Wandering to Titles – Is Top 4 a Step Too Far? (January) Episode 20

If you’ve missed an episode, why not take a look at my Episode Guide. Here you will find all the episodes of this story all in one place.

Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 2, Episode 20

January is always a tricky month. We have a lot of fixtures to contend with as well as the transfer window.

I have no plans to bring any new blood in, it’s just a case of beating off any bids for our star players. We need a happy and harmonious squad to keep our form up.

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Oxford United vs Wolves
2/1/2021 FA Cup 3rd Round

Oxford United are having a tough time of it in the Championship. They sit 21st in the league with no sign of a resurgence. This is the perfect match to let our fringe players get some quality minutes on the pitch.

Oxford never threatened us throughout the match. We were comfortable. It was just a case of biding our time for the first goal.

Dendoncker delivered with a peach of a goal from 20 yards out.

As the game progressed, it allowed us to give debuts to a couple under 23 players – Meritan Shabani and Renat Dadasov. Both aged 21, they haven’t got a huge amount of potential, but they could be useful later down the line.

I gave Jota the full 90 in hope that he would get on the score sheet to boost his confidence. Thankfully it paid off.

We drew Championship side Brentford in the next round


New Contract

Today I put pen to paper on a 3-year contract extension. We’ve come a long way in such a short amount of time and I intend to finish what I started.


Wolves (5th) vs Arsenal (4th)
9/1/2021 Premier League

Although Arsenal are one place above us, they sit there comfortably 7 points ahead. Getting into the top 4 was never the goal at the start of the season, but if we are ever to, these are the games we need pick up points at.

Mustafi will play against his old club, and I’m sure £61m John Stones (his replacement) will be on the opposite end. Mustafi has played above and beyond what I expected of him, especially from a £9m buy.

It was a fiery affair. Eleven yellow cards were dealt out in total. I’m really surprised no reds were shown as there were some robust challenges from players already booked.

But we came away with the win. Having just conceded 17 goals from 20 games so far in the league (3rd lowest), we’ve become really tough to break down.

The gap has now shrunk to just 4 points. Rui Patricio has also not conceded a goal for 496 minutes. Our very own brick wall.


Watford (12th) vs Wolves (5th)
12/1/2021 Premier League

Watford have slowly lost traction from their dizzying heights of 2nd earlier in the campaign. With no real injuries in question, we head into the match.

Cutrone saving the day once again. I thought it was going to be one of those days. Watford offered nothing going forward while we had 6 Clear Cut Chances and 4 half chances. I would have been fuming if this ended 0-0.

While I’m happy with the win, we need to be more clinical and put teams away earlier. Tonali was exceptional in the Mezalla role, notching up 7 key passes.


Wolves (5th) vs Man City (3rd)
16/1/2021 Premier League

The games are coming thick and fast. Manchester City are still in the title race. This will be a tough game for sure. Sterling is out with a calf strain while Mahrez is a doubt.

Manchester City showed us today why they are one of the best teams in the world. They are so incredibly clinical. I can’t fault my players too much. City are just the better side.


Stoke (18th) vs Wolves (5th)
20/1/2021 Premier League

Stoke are sat 20th in the recent form standings. They’re having a tough time of it at the moment. I was confident going into this one.

And I was right to be. Stoke are awful. A quick look into the recently promoted team’s transfer dealings and its easy to see why they’re struggling.

Although they were promoted, they sold number 1 keeper Jack Butland to Watford, while not bringing in a replacement. Championship at best Adam Davies is their number one. They also spent £55m in the summer window. £50m of that was on Hamaz Choudhury. A good player, but not £50m worth. A bizarre season for Stoke, and I would be surprised if they survived.


Wolves vs Brentford
23/1/2021 FA Cup 4th Round

Brentford sit 4th in the Championship. We cannot take this tie for granted. I’m sure they’ll give us a better game than Stoke did. With that said, I still want to rotate the side.

