This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Wolverhampton Wanderers must surely have one foot in the next round of the Europa League as their victory over Slovan Bratislava opened up a five-point cushion in Group K.
Nuno Santo needed some late theatrics from striker Raul Jimenez as the Mexican headed home an Adama Traore cross two minutes into injury time.
The match looked certain for a 0-0 stalemate after Ruben Neves saw his penalty saved just six minutes into the second half, but aside from that, Wolves struggled to create enough substantial chances to seriously threaten their Slovakian opposition – registering only seven of their 20 shots on target.
Their problem may lie in how they have been supplying their top goalscorer, Jimenez. He may have netted his 12th of the season on Thursday evening, but he could have had so much more.
Nuno’s men managed just eight accurate crosses from 34 attempts (24%), which is quite staggering, considering they were playing with wing-backs as well as wingers.
But this has been a recurring theme in recent weeks.
Take this past month alone, the side have barely managed an accurate cross rate past 30% in all of their games – Arsenal (21%), Aston Villa (0%!), Newcastle United (31%), Slovan (29%), Southampton (33%), Manchester City (20%) and Besiktas (27%).
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The Portuguese boss has played either wing-backs, wingers, or both in all of these matches with the Mexican deployed up top in each too.
Understat‘s model helps us understand where Jimenez’s Premier League goals have come from. They are all inside the box, which is no surprise, but the more significant concentration appears to be past the penalty spot.
The best way to attack this zone is to provide accurate crosses so that his 6 foot 3 presence can meet it to give the side every chance of scoring.
Two of his four goals in the top-flight this campaign have been from his head, just like he did in this very game.
Therefore, Nuno’s solution to the problem is effectively right under his nose as he needs to get his wide players making improvements to their crossing – it is quite damning that Joao Moutinho averages the most crosses in the squad with 1.5 per game as he is a central midfielder who primarily takes the set-pieces.
Matt Doherty (0.1), Jonny (0.1), and Traore (0.9) all have poor figures for the same statistic, via WhoScored, which only emphasises that there is plenty of work to be done here.