The Chalkboard: Wolves lay out blueprint to thwart top-six sides

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Wolves turned in a superb performance to earn a 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were disciplined throughout the 90 minutes as they went within two minutes of picking up all three points at Stamford Bridge.

On the chalkboard

Santo set his team up in a very particular way against Maurizio Sarri’s side.

The promoted side are currently seventh, occupying the final Europa League qualifying spot, but they played up to their underdog tag in west London.

Per WhoScored, Wolves had 24% possession and merely challenged Chelsea to break them down.

The Blues had a total of 22 shots on goal but only six were on target, with the west Midlands outfit routinely funnelling the likes of Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain into blind alleys.

Amazingly, Chelsea attempted 820 passes to Wolves’ 274, but they lost the ball a total of 40 times, compared to 18 for the visitors.

Defensively, Wolves made 38 tackles, 25 interceptions, 27 blocks, and 47 clearances. They also committed 14 fouls, while goalkeeper Rui Patricio made five saves to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s none.

Indeed, Raul Jimenez scored his side’s only shot on target and appeared to have given them all three points, only for Hazard to net a brilliant injury-time strike to earn a share of the points.

It is difficult for players to defend and concentrate for 90 minutes but Wolves went within a whisker of pulling it off; had the truly brilliant Belgian not been in such inspired form, they would have done the double over the Blues.

Copycats

This is not always guaranteed to work.

Wolves’ gameplan could well have fallen apart had they conceded in the first half, but the concentration shown by the likes of Conor Coady and Willy Boly was something to behold.

Santo trusted his men to pull off a very specific plan and they did so for 91 minutes before Hazard’s shimmy and finish on the edge of the box.

Wolves are, of course, a different breed of promoted team, such is the depth of talent available to them.

But the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Fulham at the bottom of the league, as well as Burnley and Crystal Palace, are likely to copy their gameplan going forward against top six sides.

Chelsea were frustrated throughout the game and it appeared as though they were doomed to failure yet again.

Had it not been for their superstar left winger, they would surely have left empty-handed and Santo would have executed his plan flawlessly.