My latest observation is quite a simplistic suggestion, and one that I have heard other fans mention countless times either at Molineux or online. And it is simplistic – simply stick Adama Traore on the halfway line whilst Wolves are defending a corner, punt the ball in his direction and watch chaos ensue.
However, there is much more to it than just that. As well as potentially giving Wolves an opportunity to create more goals, I genuinely believe it would also go a long way to reducing goals that Wolves concede too.
I would call Wolves’ system for defending set pieces as a bit of a hybrid between man marking and zonal marking. All ten outfield players are typically called back to defend, and some, such as Willy Boly, may have an opposition player that they are partnered up to for the match.
For many of the players though, they are there to plug in any gaps within the 18 yard box to prevent somebody getting free and scoring. Theoretically you would assume that the more players that you have back defending would mean that you concede less goals. However, I believe this isn’t always the case – and especially so when you have a player with such unique characteristics like Traore.
Looking back at the home game versus Tottenham Hotspur, you could argue that this was one of Traore’s breakout matches. He caused a seasoned veteran (albeit not a left back) in Jan Vertonghen to look like an amateur whilst in full flight on the right hand side of the pitch. And this was all before the wonderful daisy cutter he scored past the hapless Paulo Gazzaniga.
This led to the Spaniard being cynically fouled at every opportunity where he received the ball, eventually taking its toll and leading to his shoulder being dislocated during another robust challenge. As a result of this, a shaken up Traore returned to the pitch in injury time as Wolves were defending a corner. He lost Vertonghen of all players who earned Spurs an unlikely.
Now, this is not a dig at Traore in the slightest. He showed incredible toughness to try and continue, and he had been incredible all match. We also can’t forget that, despite some of his eye catching performances playing in a deeper position, he is not a defender. This is why I really think that Wolves are missing a trick by not utilising his talents more in certain situations.
Put simply, if Traore is put on the halfway line when Wolves are defending a set piece, there will be a lot more attention on him than any other player who could be positioned there. Suddenly, the opposition are focused as much on how to stop a potential counter-attack as they are in actually trying to score. If you think defenders are terrified of his raw pace when facing him in a one on one situation, imagine how they would feel coming up against him in a flat race trying to reach a booming ball that has been kicked over the top by Rui Patricio.
You could have teams leaving three players back just to deal with the presence of one Wolves players. And for every player that is not in the Wolves penalty area trying to score, the chance of Wolves successfully defending the set piece will only rise.
Now this is only a very minute aspect of an entire 90 minute game of football, and in some games the opposition may only get two or three corners a game. However, it must be remembered that the Premier League is a competition of exceptionally fine margins. This can be evidenced simply by looking at Wolves’ standings in the 29 matches played thus far. (Only Arsenal can match their 13 draws). Over the course of a season, a little tweak like this could reduce goals conceded by one or two and might provide one or two goals. Yet it could be those couple of goals that are the difference between even more European football at Molineux, or it being a one-hit wonder for now.