Not many Wolves fans had heard of Bruno Lage when he pitched up at the club last summer. After all, the 43-year-old had only a year-and-a-half in charge of Benfica to point to on his C.V. The Molineux outfit took a gamble on Lage, but that gamble is now paying off with Wolves enjoying a successful season.
Last week’s 1-0 away win over Manchester United lifted Lage’s team up to eighth place in the Premier League table, with Wolves just seven points off the top four. It’s unlikely they will make a genuine challenge for Champions league football, but Wolves’ lofty position underlines the progress they have made since the departure of Nuno Espirito Santo at the end of last season.
While Nuno achieved great things at Wolves, establishing the West Midlands club in the Premier League again, the summer was the right time for the Portuguese coach to move on. New ideas were needed at the club. A new voice was needed in the Molineux dressing room and Bruno Lage has provided both of these things for Wolves.
Against Manchester United, Wolves demonstrated their true quality. They were the better coached of the two teams. Not only did their 3-4-3 shape make them difficult to play through, with United held at arm’s length for the full 90 minutes, they had enough fluidity in the final third to cause some problems of their own. It was a complete performance.
Only Manchester City (13) have conceded fewer Premier League goals than Wolves (14) this season with the likes of Jose Sa, Max Kilman, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss all performing at the highest level. This has given Wolves a solid foundation, although there are concerns over how few goals they are scoring.
Indeed, Wolves have found the back of the net just 14 times in 19 fixtures, making them the Premier League’s second-lowest goalscorers at this moment in time. However, Wolves’ Expected Goals (xG) suggests they are creating chances, just not taking them (Wolves are underperforming their xG by nine goals).
“We are not a defensive team and are creating a lot of chances,” Lage recently said when asked to explain his team’s underwhelming scoring record. “All of our wingers and strikers have had chances just against the goalkeeper and they didn’t score. I don’t blame anyone and give confidence to the players to continue to do it next time.
“Imagine if Adama [Traore], [Daniel] Podence, [Francisco] Trincao, Hwang, Raul [Jimenez] and Fabio (Silva) score the chances they have in front of the goal. This is football. It’s a bit of everything. Sometimes we have those moments and the most important thing is to look at the way we are playing and continue to create scenarios in training to improve and give confidence to the players for next time.”
If Wolves can find a goalscorer to take more of the chances they are creating, they could take the next step under Bruno Lage. Raul Jimenez could be that player but the Mexican centre forward has yet to find his scoring touch since returning from a horror head injury for the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
Fabio Silva is a talented young forward, but in the immediate term the January transfer window offers Wolves a chance to find a new number nine with Divock Origi and Kieffer Moore among others linked with a move to Molineux. The structure is in place, Lage’s ideas are getting through and with the right players Wolves can rise even higher under the Portuguese coach making a name for himself.
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