Talking Points | Brighton vs Wolves

The festive period is gaining momentum in the Premier League and Wolves are on the road again on Wednesday night, heading to Brighton and Hove Albion, and has the four main Talking Points covered.

#1 Jimenez shaped hole to fill for Wolves

Raul Jimenez is in unfamiliar territory right now. The striker is suspended from Premier League action for the first time following his dismissal against Manchester City, and Bruno Lage must find his replacement. The Mexican was booked twice within the space of a minute at the Etihad, and while his team mates performed admirably without him in the second-half, they’re now gearing up for a full 90 minutes without their focal point up top.

Lage has five options in an attacking sense. Fabio Silva is the only other recognised centre forward in the squad, but when Jimenez returned late from international duty ahead of the trip to Aston Villa, Lage opted for a front two of Hee Chan Hwang and Adama Traore. Other options include Daniel Podence, who very nearly set up Maximilian Kilman for a late equaliser with a dangerous cross on Saturday, and Francisco Trincao, who was also introduced late on. Of those five, only Hwang has scored in the Premier League this term – a statistic Lage will want to change at Brighton, and once Jimenez is back too.  

#2 Neither unfamiliar with a draw

Brighton have become the Premier League’s draw specialists this winter. Since 30th October, the Seagulls have drawn five of their six top flight matches, and both ends of the spectrum are covered. A 2-2 draw at Anfield presented an impressive point, as did the late show at the London Stadium, but being held by Newcastle United and Leeds United on home soil left a few locals disgruntled. Neal Maupay was the man who earned that late draw at West Ham United, as he did at Crystal Palace earlier in the year, and last time out he made it a hat-trick of last-minute salvages at St Mary’s. The Frenchman waited until the eighth minute of added time to earn Brighton a 1-1 draw. Since that afternoon of 4th December, Albion haven’t played due to Tottenham’s Covid outbreak, meaning those of Potter’s men available on Wednesday should be fresh.

Wolves themselves picked up a couple of draws either side of the November-December turn against Norwich City and Burnley. In truth, in defeats to Liverpool and Man City, the old gold would have felt they deserved a point for their efforts, narrowly missing out in different, but equally unfortunate circumstances. The aim will be to put that behind them and not only improve with one point at Brighton, but all three.

#3 Enjoying life on the coast

Premier League games between Wolves and Brighton have been a real mixed bag in the past three seasons, but while Molineux has endured a couple of goalless draws, the Amex has enjoyed the majority of the drama. The last two meetings between the pair in Sussex have seen ten goals and the points shared equally – two apiece. Like this season, the previous two both came around the Christmas period. Two years ago, Diogo Jota bagged twice in a 2-2 draw, while 2021 for Wolves actually began at the Amex, as the 2nd January fixture finished 3-3, with Romain Saiss and Ruben Neves amongst the scorers.

The trip on Wednesday night is one of the longest on the calendar each season for Wolves, but they’ve actually enjoyed themselves on the south coast in recent years. Those two Brighton draws join a trio of victories at Southampton and a 2019 success at AFC Bournemouth in compiling a six-match unbeaten run on the south coast for Wolves. The old gold have gone since April 2019 without losing down there – a 3-1 reverse at St Mary’s – and a seventh match unbeaten would be much appreciated by Lage.

#4 Easing in the Wolves treatment room

Going under the radar slightly on Saturday was a return to the matchday squad for Willy Boly, who was an unused substitute at the Etihad. Injuries have prevented the defender featuring in the Premier League this season, but having returned to training last week, Boly’s presence in the squad could be crucial over the coming weeks. Marcal was also involved in the 20 meaning the treatment room is clearing slightly – now only long-term absentees Jonny, Yerson Mosquera and Pedro Neto are missing due to injuries.

While missing Jimenez will be a blow for Wolves, Brighton have problems of their own, with Graham Potter reporting some of his players returned positive Covid-19 results at the start of the week. The Seagulls are certain to be without defensive duo Lewis Dunk, who is out until January, and Shane Duffy, whose suspension originally schedule for the Tottenham Hotspur fixture now carries over to Wednesday night. Adam Webster would normally be the man Potter turns to in their absence, but he too is nursing a calf problem, meaning the door may be opened to teenager Haydon Roberts. More positively however, Potter reported that Leandro Trossard is fit to feature after his elbow injury, while the experienced Adam Lallana could make the bench.