Wandering to Titles – Away Form Woes (February) Episode 33

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 3, Episode 33

A much improved January saw us back in 4th. The Man City loss at the end of the month let them catch up with us, but we cannot dwell on it.

I’m happy with the improvement and I hope it continues.

New boys Audero and Lima have been great while Bella-Kotchap will continue to develop as I try to give him minutes here and there.

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New Contract

I gave Gibbs-White a new contract as he had a year and half left on his current deal. He’s a fringe player for me, and I really should give him more game time. We need to keep hold of our home-grown talent, so I hope he rewards me with better performances. He’s at an age where he really needs to kick on.

January Fixtures

Norwich (17th) vs Wolves (5th)
12/2/2022 Premier League

Man City won their game in hand, and we’re now adrift of 4th spot by three points. We cannot drop any unnecessary points.

The boys have been well rested since our last game, and we go to Norwich who are battling relegation. I hope the break hasn’t broken any concentration.

A hard-fought win, but I’m glad we managed to get it over the line, especially as we were away from home.

Zidane was spotted in the stands, casting an eye on our star man Ruben Neves. It might be hard to repel such a force should they come knocking, but Neves does have 3 years 4 months left on his contract while also having a £140m release clause.

If we want to keep him, we must start challenging for the title in the coming seasons. But by then it may be even too late from Neves’ point of view.

Wolves (5th) vs Leicester (8th)
19/2/2022 Premier League

We host Leicester with a close to full strength side. Jota is still out with a slight injury while Haaland makes his way back onto the team-sheet.

A bore draw where both sides couldn’t carve out a good opportunity. That’s only our 4th draw in all competitions this season. We’ve been very much a win or lose type of team so far this campaign.

Wolves (5th) vs Arsenal (7th)
19/2/2022 Premier League

We haven’t beaten Arsenal in our last 3 matches against them. We need to continue putting pressure on Man City for the 4th spot. We aim to win.

Another draw in a match that was routinely disrupted by injury. We were the better team over the 90 minutes despite the injuries.

Both wing-backs, Mbabu and Augustinsson, had to be carted off with hamstring injuries. Mbabu will be out for 2-3 months while Augustinsson’s is less severe and will be out for 3-4 weeks.

Just not what we needed going into the backend of the season.

Europa League 2nd Round Draw

Finishing first in the group had an added incentive this year as the new rules dictate that we bypass the 1st knockout round.

We’ve drawn Sevilla in the 2nd round. We last met them in my first season where we both played in the same group. They topped the group that year, but we ultimately, and famously, lifted the trophy in the final.

As of right now, Sevilla sit 7th in La Liga. European matches are always tough but I fancy our chances.

Away Form Woes

Our away form has been the biggest issue for us this season. At home, we’ve created a fortress.

14 matches played and zero losses. Only Liverpool can boast that kind of record.

However, our away form tells a different story.

A total of 8 losses from 14 matches is just not good enough if we have aspirations of becoming a top 4 side and one day challenging for the title.

I have a lot of homework to do to try to rectify this issue. Whether this means a full formation change for away matches or a slight switch in mentality. I will have to experiment.

Salary Per Annum

In regard to a salary per annum comparison, we are on the right track.

We sit 8th in this table while Everton are above us and only have 11th place in the actual season table to show for it.

We are also likely to let Rui Patricio leave on a free at the end of the season, freeing up £100k p/w in wages which has already been replaced with £28k p/w in the form of Emil Audero.

Looking Forward

A short month of fixtures, but we did end up losing ground on Man City in the race for 4th after 2 draws.

With 10 games to go, there is still plenty of time to catch up.

I am very keen not to finish 5th for a 3rd time in a row. We need to start making head-way in the league, but I am glad we are establishing ourselves as a constant European contender.

The race for the title is really hotting up as three teams sit on 60 points, albeit, Liverpool has a game in hand. This could come down to the wire.

March sees us back in Europe with a tie against Sevilla as I mentioned earlier. We also travel to Reading next in an FA Cup 5th Round tie. The farthest we’ve got in the competition is the quarter-final. I would like to beat that this season.

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