Saturday evening’s stalemate with Aston Villa, Conor Coady’s pair of chances and the differences either side of half-time were just some of the topics discussed on the latest episode of Matchday Live Extra.
Joining Mikey Burrows was co-commentator and former-Wolves full-back Andy Thompson, as well as regular pundits in the form of ex-old gold players Carl Ikeme and Sam Ricketts, who analysed the goalless draw at Villa Park.
Also joining the panel ahead of kick-off were special guests including former Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov and ex-Wolves midfielder and Academy graduate Jack Price, as the team discussed former Wolves midfielder Kevin McDonald’s decision to step away from football to undergo treatment for chronic kidney disease as well as the rise of Villa and ex-Wolves keeper Emi Martinez.
On another under-par first-half showing
Ricketts said: “If I’m being honest, I’ve been really disappointed. I don’t think I’ve seen Wolves play with any intensity and have been defending the whole half, apart from Neto, who looks our most threatening player, but he’s been picking the ball up 30 yards inside our own half and tyring to dribble and drive and take on their whole team.
“He gets past two or three, but then he’s left on his own with no-one else up with him. It’s been disappointing from an attacking sense. I’ve not seen anything. Nothing at all.”
Ikeme added: “Watching the game progress, we’ve looked disjointed at times and really stretched. Going forwards, it looks like give the ball to Neto or give the ball to Traore and see what happens, and it’s not enough. It needs to be backed up by good full-back play, good passing from the midfielders and midfielders trying to get into the box. They’ve been really sloppy as well, which has been really disappointing.”
On coming out of the break a different team
Ikeme said: “Everything we were asking for at half-time in terms of intensity and attacking players getting forward more and creating more chances and we got that. On the chances created and the balance of play, they’ll be disappointed that they didn’t go away with the victory.”
Ricketts added: “It’s been a much better second-half. The whole team has been 30 yards higher up the pitch so you’re going to create more chances.
“The chances have been falling to Coads from a corner and free-kicks, but by getting more players up the pitch, they have caused more pressure, you get more set-piece opportunities and we had the better chances. For three midfielders – I know Coads has been there a long time now, and has become one of the best sweepers in the game – the defence have done really well.”
It's been a whole year since we've had fans with us.— Wolves (@Wolves) March 7, 2021
It just hasn't been the same without you.
On missed opportunities
Ricketts said: “He’s a magnet in there, isn’t he? On another day, Conor probably should’ve scored his header, with the second one, he was unlucky and it was just instinct. If he doesn’t take it, Romain Saiss might just tap it in behind him.
“A lot of teams now are zonal marking, so no-one is actually assigned to Coady, but they’ll have half-blockers. The first header is a really well worked routine, and for once, it almost came off because Villa’s back line was marking zonal and Coads ghosted round the back. It was a good header, unlucky it hit the post and the chance came just too quickly for Saiss.”
Ikeme added: “Coads will go a bit unnoticed because he’s not the tallest, so when you have a Saiss or a Jose or maybe a Dendoncker in there, you’re going to be assigning your centre-halves to them, rather than Coads because he’s not known for scoring at all. He’s an unknown threat, although he won’t go unnoticed for too long and it might be a way for Wolves to manipulate plays and be a bit creative.”
On eradicating first-half issues
Thompson said: “I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or a lack of belief in the first-half, or if there’s a mental thing that gives them more in the second-half, but they need to improve those first-halves and take it to the opposition. They haven’t got to expose themselves, they haven’t got to leave themselves vulnerable at the back, but they’ve got to push on. With the players that we’ve got, there’s no reason we can’t do that.
“We can’t just rely on putting in a performance in the second-half. The best form of defence is attack, so we’ve got to be looking to attack these teams.”
Ikeme added: “I don’t think it’s a game plan, it could be something that’s happening unconsciously with the team. There’s no reason for it, because it’s not like in the first-half that we have everybody behind the ball and sitting in, we just don’t seem to have the same rhythm that we do in the second-half of games. It would be nice to start quicker.”
We're thinking of you, Kev.— Wolves (@Wolves) March 2, 2021
On Kevin McDonald battling kidney disease
Price said: “It’s tough for him, but I’ve spoken to him and Kev’s Kev with the way he replies. He’s in good spirits and you wouldn’t expect anything less from him because he’s a strong character and a top bloke.
“I wish him all the best because I text him as soon as I found out as it’s tough news for him and his family, but he seems strong and is looking forward to the future after his transplant.”
Ikeme added: “I spoke to Kev and he was just making me laugh with his responses. He has been dealing with it for a while and a lot of us knew about it when he was playing with us because he was always having these tests which we used to take the mick out of him for, but I think he thought he would see his career through. But he’s a top lad, a great character and I’m he just needs a bit of time now to get through it.”
On missing Jack Grealish and Emi Martinez’s rise
Petrov said: “He’s a huge loss. We’ve seen in the last couple of games how we missed his creativity, and when we have Jack on the field, he creates more space and opportunities for others, so he’ll be badly missed. But in a derby game, other players need to step up and take responsibility.”
Ikeme said: “Emi Martinez was a top lad when he was here with me at Wolves and it’s been great to see him come on so much at Villa this season.”
Petrov added: “You goalkeepers are a different breed! But he’s been a huge influence. We have Heaton who has been great for us, but now Martinez is in and he’s been solid, he’s been commanding in the right way, he’s been making a difference in goal and the boys are really confident having him behind them. Since he moved from Arsenal, he’s showed he has a great potential and having him this season, we love him to bits.”
To rewatch the latest Matchday Live Extra show from Saturday, click here.