Wolves v Burnley: Gary O'Neil has strong message for players ahead of Burnley test
Gary O’Neil has warned Wolves they must be ready to suffer the same way they did against Manchester City if they want to beat Burnley tonight.
The visit of the Clarets is, on paper, comfortably the easiest home Premier League fixture of the season so far and boss O’Neil knows there will be a different expectation in the Molineux stands. But he has told his players they will require the same levels of focus seen while hosting six of last season’s top eight to open the campaign. Wolves beat champions City and Tottenham, while also picking up draws against Newcastle and Villa.
O’Neil said: “The difference between the top and bottom of the Premier League is not as big as people think. If you are five per cent down on your normal level, you will lose any game. The level is extremely high. We know we need to be at our best. It can’t be a case of: ‘Manchester City are coming, we need to be at our best, 95 per cent might get it done against some of the others’.
“It won’t. It definitely won’t. Burnley are a threat. You saw that at the weekend when they scored five goals in a game. They will be a test.
“Of course, outside people will be looking forward to it, thinking this is a game we can win. Inside, we need to be as prepared and as ready to suffer difficult moments and make the most of our moments, in the same way we always are.
“It will be no different on our part. I am expecting an extremely tough night.”
The difficulty of Wolves’ start at home is highlighted by the fact they have had less than 50 per cent possession in all six matches to date. Though that may change tonight, with more of an onus on the hosts to make the running, O’Neil does not want any change in approach from his players.
“Burnley are very possession-based but there is a chance we should see more of the ball,” he explained. “But it’s not about just having the ball, it is how well you use it. We need to be good with it.
“It will feel different, probably, but that does not change how we approach it and our understanding of what needs to be done.
“There will be a point in the game when we need to fight and scrap and defend our goal, defend a corner.
“That will always be the case. We need to see off those and then show really good understanding of our own situation when we have control and get the ball down.
“The difficult bit against Burnley will be getting it to our attacking players regularly enough. We need to be good at that.”
While Wolves are perhaps yet to put in a complete performance against a team from outside last season’s top eight, O’Neil does not agree with the notion they have been at their best for the biggest challenges.
“I think winning away at Everton is a great result against a team which would not be deemed to be up the top,” he said. “Winning at Bournemouth is another. Luton, managing to get a point, we have seen how difficult it is for teams there. Every team you play against can beat you at this level. You can lose against anyone. Managers are good, players are good.
“Our job is to make sure we keep our level so we come out on top as often as possible. It doesn’t matter if it is Burnley or Villa. We need to make sure we keep our level.”