When Joao Moutinho chose to come to Wolves in 2018, it raised a few eyebrows.
The Molineux outfit had just been promoted to the top-flight but that didn’t seem to matter for one of Portuguese football’s most consistent playmakers.
The bearded midfield general has been outstanding since signing for the Old Gold and has become one of Nuno Santo’s go-to men.
He has scored just two goals for Wolves but crucially, he has 21 assists in his two and a half years at Molineux. When you think of the word ‘consistent’, you usually associate it with the 34-year-old.
Normally, age has been no burden for Moutinho but unfortunately in 2020/21, it’s proving detrimental.
Wolves have now won just three of their last 13 matches in all competitions and their dismal form this campaign can be, in part, attributed to the abject performances of Moutinho.
It’s been hard to pick bones with the experienced performer in the past but this season, he’s been a passenger in Wolves’ midfield. It was no surprise that without him in the team in midweek, they looked a lot better.
Nuno’s men drew 0-0 with Chelsea in a solid display all-round but when he returned to the side on Saturday, they suffered another defeat – this time by a one-goal margin to Crystal Palace.
Moutinho was slow, he struggled to read the pace of the game and was given a torrid afternoon by the energetic Ebere Eze. His goal proved to be the difference between the two teams, but such was the vibrant counter-attacking nature of Palace, that Moutinho was dribbled past on four occasions.
That’s a rather horrific statistic, one that proved to be the worst of anyone on the Wolves team on Saturday. As a result, he was far from prolific in defensive situations. The Portugal international won only 37.5% of the duels he competed in, looking way off the pace in the middle of the park.
Writing at full-time, Birmingham Live reporter Alex Dicken said: “A surprise selection ahead of his compatriot Neves and didn’t really justify his recall. He didn’t take any risks with the ball and contributed to a passive Wolves performance.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Moutinho has let his team down in recent months. In fact, he’s pretty much been a passenger all season, failing to score or provide a single assist. His key passes per game this term are down 0.9 from last season, while he’s making more fouls per match in the Premier League this campaign.
In recent months, he has been especially poor. Against Everton, earlier this January, the former Monaco man won just 25% of his duels and versus another Merseyside outfit, Liverpool, he committed four fouls and won only 33.3% of the defensive battles he competed in. Nuno’s side consequently lost 4-0.
It’s clear that Moutinho is struggling and with Wolves needing a desperate improvement in their play, they require someone fresh and mobile in their midfield, not the Portuguese veteran.
Only last week, Tim Spiers revealed this could be his final campaign as a regular. On this evidence, The Athletic reporter isn’t wrong. With just a day of the window remaining and Wolves in such poor form, this whole situation is turning into a nightmare for the manager.
They were dreaming of European football this season, but partly due to Moutinho’s struggles, they currently sit in 14th place.