Wandering to Titles – Perfect European Start (September) Episode 40

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 4, Episode 40

Our dreaded group of death in the Champions League starts this month with three matches to fit in. A tough run of fixtures including the likes of Milan, Tottenham and Bayern Munich back-to-back will test how robust our squad is.

We’ve had a strong start to the league which see’s us sit in 3rd, while Tottenham have gone unbeaten in 6 and already have a four point gap at this short stage in the season.

An away fixture against them sandwiched in between two very tough Champions League matches is as hard as it gets.

Erling Haaland has started the campaign in fine form and I’m sure we’ll be relying on him a lot this season. We have however been falling short in front of goal, only scoring more than 1 goal once in our first eight matches.

If we are to challenge for a Champions League spot again, we need to be more clinical in front of goal. We need more goals from Haaland’s strike partners, and we need the likes of Fernandes, Neves and Tonali to chip in with more goals.

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Wolves (3rd) vs Watford (15th)
10/9/2022 Premier League

Our month’s fixtures start a little late due to the international break. Haaland and Neto picked up knocks while on duty, so will miss this one.

Cutrone did get on the score sheet for Italy, so he will partner Jota today. I hope they both turn up today. We need goals.

This will be the first game I’m able to play my preferred centre back partnership – Kimpembe, Mepham & Onguene.

On another day, we could have had more. But a man of the match performance from goalkeeper Pontus Dahlberg saw us come away with just one goal, but all three points.

We created 5 clear cut chances, but only converted one. Still a lot of room for improvement.

Wolves vs AC Milan
14/9/2022 Champions League Group H

The Champions League is upon us again and we kick off the group of death with a home tie versus AC Milan.

A 3rd place finish in Serie A last season for Milan. They have quality, no doubt about it. They do however come off a 5-1 thrashing from Lazio. Lazio play a similar system to us, so hopefully this proves vital.

Probably our best performance of the season. We scored just before half time which helped my half-time team talk and possibly rattled Milan a bit.

Milan had a few chances, but I’m happy with today. Lima came off the bench to produce a fantastic performance while Jota finally hit the net after 11 hours of football without.

Spurs (1st) vs Wolves (3rd)
17/9/2022 Premier League

We have a tough afternoon ahead of us as Spurs are currently unbeaten, both in the league and cups.

No injury concerns, so we tackle this game with a full squad available.

Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will no doubt be between the sticks for Spurs after his huge £46.5m summer move from Juventus. A huge amount for a 32-year-old, but he’s been great for them so far.

A tough game in which we had to adapt on the fly. Our cautious approach in the first half was giving Spurs far too much of the ball. We didn’t pose any threat.

In the second half we adopted our more positive mentality and took the game to them. Jota grabbed his first with a wonderful solo effort, and then finished off the game on the 82nd. He’s starting to find his form again!

Spurs still sit top of the league, but we inflict their first defeat of the season and close the gap to three points.

Bayern Munich (1st) vs Wolves (2nd)
20/9/2022 Champions League Group H

Another huge test as we travel to Germany to face 5 time Champions League winners Bayern Munich.

We continue with the same side that faced Spurs but with a balanced approach with attacking wing-backs. Avoiding defeat here would be an exceptional result.

Surprisingly, Bayern lost to Valencia in the first round of matches. They will be determined not to lose again.

Three fantastic results on the bounce as we beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in their own back-yard.

Club captain, Neves, was fantastic, dictating the play and scoring two beautiful long range efforts.

It’s a slight shock we’ve come away with three points, but it proves how far we have come.

This result leaves us 1st in the group of death and Bayern Munich with everything to do. Newly appointed manager Zinedine Zidane’s job could already be on the line.

Vinagre Signs!

With not long left on Ruben Vinagre’s contract, I took it upon myself to draft up a new contract for him. He’s a fantastic young player and could still well improve. He and Augustinsson battle it out for our LWB spot and I’m happy with whoever gets the nod on the day – both are great players.

I tried to get him to sign for five years, but his agent was being a little stubborn. Regardless, I’m thrilled we can put any contract worry behind us.

West Ham (10th) vs Wolves (2nd)
24/9/2022 Premier League

We travel to London next to face a West Ham team sitting squarely in the middle of the league.

Neves gets a rest as he’s played a lot of football lately, while Fernandes picked up a slight knock in training. Gibbs-White comes in for a rare start.

A disaster of a performance as we succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to West Ham. Was it a mistake resting Neves? Possibly.

It’s always easier to see things in hindsight, but we need to manage our players carefully to avoid big injuries, and I put out a team that should do much better than we actually did.

But we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and move on as Valencia in the Champions League is just around the corner.

Wolves (1st) vs Valencia (2nd)
27/9/2022 Champions League Group H

Valencia have done well in their first two European matches, the same cannot be said for their league form. They sit 14th in La Liga after 8 matches, with 5 defeats to their name.

While we have this in mind, we cannot take their league form for granted. We will play like we always intend to play.

Augustinsson comes in for the injured Vinagre who sustained a twisted ankle against West Ham. Neves of course returns to the starting line-up.

More disappointment follows just before the match after new-boy Kalvin Phillips sprained his knee ligaments in training and will be out for 5-6 weeks. Not ideal in the slightest!

An astute performance from Haaland where we witnessed him score a perfect hattrick saw us claim all three points.

Had you told me we would have 9 points from our first three matches, I would not have believed you.

As things stand, we’re in a very healthy position. Elsewhere in the Champions League, Manchester City are struggling after only obtaining 1 points from their opening three matches. A group that consists of Inter, Monaco and Sporting Lisbon.

Manager’s Player of the Month

We’ve had a productive month bar the West Ham result, and this has largely been down to our Club Captain, Ruben Neves.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

He’ makes our team tick and his performances have shown that. In his last 5 matches, he’s averaged a 7.62 rating and his best performance was his display against Bayern Munich where his dominate performance earned him two spectacular goals.

It’s what I expect from my captain, and long may it continue.

Manager’s Player of the Month Winners: Neves (1), Haaland (1).

Looking Forward

As mentioned above, we’ve had a productive month where we claimed five victories out of six. The Champions League group looks healthy and our League position is where we roughly want to be.

The win against Tottenham was a huge victory as the gap would have been pretty sizeable had it been the other way around.

We’re starting to get into our groove and finding the back of the net more frequently. Haaland and Neves are doing most of the heavy lifting, so within the next few matches, I’m hoping for more from a few others.

October is looking very much like a tough month again. Three very important league matches back-to-back with a couple European fixtures sprinkled in between for good measure.

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