Wandering to Titles – We’re Back On Track (January) Episode 32

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 3, Episode 32

We start January with low spirits. Our morale has been battered by December’s fixtures, and we need to fix this pronto.

But before we get into January’s fixtures, let me remind you of the transfers we had in place prior to the window opening.

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BOUGHT: Emil Audero – £10.75m – GK
From: Sampdoria

Audero wanted out of Sampdoria, and we were glad to help facilitate his request. At just £10.75m, I feel as though we’ve got quite a bargain. He’s a long-term successor to Patricio, and he may even play ahead of him this season.

He’s better than Patricio in just about every department, and he’s on far fewer wages. He’s an upgrade in every sense. I’m sorry to replace Patricio because he’s been fantastic for me, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy Audero.

BOUGHT: Armel Bella-Kotchap – £1.5m – CB
From: VFL Bochum

Another bargain we found was Bella-Kotchap. A young German centre-back that has a fair amount of potential. Due to Ryan Bennett and Djalo fighting for rotation places in my squad, I’m inclined to loan Bella-Kotchap out to continue his development.


Wolves vs Newcastle
1/1/2022 FA Cup 3rd Round

We start off the month with a home tie against Championship side Newcastle. They are fighting to bounce straight back to the Premier League so they are a team we cannot afford to be complacent against.

We ended the match victorious while practically playing the entire match with 10 men. Jonny was sent off for a horrible two-footed challenge. I’m not sure what was going through his mind.

But we didn’t let that deter us. We fought bravely and ultimately controlled the game. We continue on in the cup. We draw Championship side Burnley at home in the next round.

It’s worth pointing out that new boy Audero made his full debut today and he was excellent.


Job Offer

I’ve clearly been doing something right as Tottenham’s chairman Daniel Levy has just invited me to attend an interview.

Spurs currently sit 10th in the league after sacking Massimiliano Allegri. While I’m flattered, I have worked very hard on this Wolves project and I intend to finish what I started.

The interview is declined.


BOUGHT: Jose Lima – £4.9m – RB
From: Independiente

The news keeps flying in as we make our 3rd purchase of the window. Welcome, Jose Lima.

Ever since Mababu’s arrival this summer, Pablo Maffeo has been complaining that his position is under threat. While that is true, he needs to show desire to make it his own. He clearly doesn’t have the determination to do so.

Enter Jose Lima. A wonderful from Argentina who has the potential to make it big in the footballing world. I will be looking to sell Maffeo and allow Lima to act as an understudy to Mbabu.


Wolves (5th) vs Manchester City (4th)
8/1/2022 Premier League

We need to start beating the teams around us. December was a month to forget and I don’t want a repeat of that.

A fantastic performance from us today. A little drama before the match as Maffeo had thrown out all his toys from the pram, Jonny was of course suspended and Mababu was only just getting back from an injury.

In comes new wonderkid Jose Lima for his debut. He played well enough despite being thrown in the deep end, and he nearly capped off his performance with a goal.

van de Beek came from the bench to seal the win and I’m delighted we edged out close rivals, City.


Crystal Palace (11th) vs Wolves (4th)
12/1/2022 Premier League

Mbabu was back to fitness to take his place in the first XI. van de Beek gets his reward for his late winner last time out by starting too.

We generally do well against Crystal Palace. Can we make this 3 in 3 this month?

A comfortable win for us today. Van de Beek continues his fine form while Jota finally scored after 10 hours going without.

We seem to be back on track.


Wolves (4th) vs Bournemouth (14th)
15/1/2022 Premier League

Bournemouth are having a hard time of it and Eddie Howe’s job is currently coming under scrutiny. I intend to make it much harder for him to keep his job.

Neves gets a rest. He plays nearly every game, and he’s starting to look a little jaded.

Mbabu picks up a knock in training – New boy Jose Lima gets another start.

We continue our win streak with a 3-0 win at Bournemouth. The goals were dispatched early on which enabled us to cruise through the rest of the match.

Djalo got a rare start and continued his impressive performances. The 6’3” central defender is a handful inside the opposition penalty box at times.

Vinagre also continues his impressive performances. At this moment in time, he’s ahead of Augustinsson in my first XI. He’s really come on leaps and bounds, and his pace is frightening for defenders.


Everton (12th) vs Wolves (4th)
18/1/2022 Premier League

I’ve been let down on our travels this season. We’ve built a fortress at home, but our away form continues to be a thorn in my side.

