The return of Premier League football also brings a return to Vicarage Road for Wolves on Saturday, as Bruno Lage’s men aim to open their account against the newly-promoted Hornets, and wolves.co.uk is here to guide you through the main talking points pre-match.
#1 Hwang’s debut pending?
Vicarage Road represents a fresh start for the pack’s newest member, Hee Chan Hwang, who is in line to make his Wolves debut. Unveiled to Molineux before the Manchester United fixture two weeks ago, the South Korean has had little time to settle into Wolverhampton life, having instantly set off for international duty, but returned to England earlier this week and joined Lage’s training session on Thursday. A full pre-season with RB Leipzig, three Bundesliga appearances and international minutes however, should mean Hwang is in a good physical condition, ready to make his Wolves bow.
The only other member of Lage’s first-team group yet to play competitively for Wolves is defender Yerson Mosquera, who is recovering from a hamstring injury picked up against Coventry City in pre-season. The Colombian got 30 minutes under his belt for the under-23s against West Ham United, before being replaced in a pre-planned change and now he'll be hoping to take the next step to full recovery - a place in the first-team squad on Saturday.
#2 A fresh cycle
The first third of the Premier League season is seen as cycles, with monthly international weekends punctuating the first four months of the season, before an intense run of fixtures during the winter. Saturday’s game starts cycle number two for all involved, including Wolves, who were hugely unlucky to take zero points from the opening set of fixtures. This cycle, which runs for four games between 11th September and 2nd October, will be one where Lage will want points added to the board, alongside continued positive performances.
Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United were always going to be a tough test, and while there are no easy Premier League fixtures, the next four will pose a different test. Newly-promoted sides provide opposition for the next two, Watford and Brentford, while neither Southampton or Newcastle United, the other two clubs, accumulated more points than Wolves last season. A big four weeks await, starting in Hertfordshire on Saturday.
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#3 Turning chances into goals
During Wolves’ opening three fixtures of the season, they registered a massive 57 shots, bettered by only Liverpool and Manchester Cit, showing the attacking intent of Lage’s team, however, crucially, they still search for that illusive first league goal of the season. A combination of fine goalkeeping, wayward finishing and impressive defending means Wolves are still without a Premier League goal, but it’s not for the want of trying. No doubt, that will be an area Lage has focused on during the international week but having one member of the front three and midfield two available during that time will have limited the work on the training pitch. Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Adama Traore and Francisco Trincao have started all three Premier League games, but departed for international duty, leaving only Raul Jimenez at Compton, with Covid restrictions denying him a Mexico meet up.
Lage’s title-winning Benfica side of 2018/19 scored a club record 103 goals in that season, leaving no doubt regarding his intentions at Molineux. Hwang’s arrival will aid that mission, with the South Korean famously scoring 45 goals in his two seasons at Red Bull Salzburg. Jimenez remains the man most likely however, and he scored on his first visit to Vicarage Road back in 2019, when Wolves won 2-1.
#4 The Hornets back in the big time
Following their relegation from the Premier League in 2020, Watford weren’t in the Championship for long, bouncing back at the first attempt, having accumulated 91 points. The appointment over Xisco Munoz in December made the difference, as the Hornets jumped from fifth to second in the second part of the year and pipped Brentford to automatic promotion by four points. Since then, their return back in the top flight has been a mixed experience – with three points the return from their three matches. A fine victory on the opening day against Aston Villa marked their return in style, but their defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion the following week was less impressive. Last time out Watford gave a good account of themselves but were narrowly beaten by Tottenham Hotspur.
Saturday’s game will see Wolves and Watford lock horns again, with the pair sharing a number of significant battles in the two seasons prior to the Hornets’ relegation. In 2018/19, Watford broke Wolves hearts at Wembley, coming from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup semi-final and cruelly ending what had been a thrilling journey for the old gold. Fortunately, however, Wolves won the league game later that April to help secure Europa League football at the expense of Watford. The following season brought less drama and two home wins in the Premier League – the last time the pair met was on New Year’s Day 2020.