This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Wolves’ season so far has had two very contrasting elements.
In the Europa League, they have mounted a historic run into the group stages, winning all six of their qualifying matches including an impressive two-legged victory over Serie A outfit Torino.
Whilst in the league, to say they have struggled would be an understatement.
The west Midlands club are yet to record a victory and last weekend’s 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea saw them slip closer to rock-bottom in the table.
If you don’t know the words to the Joao Moutinho chant in the video below, are you even a real Wolves fan?…
Nuno Santo managed to guide the club to a seventh-place finish last campaign, in what was their first season back in the top-flight in seven years after lifting the Championship in 2018.
The added strain of competing on the European continent has clearly had a significant impact already with the vigorous group stages only just starting later this week.
So where has it gone wrong?
One area of the pitch that has drastically underperformed is in midfield.
The trio of Ruben Neves, Leander Dendoncker and Joao Moutinho are central to Santo’s three-at-the-back system working. They almost hold it all together.
Last season, they looked in another world – but so far this campaign, things just haven’t been up to scratch.
All three midfielders have been much worse with the ball at their feet, regressing on the number of passes made as well as on their passing accuracy.
Moutinho is the playmaker of the side. He recorded the most assists during 2018/19 with eight, and the number of passes he averages per game has lowered substantially from 49 to 37.4 – that’s a considerable drop in regards to his involvement.
The 33-year-old has also seen a decrease in the number of long-balls he plays, only adding to his creativity woes so far this campaign.
Dendoncker and Neves are mostly defensive-minded midfielders, yet they have seen a similar pattern in the focal points of their respective games.
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The Belgium international’s average number of completed passes per game has dropped from 31.9 to 23.8, whilst he has been far less effective in the tackle – a decrease of 2 per game from last season, which you’d imagine has been a massive reason as to why opposition players have been able to get the better of Wolves so far this season.
Neves, who has been courted by reigning champions Manchester City in the past, has also underperformed greatly – his passing accuracy rate has dipped by nearly 10% with his presence on the pitch seemingly nullified through a lack of interceptions too.
Santo will need to find a way to get these three going or their Premier League hopes will dwindle away just as quick as these midfielder’s stats have.