Wolves continued their 100% start to 2022 with a 3-1 win over Southampton at Molineux as Bruno Lage’s men moved back into eighth place.
Raul Jimenez’s first half penalty and second half goals from Conor Coady and Adama Traore secured the points, but it was young left-back Rayan Aït-Nouri who was particularly impressive for the Midlands outfit, standing out as arguably the manager’s real hero throughout the match.
The 20-year-old hadn’t started a Premier League match since the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in mid-December and impressed on his return to top-flight action, having started his first game in a month last Sunday in the 3-0 FA Cup success over Sheffield United.
The Wolves wing-back was credited with the assist for Jimenez’s penalty after being fouled by Saints defender Jan Bednarek, and he was a real livewire in the final third all afternoon.
According to SofaScore, the Frenchman contributed two key passes as well as creating two big chances for Lage’s men whilst also enjoying a 75% dribble success rate, being awarded a hugely impressive 8.1/10 rating. Moreover, Aït-Nouri completed 74% of his passes, as well as two of the three crosses he attempted.
As a wing-back, the youngster succeeded with his defensive duties too, making two tackles and two interceptions whilst also winning 62% of his duels. However, the home side were unable to keep a clean sheet as Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse scored a sensational free kick from distance late on.
The victory was only the 10th league appearance this season for the Frenchman, but with performances like this one, he will heavily boost his claim for a regular starting spot in Lage’s side.
Granted, a groin injury hasn’t helped the £33k-p/w defender stake his claim for a regular spot, forcing the 20-year-old to miss Wolves’ busy festive period having enjoyed a run of eight consecutive starts prior to that setback.
Aït-Nouri’s main competitor for a place is arguably Marçal, with the Brazilian left-back featuring in Lage’s first eight games as Wolves manager. However, the 32-year-old has only played three league games since and was absent from the squad on Saturday. He may find it hard to get back into the team based on his younger team-mate’s performance this afternoon.