We really should be coming into this one on the back of our first win of the season.
For large parts we were much better at Watford, controlled the game and had enough chances to win it comfortably, but we didn’t capitalise on our early dominance, began to sit deep and couldn’t kill them off.
Play like that most weeks and our first win of 2021/22 will arrive sooner rather than later. The issue is, we very rarely control games as we did in that first half – and even then we didn’t do enough to beat a very poor Watford side.
The worry is, if we can’t beat them or a below par Leeds side, who are we going to beat this season?
Next up is Wolves; a side in transition, but one who’ve won two of their last three games after beating Southampton 1-0 over the weekend.
They’re better than Watford and have several players capable of doing damage – Jimenez will be boosted by his first goal in over 300 days and Traore could return – however I watched their win at St Mary’s and they were pretty poor.
Bruce has to stick with a back four and go to win, not match their formation and hope for a point.
We’ve drawn 1-1 with Wolves the last FIVE times we’ve met them in the Premier League, but that result won’t be enough to lift the mood on Tyneside – which would remain subdued at best if we head into the international break still without a win seven games in.
Steve Bruce is yet to give an update at the time of writing, but it seems likely that Callum Wilson (thigh) and Martin Dubravka (foot) won’t be back until after the upcoming international break.
Elsewhere, we’ll have to hope for good news on Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett. The skipper missed out at Watford after liming off against Leeds, while Shelvey and Dummett have both been missing for several weeks with calf injuries.
For Wolves, Pedro Neto, Jonny, Rayan Ait-Nouri and Yerson Mosquera all look set to miss out, while Adama Traore and Ruben Neves will be hoping for a recalls after being benched at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Predicted line ups
(4-1-4-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie – Hayden – Almiron, Willock, S Longstaff, Joelinton – Saint-Maximin.
(3-4-2-1): Sa – Kilman, Coady, Saiss – Semedo, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Marcal – Traore, Hwang – Jimenez.
Providing there’s no change on the injury front, I don’t see us making any changes from the 1-1 draw at Watford.
It was a disappointing result in the end and game filled with missed chances from our perspective, but we must surely stick with a back four after looking much more balanced at both ends last weekend.
Ritchie did better than expected at left-back, Manquillo continues to look our most reliable option down the right, Hayden did a solid job in front of the defence, Longstaff looked more like his old self and Willock was able to make more bursting runs forward as a result.
Joelinton was also a handful down the left-hand side, with himself and Almiron able to support a previously isolated Saint-Maximin – who is causing havoc in that false number nine role, whether it be running at defences or creating chances for runners around him.
Bruce has a decision to make if one of Lascelles, Shelvey of Wilson happen to be back for this one, however I can see him going with the same side that drew at Watford if all three miss out.
After all, that would’ve been the team that won our first game of the season in pretty convincing fashion had we been able to finish our chances.
Do the same at Molineux and we might just come away with a much needed victory – even if the level of opposition will be a step up from Watford.
This fixture has ended 1-1 in each of our last five Premier League meetings and I can see this one ending in another draw.
I do think there could be a few goals in this if we arrive with the same approach that threatened to work at Watford, but that will require us to get support up to Saint-Maximin, seeing Willock make runs into the box and our wide men push up – not spend most of the time camped in their own half protecting the full-back behind them.
Getting the balance right with the latter could be key here. Wolves’ Marcal looked shaky at Southampton and could struggle with Almiron, yet, at the other end, we’d be asking for trouble if Joelinton gave Traore a free run at Matt Ritchie!
Saint-Maximin will cause all sorts of problems for their one-paced back three and could have a field day if he’s at it, but fit and firing Raul Jimenez could do just as much damage at the other end if he’s boosted by that brilliant solo goal against Southampton last Sunday.
I fear we’ll sit deeper, rely on infrequent counter attacks and get a scrappy point at best, but play like we did last weekend and a high scoring draw with chances at either end would be my prediction.
Prediction: Wolves 2-2 Newcastle