- Wolverhampton shocked Manchester City on Saturday defeating the defending EPL champs 2-1 at Molineux Stadium.
- Manchester City had reeled off six straight league wins to begin the 2023-2024 English Premier League season.
- Wolves cashed as a moneyline underdog at prices ranging from +650 to +900.
So Manchester City *won’t* run the table and go undefeated in English Premier League play. After opening the 2023-2024 season with six straight EPL wins they were upset on Saturday morning, losing 2-1 to Wolves at Molineux Stadium. This is Man City’s second straight loss in all competitions, having been eliminated from Carabao Cup play in a 1-0 loss to Newcastle United last Wednesday. It was a very lucrative result for Wolves bettors as the home side was installed as underdogs at prices ranging from +650 (FanDuel) to +900 (Caesars).
Manchester City was without manager Pep Guardiola, who was serving a touchline ban after picking up his third yellow card of the season. Midfielder Rodri was unavailable after picking up a red card against Nottingham Forest last week and as it would turn out his absence would be significant. Even so, the expectation was that the defending league champions would have little trouble with a Wolves side that had opened the season in poor form. (1-1-4 heading into today’s contest). Gary O’Neil’s side was winless in four in all competitions, having only a 1-1 draw against lowly Luton Town to show for their efforts. There was little to suggest that they had the form–let alone the talent and tactics–to derail City.
Much of the credit for the victory should go to O’Neil who put on a tactical masterclass. Wolves ran a 3-4-3 formation, transforming it into a 5-4-1 during defensive phases. Man City controlled the tempo with a 68.3% possession advantage and 8 shots on goal to only 1 by Wolverhampton. The home side forced the visitors into low percentage shots and took advantage of an early City miscue, going up 1-0 on an own goal by Ruben Dias in the 13th minute. Ruben Neves and João Moutinho were instrumental in executing the defensive tactics, badly disrupting the playmaking of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan. They also managed to render the Premier League’s top scorer Erling Haaland a non-factor, allowing him only 15 touches.
Wolves didn’t generate many shots (3 attempts, 1 on goal) but their counter attacks took advantage when City’s high press left them vulnerable at the back. The defending champs were able to even the score in the 58th minute on Jose Sa’s free kick. Wolves’ counters would finally pay dividends when Hwang Hee-chan fired home the winner from close range after a dandy pass from Matheus Cunha in the 66th minute. His side was able to hold off City until the final whistle which included six minutes of stoppage time.
After the game, O’Neil credited a sound tactical approach for facilitating the victory:
“Man City test you mentally, if anyone switches off, they will find it. I tried to make sure they understood: ‘If it looks like a tactics board, we have a real chance of winning the game.’”
Next up for Manchester City is a Champions League fixture against RB Leipzig at Red Bull Stadium on Wednesday. They’re return to EPL play on Sunday, October 8 facing a tough test against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are the only remaining teams in the league without a loss (both sides at 5-2-0). Wolverhampton will next host Aston Villa at Molineux Stadium on Sunday, October 8.