Ok let’s not be kind; Wolves turned in an apology of a performance. The last time I saw one as abject as that we were losing at home to Sunderland. But my word did we exploit it. What a wonderful, wonderful display of attacking, passing football. I’m sure the United’s of this world would have struggled to contain an offensive output like that. Movement, sharp passing, quick switches of play. Fantastic.
Schwarzer – 6, ummm…. Hope he enjoyed his saturday off!
Hangeland – 6, the defence really wasn’t tested, hence all the 6s. Not a reflection on their game, just had nothing to do. Nonetheless Hangeland was assured and totally nulled Doyle as well as carrying the ball out of defence well.
Senderos – 6, same as Hangeland really plus a neat feint or two, although he had a missed header which let Fletcher in on goal
Hughes – 6, forced out to the right due to to injuries to Kelly and Baird. Offered very little in the final third, although he was willing to collect and distribute possession in the middle third actively enough and his passing was crisp, suprisingly; I can only recall one long ball and that was an intelligent one to Johnson in behind the defence late on in the game. He played Jarvis quite well but was beaten ‘the long way round’ by him twice and we were fortunate not to concede from either burst. But it was solid from Hughes.
Riise – 8, Dempsey was constantly in the centre of the pitch; if you think of the section of the pitch made by the width of the two penalty areas, that’s where our supposed left-sided player was. And usually that is a fairly big issue because suddenly a third of the pitch is cut off from the rest of it, and our play is so much narrower and easy to defend against, but Riise had other ideas. He had a fantastic game; so often he was pushed up on the opposition full back, enough to play long balls out of defence to to win headers! His crossing and shooting was sharp as well, and with the absence of any sort of danger presented by the opposition he could utterly dominate that flank. At the other end of the pitch I can’t recall any of the four right wingers that Wolves tried out (Kightly, then Doyle, then Foley then Hunt) getting any change other than losing possession dangerously to Hunt late on and two great blocks prevented certain goals, most crucially when the game was still 0-0. Great game for the Norwegian
Murphy – 7.5, we all know what happens when Murphy is presented with space. His vision and passing range is matched only by Ruiz at the club which was evident in two wonderful balls from near the half way line which resulted in goals. The first was a slide rule pass which bypassed the entire Wolves midfield and defence to set Dempsey free for his first (there is some question over whether the pass was intended for Dempsey or Johnson but let’s give Murphy the benefit of the doubt); the second a delicious clip over the defence to AJ who had peeled away from his defender, perfectly weighted so that he could bring it down and charge in on goal with ease and eventually the move was finished off by Pogrebnyak for his hattrick. We are slowly moving away from an offense based solely around on Murphy’s considerable ability, but the guy still has it.
Dembele – 8, almost a virtuoso performance in box-to-box midfield play. When he was moved there as part of a midfield two I was initially concerned because of his natural tendency to dribble past players, a trait which must be harnessed and not repressed, and considering how exposed a team gets when they lose the ball in midfield I was concerned; not only that but his tactical discipline is surely questionable having been such an offensive player his whole career, he would vacate that central area and leave us vulnerable after turnovers of possession. There is still some questions to be asked with regards to those aspects of his play, since as I say neither Wolves or QPR posed much counter attacking threat (but not his defensive efforts, his work rate and ability to win the ball back are both really quite impressive) but what is no longer in doubt is his ability to orchestrate attacking play. He was constantly moving the ball, making intelligent passes to white shirts, and when a pass wasn’t on he picked up responsibility himself and drove at goal, making space and yards on goal, he really did run the midfield, fantastic display. What a shame he didn’t score.
Duff – 7, I think that the Duff v Ruiz thing is a case of attrition v sophistication. Duff is one of the old fashion wingers who will put in several crosses and offer width with the ball and has so much endeavor and spirit about him off it, one of the reasons Jarvis found it so difficult was Duff’s willingness to track back. But Ruiz’ quality is undeniable, even if his place in the team isn’t. In this case, Jol’s hand was forced with Ruiz’ late illness so Duff came in and did his thing. Worked hard, put several crosses into the box (although none particuarly dangerous) and made Pogrebnyak’s first with a neat corner.
Dempsey – 8, Dempsey to me define’s end product. Similar to van Persie at Arsenal, throughout a 90 minutes you won’t find too many jaw dropping moments from either player in the same way you do Dembele or Fabregas say. But the number of assists and goals is just insane. If you keep Dempsey far up the pitch he will cause so much damage with his deceptively delicate touch, great decision making, good (and more importantly flamboyant) passing ability and fantastic runs from deep across the back four where he is very hard to pick up; case in point his two goals which were complimented by two very good finishes. I really hope he signs on.
Johnson – 8, back in Janary I really wanted to see the back of AJ. He wasn’t playing particuarly well and I didn’t like his lack of humility, rejecting a one year contract after he was out for nigh on 18 months. However, since Jol’s played him in this free role in a 4-2-3-1 where his movement, acceleration, selfless play and accurate driven crosses can cause the opposition all sorts of problems he has really shone. Off the basis of the last two performances, perhaps he is worth another two years after all.
Pogrebnyak – 9, WHO NEEDS ZAMORA, WHEN WE’VE GOT THE POG? Where Zamora was definately a ‘support striker’, in that he complimented the attack by moving out wide and holding the ball up well, but also had a goal in his locker, Pogrenyak is the opposite. He stays very central, occasionally drifting out wide but only to pull off the defender, runs in behind and has a thirst for goal not seein in Zamora’s play. He won’t get as many touches in a game as Zamora I think but that is a good thing considering our lack of ‘cutting edge’, and besides, his layoffs against Wolves were all very good and very intelligent, full of first time flicks. He’s proven to be a totally natural finisher in his first three games with us, a combination of devestating finishes, subtely, runs in behind and instinct to score have all contributed to his flying start here. The goals seem so instinctual that I can’t see them as some sort of anomaly; the guy knows where the back of the net is. When we lost out on Barrios I was gutted, he perfectly compliments our play, but it seems as if Pogrebnyak does too. His celebrations are endearing too. Definately worth another couple of years, at least.
Diarra – 7, he has some serious talent on this brief showing. His head was always up with the passes, his reading of the game and awareness seemed microscopic, demonstrated in a sumptious assist for our fifth after a flowing team move of which he initiated by, despite losing his balance, shrugging off a challenge from Doyle before bewildering him by pivoting into space. Misread a header awfully though. Would be interested to see his tackling ability in a more intense game.
Davies – N/A, not really sure why Davies played considering he’s the sort of player we are trying to phase out of the squad, which hurts to say because I love the guy. Was a non entity for the last few minutes.
Frei – N/A, a token sub but it was nice to see him again. Didn’t have much to do in the few minutes he played but suprise suprise he picked up the ball on the left and drove infield! Hopefully we see him get more football as the season comes to an end.