Over the last month, nothing has really gone right for Nuno Santo and Wolves.
Since Raul Jimenez fractured his skull in a horrific clash of heads against Arsenal, the Molineux outfit have won just three of their last 12 outings.
Not only have they struggled to score goals but at the opposite end, they’ve been in diabolical shape. Nuno has shifted between a three-man and four-man backline but on a rare occasion in recent weeks, he got his system spot on during Wednesday night’s draw with Chelsea.
The Portuguese went back to basics as Wolves lined up with three centre-backs. The result was a first league clean sheet since October – a run of 13 matches. All three of the defenders were imperious as Willy Boly and Max Kilman lost just one of their duels between them.
It was a night of near perfection from Wolves’ defence and it was a timely return to form for club captain Conor Coady.
The £55,000-a-week Wolves skipper has struggled of late and looked in horrific form when the Old Gold lost the Black Country derby to West Brom. He conceded a penalty and was then hauled off for the very first time in his Molineux career by the manager.
It was a landmark moment for the defender, one that signalled he wasn’t untouchable in this Wolves team.
However, the England international bounced back on Wednesday evening and answered any critics with a superb performance at the heart of Nuno’s defence. As he traditionally does, Coady marshalled things well and in winning 100% of his duels, barely put a foot wrong.
Express & Star’s Joe Edward’s typified his display with the following words at full-time: “Led by example. Typically vocal, always organising those around him and providing encouragement too. His own game was hugely improved from the previous few matches as well.”
That was all Nuno could ask for from Coady on Wednesday. He was superb and demonstrated all of the characteristics we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the bubbly 27-year-old.
In completing 86% of his passes – a team-high – he was safe and secure, while his radiant confidence meant he wasn’t dribbled past on a single occasion, nor did he commit a foul.
He and the rest of the defence stifled Olivier Giroud exceptionally well. That’s no mean feat given his physicality and for a man who usually dominates in the air, he won only three of the seven aerial battles he competed in.
That was a testament to not only Coady but the entire defence he was leading.
After his horror show against West Brom, he needed to prove himself and this was exactly the way to do it. Why did we ever doubt him?