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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.
Season 4, Episode 43
We’re back in action with a full schedule after the Qatar World Cup shook up our normal routine. A favourable set of fixtures await us this month as they all seem winnable with Spurs being the toughest of all the tests.
Liverpool haven’t been at their best this season and it could be the first time in three years the league trophy doesn’t head to Merseyside.
With no real runaway league leaders so far, the January transfer window may become pivotal in who lifts the trophy come the end of the season.
We’ve all lost at least two games in the league, so everyone is having their ups and downs.
I need to get my strikers firing as Haaland is currently doing most of the heavy lifting. Jota and Cutrone haven’t been at the races this year and I find it will be very hard to keep a title challenge going if we don’t find goals from elsewhere.
But before we head into the matches, lets take a look at some early business I conducted.
Bang on the 1st of January, and we’ve already wrapped up our first signing. Jeronimo Fiezzi from River Plate for £11.5m. At just 19 years old, he already boasts some wonderful attributes, and the media are tipping him to get into the Argentina national side soon.
My biggest concern regarding our central midfield position is that we have too many similar players. Neves, Tonali and Kalvin Phillips all prefer to play a deep-lying midfield role and I feel we are becoming a little one-dimensional in that area. Fiezzi comes in to play an attacking central midfielder role, or as a box-to-box midfielder to get use of his 18 stamina.
I’m excited to see him play in our team. We have many fixtures this month so no doubt he will get some minutes under his belt. Welcome, Jeronimo Fiezzi!
Wolves (2nd) vs Aston Villa (9th)
3/1/2023 Premier League
A home tie against Aston Villa starts our busy month off. We love a local derby. They’ve had a good season so far, landing themselves in 9th but have recently lost the last two league matches. A full squad is available today. Let’s kick this month off in the correct way! Jeronimo Fiezzi makes the bench.
A stupendous display today. Aston Villa didn’t turn up in the slightest. Villa manager Dean Smith had to apologise to the fans afterwards. Goncalves rewarded me with another good performance by scoring his first league goal for us. He’s really starting to find his feet.
Wolves (2nd) vs Stoke (18th)
6/1/2023 Premier League
Haaland picked up a slight knock towards the end of the last game and will miss this one. Cutrone comes in as his replacement. Due to Stoke‘s position in the league, Fiezzi gets his first start, partnering Neves in the centre of midfield. No Stoke news to speak of – they have a full squad.
A surprisingly tough afternoon against a struggling Stoke side. We found it hard without Haaland. Cutrone came into replace him, and while he was getting in the right positions, he couldn’t find the back of the net. I thought we were only going to come away with 1 point until Vinagre headed home from a corner at the death to give us all three points. It shows great character to keep going to the final whistle, and we ultimately got what we deserved in my opinion.
Stoke are a good defensive unit, but they lacked any sort of attack, managing just two shots in the entire game compared to our 17. New boy Jeronimo Fiezzi had to come off early as he twisted his ankle – out for three weeks.
The One That Got Away
As you know, I’m always in the market for young English talent. Louie Barry from Barcelona who joined them back in the 2019/20 season for £225k from West Brom had his contract running out in 6 months. The under-20 capped lad has some potential, and if it didn’t work out, we could always make a tidy profit.
There were quite a few offers in for him with us being the largest team. But it was to my surprise that he opted for Championship side Southampton. He’s been given £20.5k p/w contract with regular playing time agreed. While we were the bigger side, in hindsight it does seem like Southampton is the best bet for him. He only made appearances for Barcelona’s B team and I’m sure at 19 years old he wants to really kick-start his career. A wise move from him. I wish him all the luck.
Back Up Keeps
36 year old John Ruddy announced recently he would be retiring come the end of the season. The 1 time capped English international hasn’t played many games under my leadership but he’s always worked hard in training and is a good lad to have around camp.
But since he will be leaving at the end of the season and young Keith Dudley isn’t quite ready to be my back-up goalkeeper, I opted for Bristol City man, Daniel Bentley.
A paltry £1m was paid to sign him. He’s not the most gifted player I’ve seen, but he is prime for a back-up role. Welcome, Daniel Bentley.
Crystal Palace (20th) vs Wolves (2nd)
14/1/2023 Premier League
The January transfer window is in full-swing. Prior to our game today, Pedro Neto headed out to Porto for a loan spell for the rest of the season. With the inclusion of Goncalves this season, his minutes on the pitch haven’t been enough and I don’t want to stifle his progression too much. Hopefully he will get some good game time at Porto.
We also finished the upgrade of our youth facilities this month which the board are very pleased with. We now have ‘state of the art youth facilities’ and hopefully this will help with bringing our youth to their full potential.
Crystal Palace are having a tough time of it as of late and are odds-on to go down. An attacking side will be put out today.
Super Haaland to the rescue. What a dismal performance from us. Our 2nd match in a row where we’ve scrapped through. We hardly created anything today, against a side that is really struggling at the bottom of the pile. The Premier League is so unpredictable at times. It’s a game I credit the players for again not stopping until the final whistle, but we’ve really got to pick ourselves up in the next few games and not leave it so late – we cannot continue winning like this. It’s not sustainable.
Brighton (15th) vs Wolves (2nd)
17/1/2023 Premier League
Another winnable game, this time I hope we control the game a little better than the previous two. So far, Spurs are not letting up and we still sit two points adrift from them.
