Premier League Logo
Talking Tactics

Wolves trio will fight Haaland for crucial middle ground

Adrian Clarke 13 Sep 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses the way Nathan Collins, Ruben Neves and Max Kilman defend key central areas

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 8.

Wolves' defence

The Premier League’s meanest defence host the most prolific attack as Wolverhampton Wanderers face Manchester City in Saturday’s early kick-off. 

TV Info

Wolves have only shipped four goals this season, and just one at Molineux. But stopping the Premier League’s leading scorer Erling Haaland and the rest of Pep Guardiola’s star-studded attack will be their toughest test so far. 

The combined excellence of Ruben Neves, Max Kilman and Nathan Collins has played a significant part in Wolves’ terrific defensive record. 

All three have been standout performers, displaying consistent grit and fortitude to help keep opponents at bay down the central spine of the pitch. 

Both central defenders have been highly influential in the last two home matches, supported by Neves, who sits in front as the midfield anchor.

Wolves have been indebted to this group’s efforts in their 1-1 draw with Newcastle United and their 1-0 win over Southampton

The trio have repelled attack after attack with clearances, blocks, interceptions and ball recoveries.

Wolves trio in last two home matches 
Combined stats v NEW v SOU
Clearances 19 16
Recoveries 16 16
Blocks 8 4
Interceptions 3 6

When they hosted in-form Newcastle, Kilman, Collins and Neves made an incredible number of telling contributions between the width of their goalposts. 

They dominated the crucial domain between the six-yard box and the edge of the area, and they will need to do so again when they face Haaland, who has been thriving in that zone. 

Kilman becoming a leader

While 21-year-old Collins has been exceptional since joining from Burnley this summer, it is Kilman who has been the chief mainstay at the heart of Wolves’ defence. 

Kilman, 25, excelled for long periods of last season as part of a three-man defence, and he has gone up another level since Bruno Lage decided to switch to a back four this term. 

Without former captain Conor Coady by his side, Kilman has shown good leadership skills has been a dominant presence defensively. 

Kilman's stats 2022/23
  Total PL rank
Clearances 32 5th
Headed clearances 20 4th
Blocks 6 6th

Kilman has been one of the Premier League’s most imposing centre-backs this term, using his sound positional sense and excellent spring in the air to good effect.  

He features among the top six players for blocks, clearances and headed clearances. 

It will be a serious test to keep the brilliant Haaland quiet, but Kilman's form could not be better ahead of the duel.

Added layer of protection

Neves's qualities in possession are well-known, but the 25-year-old is also extremely diligent and aggressive when Wolves are out of possession. 

Top PL midfielders 2022/23
Tackles Poss. won Blocks Clearances
Palhinha 30 Mac Allister 64 Neves 8 Neves 21
T Adams 28 Rice 58 Bentancur 6 Lerma 18
Neves 25 Neves 57 Hojbjerg 6 McTominay 18

Neves drops back into defensive areas to clear and block the ball with great enthusiasm, and he has been a brilliant ball-winner in the middle third in the early weeks. 

His value to this Wolves side should not be underestimated. 

The Kilman-Collins-Neves triumvirate is very strong, and it will need to be against Man City this weekend. 

Also in this series

Part 1: Son aiming to regain red-hot form
Part 2: Bella-Kotchap and Salisu forming a strong barrier
Part 4: Tenacious Hickey can subdue in-form Martinelli

Latest News

More News: Latest News

Latest Videos

More Videos: Latest Videos