’Neil another issue.

“Stripped of their first-choice front three of Hwang, Cunha and Pedro Neto, Wolves have no outlet. It has inevitably put more pressure on the defence and Dawson’s absence has left them feeling the strain. Their recent run has coincided with his absence following a groin injury. While Cunha, Hwang and Neto provide the threat, Dawson undoubtedly gives Wolves certainty and confidence at the back. He has made 39 blocks in the Premier League this season – second only to James Tarkowski’s 43 - and is in the top 10 for clearances and headed clearances with 119 and 65 respectively. The 33-year-old is back in training though – along with Hwang – and could be available to face West Ham at the weekend to give Wolves a lift for their final eight games.