Watertight Wolves proving hard to beat

Leeds, with 15, were the only team in the Premier League to concede more set piece goals (excluding penalties) than Wolves (14) last season but here we are just two games shy of the midway point of the new season and Bruno Lage’s men are the only side in the division yet to concede such a goal.

Wolves are extremely well-organised at the back under the former Benfica boss and their defence has been breached just twice in their last six Premier League matches. They conceded an injury time winner at home to second placed Liverpool a fortnight ago and they lost 1-0 away at Manchester City last weekend, thanks to a dubious second half penalty.

Wolves are not conceding many, but they’re not scoring too many either and in the seven Premier League games played since they edged out Everton at home 2-1 on the first day of November, they’ve found the net just twice. Wolves beat Brighton 1-0 away on Tuesday night, thanks to an exquisite Romain Saiss strike in first half injury time, and that was their first goal in five games.

Wolves’ xG numbers aren’t as strong as they were at the start of the campaign. They found the net just twice in their first five Premier League games but their xG total for those five games was 10.1!

They had an xG of 1.18 at Brighton on Tuesday and they recorded an xG of 1.29 when they beat West Ham 1-0 at home six games ago and they’re the only two occasions since they beat Everton on November 1 that they’ve recorded an xG bigger than 1.

The Wanderers are a long way from the team that burst into the Premier League three seasons ago. They were a joy to watch in that first season back in the top flight but 90 mins watching this Wolves side can be something of a chore unless you’re a supporter.

It may not be pretty but it’s certainly effective and they’re proving very hard to beat.

Frustrated Tuchel in need of a change in fortune

After a faultless October, in which they notched four wins from four, with an aggregate score of 14-1, Chelsea ended the month on top of the Premier League, but it hasn’t been plain sailing over the last six weeks or so.

They were profligate in front of goal at home to Burnley at the start of November (drew 1-1) and the exact same outcome occurred when they hosted Manchester United at the end of the month. The xG scores figures for those two matches were 3.22 – 0.71 and 2.86 -0.88 and it was a similar story on Thursday night against Everton, when they again recorded a 1-1 draw despite dominating the game.

Chelsea had 81% of the possession, 22 shots to the Toffees 5 and the xG read 3.54 -0.64 and the Blues boss, Thomas Tuchel, was a figure of frustration after the match.

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“Another lead, and another lead that we gave away, and the effort that we give in to matches to have at least one goal and the effort that the opponents gives to a match to have one goal is not the same amount of investment and that’s why it’s hard to swallow.”

Chelsea had dominated for much of the match before Mason Mount finally put them ahead after 70 minutes, but it was a lead they held for just four minutes and Chelsea’s inability to secure the three points wasn’t the only thing frustrating Tuchel.

“We are all worried about COVID of course because it’s close. We have four positive, one with symptoms, we have Mateo Kovacic out, other games get cancelled but our games did not get cancelled so we do everything to win it.”

December has been a disappointing month for Chelsea so far and they’re not playing to the level they were. They’re clearly missing the likes of Kovacic, N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell but despite the skewed xG stats on Thursday, their points tally of seven from 12 is probably fair.

There wasn’t much to separate the two teams when they edged past Watford away (2-1) on December 1 and Chelsea needed an injury time penalty to edge past Leeds (3-2) at home last weekend. And that was the same Leeds line-up that was thumped 7-0 by title favourites Manchester City on Tuesday night so it’s understandable that they’ve drifted from a low of 3.1511/5 to 10.519/2 in the Premier League Winner market.

Chelsea only trail City by four points and Liverpool by three but they’re not firing on all cylinders and they have some really tough Premier League fixtures on the horizon.

They return to the Midlands on Boxing Day to face an Aston Villa team rejuvenated under Steven Gerrard and they start the new year by hosting Liverpool on Jan 2. And two weeks later they visit the defending champions at the Etihad.

This tantalising three-team title race could soon develop into a two-team tussle if Tuchel team doesn’t turn his team’s fortunes around quickly and Sunday’s game is now a huge one. The pressure is on.

Wolves can pinch the points but take the free insurance

Although Chelsea have scored at least two goals in each of their last four away games, and there have been at least three goals scored in all four of those matches, Under is trading at odds-on in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market and rightly so.

There have been less than three goals scored in eight of the last nine Premier League matches involving watertight Wolves and there have been no more than one scored in each of their last six.

The best two teams on current form are the only two teams to score against Wolves since November 6 and they only managed one apiece so it would be daft to expect a goal-fest, especially given Chelsea’s slightly patchy form.

Tuchel’s team have been underwhelming in each of their last five in the Premier League and after their battling displays against Liverpool and City, and their hard-fought victory down at Brighton on Tuesday, Wolves are going to be no pushovers for Chelsea.

Home or Draw in the Double Chance market at around 13/8 is tempting and 6/1 about the home side is tasty in the Match Odds market, where the visitors are trading at around 1.68/13, but Wolves at in excess of 4/1 in the Draw no Bet market looks even better.

I’m more than happy to give up a couple of points for the insurance of money back if we get another stalemate and given Wolves have drawn two of their last five Premier League games and Chelsea have shared the points in three of their last seven, that’s a likely outcome.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter





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