Wandering to Titles – Flying High! (October) Episode 41

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 4, Episode 41

The season is already shaping up to be an interesting one. Every team in the league has already been beaten at least once while we remain unbeaten in the ‘group of death’ which features A.C Milan, Bayern Munich and Valencia.

September was a fantastic month for us bar the shock West Ham result. It’s hard to point out why we weren’t at the races that day – sometimes things like that just happen in football. It’s a notoriously tricky game to predict.

This month see’s us face 5 top teams in a row with a combination of Premier League and Champions League fixtures. No doubt our limits will be tested, but I have faith in the boys to get results to help continue our impressive start to the season.

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Wolves (3rd) vs Derby County (18th)
1/10/2022 Premier League

Derby County see themselves back in the Premier League for the first time since 2007/08 season. Having spent just £30m in the summer, they are favourites to hit the drop again. There was a time where £30m would be considering a “spending spree”, but not so much these days.

We have an international break between this and our next match, so no need to rest any players.

Derby play with a flat five at the back, so if we are to break them down we must be patient.

An almost flawless performance from Augustinsson saw him notch up a 9.8 rating while having a hand in all four goals.

Our commanding lead prior to the penalty being awarded allowed me to let Augustinsson have a chance at his first hattrick of his career. He dispatched it with ease. A solid performance from everyone today.

Chelsea (3rd) vs Wolves (2nd)
15/10/2022 Premier League

An international break stands in-between the Derby and Chelsea game.

Thankfully everyone came back from their respective national teams injury free. This is a big game in the early stages of the season. Chelsea sit just a point behind us and with a more than double better goal difference.

Mbabu and Augustinsson were at it again as they combined to score the first goal. A little disappointing to see us concede just before half time, but a point away from home at Chelsea is nothing to be scoffed at.

Valencia (2nd) vs Wolves (1st)
19/10/2022 Champions League Group H

With Arsenal coming up at the weekend, and our flying start to the group, Neves, Jota and Haaland all sit out for a rest.

We need all our players in the squad firing this season and this match (given our results so far in the competition) gives them that opportunity.

A bore draw for the travelling fans, but a draw that qualifies us for the next round. Cutrone and wonderkid Goncalves are yet to score this season and it’s taking its toll on results – but I have faith in the boys. They have the talent, no doubt about it, they just need that goal which can smart form into life.

Bayern’s late winner against Milan pushes them into 2nd. Our goal now is to see out the last two matches to top the group and give us the best possible chance of draw against ‘easier’ team.

200 And Counting

Our upcoming match against a struggling Arsenal side will see me reach 200 games in management, and of course, all with Wolves.

It’s been a fantastic ride so far, seeing healthy progression in the league and our European adventures. Our 199 games so far have a 59% win rate, with a positive 170 goal difference.

£357m has been spent on players while we’ve received £236m in return. Bruno Fernandes, our biggest signing for £51m, is yet to show me his best I’m sure, but he’s still been great for us.

Onto the next 200!

Arsenal (10th) vs Wolves (2nd)
22/10/2022 Premier League

The big games are piling up, and we travel to Arsenal next, our 3rd away match out of 4 on the bounce.

Arsenal’s biggest issues this year has been draws. Far too many for their liking, and no doubt they’ll be eager to get back to winning ways.

Our trio of rested players (Jota, Haaland and Neves) return for this one.

My 200th game in charge of Wolves was not one for the highlight reel. We are playing well defensively, but going forward we’re having real issues.

Fernandes is certainly not pulling his weight, while Jota also is finding it hard. I’m a little bit at a loss as to what to do to help get the creative juices flowing. Perhaps reverting back to using two AMC’s to help Fernandes out like we did last season may help? But we have 5 quality strikers in the squad, which is the main reason I’ve been sticking with two up top.

A.C Milan (4th) vs Wolves (1st)
25/10/2022 Champions League Group H

Our tough run continues, with our 4th match away from home. Perhaps we’re missing out 12th man (the fans) to help kick us in to gear. But we cannot affect the fixture list, so we have to play with what we’re given.