We still seem to be in a funk, this time we weren’t able to grab a last minute winner, unlike the previous two games. This is why winning like that wasn’t sustainable. Perhaps we have an issue with playing away from home? We are undefeated in the league at home, but away from home we have two losses and 4 draws. A more considered approach might be needed for future away matches.
Conor Coady walked into my office today and expressed his desire to leave the club. A surprise considering how well we are doing in the league, and he may be giving up the chance to collect a league winner’s medal if something crazy like that happened.
He wasn’t really budging from his stance, so I suggested I’ll let him go if the asking price of £21.5m was met. He’s 29 now and hasn’t played an awful lot this season due to the signings of Onguene and Kimpembe. There’s no interest in Coady as of yet so shifting him for such a value may be troublesome. The other issue is that he is a home-grown player, and I intend to keep as many as possible.
Were Coady to leave this January or in the summer, Bella-Kotchap (currently on loan at Angers SCO) would certainly be in-line to replace him in my 25 man squad. A solid centre-back with still some room to grow, with him being just 21 years old.
Derby County vs Wolves
21/1/2023 FA Cup 4th Round
Conor Coady has talked his way out of contention for this match. I need his head in the right place if he’s to play for me again. We’ll see if there is any interest from clubs before taking anything further. New back-up keeper Bentley is cup-tied so Audero continues in net.
We never looked like losing, but a man of the match performance from Derby’s goalkeeper Loic Badiashile ensured it only stayed 1-0. Haaland missed a penalty early on but that didn’t stop him from having a good game. The eventual winner was powered home by Haaland after a dominate 61 minute display.
A good run out for some of the fringe players, including Phillips, Boly and Gibbs-White.
We face Premier League side Bournemouth in the 5th round.
Wolves (3rd) vs Tottenham (2nd)
24/1/2023 Premier League
A huge game today as we face a very attacking Tottenham side who sit just a point ahead of us, and they still have a game in hand over us. Manchester City sit level on points with Spurs but Spurs have two games in hand over them.
It’s an interesting gameweek fixture and a lot could change. A full strength side for me to pick from. I’m very glad we’re back at home in front of a packed Wolves crowd.
A fair result, but I was not happy with the way we conceded both goals. Each was a header from Iwobi. It’s not like they were uncontested headers either. Each goal, Iwobi, out-muscled us and managed to find the net. We need to be a little stronger in set-pieces.
Haaland continues his fine form, and we have now gone 16 matches unbeaten. Our last defeat was to our next opponent, West Ham, back in September. I hope for a better performance this time round.
Wolves (3rd) vs West Ham (11th)
29/1/2023 Premier League
Manchester City have just been beat earlier in the day by Arsenal. We need to take advantage of this. It’s an added incentive for us and I hope we take it. The same team that lined up against Spurs will take to the field.
Sensational Haaland is at it again! We dominated the game but Verbic went through after a Lima misplaced pass and I thought that was that. But Haaland never gives up, and he fired home a 93rd minute winner. Utter elation!
This game could be a turning point for our season. I’m trying to take each game one step at a time. We cannot get carried away with ourselves.
Manager’s Player of the Month
There can only be one winner this month. Haaland has been nothing short of sensational, grabbing late winners at Crystal Palace and West Ham to secure all three points. His seven goals in five league appearances also saw him win the Premier League Player of the Month too.
There is no doubt his form has been a late part of our success this season and long may it continue.
Manager’s Player of the Month Winners: Haaland (2) Fernandes (1), Augustinsson (1), Neves (1).
Deadline Day Deals
We had a couple of deadline day deals happen this January. It was very close that they weren’t going to get over the line, but we made it just in time. Conor Coady headed off to Norwich for £16m. I tried getting the asking price of £21.5m, but there were no takers.
For someone who had just a year and a half left on their contract, £16m is not too bad. I don’t want any bad apples in the squad and it was time for him to leave if he wasn’t up for the challenge of trying to break bad into the starting line-up.
We also saw Mason Mount sign on the dotted line as we purchased him from Chelsea for a small sum of £13.25m. A bargain price in this day and age, especially for a young England international.
Mount comes in to directly replace Morgan Gibbs-White who will leave in the near future. He hasn’t cut it here at Wolves and I think it’s best he leaves for the good of his career. Mount will be used as competition for Fernandes in the AMC role. I’m hoping for good things from him. Welcome, Mason!
We are definitely over capacity in the midfield right now and I will be looking to move more than just Morgan Gibbs-White on in the summer.
It wasn’t just us that was busy this January. Manchester United spent over £150m to bring in two world-class players in Exequiel Palacios and Jonathan Tah. Paul Pogba left for PSG in the summer and its taken Man Utd until now to replace him.
Another month goes by and its another month we remain undefeated. I hope saying that doesn’t jinx the situation, but we’re in good form, even if we’ve had to rely on a few late injury time winners.
The Brighton match being the largest disappointment of the month. It’s game like that we should be taking by the scruff of the neck. But lessons are to be learned and hopefully we will take something positive away from the experience.
We’re still in the title race. We’re still two points behind Spurs while level on points with Man City but we have a game in hand. It’s exciting times for me and the boys. The second half of the season is going to be truly special.
These winter months have been kind to us this season as we again have a set of fixtures that are favourable to us. We also see the return of the Champions League which we are all really looking forward to. We face Borussia Monchengladbach, a side that stopped Bayern Munich‘s 9 league win streak last season. They of course cannot be overlooked. Even though they sit 8th in the league this season, we have to be wary of what they can produce.
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.