Wolves vs Burnley: What to look out for
Willian Jose's first goal for the club was the difference in last week's 1-0 victory over Sheffield United. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Wolves return to action on Sunday as they face another team lingering at the foot of the Premier League table in Burnley

The Clarets have managed only one win in their previous nine league games, scoring nine and conceding 16 goals in the same period.

Since the 3-0 away win at Crystal Palace in February, Burnley sit 19th in the form table- above only Sheffield United.

With safety more or less secured, Nuno Espirito Santo could tinker with his squad and tactics in the remaining six games as they prepare for a very important pre-season.

Striker conundrum

84 days after arriving at the Wanderers, Willian Jose finally scored his first goal for the club in the narrow win over Sheffield United. The goal was a neat striker's finish and the look of relief on the Brazilian's face and his teammates was brilliant.

For the previous few weeks, there has been an argument for teenager Fabio Silva to start from the off after his impressive cameo performances off the bench.

Since Jose's arrival, Silva played only 191 minutes of Premier League football whilst Jose has played 892 minutes. They both have only one goal each in that same period.

Looking at Silva's appearances, there has been only been three occasions when he has featured for over 20 minutes. Against Leicester City in February, he was presented with a huge chance to grab the winner but was denied by a brilliant save by Kasper Schmeichel.

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Four games later he played 35 minutes in the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City. Coming on after 56 minutes, Wolves equalised through Conor Coady five minutes later. But three goals courtesy of Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez extended their winning run to 21 games.

In the final game that the club-record signing played over 20 minutes in was the 3-2 defeat to West Ham United. Wolves fell 3-1 down at half-time and Nuno Espirito Santo introduced Silva at the break, replacing Daniel Podence.

His third goal in a Wolves shirt came 23 minutes later with a brilliant off-the-ball run before slicing the ball past Lukasz Fabianksi.

Silva then assisted Adama Traore for his injury-time winner at Fulham

Whilst the argument of whether Nuno should be playing Silva more because he is their player is valid, there are parts of his game that isn't up to the standard that Jose presents, such as his physicality, matureness and teamwork.

This will come in time for the young striker. But with six games remaining, the Wolves head coach has a headache up top.

Tried and tested or fresh ideas

After three years of mastering the 3-4-3 or the 3-4-1-2 at Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo attempted to transition his squad with another tool on their belt with a 4-2-3-1.

At the time, the November draw with Southampton, it made sense. Jonny Otto Castro was still out and he had Podence, Pedro Neto, Traore and Raul Jimenez to choose from.

Wolves started with the same formation in the 2-1 win at Arsenal, but the game is remembered for all the wrong reasons due to Jimenez's tragic skull fracture.

The back four was continued for the next two games. Both games ended with defeat as Liverpool won 4-0 and Aston Villa won the Midlands derby 1-0 at Molineux.

A return of the back three earned them victory over Chelsea before the back four earned a valuable 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. However, the cracks began to become clear when they let slip a 3-1 lead at Brighton & Hove Albion to draw.

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The final nail in the coffin was the 3-2 Black Country defeat to West Brom Albion. Since then Wolves have only played with a back four on two occasions, the 2-1 home win over Arsenal and 1-0 win over Fulham.

Wolves' three at the back is the template that the backroom staff and players have built into. But the 4-2-3-1 and back four does, despite making them more defensively shacky, make them more dangerous going forward.

With safety (not mathematically) secured, losing that extra man at the back to play more free-roaming role in the hole could be something that they test.

Vitinha hasn't been given much opportunity in the first team due to the tried and tested style of play utilised and Morgan Gibbs-White has also struggled to break into the first team since returning from his loan spell with Swansea City- clocking up only 118 minutes.

Both have the quality to impress, it's just the case of if they will be handed the chance. Vitinha was the star man for Portugal under-21s in their European Championship fixtures and has looked tidy when brought on.

If Nuno does go for a back four on Sunday, it is likely one of the two play behind the striker with Podence and Traore patrolling the wing.

Intelligent wing-play

The wing-back position is and has always been one of the most important roles at Wolves. In the previous two seasons, the trusted pair of Jonny and Matt Doherty have been vital to the success since their promotion.

In the 2018/19 campaign, Doherty contributed to 23.4% of the 47 goals scored. The following season the now-Tottenham defender scored four and assisted four of the 51 goals (15%).

This season Wolves have been without both of them. Doherty said his goodbyes in the summer whilst Jonny has played only seven games this season before suffering another knee injury.

In their place are Rayan Ait-Nouri and Nelson Semedo

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Ait-Nouri, on loan from SCO Angers, has enjoyed a mixed season in England. He marked his debut in October with a goal against Crystal Palace and has one assist to his name.

He is only 19-years-old. Like Silva and Vitinha, this season is more of a learning one rather than a season for them to make an impact instantly. When Jonny returned against Leicester, Ait-Nouri was out with a groin injury, but he has started the three previous games and has impressed.

In a back three or four, the Frenchman is capable of attacking and defending to a good standard. A further six games under his belt, which looks like it will happen as Marcal is still not fit, and Ait-Nouri could impress enough to sign permanently this summer.

Semedo has been one of the better players for Wolves this season. He has missed only the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in December and has slowly adapted well to the Premier League after his arrival from FC Barcelona.

One main reason for his slow start comes to the type of football. Whilst Barcelona averaged 65.2% possession last season, Wolves managed 48.1% as they killed teams with their aggressive counter-attacking style of play.

At Barcelona, Semedo was involved in a side where they dominated and rarely came under pressure. At Wolves, he has come under criticism for his defensive and play.

In his three years in Spain, Semedo made 46 (2017/18), 45 (2018/19) and 51 (2019/20) touches in his own penalty area. In his first season at Wolves, he has already doubled last season's tally (124).

He has also made the most touches in the defensive third (553) than he has in the previous free.

But he is improving. He has already made 617 touches in the attacking third this season, one less than he did throughout the whole of last season.  

Dribbling wise, his successful dribbles, attempted dribbles and the number of players passed have all increased this season.

With the reputation he arrived in England with, changing his own individual style of play has slowly got better and it is obvious. Wolves fans are now praising Semedo on a weekly basis.

The ability and improvement of performances from Semedo and Ait-Nouri have aligned with the slight improvement in Wolves. If they are to defeat Burnley on Sunday, the wide players are their most important.

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