Wolverhampton Wanderers vs AFC Bournemouth
Venue: Molineux Stadium
Referee: Simon Hooper
AFC Bournemouth make the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend in what will be the first time the two teams have met in the Premier League.
Wolves are searching for a third consecutive Premier League win – something they’ve never previously managed to achieve. They have now taken three points off Chelsea and Newcastle in the last ten days to end their blip that was fast becoming a rut.
Losing to Cardiff and Huddersfield blotted their otherwise impressive record upon their return to the top flight, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side made amends with victories over the Blues and the Magpies.
If Wolves keep clear of injuries, they have the quality to be a top 10 club even in their first season back in the Premier League. They have shown they can come back and play well after suffering defeats and they have played their own game even against the very best teams.
Now comes the challenge from the Cherries, who themselves have enjoyed a fruitful first opening period of the campaign.
Eddie Howe’s side pitch up at Molineux sitting a couple of places and a single point above Wolves, meaning victory here will lift the old gold above their visitors and – until Sunday, at least – to within a point of Manchester United.
Bournemouth have not drawn that many games this season but playing these teams that are of similar stature could start to increase the likelihood of a drawn game or two. But defeat to Wolves and Brighton would leave the Cherries facing another tough couple of games against Spurs and Man United, needing to get points just to get themselves back into the top 10 before the end of the calendar year.
Wolves: Form and Stats
Wolves went six games without a Premier League victory which raised a few eyebrows after their electric start, but back-to-back victories against Chelsea and Newcastle have propelled them back into everyone’s eyeline.
Nuno’s troops have shown they are more comfortable competing against other teams who try to play good football and Bournemouth fit into that category.
This Wolves team has plenty of young talent in their ranks and time is needed for them to gel, but the likes of Ruben Neves, Diego Jota and Max Mayer are already beginning to show what they are capable of. In the last five home games, Wolverhampton have managed to get six points from two victories, while losing the other three encounters.
If there is a word to describe their form it is inconsistent, but that is probably down to the many young players in the team, and with time they should be getting more and more used to each other. Raul Jimenez is his team’s biggest attacking threat so far with four goals and four assists.
It wasn’t pretty against Newcastle, but the job got done, which is exactly what was required to arrest that worrying slump.
There are four tough games left in 2018 but Nuno’s men would be in a great position if they finish a memorable year in the top half of the Premier League table.
That’s an achievable goal after an excellent start, and much could rest on the result of this game against one of the other ‘best of the rest’ sides.
AFC Bournemouth: Form and Stats
The Cherries head into the fixture two places and one point ahead of the hosts who are 10th in the Premier League table.
After recording five wins in six games, the Cherries somehow managed to turn their form upside down and are now with a single win in their last six games, losing all the other five meetings. All but one of these games were tight affairs, with both teams scoring and being separated just by a single goal in the end.
It is worth mentioning that in four of these matches Bournemouth faced a Premier League giant (Manchester United and City, Arsenal and Liverpool). Only in the most recent game against Liverpool, Bournemouth did not find the way to the opposing goal.
Callum Wilson didn’t feature in the 4-0 drubbing at home to Liverpool last weekend but could return for this fixture. He has eight goals this season and was more than worthy of the England cap he recently received.
David Brooks has been a revelation since joining from Sheffield United in the summer and with the likes of Ryan Fraser and Joshua King continuing to make key contributions, they’re well-armed in attack.
They have three wins and four defeats from their seven away matches to date, which seems fitting for their ‘all or nothing’ approach that usually makes them great to watch.
Raul Jimenez – Wolves
Four goals and four assists this term for the Mexican makes him the Wolves man to watch for Steve Cook and co.
Jimenez was on target as Wolves came back from behind and pulled off a major upset to claim all three points at home against Chelsea. The Mexican has also bagged a couple of Man of the Match awards in the Premier League to show for his efforts.
His ability to link-up with his teammates and hold the ball in the final third makes him an asset to Wolves. Standing at 6ft. 3 inches with a solid frame for a centre-forward, Jimenez has an obvious height advantage over most of his defensive counterparts and he knows exactly how to use it to his advantage.
