Bruno Lage shocks Wolves fans as Neves & Moutinho right West Ham wrong…

Wolverhampton Wanderers returned to winning ways against West Ham on Saturday courtesy of Raul Jimenez’s superb finish.

Jimenez hit just before the hour-mark at Molineux to clinch a third straight win on home soil for Bruno Lage.

Wolves have won five of their last seven in the Premier League and are now hot on the heels of the Champions League places.

Here are our findings from Wolves’ latest win at Molineux…

Lage springs a surprise – but gets it right

Nobody could have expected Lage would start with that team. Daniel Podence replaced Francisco Trincao in the only change from the Crystal Palace debacle, as Lage overlooked Adama Traore.

Hundreds of expected line-ups were doing the rounds prior to 2pm on Saturday, but very few of them had Podence in. The pint-sized attacker has been pigeon-holed as a substitute having almost exclusively been used from the bench by Lage before.

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Why Podence? Lage explained: “Daniel can give us a dynamic inside (game) and today we needed to find a dynamic inside but not too much. We needed to play more in half spaces and he does very well in that situation.

“After that, we looked at the opponent. When you look at the four defenders, especially the two central defenders, from West Ham, they are big guys so we need to put guys with agility in these one against one situations.

“I think he’s one of the best guys we have in our squad to do that.”

however again, Lage got his tactics identify on.

READ: Bruno Lage is keeping a potential he made to Ruben Neves

READ: Wolves player ratings as Raul Jimenez secures win over West Ham

Neves and Moutinho right their wrong

It wasn’t just Podence’s inclusion that surprised people. Lage had made a big deal about West Ham’s physical midfield in the build-up to the game, so Leander Dendoncker appeared a good bet to start. Willy Boly can also feel hard done by as his wait for a Premier League minute goes on.

Lage opted for a ballsy midfield pairing of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, both of whom started Wolves’ 4-0 humiliation against West Ham a year ago.

Unlike that night at the London Stadium, Neves and Moutinho had the measure of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek and Lage’s game-plan was executed to perfection.

The importance of Raul Jimenez

It’s stating the bleeding obvious but there cannot be a Premier League player who is more important to his club than Jimenez.

The striker had an additional 24 hours to retrieve from his final international game with Mexico, in comparison to last month, so there was never any chance Lage would bench him against West Ham.

Jimenez repaid his manager with a wonderful winning goal to bring up his fifth goal contribution of the Premier League season.

If you take Jimenez’s goals and assists away, Wolves would be tied in 17th place with Leeds United on just 11 points.

Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez scores against West Ham

Lage said: “It’s so important for you guys to watch the goals of Raul, but also the way he works for the team, the way he presses and works.

“He works so hard for the team, not just the offensive part but the defensive part. He deserves everything he is living in this moment.”

Wolves’ time is now

Wolves are sixth, with 19 points from 12 games, and within touching distance of the top four.

Lage’s side are ahead of Manchester United and one point behind fifth-placed Arsenal with a superior goal difference. Basically, things are looking pretty good.

There are some huge tests to come next month, including games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the space of 15 days, but Wolves have matches versus Norwich and Burnley imminently.

Six points from the next two would put Wolves in a strong position to attack their December schedule without fear.

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