Everton haven’t lost in 3 league matches, but they do sit 12th in the table. I hope we take the confidence from our short win-streak and try to dismantle this poor away record we’ve been building for ourselves.

Offers have come in for Maffeo, but for only half his value. I have promised him he will be sold if an offer of £21m comes in.

Our away form woes continue. I can’t quite put my finger on why we don’t perform. We did manage to score an injury time winner from Jota, but it was ruled offside.

We dominated possession, we had chances, but we also give far too many chances away, and they kept dispatching them.

Some tactic tweaks will need to be made. We cannot continue like this if we want to make the top 4.

We also lost Haaland through injury, and he will be out for 3-4 weeks.


Wolves vs Burnley
22/1/2022 FA Cup 4th Round

Rotation is needed for this game. The schedule has been busy and it presents an opportunity for some fringe players to contribute.

A routine win for us today. Neto was sensational while Jose Lima scored his first goal for the club. He’s been fantastic since coming in and has already proved to me he’s a good replacement for Maffeo.

We continue drawing Championship sides as we travel to Reading in the 5th round of the FA Cup.


Wolves (4th) vs Brighton (10th)
25/1/2022 Premier League

Brighton have been a surprise package this season, sitting in 10th. They were odds-on to be relegated but have been performing above expectations.

It wasn’t hard to see why Brighton have been a surprise this season, and for all the right reasons. They’re a very well drilled team, and they even dominated possession against us, in our own back-yard – a yard the media have described as a “fortress” lately.

But we dug deep and pulled out the win. Cutrone has barely featured this year, with the introduction of Haaland, the emergence of Neto and his niggling injuries, but he came off the bench and found us the winner.

This is why having a quality squad is vital, not sure a quality first eleven.


Manchester City (5th) vs Wolves (4th)
29/1/2022 Premier League

This match may prove to be vital in the race for 4th. Man City sit just 3 points behind us in 5th with a game in hand.

We carved out a 1-0 win earlier in the month against City, but away at the Etihad will be a whole different ball game.

World-class goalkeeper, Ederson, will sit this one out with an injury, so I presume American Zack Steffen will take this place.

Absolute heart-break. We didn’t play well. We just couldn’t get a foothold in the game, but it was still devastating to watch Harry Kane score an injury-time winner.

We had a couple chances, but the game was largely in favour of City. The race for 4th is really hotting up, but there is plenty of time to gather some points.


Transfer Window Update

It was a good window for us in truth. We brought in three players (Audero, Bella-Kotchap and Jose Lima) for money less than their talent shows.

We also managed to keep hold of our stars. The likes of Neves and Jota have been attracting interest from big teams but no bids materialized.

Pablo Maffeo has been a right pain though. He’s been complaining all season. I had enough of his whining, so I brought in Lima to rotate with Mbabu.

I offered Maffeo out but there wasn’t much interest. Southampton did offer a £18m deal which I accepted, but Maffeo had other ideas and rejected it on deadline day, even though it was accepted a week and a half before.

I’m furious with his attitude, and he’s been sent to the u23 team to train with them. If you don’t want to be here, that’s fine, but make an effort to leave when a team bids for you.

Elsewhere, there were a few big deals completed. Jamie Shackleton was on my shortlist before I signed Lima, and he ended up going for a huge £73m to a struggling Arsenal side.

This is what Brexit has done. Teams are scrambling for English talent, and have to pay above and beyond what the player is really worth. It’s a scary market to be involved in right now. I have my scouts on the lookout for the next big English talent.

There’s £68.1m difference between these two players transfer fee’s. In all honesty, I don’t see that difference in their attributes. Granted, Shackleton’s mental attributes are better than Lima’s, but he is two years older.

I can envisage Lima coming on leaps-and-bounds in the next two years to rival Mbabu for a starting spot in my team.


Looking Forward

We’ve had a good month – much better than December, and we are fired up for the race for 4th spot.

The Everton result was a little disappointing, but these games happen. Van de Beek has been great since I’ve positioned him in an AMC role, while Fernandes has dropped back into a CM Mezalla role.

This is how the league table stands at the end of January. While we’re level on points with City, they have a game in hand. But there is still plenty of time for us to surge up the table. Consistency is key!

February is currently scheduled as a short month. We must pick up all 3 points in each of these games.

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.