I’m going to start coming down hard on the lads if things don’t pick up. Our defensive unit is doing a sound job, we now need the lads further forward to do the business.

A much better and a much needed performance from us today. We created a lot of chances, having 24 shots with 17 on target. I made the bold move of dropping Jota and playing a goal-shy Cutrone against his former team.

I hoped the added emotion of the tie for him would give that extra spark to rekindle the fire in his boots. It certainly worked as he could have had a hattrick. He was everywhere. Despite only grabbing one goal, I’m very happy with Cutrone. Onguene also nabbed a goal, is first for the club. He hasn’t been here long, but he’s settled in very quickly.

This win makes it impossible for Bayern to catch us, so we can go into the final game with no pressure other than to put on a display for our fans.

Wolves (2nd) vs Man City (6th)
29/10/2022 Premier League

Haaland came up to me in training the morning of the match and let me know his thigh has been feeling a bit tight. A shame, but we cannot risk playing him.

#1 goalkeeper, Ederson, is out for City with a broken wrist. We’re close to being out of the other side of this tough run of games.

There were times during this match where I thought we were going to be left red-faced. Cancelo was sent off early after taking Neto down when he was clear on goal. From there, City still played extremely well, keeping hold of the ball in an effort to tire us out as we looked to press them high up the pitch. They took the lead shortly after half-time with a easily dispatched penalty from Harry Kane.

I was in shock. How could City be playing so well and still be commanding the ball with one less player? I decided to take one of our three centre-backs off and push players forward a little to try to regain something in this match.

A swift double-fire from Cutrone and Augustinsson eventually saw us grab the win. I was so relived. It looked flustered at times. Trying too hard to grab an equaliser. But as soon as we got the first goal, the confidence in the players and in the fans grew and we could of had a few more than two.

Manager’s Player of the Month

Goal wise, we haven’t been prolific this month but Augustinsson has shined above everyone else in this department.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

His 5 goals in 4 appearances in the league is a great achievement for any striker, let alone a wing-back. His storming late runs into the box make it very difficult for defenders, and his composure has allowed him to get his shot on target most of the time.

He’s in his 4th season with us now after a £9.75m move from German side Werder Bremen and he’s rarely let me down. He continues to battle it out with Vinagre for a spot in the first team, and I’m just delighted I have two great players trying to give their all. Not only does he get my player of the month, the league also rewarded him, beating the likes of Youri Tielemans at Leicester and Tanguy Ndombele at Man City. Congratulations, Ludwig!

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

Goncalves Conundrum

I wanted to draw your attention to our Portuguese wonderkid Sandro Goncalves. He’s an exceptional talent, no doubt. At just 19 years of age he has 25 league goals in 72 appearances (with loan spells at MK Dons, New York City FC and Lecce).

There’s no doubt in my mind that he has a big future ahead of him in football, but as of right now, he’s struggling to find a bit of form. He is yet to score for Wolves. The problem is trying to get him a run of games to build up confidence with the likes of Haaland, Jota, Cutrone and even Neto ahead of him. I’d like to think one goal could open the flood gates, it’s just about trying to get him that goal without sacrificing results.

The fixture list this year has changed for the first time, as the world prepares for the Qatar 2022 World Cup after our last Champions League group stage match against Bayern Munich. For those that aren’t going to the World Cup, friendlies will be scheduled to keep players fresh. Could these friendly matches spark something in him to get him going? I certainly hope so.

Looking Ahead

We remained undefeated throughout October, and I’m extremely happy with this considering the calibre of teams we played with the majority of them being away from home.

We came up goalless twice in a row which is cause for mild concern, but we are in a very healthy position in the league.

We sit three points behind Spurs and with Bournemouth and Aston Villa surprisingly close behind us. Liverpool and Arsenal have been off the pace this year. Are we to see Liverpool relinquish their title for the first time in three years? It’s too soon to say, but they need to pick up the pace as they are already 10 points behind.

As mentioned earlier, we have a break in the fixture list due to the World Cup. Not all our players will be going of course, so friendly matches will be scheduled as and when required.

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.