Wolves could have finished fifth in the Premier League had they converted their dominance to victory, but scoring only once in their last four games gives a more realistic perspective on where the game is going. Bruno Lage’s team in its development.
A second straight goalless draw against a team in the relegation zone indicates that Wolves have yet to bridge the gap between being tough to beat and becoming realistic challengers for European qualification.
Burnley, beaten just once in eight games, remains solid but was grateful that Adama Traore’s half-hour shot deflected against the underside of the crossbar and came out. It was the closest score for Wolves, despite controlling twice as much possession as Burnley.
Whether it’s being satisfied with the Premier League’s meanest third defense or being frustrated with having the least productive third attack is the conundrum that Wolves fans face. Is their glass half full or half empty?
Lage praised his central defensive trio for their “incredible” performance and was also pleased with Traore’s return to the starting lineup. “Today when I look at Burnley and design our strategy, we’re happy because we’ve chosen the right way to play,” he said. “Adama had a fantastic game, created chances, played indoors, so I’m happy.
“Burnley is so compact that they put eight players behind the ball, so we have to figure out where to create the spaces. I am happy but also disappointed with the result.
After a quiet first half hour, Traore exploded into life as Burnley somehow left only one man to protect him from his own corner. When the ball ricocheted towards the Spanish striker in the center circle, he turned and sprinted, but decided not to line the ball up to Raúl Jiménez on his left before accelerating past Charlie Taylor and crushing a fierce shot against the underside of the crossbar.
Traoré was shaking his head in disappointment but quickly got up and this time left the ball to Jiménez in an attempt to clear his way to the goal. Taylor, however, timed his tackle perfectly to avoid danger.
Sean Dyche has said he believes Taylor should be considered for a call-up in England, and the Burnley manager is once again pleased with his team’s defensive resolve.
With James Tarkowski and Ashley Westwood suspended, Neil Collins and Jack Cork helped them maintain their usual compact form well, although the most dangerous they seemed in the first half was when Wolves goalkeeper José Sá, Maxwel Cornet hit the corner behind and a woman in the crowd needed treatment for a nosebleed.
When Jiménez tried to force his way past Collins, the former Stoke City defender found himself on the ground, feeling himself seriously injured. John Brooks, enjoying a quietly bossy first game in charge of a Premier League game, had a word with the Wolves striker but read the situation right.
Traore slammed in to try and break through, passing four men in a breathtaking run to the right and crossing over to Jiménez, before Hwang Hee-chan tried to get through to the other flank, only to get his shot is deviated behind.
Lage did his best to wake up the crowd even more, waving his arms around the pitch, but the closest Wolves came in the final shots, which was when Nick Pope knocked Traore’s shot back from far to right of the penalty area.
Dwight McNeil got Burnley’s first shot on target in the 77th minute, Sá saving his near post well. But Burnley seemed satisfied on a point. “The balance we’ve found lately is not to win them but not to lose them either,” Dyche said. “One in eight losses is pretty strong form. We were very good defensively tonight and offensively we have to find our moments.
Lage is concerned that, with Fernando Marçal sidelined from Covid-19 after Daniel Podence also succumbed to the virus, the list of intense games over the holiday season will stretch Wolves’ slim squad to the limit.
“If I was worried two weeks ago you can imagine what I am right now,” he said. “This is the big challenge for us, me, my staff and my team in December and January. “