Nuno Espirito Santo believes Wolves’ unique record of not committing a foul against Brighton was because they didn’t have to.
No Premier League team has gone through a game without making any fouls since Opta – the company which produces statistics widely used by the football industry – started recording data in 2003 until Wolves in Saturday’s 0-0 draw.
It left head coach Nuno as baffled as anyone, but he insists the players are told to compete as hard as they can.
“We say to the players compete to the maximum of your strengths and go for it,” said Nuno.
“I don’t think it’s the tackling. I think it is the research that people have. I wonder why we didn’t do it (commit any fouls)? It was because we didn’t have to do it.”
Nuno revealed he has watched the game back 100 times.
“What came to my attention was that we didn’t do any fouls at all and this is the first time we have made zero fouls,” he added. “I have watched the game 100 times and I cannot explain myself how our team didn’t commit a foul. It’s never happened to me.”
Part of the reason could be that Wolves enjoyed 68 per cent possession in the game, an unusually high amount for them.
But Nuno thinks that’s too high a return for a team that failed to score.
“It’s strange. There was too much possession without goals. That’s something we have to improve on,” he admitted.
But Nuno also felt the unusual stat displayed some positive aspects to his team’s play.
“I think it shows a lot of organisation, a lot of balance,” he said. “ It shows that when we hadn’t got the ball, we got into the right spaces to recover well. So that bodes very well. It was very well done.”
Brighton committed only eight fouls and had one player booked – midfielder Dale Stephens, for a late challenge on Diogo Jota after 32 minutes.
But the unusual stat ‘earned’ by Wolves drew a humorous response from one former Molineux favourite and ex-midfielder who was known for his liking of a tackle, and indeed was hugely popular for his combative nature on the pitch.
Alex Rae, now 49, tweeted www.wolvesbite.com editor Tim Nash: “Am sure that was a regular occurrence Tim when PI (Paul Ince) and myself were patrolling the midfield.”
The former Millwall, Sunderland and Rangers man was booked 29 times and sent off once in his 119 appearances for Wolves, from 2011-14. Most of his bookings were for tackles and he often formed a competitive central midfield alongside former England captain Ince.
Rae was sent off in what turned out to be his last senior appearance in football, in May 2010 when he was playing for Milton Keynes Dons for brawling with Brighton’s Diego Arismendi two minutes after half-time. He was 40 years old at the time.
One of the players involved in Saturday’s game, Brighton defender Lewis Dunk, also played in that match nearly nine years ago.