The 27-year-old is also a good reader of the game in the air and has the ability to get off the ground quickly and time his jump to perfection to beat his marker, making him a genuine threat from set-pieces and corners.
Jimenez has averaged 3.1 shots, 2.5 aerial duels and 1.3 key passes per game in the Premier League this term, which speaks volumes of his all-around ability as a centre-forward.
Even though he has squandered a few chances, Jimenez is arguably the best finisher for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Josh King – AFC Bournemouth
Josh King has been the man for the big occasion this season. All his goals have come in games against sides who were in the top 10 at the time of the game
A key cog for Eddie Howe in creation and in finishing, especially if Wilson isn’t declared fit enough to again. The Norwegian has been more involved for the Cherries in the build-up phase than in the finishing phase. Coming off the line to help connect the play from front to back with Fraser, Brooks and Wilson providing the main threat in the final 3rd.
Expect him to play centrally up front, with Fraser and Brooks alongside to support.
He didn’t have much of an impact against Liverpool, but Bournemouth will need him to fire on all cylinders if they are to get a positive result on Saturday.
Bournemouth’s style has defenders Aké, Daniels and Francis more involved in the build-up play than their central midfielders. It is noticeable when watching the that they like to use their central midfielders’ movement to open spaces for vertical passes directly from the defensive line into the feet of King or Wilson, particularly from full back positions.
With Nuno’s 3-4-3, there might be spaces for the Bournemouth #17 along with Fraser to exploit gaps between the wingers and the entre backs.
Wolves vs AFC Bournemouth | Stats
This will be the first ever top-flight meeting between Wolves and Bournemouth, and the first in any competition since March 2015 (2-1 win for Bournemouth in the Championship).
Wolves have won six of their 16 top-flight games this season, that’s more than they managed in the whole of their last Premier League campaign where they won five in 2011/12.
Bournemouth have won each of their last three games against Wolves in all competitions. All three victories came with the same 2-1 score-line
Wolves are looking to secure three consecutive top-flight league victories for the first time in nearly 40 years. However, their last victory against Bournemouth was on December 1989. They have failed to win any of the last five meetings.
No side has won more Premier League games thanks to 90th-minute goals this season than Wolves (two games, level with Manchester United).
Nine of the 11 games between Wolves and Bournemouth in all competitions have seen both sides score, including in each of the last seven fixtures
Head to Head (Last Six)
The history remembers just four games in 20 years between these opponents with Bournemouth being victors in three, while the other ended as a draw. In all the meetings until now, the fans have seen both teams scoring and the games being extremely tight, with Bournemouth never winning by more than a goal.
They played each other in the 2014/15 Championship campaign.
Bournemouth were more successful earning two separate 2-1 wins over Wolves on the occasion.
Wolves have no fresh injury concerns after their busy week, Jonny remains sidelined, but Nuno Espirito Santo is now able to call upon summer signing Leander Dendoncker in defence or midfield after the Belgian finally got to full fitness in recent weeks.
Bournemouth’s team news is heavily centred on star striker Callum Wilson. The Englishman was ruled out of the Cherries’ match against Liverpool last weekend with a hamstring problem and is a major doubt again. It is likely they won’t take the risk of rushing him back with a busy period of games ahead.
The away side will also still be without Adam Smith and Lewis Cook who are out with long-term injuries.
Predicted Starting XIs
Wolves: (3-4-3) Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre; Costa, Jimenez, Jota.
Bournemouth: (4-2-3-1) Begovic; Francis, Cook, Ake, Daniels; Brooks, Lerma, Gosling, Fraser; King, Stanislas.
Prediction: Wolves 2 Bournemouth 1
This ought to be an entertaining game.
The Molineux men have their mojo back after beating Chelsea and Newcastle United.
Crisis? What crisis?
Nuno Espirito Santo will be confident of making it three on the spin against the Cherries.
Eddie Howe’s men have been stuck in a rut themselves for several weeks, with a victory over Huddersfield the only glimmer of success alongside four defeats. The Cherries sit one point ahead of Wolves but have lost five of their last six.
This is a great opportunity for Wolves to really break into that top half and show that they mean business.
It’s difficult to see anything other than a Wolves win on Saturday.