Wolves preview: Aston Villa can't afford another blunder

West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League
West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Despite the fact that I, like most football fans, hate the international break it had certainly come at a good time for Villa. 

Despite a stumble in recent weeks with the defeat to Spurs and the dropped points (although really it was a point gained given the situation) away at West Ham, Villa still find themselves fourth and nine points clear of Manchester United in sixth.

With the extreme likelihood of fifth place being a Champions League spot this season, it is certainly in Villa’s hands as a result of the excellent results in the first half of the season.

Nicolo Zaniolo
West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Let’s focus on this weekend’s opponents Wolves, who themselves are having a very good season under Gary O’Neil. Of the previous six meetings between the teams Villa have been unable to secure a win and come out with three draws and three defeats.

A real bogey team you could say. Our last victory against Wolves came through an Anwar El-Ghazi injury time penalty during the Covid era at Molineux! You’d have to look right back to 2018 to find the last time Villa beat Wolves at Villa Park, the 4-1 win during our Championship days being a fond memory for most fans in recent years. So what can we expect from Wolves this weekend?


Firstly, their ability to bounce back from defeat. They suffered a terrible defeat at home to Coventry in the FA Cup last time out, but when Wolves have suffered defeat in the league this season they have won their next fixture six times since November. O’Neil has certainly improved the togetherness of his squad and their ability to react positively following defeats. 

Where they have seen success in their play often is as a result of their transformation from 4-4-2 in defence to 3-4-3 in attack. The role of Ait-Nouri providing the width as a wing back in both attack, and in defence when providing cover for the likes of Toti who often steps forward from the back into midfield to provide extra dominance in the middle of the park. This is something we saw against Kamara during the draw in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. 

Rayan Ait-Nouri
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Fulham FC - Premier League / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

In terms of the key threats Wolves possess, Ait Nouri has proved to be a real asset this season. Joao Gomes is an influential figure in midfield and he will certainly want to get on the ball and dictate the play in the way Luiz will wish to do for Villa.

The disappointment for Wolves (and certainly good news for Villa) is that star player Pedro Neto will miss the game and likely remainder of the season with a hamstring injury. His pace and skill with the ball is a dangerous weapon and one that the likes of Digne and Moreno will be glad to not have to face.

Another absentee for Wolves will be Hwang Hee-Chan who started the season in red hot form and certainly would have caused problems up top.

Switching the focus to Villa it will be interesting to see how Emery lines up. After the disastrous switch in tactics from our normal back four to a five in our hammering by Spurs, we can certainly expect a back four. With Matty Cash picking up a knock on Poland duty it is likely we will see Konsa at right back (which may not be such a bad thing following his superb display against Brazil).

There are other interesting decisions in terms of personnel for Emery to make. Moussa Diaby has shown signs of his early season form in the last few games, providing vital assists and looking sharp, something that’s been missing from his game for a while. Nicolo Zaniolo has also shown slight improvements and of course scored a crucial equaliser at the London Stadium.

Jacob Ramsey will also hopefully have been able to recover from his ongoing injury problems during this international break and I think is likely to be a starter should he be fit. 

Moussa Diaby
West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Where Villa are likely to be able to hurt Wolves will be through the work of the likes of Bailey out wide, hopefully stretching their defence to create the gaps inside for the likes of Watkins to run through. Villa will also (hopefully) have chances on the turnover.

Should Wolves convert to a back three in attack then the winning of the ball and quick counter attack with Tielemans and Luiz being able to get us going forward quickly will hopefully work out for the home side. 

This is another massive game and with Spurs and United both having favourable fixtures this weekend it is important for Villa to maintain the gap between them and United in sixth. Should a positive result not occur for Villa, the pressure will certainly be felt both amongst the players and the fans as the run-in to the end of the season continues. 

I am expecting a tough test, but one Villa will overcome to break the curse of Wolverhampton! 

Prediction: Villa 3-1 Wolves