Bruno Lage has challenged his Wolves side to become more consistent if they are to challenge for a European spot in the Premier League like next opponents West Ham.
The Portuguese’s first season in charge of Wolves has been up and down, with three defeats to begin the season followed by five wins and a draw in their next seven games.
A 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace last time out halted that momentum, however, and next up is the visit of in-form West Ham on Saturday.
While acknowledging the difficulty of facing a side sitting up in third, Lage is more concerned about what his own side are capable of in the remaining six months of the season.
“What I want from my team is consistency, so it was a big surprise for me to lose at Palace,” he said. “We produced out best performance of the season in the previous game.
“In the first half against Everton we had 70 per cent of possession, we created a lot of chances, dynamic, we scored goals and took three points.
“After three or four days, I think we produced our worst performance of the season against Palace. I don’t want inconsistencies from my players.”
Consistency has not been an issue for West Ham, who ended Liverpool’s unbeaten run two weeks ago to make it four victories on the spin in the top flight.
That includes three straight victories on their travels, a winning streak David Moyes is eager to prolong at Molineux this weekend.
“We have to keep it up, keep focused and keep pushing on. I’m really pleased with how we’re performing and we have to keep it going,” he said.
“Team spirit has always been really important and there are different ways of building it. It comes from winning, having good players who are committed and I think we’ve got that.
“It comes from the players and they are driving each other on and producing it at the moment.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wolves – Adama Traore
Lage has made a big call to leave Traore out of Wolves’ starting line-up of late following the winger’s loss of form. Traore has an expected goals rate of 1.9 this term, which is the second highest of any Premier League player yet to score behind team-mate Trincao (3). Assuming he gets a chance against West Ham, it is now down to the Spain international to find an end product.
West Ham – Jarrod Bowen
United sent a private jet to ensure Michail Antonio would be back from Jamaica duty in time for this contest, but the forward has failed to score across 790 minutes against Wolves. That is in stark contrast to Bowen, who has more goals against Wolves (three) than he has against any other side in the Premier League. Indeed, he averages a goal every 77 minutes against them.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Last season, West Ham completed their first league double over Wolves since the 1922-23 season – the Hammers have not won three league games in a row against them since a run of eight between 1920 and 1958.
– West Ham have not won back-to-back away league games against Wolves since a run of three between August 1920 and December 1922.
– Wolves have won their last two home league games, as many as they had in their previous nine at Molineux (L7). However, Wolves have not won three in a row at home in the top flight since November 1980.
– West Ham have won each of their last four Premier League games, the longest current winning run in the competition. The Hammers have not won five top-flight games in a row since February 2006 under Alan Pardew.
– Excluding penalties, no side has scored more Premier League goals from set-piece situations this season than West Ham (six). However, Wolves are one of two sides yet to concede from a set-piece this term (along with Manchester City, excluding pens).