Quite an even game. Brentford certainly didn’t come to just lie down. They hit us on the counter for a well crafted equalizer. An FA Cup replay is not idle, but it is what it is. Jimenez is going through a bit of a dry spell. Hopefully he picks up his form a bit soon. He’s no way near the heights of last season.


Wolves (5th) vs Leicester (7th)
26/1/2021 Premier League

I want the boys to bounce back with a win. Jamie Vardy sits this one out, as he has done for the past 2 months with a broken ankle.

A thoroughly professional demolition of Leicester on a Tuesday night. Everyone was exceptional today. Mustafi grabbed his first goal for the club. He’s definitely been the surprise of the season.

It was a day to forget for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. It was his debut for Leicester, on loan from Arsenal.

Doherty picked up another injury during the match. Out between 10 days and 3 weeks with pulled knee ligaments. Just a regular occurrence for him at this point.


Arsenal (4th) vs Wolves (5th)
30/1/2021 Premier League

Our last match of the month see’s us travel to London. We meet Arsenal in the league for the 2nd time this month. Last time out we grabbed a deserved 1-0 win

Only 3 points separate us in the league. They have a far better goal difference (25 to our 16), but we’ve done extremely well to close the 7 point gap they had at the start of this month.

A disappointing defeat in truth. We had chances, but we couldn’t put any past Leno. They scored an early goal through Lacazette who beat Patricio at his near post.

From there on Arsenal sat back and looked to hit us on the counter. Poor, but a great month for us in general.

All six of our defeats in the league have been against teams that consists of the ‘top six’. We have done well to break down teams lower than us.

Where We Stand

We’ve had a great month. The only hiccup was the Brentford game as, of course, we were expected to win.

But we have a chance to set that right in the replay, where we could face Birmingham City.

The table looks like this;

We’re pulling away from 7th to cement a European place. Manchester United are just 4 points ahead, but they have 3 games in hand. A battle for 5th is what we should be hoping for I believe, at this stage.

Squad Overview

Let’s have a quick look over the squad and show how they’ve been performing thus far (sorted by appearances)

Goalkeepers

Rui Patricio has been close to ever-present for us this season. I haven’t found the need to play John Ruddy. It’s not like he’s a young and up-and-coming goalkeeper that is one for the future.

Defenders

Mepham, Boly and Mustafi have become my first choice three at the back. They’ve been exceptional so far. Maffeo has played much more than I expected due to the injuries sustained by Doherty. He’s been very useful in his first season with us.

Midfielders

With an influx of new midfielders in the summer, the likes of Dendoncker and Gibbs-White have seen their playtime significantly reduced.

Fernandes, Tonali and Horta are just another class above and have done well so far in their first season.

Neves has been the standout, controlling the middle of the park and making us tick.

Forwards

I’d consider our forwards to be the problem area. We are creating lots of chances but our finishing has been poor. Jota, Cutrone and Jimenez have all played well, sporadically. We need more consistency.

Each of them have fantastic attributes and I do have faith in them. There’s no need to go looking further afield.

Winter Window Update

I knew this window wasn’t going to be a busy one. We sold Connor Ronan to Sheffield Wednesday for 600k with a 30% clause on all profit from his next transfer.

I’m happy with my squad, it was just a question whether anyone would come in for our star players. Thankfully we saw no bids whatsoever.

League leaders Liverpool were the biggest spenders in the window, notching up £70m in payments.

Bukayo Saka was the biggest transfer. £62m for such a young lad puts an incredible amount of pressure on him. Only time will tell if he can live up to that fee.

Trippier also joined the league champions in a £5.25m purchase. I would have liked to bring Trippier back to the Molineux but his wages (81k p/w) are far too high for his ability.

February Fixtures

A much-needed slower month after two hectic months of football action. We see the return of the Champions League as we travel to Spain to play Valencia. At this moment in time, they sit 4th in La Liga.

As always, thank you for reading. Please share with your friends, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for the latest updates; @ExtraTimeFM. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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