Matt Doherty scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season on Sunday as Wolverhampton Wanderers recorded a priceless 3-2 victory away at top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
It was his first away goal of the season and the first time he’s netted a league goal away from Molineux since his last-gasp winner at St James’ Park in December 2018.
Though his strike did not require ferocious power or immaculate precision, conversely it did require a level of attacking intelligence that is seldom seen in full-backs.
Infiltrating attacking space with the nous of a modern day Raumdeuter, Doherty has a tendency to be in exactly the right place at the right time, drifting in from the right touchline to slam home inside the penalty area as he did at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Dele Alli and Thomas Mueller would be proud of some of the timing and intelligence of his running.
The Ireland international’s left footed effort ensured that he has now scored four league goals in four consecutive seasons, and there is plenty of time left for him to notch a career-best five in a single campaign.
While his role in Nuno Espirito Santo’s system naturally allows him the freedom to drive forward with attacking purpose, there’s no disputing the merits of this particular personal achievement.
If it weren’t for Marcos Alonso’s recent flurry of goals, which has seen him find the net three times in just two games, Doherty would be the division’s highest scoring full-back so far this season.
However, it’s pertinent to note that no full-back has scored more goals than Doherty (8) since Wolves returned to the top-flight in 2018.
Alonso, who cost Chelsea £24m to sign from Fiorentina in 2016, has been left in the wake of Wolves’ flying right-back.
The Spaniard has been used sporadically by Frank Lampard in the current campaign but he still started 31 games in the 2018/19 season prior to the 41-year-old’s appointment, proving that Doherty doesn’t just top the charts by virtue of circumstance.
Patrick van Aanholt, forever the marauder, has also notched six goals while Ricardo Pereira (5) and Lucas Digne (4), two players who wouldn’t look out of place in a Champions League standard outfit, make up the rest of the top five.
Doherty is in esteemed company. He may not always be a unanimously popular figure amongst the Wolves supporters but his knack of finding the net undoubtedly gives Nuno an extra dimension in attack.
For a defender, scoring four goals in four seasons back-to-back is an achievement to be proud of and it displays the emergence of a noteworthy trend. That he scored four in eight for Ireland’s U21 side, two in 17 for Hibernian and three in 22 for Bury further attest to his natural ability in front of goal.
This season, meanwhile, his league contribution has been supplemented with two in seven Europa League games.
Doherty’s all-round contribution and embodiment of Wolves’ rise into the Premier League elite may have been the core reasons behind The Guardian’s decision to select him as the club’s player of the decade, but his goal scoring prowess has certainly added an extra facet to bolster his profile.
Premier League defenders beware. Nuno’s assassin isn’t done yet.