At The Top Table

Three wins in a row in the top flight for the first time in my lifetime. Enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s an unfamiliar situation to many of us of course and what makes it all the stranger is that we haven’t been absolutely vintage Nuno-ball throughout this run.

We’ve gotten pretty used to the winning feeling over the past 12 months and our first run of poor form was a shock to the system. Perhaps we were numbed into a feeling of accepting excellent performances and to see anything below the standard was going to provoke a reaction. You see we’ve been a harsh bunch lately. 5 defeats in 6 turned us into an ungrateful bunch of so and so’s. Nuno has turned things around though, in a way we perhaps didn’t see coming. Any time we’ve dropped below the requisite standard for this level, we’ve looked ordinary, dishevelled and pretty much out of ideas. Watching the defeats to Cardiff and Huddersfield felt a world away from anything we’d seen under Nuno and there still feels like there’s something missing – but we’re winning.

Bournemouth were always going to be a tricky proposition, but on a bad run themselves perhaps we played them at a good time. They’re a streaky side and always prone to conceding goals. You could see an assuredness in our methods yesterday that showed we were happy to allow Bournemouth to implode – and that’s exactly what happened. We rarely seem to be gifted goals, in fact we seem to have to work even harder for our goals than most teams, but for once we managed to capitalise on an error. What Charlie Daniels was thinking is anybody’s guess, but Diogo Jota was a grateful recipient. Even then, there was a stroke of luck about the finish, but when your luck’s in, these things can fall for you.

This put us in Nuno’s exalted position of being in front in a game and it rarely looked like we would relinquish that lead. The back three that took us to promotion have upped it a gear this season and watching Willy Boly, you’d have to suggest he’s producing performances of international quality right now. Conor Coady may be the man every is angling to be called up to his national side, but if Boly were to receive international recognition for the world champions, this would be one of the biggest feathers in Nuno’s cap.

Again, it wasn’t the flourishing performance we’ve come to expect from Wolves, especially from the start of the season, but there’s a grit, endeavour and thirst for victory that is eminently visible. Perhaps that thirst was quenched far too often at a more rudimentary level, but you can see a desire to prevent teams getting on top of us. See Ruben Neves, a man heralded for his classy distribution and rocket-launcher long range strikes, putting in the kind of industrious performance that probably led to him being named Porto’s youngest captain. He won’t get the headlines this week and perhaps even some will consider it a sub-par display from him again, but he did what was required of him and of the team.

It says a lot that we’re in the current league position with a stable of underperforming forwards at the club. Diogo Jota has begun to look like the Jota of old, but his injury will halt any momentum he had built. Ivan Cavaleiro has been behind Adama Traore in the pecking order in recent weeks, despite his goal and despite some rather ordinary Traore displays. Helder Costa had a torrid 45 minutes, unable to keep hold of the ball although he managed to register his second assist of the season in the closing stages. Just where will we be headed if these guys decided to turn it on?

That can’t be said of Raul Jimenez however, a man who could consider himself let down by some of his colleagues. He still manages to be a bit of a one-man attacking band though. Think Kevin Doyle during that period he was a lone striker, with a greater awareness of his surroundings and a more potent eye for goal. He is worth every penny we may be looking to spend on him in the current climate and where we would be without him is anybody’s guess.

All of which leaves us looking rather healthy in 7th place, just one below Manchester United, within touching distance of the Top 6. This is not a drill. And yet there’s a feeling of comfortability about our lofty position. I see the rest of the Premier League – top 6 included – and see nothing to fear, nothing that leaves me quaking in my boots. We face Liverpool next and the way we’ve taken on the bigger sides so far fills me with confidence, perhaps even more so than against the rest of the league.

We may not take any points from that game but with every step along this journey, we establish our place at the top table. We could be looking at a place closer to the summit than we may have previously expected.


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