Match Previews

Albion Analytics preview: Wolves

Albion welcome Wolves to the Amex this evening for their opening match of 2021.

By Liam Tharme • 02 January 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Yves Bissouma has won 30 tackles in his 15 Premier League matches so far this season.

Albion welcome Wolves to the Amex for their first fixture of 2021, unbeaten in all four Premier League meetings against the Midlands outfit.

History suggests an uphill battle for the visitors, since Albion have not lost in 11 of the last 12 fixtures against Wolves. On four occasions Brighton have taken all three points, though seven games including the last three have been drawn.

Draws were typical of Brighton throughout 2020, with 16 in league games, the most of all 92 clubs in the English pyramid. If the recent record against Wolves and throughout 2020 were not enough to suggest another draw on Saturday, Brighton have drawn all three of their New Year games in the Premier League: 2-2 v Bournemouth in 2018, 2-2 v West Ham in 2019 and 1-1 v Chelsea in 2020.

But Albion have kept clean sheets in five of the last six games against Wolves, including the goalless draw last March. They were one of just three Premier League sides to keep a clean sheet at Molineux last season. Yves Bissouma ran the show that day, topping the Brighton charts for dribbles attempted (6) and completed (4), ball recoveries (16), shots taken (3) and tackles attempted (11) and won (7).

Yves Bissouma was a standout performer at Molineux last season.

Compared to last season, Bissouma averages – per game averages in brackets – more touches of the ball (63), more completed passes (44), more shot-creating actions (1.7) and a high press success rate (37%) this season. The 24-year-old is among the top 10 Premier League players for tackles won per game in 2020, averaging ten per 90 minutes when adjusted for possession.

Wolves have attempted (345) and completed (225) the most dribbles of any Premier League side so far this season and this has proved a valuable method of chance creation for Nuno's side, who sit second for dribbles leading to shots (30). Adama Traore successfully dribbled on 142 occasions across 2020, the most by a Premier League player and the only one to complete 100 successful dribbles. In the 2-2 draw at the Amex last season, the Spaniard completed all eight of his attempted dribbles, the most of any player and among his top five last season for dribbles completed.

Davy Propper headed home his first Amex goal in the same game and has now passed 100 Premier League appearances for Albion.

The Dutch midfielder made his first Premier League start of the season against Arsenal last time out, and last season topped the Albion charts for successful passes into the final third (166) and successful dribbles (40).

Pedro Neto, 20, leads the Wolf Pack in Premier League goal involvements this season, scoring four and assisting three. His attacking versatility is further illustrated by his chart-topping 426 touches in the final third, 57 shot-creating actions and 30 shots taken.

Ruben Neves, 23, will offer an interesting midfield battle with Bissouma, with the Portuguese winning possession 268 times in 2020, the most of any Premier League player. His 72 tackles topped the Wolves charts in the last calendar year. 

Albion have been anything but clinical in front of goal this season, having scored five fewer goals than their Expected Goals number which is based on quality of shots taken. But it does prove that Graham Potter's side are continuing to create high quality goalscoring opportunities, since the 23.5 Expected Goals Brighton have recorded is better than 12 other sides including Wolves. Not only that, but compared to the three previous seasons it is Albion's best total after 16 games.

Albion's expected goals so far this campaign ranks higher than 12 other Premier League clubs.

Wolves were particularly good at preventing sides creating last season, ranking fifth for fewest goals conceded (40) and second for Expected Goals conceded (37.4). Whilst those diligent defensive numbers have dwindled this season, Wolves have only conceded more than once in two of their last 13 games. They conceded just 14 second-half goals last season, the fewest of any side in the league. But Albion are also a better second half side, netting 33 of their 57 Premier League goals after the break.  

Albion goals should not be hard to come by against Wolves if history repeats itself. Neal Maupay equalised in this fixture last season, while Danny Welbeck has netted three in six appearances against Wolves. Aaron Connolly netted five goals in three PL2 games against their U23 side back in his academy days and the Irishman tops the Brighton charts in final third pressures per game (7) this season. He also set up Neal Maupay for the winner last time Brighton won at home back in June.

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