Wandering to Titles – Cup Runs Continue (March) Episode 45

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 45

Last month was huge for us as we somehow opened up a 10 point gap at the top of the table. Had you said we would have been in this position at the start of the season, I would have laughed you out the door.

Tottenham are still 2nd despite not winning in the league in 5 matches – I think that just goes to show how inconsistent everyone else has been too.

The media are playing up our title challenge similar to that of Leicester’s back in the 2015/16 season. But we cannot let that get to our heads. We need to focus on just the one game as it comes. Situations can turn around very quickly in football, and we cannot be distracted.

A short month for fixtures, but important nonetheless. We aim to reach the Quarter Final of the Champions League while also aiming for the Semi-Final of the FA Cup. So without any further ado, let’s crack on with the fixtures.

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Stoke (15th) vs Wolves (1st)
6/3/2023 Premier League

We’re back to our usual squad after making so many chances in the 5-3 extra time win over Bournemouth last time out. Stoke have done fairly well against me in the six games we’ve faced each other. Three wins, one draw and two losses for our side. Despite them being 15th, we cannot be overzealous with our attacking approach.

Bruno Fernandes was back in form today as his man of the match performance helped us secure a comfortable 2-0 win over Stoke. He played the CM Mezella role today, and he really took to it well.

It was also great to see the likes of Kimpembe and Onguene back – we were solid as a rock today. We barely gave them any chances.

I just wanted to take a moment to talk about Athletico’s incredible turnaround against Manchester City in the first knockout round of the Champions League. A thrilling game that ended 5-2 to Athletico, and 7-6 overall on aggregate.

Ex Manchester City player Zinchenko decided to score his first goal for Athletico after 77 appearances for them without one. This defeat could be really costly to Manchester City’s morale as a whole.

Wolves (1st) vs Crystal Palace (19th)
11/3/2023 Premier League

With our 2nd leg tie against Borussia Monchengladbach scheduled three days after our Crystal Palace match, rotation is in order to keep our best players fresh. Fiezzi is putting out 10/10 performances in training and will be rewarded with a start.

Neves, Lima, Fernandes, and Haaland are all rested. I hope it’s not too many changes – but I’m still confident in my squad. This also gives new boy Mason Mount a chance to shine.

A similar story to that of our previous game. We didn’t offer Crystal Palace too many chances but it took the likes of Tonali to open the scoring with a 25 yard wonder strike. We don’t see too many from him as my coaches feel Tonali is inconsistent when presented with chances, but I’m very glad to see him on the score sheet today.

We’ve opened up a 12 point gap on ‘somehow still 2nd’, Spurs.

Great Graeme Gebbie

Graeme Gebbie has been on my home-grown shortlist for a while now and I managed to see him play in the flesh for the first time today. He’s a regular starter for Crystal Palace at just 19 years old. His bravery, positioning and determination are all exciting, and he’s definitely one I could see myself bidding for should Crystal Palace get relegated.

With two international caps to his name already, he may be one for the future of Wolves.

Wolves (1) vs Borussia Monchengladbach (0)
14/3/2023 Champions League First Knockout Round 2nd Leg

We go into this match with a 1-0 lead of Monchengladbach. Our goal here is to keep tight and make sure they don’t find a way through. We’re not in need of a goal, so being tight at the back is very important.

Our rested players from last game will return and we have a fully fit squad to choose from. Our form this season can largely be credited to just how injury free we have been. This breeds consistency and this has enabled us to string together a 26 unbeaten run. Let’s keep it going!

The 2-0 wins keep rolling in as we are safely through to the next round. Cutrone is certainly benefiting from an extended run in the side while Haaland has managed to notch 20 goals in all competitions for Wolves and he hasn’t even been here two full seasons yet. Incredible. A fan favourite, for sure.

