Talking Points | Brentford vs Wolves

Wolves maintained their 100 per cent start to 2022 with victory over Southampton last time out, and now one week later, Bruno Lage’s side head to the capital as they face Brentford. Ahead of the 3pm kick-off on Saturday there are plenty of pre-match talking points.

#1 75 years in the making

It will be a historic meeting between Wolves and Brentford on Saturday afternoon, as it is the clubs’ first top-flight clash in west London for almost 75 years to the day and the inaugural contest in the Premier League. The Wolves side back on 18th January 1947 featured the legendary names of Jimmy Mullen in attack, Johnny Hancocks on the wing and Stan Cullis in defence – just over a year before he started his journey to become the club’s greatest ever manager – and it produced an unexpected blow to the old gold’s bid to be champions of England for the first time.

The teams met at Griffin Park, Brentford’s ground until just 18 months ago, with Wolves topping the first division table, while Brentford were languishing a point above the relegation zone. The visitors looked odds-on to extend their unbeaten run to 13 league games and put themselves one step closer to the title, but in one of the shocks of the season, the Bees scored twice within the first seven minutes, and by the time Wolves had got their act together midway through the second-half, they were already 4-0 down. Dennis Wescott notched a scant consolation for Wolves eight minutes from time, but Brentford had claimed a victory as emphatic as it was unexpected.

#2 Three is the magic number

Fast forward 75 years, and Wolves are once again the form team of the two as they head down south. Bruno Lage’s men have won all three of their fixtures so far in 2022, overcoming Manchester United and Southampton in the Premier League, as well as Sheffield United in the FA Cup, as well as arriving at the Brentford Community Stadium unbeaten in their last six games. Brentford are on the other side of the form spectrum, having lost their last three top-flight matches, including the same two opponents Wolves have faced in Man United and Saints, as well as Liverpool.

Although Brentford have tasted success in 2022, thanks to a 2-1 win over Aston Villa to kick-off the year, and a 4-1 triumph away at Port Vale in the cup, their loss to the Red Devils on Wednesday night saw Thomas Frank’s side concede at least three goals in each of those three Premier League games – as many times as they had in their first 19 of the competition. While three has also been the magic number for Wolves, with the men in gold and black having scored three times in consecutive games for the first time this season. Could it be third time lucky on Saturday?

#3 Looking for revenge

If the outcome of the 1947 fixture isn’t enough for Wolves not to approach Saturday’s match with caution, then the last time the sides face off at Molineux certainly should be. Despite a positive start to the 2021/22 campaign going unrewarded, Wolves finally suffered their first deserved defeat at the hand of a 10-man Bees outfit. Lage’s side were punished for an under-par 25-minute spell at the end of the first-half, as Ivan Toney dispatched a penalty before getting an assist just six minutes later when he made a powerful run behind the Wolves defence to lay the ball on a plate for Bryan Mbeumo.

By the time October had begun, Brentford were flying high in their first ever season in the Premier League, losing just once in their opening seven matches and earning themselves 12 points, where they also claimed wins over West Ham United and Arsenal. But since then, results have not gone as well, securing fewer points in the proceeding 15 outings, so Wolves will be looking to take advantage of Brentford’s downturn in form. Having played well in their clashes with Southampton and Man United without a point to show for it, Brentford will believe they can finally get the break they need to turn their fortunes around when they face the old gold.

#4 Toti adds to Lage’s options

It’s not often these days that the revealing of the starting line-ups cause much of a surprise, but that is exactly what happened last Saturday when the name Toti Gomes was listed as part of the Wolves defence. Since signing in gold and black, the left centre-back had spent all 18 months since that point on loan at Grasshopper Club Zurich, but was brought back at the start of the month while the Swiss Super League was on their winter break to help cover for Romain Saiss’ absence at the Africa Cup of Nations and possible Covid isolation.

Well last week, Ruben Neves was the latest in the Wolves camp to miss a fixture due to isolation, and Lage was left with a decision to make – either put Leander Dendoncker into defence and bring in under-23 captain Luke Cundle to pair with Joao Moutinho, or have Dendoncker in the midfield duo and hand a Premier League debut to either Dion Sanderson or Toti. The head coach chose the latter, and what a selection that proved to be with the Portuguese putting in an esteemed performance belying his inexperience. Since then, Toti’s former Estoril teammate Chiquinho has also joined the ranks of the gold and black, with the winger adding another attacking option for Lage ahead of Saturday. Did Toti do enough last week to retain his place? Will Chiquinho get some minutes this weekend? Only time will tell.