Wolverhampton Wanderers kept their first clean sheet in 13 Premier League games to wreck Thomas Tuchel’s Stamford Bridge bow.
Many expected Tuchel’s Chelsea to breeze past out of form Wolves in west London but the visitors shut up shop and secured a deserved point.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men could even have nicked it in the second half but Pedro Neto’s chip hit the top of the crossbar.
Here’s our analysis from Stamford Bridge…
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Tuchel’s comment said it all
Wolves have tried to play a more attacking brand of football and it hasn’t worked. This group of players and this head coach have earned success through defensive solidity and counter-attacking football.
When Wolves carry out Nuno’s tactics to the letter, in their tried and trusted 3-4-3 shape, they are a match for any team.
Plenty of neutrals will have switched off after Wolves’ first half display, but this performance was exactly what was required. Why should a fragile Wolves team open up at Stamford Bridge and get stuffed? There’s no correct way to play and this is what works for Wolves.
Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo (left) and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel
“We have to refocus on how we do things,” said Nuno afterwards. “Today the boys did well, they defended very well. That’s the starting point for everything.”
Interestingly, Tuchel was quick to praise his Chelsea players for limiting Wolves’ counter-attacking threat in his post-match press conference.
“We didn’t allow many counter-attacks to one of the most dangerous teams in counter-attacks.”
This is the way forward for Wolves and opposition managers should soon have reason to be worried again.
Welcome back, Willy Boly
Willy Boly was absolutely outstanding last night. For much of this season the Ivorian has looked a shadow of the player who many believed was among the best defenders in the Premier League this time last year.
Since his return from a hamstring injury two weeks ago there have been signs that he is recapturing his best form and his faultless display versus Chelsea backed that up.
He was in the right place to thwart Chelsea’s attackers on numerous occasions and, alongside captain Conor Coady, was the most vocal on-field presence. Boly has also sorted out Wolves’ vulnerability at set pieces with a series of towering headers.
Willian Jose’s promising debut
“Willian arrived today and immediately he helped the team. This is what we want. Today I decided to go with Willian. Today required a striker who can hold the ball and lead the line. Patrick (Cutrone) and Fabio (Silva) have different characteristics.”
That was what Nuno thought about Willian’s debut at the Bridge and that’s what’s most important.
In a 20-minute cameo the Brazilian dropped deep, held the ball up, linked up with his teammates and gave Wolves the focal point which has been missing for the last two months.
As Nuno says, Cutrone and Silva have different qualities – and Willian already looks well suited to those around him.
He shouldn’t have any issues with Daniel Podence bouncing balls off him for one-twos and, judging by footage from his Real Sociedad days, he should thrive off the service that Adama Traore and Neto can provide.
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A racket from Ruddy
John Ruddy was sitting just to my left on the Wolves bench last night and he didn’t shut up once.
He encouraged his teammates, shouted instructions and berated the officials when they gave decisions against his on-field teammates.
Many people thought Ruddy – who has enjoyed a good career in both the Premier League and Championship – would leave Wolves at the end of last season in pursuit of regular football.
The experienced goalkeeper decided to stay at Molineux and it’s easy to see why Wolves were delighted to keep him around.
Ruddy remains a vocal, respected and important presence in Nuno’s dressing room.