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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.
Season 3, Episode 31
We almost had a perfect month in October but we were hit by a bizarre loss to a struggling Stoke side.
We’re about to embark on the holiday season of our campaign. These two months will be brutal in terms of fixture congestion, and depending on how we do, it could make or break our season.
Joint 2nd in the table is where we stand. We’ve come a long way in 2 and a half years and I hope we continue our trajectory upwards. Haaland has been in fine form since he joined us in the summer and we will no doubt be heavily reliant on his goals if we are to maintain our position.
We face some of the league’s ‘big boys’ this month – the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea (twice). We’ve proven (against Liverpool) that we can beat the best – it’s now up to us to show consistency within these matches.
The January transfer window is just around the corner also. While I haven’t got any immediate plans, it’s not set in stone that I won’t pursue anybody. Young, English talent is my focus but those players come at a premium.
We will, however, see Emil Audero join our ranks from Sampdoria for £10.75m (mentioned in Episode 27). He has already agreed to join and I see him a long-term successor to an ageing Rui Patricio. I’m unsure how much he will play in the 2nd half of the season, but he will get his chance. Patricio has been a fantastic servant to the club, but with his 100k p/w contract ending this season, it might be time he left the club.
Just before the Leeds match, Chairman, Shi Jeff, announced an increase in funds available.
This leaves us with a fair amount to spend, while we also have £135k p/w left in the wage budget. I’m not known to buy players in January since generally they come at a premium, but I will never discount an opportunity should one present itself.
Wolves (3rd) vs Leeds (15th)
1/12/2021 Premier League
This match see’s the return of Rafa Mir after his £17m summer deal to Leeds United. He never played under me as I had better options and he was often out on loan, but he’s had a good start to his life at Elland Road – 7 goals in 12 appearances.
Sandro Tonali sits out due to a suspension.
It was a shaky start from us as Shackleton scored an absolute screamer, but we didn’t let it bother us. Shackleton has been on my shortlist for a while now and he definitely impressed me today.
We got our heads down continued to try and play how we always do. Now is not the time to panic. Neto is proving to be a real handful in recent games. He came on for Jota and proved to be the difference. He’s slowly inching his way into a starting spot.
Manchester United are next, and we need the experience from Jota. I aim to start Neto against Napoli. Oh, and by the way, this victory puts us 1st as Liverpool, City, Chelsea and Man Utd all drop points.
Manchester United (3rd) vs Wolves (1st)
4/12/2021 Premier League
The games are coming thick and fast. Just 3 days later, we travel to the red side of Manchester.
United have only won once in five matches in all competitions prior to this. Now seems like the best time for us to play them.
I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with a point. We didn’t play our best, but we had chances. De Gea made some great saves and showed us just why he is so highly regarded in the footballing world. Taking points at Old Trafford will always be a tough ask so I haven’t been too harsh on the boys.
Napoli (3rd) vs Wolves (1st)
9/12/2021 Europa League Group C
All we need is a point to ensure 1st place in the group. Mourinho’s Napoli sit 11th in Serie A so they’re clearly not having the best of times of late.
We got what we wanted, but I’m slightly disappointed we allowed Napoli to get back into the game.
We dominated the match with 62% possession, and Neto could of easily had a hattrick – maybe on another day
The result see’s us top the group and this is certainly not how I envisaged the table looking when it was first dealt. Napoli were arguably the best team in the competition, but they’ve bowed out at the first hurdle. No doubt Mourinho’s job will be on the line.
Youth Intake Preview
We’ve received our annual youth intake preview from Amelia Parkin.
We haven’t had much luck from our previous two youth intakes and this looks to be no different. But as always, we won’t judge until we can fully see what they are all about. Someone may surprise us.
Wolves (3rd) vs Aston Villa (15th)
12/12/2021 Premier League
Slight rotated needed here to keep up with the demands of the fixture schedule.
Villa are not having the best of times generally, but they come off the back of just beating Man City and Spurs. We need to be careful as they have match winners such as Jack Grealish.
Well that was easily our best performance of the season. We were frightening at times. Every attack had potential for a goal.
Neto’s recent scoring antics have propelled him to our 2nd top goalscorer this year. He’s had an incredible month and a half.
Haaland does the business again with his 2nd hattrick of the season. I’m already eager to try and remove his £110m release clause from his contract.
It’s no surprise we dominated the team of the week. A good day all round.
Arsenal (6th) vs Wolves (3rd)
18/12/2021 Premier League
Mustafi will feature against his former club. No one (not even himself) thought he’d play so much for me, but he’s done very well considering the amount we paid for him.
Also, we secured our 2nd signing before January in the form of Bella-Kotchap from German side VfL Bochumm.
He’s definitely one for the future, but we managed to pick him up for a bargain price of £1.5m. If he doesn’t work out, I’m sure a good profit will be made on him.
My cautious approach will be utilized against a very attacking Arsenal side. I aim to soak up pressure and hit them on the break with our wing backs. Tonali also plays an important role in this system, mopping up any loose balls and feeding the players ahead of him.
A disappointing day at the office. Arsenal were too hot to handle in the first half. We definitely played better in the second half, but that was probably in part to Arsenal taking their foot off the gas a little.
Our away form continues to be our main issue. We’ve won 8 out of 8 home matches while we struggle anywhere else.
Wolves (4th) vs Chelsea (3rd)
26/12/2021 Premier League
Our tough set of fixtures continue as we entertain Chelsea. They just leapfrogged us into 3rd with our recent loss to Arsenal. We must respond.
I hope my players haven’t indulged themselves too much at Christmas and are raring to go.
We started off poorly after two goals from an unlikely source, Luke Shaw. We haven’t been at our best against the bigger sides and today was no different.
But I’m proud of how we battled back to come away with a draw. It shows determination in my side to keep fighting until the final whistle.
Chelsea (4th) vs Wolves (5th)
28/12/2021 Premier League
We meet Chelsea again, 2 days later, in their own backyard this time.
This is the end of a tough run of fixtures which I will be happy to see the back of.
This was a tough result to take. We weren’t in the game at all and it summed up our performances as a whole this month.
We’ve fallen quite dramatically from our highs of 1st at the start of the month. We must improve going into January.
It’s been a brutal month if I’m being honest.
The Aston Villa result a particular highlight as we demolished them 6-1. The fixture list hasn’t been kind, pairing one of the hardest months with some of the toughest challenges in the league.
Patricio has been in poor form in the past 3 matches and I’m inclined to start new boy Emil Audero against Newcastle in the FA Cup.
While it would be short notice for him, he does speak English fluently which will aid his ability to integrate himself into the team quickly.
We currently stand 5th in the table. A similar sight to our previous seasons, but we have the time to improve upon it.
The Premier League is notoriously difficult to be consistent, and this season is no exception.
I’m happy to report that Haaland leads the goal scoring charts while Neves sits 3rd in the assists table. Haaland is a wonderful player, and we will have a real fight on our hands to keep him if we don’t start winning silverware.
Our January fixtures gives us the opportunity to make up lost ground in the league. Morale may be low, but a couple of wins could send the spirits right back up.
The two City games of course will be tough, but in between both of them there is room for a short winning streak.
January is always a hard month to get deals done. However, we do already have a couple of players coming in. Goalkeeper Emil Audero from Sampdoria who is a long-term replacement for Patricio and Bella-Kotchap, a cheap ball playing defender who we will look to develop.
The squad is finely balanced right now and the only area to potentially strengthen is our centre-back and right-wing back positions.
Centre-back lacks a world-class player while Maffeo at right back is very unhappy, so I may try to move him on.
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