Chorley vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Pre-match analysis
CHORLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06: A Chorley corner flag before The Emirates FA Cup First Round match between Chorley and Fleetwood Town at Victory Park on November 6, 2017 in Chorley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Chorley F.C. once again have the luxury of hosting Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup this Friday evening, in what will be the fourth meeting between the sides in the competition's history.

VAVEL is on hand for a pre-match analysis ahead of what will be a very significant fixture in the tenure of Nuno Espirito Santo as manager of Wolves, especially if history repeats itself.

  • A symbol of how far Wolves had fallen

A lot of young Wolves fans will not know of the horrors of the 1980's for the club. With the current side playing some of the best football in decades, the 1986/87 season was truly a low point for the club. 

Three consecutive relegations saw the Wanderers in their first ever season in the fourth division. A lack of investment from the board had brought the club to its knees, teetering on the edge of extinction.

When November rolled around, Wolves were drawn against Chorley in the first round of the FA Cup. Graham Turner was in the dugout for the Wanderers and was without a string of key players, including the likes of Steve Bull and captain Ally Robertson.

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The Magpies then, plied their trade in the Northern Premier League, which was at the time the sixth tier of the English game. The sides met for the first match and a replay, with both ending 1-1. This was before penalties were introduced, so a second replay was to follow.

It was this replay with which the iconic saying, 'I was there at Chorley' began circulation amongst those who deemed themselves true fans. Chorley destroyed Wolves 3-0. It was possibly the lowest point that Wolves had ever sunk to. 

With the fallout of Wolves' woeful defeat in the black country derby on Saturday still lingering around the Molineux, fans dare not ask for another groundhog day. Put simply, another defeat to Chorley on Friday will be catastrophic.

  • Chorley should not be underestimated

This will be Chorley's sixth match in the FA Cup this season, with the side from Lancashire already dumping out some big names in Derby County (albeit a very youthful Derby side) and Wigan Athletic. Wolves would be very foolish to underestimate their opponents.

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The Magpies currently sit 9th in the National League North, with them needing a good run of games to push for promotion. They will be though, more focused on adding to Wolves' misery this season, as they seek further riches by being in the hat for the fifth round. 

Looking at the past three rounds, Chorley do not sit back and defend. The side have been very positive going forward, managing plenty of shots on goal, with the side not afraid to strike from distance.

Magpies' forward Connor Hall has been in terrific form, scoring in each of the last three rounds so far. Hall has also bagged five goals in the league, averaging just under one goal every two games. 

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Chorley have played a formation of 4-1-3-2 against both Derby and Wigan in previous rounds, but adopted a 5-3-2 against Peterborough United. It will interesting to see whether they will return to a back five against the pace of Wolves' wingers, or be more adventurous and stick to a more familiar back four.

The Magpies tend to attack with a mixed range of passing, with a strong emphasis on direct play. This means that the non-league side will be asking questions of Wolves' aerial presence on Friday and with good reason. 

Chorley boss Jamie Vermiglio would have done his research and will know that the team in old gold are very susceptible to long balls and long throws into the box. With Hall and Harry Cardwell ever present as a front two, Wolves' shaky defence will definitely be tested. 

The team in black and white have also fielded a consistent back line so far in the cup, with Matt Urwin in goal and captain Scott Leather in the centre, both not missing a game for the side so far this season.

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  • The pressure is most definitely on for Wolves

It is very easy to support a club that is doing well, but much harder to do so when things are not. In minor parallels to 1986, Wolves are in a very precarious position again going into this fixture, but a defeat here this time would be more disastrous. 

Wolves are no longer a fourth division side that were dreaming of the good old days going into their last fixture with Chorley. They are now a team of international superstars, all on big salaries and strutting their stuff in the top flight of English football.

Except from a morale perspective, they are worryingly rock-bottom. Wolves boss Nuno-Espirito Santo looked like a broken man at the end of the game against West Bromwich Albion, with all matters seemingly closing in around the 46-year-old. Nuno needs supporting now more than ever both as a manager and as a human being.

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Wolves have only won one game in their last seven in all competitions, which was in fact, against Crystal Palace in the previous round. In those seven games, the team have conceded twelve goals, which means that they are shipping just under two goals a game on average. 

Aside from the game against Palace in the last round, you have to go back to 30th October to find when Wolves last kept a clean sheet, which funnily enough, was also against Palace. With Chorley able to score goals for fun at the moment, this is worrying for Wolves.

It looks more likely that Nuno will stick with the back four experiment against the Magpies, so it could turn out to be a very open game, with both sides attacking from end to end. 

  • More pressure to attack to balance shoddy defending

Wolves have found the net more than at the start of the season recently, with the switch from a back three to a four producing more expansive attacking football. However, that shift has also seen the club look extremely vulnerable at the back.

The return of Willy Boly is vital for the club, with the 6 ft 4 centre-back's presence desperately needed at the back. Conor Coady has struggled to truly get to grips with working in a four, with the captain substituted for the first time by Nuno against the Albion.

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Ruben Neves has recently been firing on all cylinders, but went missing in the last match. Wolves will be hoping that their talisman steps up for this game, with the Magpies set to try and crowd him out of the game.

The Wanderers will need their forwards to do more to counteract the issue of the team conceding more goals. Pedro Neto has been fantastic this season, but will be seen as hot property come the summer if Wolves continue to struggle. 

Fabio Silva bagged another goal last time out, so will be looking to add to his tally against the Magpies. The 18-year-old was one of the star performers against the Baggies and is beginning to show why the club invested so much money in him.

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  • Strong side or cup side?

It will be interesting to see though if Nuno uses Patrick Cutrone and Vitinha in this fixture, with both not seeing much game time at the moment. Silva may be given a break for Cutrone to get the nod, with questions potentially raised as to the purpose of having the Italian back if he was not going to play.

Vitinha has seen extra competition for places with the return of Morgan Gibbs-White to the club. With the on-loan Portuguese operating more as back-up at the moment, fans are beginning to wonder as to the thinking behind his signing.  

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A more contentious decision will be whether Nuno plays John Ruddy in goal, or sticks with Rui Patricio. Ruddy is normally the goalkeeper for the cup games, but if Wolves were to lose, fingers would be pointed at Nuno for not picking his strongest side.

This could well be one of the defining moments in Nuno's time as Wolves manager. Win and the team will feel a heavy load lifted off their shoulders. Alternatively, it is best not to contemplate the ramifications that a loss would entail.