Analysis: Wanderers looking to further fine run of form
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Raul Jimenez of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United at Molineux on November 20, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Undoubtedly, football is fickle. One moment, things can appear beyond despair, and in short time fortunes and outlook can shift dramatically. 

Norwich City started the season in a fashion that offered little optimism relating to the clubs’ chances of avoiding relegation from the top-flight for the fourth time in succession, with two draws and eight defeats the narrative of the first ten matches.

However, back-to-back victories and the arrival of head coach Dean Smith replacing the departed Daniel Farke leaves the Canaries in good stead ahead of their match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

After a lacklustre campaign last year, which resulted in the departure of beloved manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves needed both a shift in emphasis and a refreshed attitude towards forward thinking football - away from the pragmatic approach that had been instilled under Santo’s four-year tutelage.

Such football had indeed served the midlands outfit well, with a commanding promotion and successive seventh place finishes complimenting a first European campaign since 1980/81. 

But fortunes changed last year, with injuries and Covid-19 having an adverse effect on Wolves’ progress and causing the club to endure their worst season since returning to the Premier League.

Fine record against bottom half

After ten matches played, Wolves have played five teams starting the day in the bottom half of the table. 

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The return is promising; three wins, and a draw and defeat apiece evoke optimism, but it's the manner of the results, the desire to fight for each loose ball, for every glimpse at goal.

Lage has implemented style of play that focuses on intense, attacking football and has started to reap the benefits, with teams away from the upper end of the table often succumbing to the approach this season. 

If Wolves can stick to the tactical plan victory over Norwich may well ensue on Saturday, and with five wins in the past seven league outings there is no reason why this cannot be the case. 

Jimenez the catalyst 

There aren’t many players in the Premier League that command the respect and endearment of their fanbase like Wolves’ Raul Jimenez

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Jimenez has three goals and five assists across his past five starts in the league, after a somewhat slow start to the campaign.

Of course, he can be forgiven for taking time to regain form after the devastating head injury suffered against Arsenal in November 2020, ruling him out for the majority of the previous league season.

The misfortune in question inflicted more punishment upon the Mexican than the majority of players have to endure across a lifetime; indeed, Jimenez had no assurances that he would ever grace a football pitch in a professional capacity ever again. 

Norwich gaining momentum; can Wolves snap the streak?

After swapping claret and blue for yellow and green, Smith has hit the ground running for the Canaries, who showed tenacity and grit in their hard-fought victory over Southampton last week.

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Prior to that, Farke bowed out of his time in Norfolk with a first win of the season, but despite earning his side three points found himself without a job later that evening.

With two wins on the trot, there will be growing confidence in the Norwich camp that further success can be made across a favourable run of fixtures to close the year; Wolves will be ready to spoil the party.

Things are clicking for the Wanderers and victory will indeed take the club within a point of fourth place West Ham United, who travel to champions Manchester City the following day.

It won't be easy, Smith will expect a good, composed showing with efforts focused on capitalising on any opportunities that may arise. 

But Lage has demonstrated that his tactical approach can flourish in the Premier League, and victory should be on the cards for the away team if the plan is carried out effectively.