West Ham tore Wolves apart in their first encounter this season and their route to a 4-0 victory lays the foundations for their trip to Molineux on Monday.
Jarrod Bowen was the main man on September 27 when he scored the first two goals to secure a maiden Premier League win of the campaign for the Irons, with a Raul Jimenez own goal and Sebastien Haller header putting the icing on the cake of what was a stroll in the park at the London Stadium.
But while Bowen picked up the plaudits for his goals it was Michail Antonio that really terrorised the Wolves defence as he targeted a couple of lightweight defenders and bullied them into submission.
Wolves have flitted between a four-man and three-man defence this season but it is the latter in which they are most comfortable and the same trio that lined up in East London many months ago will be expected to resume their duties once again.
Willy Boly is a man mountain in defence with his imposing presence but the other two, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss, are decidedly smaller in stature and their strengths do not lie in bulldozing strikers in the way that the Ivory Coast international does.
Up against a formidable forward in Antonio that smells trouble, which is exactly what we saw in the previous head-to-head-clash.
At West Ham Zone we have picked out two examples, one each with Saiss and Coady, of how Antonio preyed on their weaknesses and set the Irons en route to victory.
Both are similar and show the value of a strong presence up top like Antonio. As you can see below in the first instance Saiss decides to get up close and personal with the 31-year-old rather than step away from him.
Big mistake – Antonio rolls him with consummate ease and is able to fashion a shooting opportunity which is saved by Rui Patricio.
That was a warning sign, but not one heeded by Saiss’ teammates.
This next example shows Coady in a decidedly more difficult situation.
He knows that if he stands off Antonio that he has the pace to streak beyond him but the alternative is even worse as he elects to stick tight and attempt to out-muscle him.
Antonio shrugs him off and once again marches his way to goal. While he did not directly contribute to a goal here himself, he was able to lay the ball off to Pablo Fornals whose shot was spilt into the path of Bowen for his second of the game.
It all came from Antonio and a hat-trick of traits he possesses – smartness, pace and power.
By focusing on the weak points of the Wolves defence, and away from Boly, he was able to utilise his own strengths and set the Irons on their way.
It’s no surprise to see that he has not beaten the total of 10 offensive duels he won in this game all season [Wyscout].
West Ham’s fourth goal also reflected badly on Saiss as he misjudged an aerial ball to allow the now-departed Sebastien Haller to nod past the stranded Patricio.
Wolves are now the epitome of a brittle side – they look tough on the exterior and their deep defensive system makes them appear impenetrable but once you crack the surface and get after them they are liable to break down.
That’s what the Irons need to do on Monday.
Get the ball to Antonio and get him running at Coady and Saiss in the channels – they won’t be able to live with his monstrous physique.
He may be struggling in front of goal recently – none in his last three and just two in his last nine – but the previous match-up with Wolves proves he is just as effective when he’s not banging in the goals.