Wandering to Titles – European Advancement (February) Episode 9

Missed the squad report in our first episode? Head over to Episode 1 “The Dawn of a New Story – Squad Report” to catch up

Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 1, Episode 9

We knew we had a tough set of fixtures ahead of us. After a busy, yet undefeated January, I feared this month would be quite different. We have 5 very hard fixtures, but in order for us to progress as a team we must show what we can do against the big boys.

We hosted Man City first. A tough game for anyone. But we’ve already beaten them twice this season and I’m sure Pep and the City boys will be eager to right their wrongs.

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I wanted the ground to swollow me up as I watched Neves jump in with two feet and get himself off. 22 minutes in and we’re a man down to the champions. Moments later, top scorer Jimenez gets injured (out for 4-5 weeks).

We got a bit of luck later on as we managed to get a penalty on 52 minutes. Could we really take all 3 points again? Turns out we can’t. Cutrone puts wide. We held on though. Pep will be furious for a 3rd time against us.

Although the Black Country Derby was next, a largely rotated side was needed. Injured, cup tied Mepham, fitness concerns and suspenstions. We were certainly against it. A 3rd FA Cup replay in a row. I’m sure everyone is used to it by now. Although I wiss I wasn’t.

But the boys performed admirably. The game was finished off within 34 minutes. We were able to slow the game down to try and avoid fatigue and injuries.

Trippier took his goal well and his first for the club. I’m pleased we finally scored more than 2 goals in a game. Quite a rarity. We drew Crystal Palace in the next round.

Neves was now out for 4 matches for his horror challenge against City. We had to make do. van de Beek stepped back into CM while Alena on loan from Barcelona came in at AMC.

A game we should of won. The story of our season. Jota and van de Beek are starting to find form which delights me. However, we did miss our 2nd penalty of the month to take us 2-1 up. With 8 minutes to go and Watford were down to 10 men, and we couldn’t capitalise. We just didn’t have enough time. A winner from us was disallowed at the death – heartache! Onto the next one.

I was pretty nervous going into the Liverpool game. Although we were on a 6 game unbeaten run, Liverpool had only lost one game all season and looked truly terrifying.

Up until their first goal, we matched them at every level. I was really pleased. 10 shots on target to their 12, we certainly had chances. But as soon as they got their first goal, we crumbled. On another day, we easily could have had something from this. 3-0 definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.

The mighty Wolves were in the first round knockout stage of the Europa League. Benfica awaited.

We started heroically. I think we knocked them back psychologically as van de Beek raced forward and find the back of the net within the first minute.

If I’m being honest, I was a little disappointed we conceded a goal. We dominated the game from start to finish. van de Beek has done more this month than the entirety of this season so far. I’m glad he’s starting to prove his worth.

That away goal may come back to bite us, but an all round good performance from the boys.

Here’s a little snapshot of van de Beek’s games this month. Phenomenal performances.

Spotting Talent

Prior to the Benfica game, I found myself searching around the Benfica youth teams to see if I could spot any talent. Lo and behold, along comes Bajrami.

A young 6’2” Swiss centre back yet to find a professional contract. I snapped him up quickly by offering something Benfica could not. £750k in compensation will be sent to Benfica, but I’m very happy with this purchase. Definitely one for the future. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him while he’s in our youth system.

Away at the Emirates is a tough ask. Aubameyang their top goal scorer was out injured, but the likes of Lacazette proved enough depth that they may not miss him.

And they certainly didn’t. It was a day to forget for us. We didn’t bother turning up. After the heroic’s last game, I don’t think we had anything else left in the tank. Many of the players probably had half an eye on the 2nd leg against Benfica.

To cap the day off, ex-Spurs full-back Trippier scored an own goal to the home supporters delight.

Takeover Talks?

As quickly as they arrived, they left. Our owner was quick to dismiss any rumours of a takeover. Let that be that, for now.

The 2nd leg against Benfica was upon us. The boys seemed nervous leading up to the game. They knew what was expected and didn’t want to throw it away.

But what a match it was. The first half was all Benfica. They truly came at us with all their might. We did manage to hit them on the counter first half through a Jota goal, but that’s pretty much all we did that half.

We played our way back into it 2nd half, and could have won it if we timed our runs a little better. Two offside goals were ruled out. Twice they had me jumping for joy, only for VAR to bring me back down.

Cutrone with his 9th goal in Europe this season sealed the win on aggregate as we lost the match on the night but went through by the skin of our teeth. I am delighted!

Europa League Draw

A favourable draw for us next round, however we should never be complacent. Especially when the opponants have one of the hottest young prospects in world football – Erling Haaland.

A huge tie between Arsenal and Man Utd. A great game for any neutral.

Iffy Results on Paper

We knew we were in for a tough month. Only 2 points picked up in the league, but we progressed in the Europa League and we still have plenty of time to try and chase down those European spots in the League.

We sit in 10th, 4 points off Everton but with 2 games in-hand. I hope for much better in the League this March. We must make our creative play count.

Top Rated Player Overview

I wanted to take a quick look at our top rated players so far this season. It’s great to see all 3 of our strikers pitching in with goals. Each one has done a job when needed.

Vinagre and Augustinsson have been battling away at LWB all season. Augustinsson is my preferred choice when fit, but I’m more than happy with Vinagre so far.

What’s Next

March is a little easier this month compared to what we just went through. I expect to pick up a lot more league points. We cannot keep ‘nearly’ winning games. We have to be ruthless in our finishing. We create enough chances for it.

Until next time. Remember to follow me on Twitter: @ExtraTimeFM