Gary O’Neil says he’ll carry his players off the pitch if needed on Saturday, given the energy levels Wolves are going to need against Nottingham Forest.
After a taxing week, where the Old Gold got back to winning ways on Tuesday, O’Neil has worked to rest and refresh his group, before another big push on Saturday when Forest visit. The head coach, who provided a goalkeeper update in his pre-match press conference, also picked out Hee Chan Hwang for praise, after the South Korean hit his ninth goal of the season against the Clarets.
On being prepared to give all
“The lads are well prepared and the most important thing between the game in the week and tomorrow was the rest really, making sure the lads’ energy levels were back to where they needed to be. Hopefully we’ve done a good job with that.
“We’ve got eight days before our next game, so tomorrow’s a big one where we can attack it full throttle, give everything we’ve got, carry the lads off the pitch at the end if we have to and rest them up ready for the trip to West Ham in eight days’ time.”
On injury news lifting
“Pedro’s still working with the fitness coach. He’s upping the level of intensity and how much he can do. The plan probably is for him to do around one more week, maybe five days with the fitness coach and come back into the group to join us for some training. Then, he’ll be back available from then hopefully. Obviously, it’ll take a bit of time to build him up, but that’s the hope.
“Jose Sa’s fine, back 100 per cent fit, so good news. Rayan’s ankle is still a little bit sore, not progressed quite as quickly as we would have hoped, we were hoping he’d do the last two days training, but he didn’t manage to train yesterday and he only did a little bit today, so we’ll assess him again in the morning, but it’s probably likely that Rayan won’t be available tomorrow.”
Eyeing up another Molineux matchday 👀 pic.twitter.com/0oxNXRXBR5— Wolves (@Wolves) December 8, 2023
On goalkeeping decisions
“I’m pleased to have a real decision to make between goalkeepers. It’s probably not one I envisaged having to make when I came, not that I knew a lot about Dan or Jose, but there seemed to be a clear number one and number two when I arrived. Whoever plays tomorrow, what Dan has done in the last few weeks has shown that he’s ready to push.
“It puts him, the club and Jose in a really good spot, where we know Jose knows his level has to be high and Dan knows his level has to be high to push. I’m pleased for the Dan and the way he’s managed to perform in the last two games and delighted that Jose’s back fit. Will the news be easy to deliver to the one missing out? No. That bit’s not enjoyable, but the fact that I’ve got two good goalkeepers to choose from is positive.”
On continuing to score goals
“I guess it’s the work that we’re doing, the quality that we have in the group, it’s lots of different things. Some of our out of possession stuff has been good, so a combination of the lads trying to understand what we need of them and how the structure can help them, and the fact that we have some really good players that are a goal threat that are arriving in really good areas now.
“Of course, Nottingham Forest are going to be a tough test. I don’t know how they’ll react to the big defeat a few days ago. Whether they come and try to shut up shop a bit more than they were. Conceding five goals away from home makes it difficult to know whether they’ll come and try the same again or whether they’ll be more defensive minding.
“From our point of view, we’re trying to remain a threat. The Burnley game was probably our toughest one in terms of trying to create things with the ball because they were very well organised. In general, this season to create as many chances as we have, to keep getting people in key areas, has been a real positive for us.”
On maintaining energy levels
“Looking at a lot of their stuff, especially away from home, and at home, they’re not overly aggressive. It’ll probably be on us a bit with the ball again which can create a different kind of atmosphere. The Burnley game was similar, whereas when we’ve played the top sides here, they’ve obviously come after us and we’ve had to move the ball quickly.
“Tomorrow could be a different test for us again. They’ve used a lot of different shapes and structures, they’ve been a back five a few times, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, so difficult to predict. The prep is more about us and making sure we understand what’s expected of us and we’ll have to react to what Nottingham Forest decide tomorrow because there’s no way we can be 100 per cent sure on what that looks like.”
On Hwang’s form in front of goal
“He’s been key for us. Eight [Premier League] goals is really impressive. The work that he puts in every day is the main reason. He’s intelligent as well, his understanding of situations and where to arrive in areas, and the timing of it has been really important to us. I thought he looked a bit tired the other night, obviously a big shift at the Emirates a few days before, so we’ve tried to rest him up.
“With the injuries and suspensions we’ve had this week, and the squad isn’t the biggest, we’ve not had the luxury to rotate too many. We do have a few we can rotate in and out if we choose to, but not maybe as many as other clubs. Quite a few of the lads have had to go two 90s or close to two 90s already, so we’ve tried to really rest them down the last couple of days in an effort to make sure energy levels get back to where we need them for kick off tomorrow.”