The draw for the next round has been revealed and we face a very tough side in Real Madrid. Inter Milan would have been my chosen team to face, but that of course isn’t how it works. Real Madrid currently sit top of La Liga and we certainly have our work cut out. It’s going to be an interesting match!

Should we get through, PSG or Chelsea will await us.

New Deal

The Wolves board are so happy with my performances that they drafted up a new contract prior to seeing the outcome of the season.

The new deal see’s me earn £79k p/w for the next four years. Of course I was more than happy to accept and I cannot wait to continue working with Wolves.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Wolves
19/3/2023 FA Cup Quarter Final

While this may be a quarter final, the fact we come up against 21st in the Championship Sheffield Wednesday, it gives me the opportunity to rotate the squad to give players a rest and let some of the fringe players shine.

Sheffield Wednesday have done well to get here, beating Southampton, QPR and Everton in the process. They will fully be up for this game.

The match went as expected. We gave a lot of players some good minutes today and we saw Jota finally score after an incredible 18 hours without a goal. That’s right, you read that correctly – 18 hours!

He’s performances this season is the reason why Cutrone is getting a run of games in the side. Jota just hasn’t hit the heights of his usual self.

We face Manchester United in the Semi-Final. The toughest test we could’ve had in all honesty.

Bonkers Brust

My scout brought my attention to a young German lad from RB Leipzig. He’s eager to start more games having only played five competitive matches this season and as a result has been transfer listed for only £475k. My scout says he “would be a superb signing”.

We of course met his asking price and started contract negotiations quickly. But it soon became apparent that Brust and his agent are clearly out for a huge pay packet. At just 17 he expects a squad player amount of minutes, while transitioning into a full time first 11 regular next season. At the same time he’s asking for £40k p/w with that rising to £50k p/w after 20 games and £63k p/w after 25 games.

An insane amount of money for a guy who is yet to score a competitive goal. While he is a good looking talent, I cannot in all good conscience give that much to a player who may or may not turn out to be the ‘next big thing’. We have four exceptional strikers at our club and Goncalves (who is twice the player of Brust by the way) is only on £8.75k p/w. He will be offered a new contract at the end of the season though.

I will keep my eye on Brust over the next few years to see how he develops, but I’m not impressed with what he’s asking for. We walked away from the deal.

Manager’s Player of the Month

We only had four games this month but in all four of those games, Kimpembe was ever-present. He’s the glue that holds our defence in shape. He hasn’t been in England long, but he hasn’t taken him long to establish himself as one of the best centre backs in the country.

For what now seems like a bargain price of £36m in the summer, Kimpembe continues to shine in just about every game he plays in. He even managed to score his first goal for France this month too. If we do win a trophy this year, he will be one of the big reasons why it was possible.

Congratulations, Kimpembe!

Manager’s Player of the Month Winners: Haaland (3), Kimpembe (1), Fernandes (1), Augustinsson (1), Neves (1).

Looking Ahead

Another solid month in this incredible season. Four matches played in March, zero conceded. The fact Audero sits on a £28k p/w contract while having 29 clean sheets in 42 games is ludicrous. He’s starting to feel like he deserves a new contract and I don’t blame him. We will sit down at the end of the season.

Our cup opportunities are still in fact as we progress in both the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The gap at the top has shrunk but only due to the fact we have two games in hand over Spurs. It’s a very odd looking league table. The traditional ‘top six’ sides have all lost a handful of games and a lot of them are battling it out for Champions League spots.

Arsenal, despite only losing two matches all season in the league, sit 4th. Incredibly they’ve drawn 12 times this season. Almost as many as they’ve won. Agony for any Arsenal fan right now.

I’m still cautious not to excited about our league title potential. We still need to game each game as it comes, and the fixture list coming up is the reason why.

This run of fixtures looks incredibly hard and it’s hard to see our unbeaten run extend beyond April. Of course, I always have faith in my squad but we have five back-to-back games against some of the world’s best.

It will be one hell of an exciting month for Wolves.

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