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Everton at Wolverhampton Wanderers: The Opposition View

We chatted with Talking Wolves’ Dave Azzopardi ahead of Tuesday’s Molineux clash

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton FC - Premier League
Wolves won this fixture 3-0 during Project Restart last season
Photo by Ben Stansall/Pool via Getty Images

Everton will go after their first Premier League win of 2021 when they visit Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday.

The Blues’ four-game winning streak came to an end with a home defeat to West Ham on New Year’s Day, and scraped past Rotherham United in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Despite finishing seventh in the previous two campaigns, Wolves have struggled for consistency this season, and currently sit 13th.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side drew 3-3 at Brighton in their last league game, and beat Crystal Palace 1-0 on Friday in the FA Cup.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, we spoke to Dave Azzopardi, host of YouTube channel Talking Wolves:

RBM: Firstly, Wolves are 13th after two consecutive seventh-placed finishes. Have they gone backwards, or is that too easy an assumption to make?

Dave: It’s been a bit of a strange one this season for Wolves. With the sale of a couple of key players before the season, we signed a number of young players who are probably still a bit too raw for Premier League football.

Add our non-existent pre-season to that and a couple of injury problems, it’s been quite difficult for Nuno and Wolves to have any consistency at the moment.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Wolves have struggled for form this season
Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Wolves’ 2019-20 season lasted 13 months and 60 matches. After such a long campaign, do you think fatigue has caught up on what is quite a small squad?

Dave: You could say that. We probably haven’t had as many injuries as I would expect but we’ve picked up a number of knocks recently. It’s strange because we haven’t had a run of bad injuries for a number of years.

We’ve had periods where four or five first team players have been out for one reason or another and you can tell the squad has struggled. The main injury obviously being to Raul Jimenez, who is so difficult to replace.

RBM: What do you think would represent a successful season for Wolves this year?

Dave: It would be another success if we sneak into the top seven, especially with how we’ve started the season. Fans are craving some sort of glory, though, so hopefully we can go on a nice FA Cup run.

Burnley v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Nuno has been in charge at Wolves since May 2017
Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Having mostly played with a back three at Wolves, Nuno has experimented with a back four at times this season. Has it looked a positive change?

Dave: Definitely. We’re still a bit shaky defensively with the back four, but our attacking numbers are so much better.

The back three system seemed a bit stale in some games earlier in the season, so the switch to the back four has allowed us to push more men forward and look better going forward.

RBM: With Raul Jimenez out with a head injury, 18-year-old Fabio Silva has had more opportunities up front following his £35 million summer move from Porto. How has he managed?

Dave: He has been okay but I think you can tell he hasn’t really played top level football much before. Wolves never expected to give him this much game time this year, so it’s definitely been good for him and I think you can already see him improving as a player.

We need to start finding a more consistent run of goals from somewhere, though, and I think Wolves are hoping that Patrick Cutrone can help out after recalling him from Fiorentina.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crystal Palace - FA Cup Third Round
Silva has one Wolves goal so far
Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Where do you think Wolves could do with strengthening during the January transfer window?

Dave: We have a few areas that could do with strengthening, mainly attack and centre-back. However, it sounds like Wolves are being very cautious with signing players and spending money this window due to the current coronavirus situation.

RBM: How do you expect Wolves to set up on Tuesday?

Dave: I think Nuno will stick with the back four system and probably a very similar system and line up to the FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace.

If I had to predict a line up, I’d go with: Patricio; Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri; Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho; Traore, Cutrone, Neto.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crystal Palace - FA Cup Third Round
Wolves beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday thanks to Adama Traore’s goal
Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

RBM: Which of Wolves’ players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Dave: Pedro Neto’s performances have been fantastic and he has improved so much from last season. I think there will be some big interest in him next summer.

Adama Traore has had a quiet campaign but has really improved over the last couple of weeks, so I’m hoping he has another good game against Everton.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Tuesday’s game?

Dave: I’m going to be brave and predict a 2-1 Wolves win!

Our thanks to Dave for his time.