Wandering to Titles – Is This Really Happening? (April) Episode 46

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 4, Episode 46

The past couple of months we’ve really been able to put some serious distance between us and whoever is placed 2nd in the table. The traditional ‘top six’ teams have been incredibly inconsistent this year which is a huge surprise – whereas we have been very solid at the back while scoring enough to see us win matches.

This month has a lot in store for us as we have a busy schedule which will feature 8 matches across 3 competitions. Staying injury free is a must if we are to continue our success and I will be keeping a close eye on my players fitness levels to try and ward away any unnecessary injuries.

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Wolves (1st) vs Manchester United (3rd)
1/4/2023 Premier League

We embark on our run of five incredibly tough fixtures back-to-back with a home tie against Manchester United. Although they sit 11 points behind us, I’m still very wary of their squad. They have some unbelievable talent, and we must be on top of our game today to come away with anything.

Despite netting a hattrick last time out, Jota finds himself on the bench. Cutrone is in good form and Jota needs to show more in multiple games as opposed to just one to warrant a spot in my first eleven. Fernandes has a knock which gives van de Beek a chance at AMC.

Bizarrely, Manchester United have set up very defensively with a 4-5-1-DM formation and have Dele Alli as their sole striker.

A huge win for us today. It was a very cagey match in truth and Manchester United threatened quite a few times through set pieces and the aerial prowess of Harry Maguire. But a mistake from Ben Chilwell allowed Cutrone through on goal, and he slotted home delightfully. Our win-streak continues!

Manager Performance

To no surprise, the board are very happy with my performance this season.

Although they do seem to have a strange sense of scale in regards to match reactions. We’re high-flying in the league and just beat Manchester United 1-0 at home, yet only a mark of a C+ is awarded for our efforts. Perhaps they expect a little too much from us right now? Regardless, we will continue the way we have this season.

Following the Manchester United result, we also hit a new record – 30 games unbeaten starting from 27th September 2022.

Real Madrid vs Wolves
4/4/2023 Champions League Quarter Final 1st Leg

We next travel to sunny Spain for a mouthwatering tie against Spanish league leaders Real Madrid. They haven’t won the competition since the 2016/17 season and no doubt they are eager to do so this season.

Squad wise we are healthy, but so are they. Eden Hazard is in magical form, scoring 23 in all competitions so far. We will have to pay close attention to him. While we have no injuries, Neves hasn’t recovered as quickly as I wanted from our last outing and his condition isn’t enough for him to start. I have instructed our physio’s to pay close attention to him. We need him fit and ready for the tail end of the season – for sure.

We will play our normal system but with a more balanced approach and change as the game progresses.

And with that, our win streak and unbeaten run has come to and end. We weren’t particularly poor on the night, but two mistakes cost us dearly. We allowed a 5’9” David Neres head home a goal from a corner while Mepham gave away a penalty against a tricky Hazard who easily dispatched it.

A tough night to take, especially as we head home without an important away goal. In the home tie we will have to keep tight at the back while pushing for two goals. Just one away goal from Madrid and it will almost certainly mean we are knocked out.

Wolves (1st) vs Arsenal (3rd)
9/4/2023 Premier League

A difficult result to take last time out, especially as it ended our 30 game unbeaten streak. We cannot dwell on the result though. A lot of football is still to be played this season.

Arsenal sit 12 points behind us in 3rd and a win here would bring us so close to the title with 8 matches to go. I’m still in disbelief in the position we find ourselves, but here we are.

Someone in the media was having fun today as they wrote a piece about Liverpool avoiding relegation, despite sitting 7th. A guess mathematically they cannot get relegated, but I presume this was more to do with their general failure at a title challenge this year which has garnered a lot of interest.

Three times in a row they have won the title since I took charge at Wolves, but I didn’t expect them to fall off this quickly. Perhaps they will be much stronger next season.

Neves continues his extended rest as I need him 100% for the Real Madrid 2nd leg tie and the following FA Cup semi-final.

Back to winning ways today as we joyfully dispatched Arsenal in our own backyard. Fernandes was on top form and everything we did went through him. A slight scare occurred as Suso pulled one back to make things a little more tense, but we got the job done in the end.

A 14 point gap has opened up at the top and all the Wolves fans are giddy with excitement right now – but we haven’t won it yet, and we can’t get ahead of ourselves, no matter how good the situation looks.

Wolves (0) vs Real Madrid (2)
14/4/2023 Champions League Quarter Final 2nd Leg

An away goal for Real Madrid would surely send us out. We have to be tight at the back while maintaining a threat going forward as we would still require at least two goals. A tough night ahead of us but some good news as filtered through with Eden Hazard out of the reckoning with a twisted ankle. A life line, perhaps?

A disappointing day that see’s us bow out of the Champions League this year. We were the better team on the day but Real Madrid‘s gameplan worked out for the best as they limited us to taking wild shots in an effort to score.

It’s a defeat that hurts but not one that we should be embarrassed by.

Wolves vs Manchester United
15/4/2023 FA Cup Semi Final

Just three days later, we head to Wembley for a Semi-final match against current FA Cup holders, Manchester United. We’ve already shown recently we can beat them. I would be surprised if they adopt the same formation as last time (4-5-1-DM with Dele Alli up front).

Another 1-0 victory over Manchester United. They reversed back to their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation and the game was on a knife’s edge. A lot of decent football was being played by both teams and either of us could have won it.

Fernandes dramatically lowered our chances with a horrible challenge on the 76th minute and he was sent off almost immediately. The referee didn’t even have to think. But we kept our shape and I ordered Haaland to step his defensive game up a little bit and help the central midfielders out with some closing down.

Just as I was about to make some tactical tweaks, Haaland found some space and netted his 24th goal of the season. A huge goal and we progress to the final. Last year we were beat 4-2 by Manchester United in the final, so it’s nice to have knocked them out on route to our 2nd successive final.

We play Arsenal in the final as they beat Manchester City 3-1 in their semi-final.

Aston Villa (16th) vs Wolves (1st)
18/4/2023 Premier League

We’ve finally come out of the other side of these tough fixtures. No disrespect to Aston Villa, but it’s a nice change of pace from playing the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. We cannot rest on our laurels though as we must finish the job we intend to do – win the Premier League.

With Fernandes suspended, Mason Mount will occupy the AMC role. Vinagre is finally back after his broken collarbone and will take to the field in his first start since that accident.

We did not seem ourselves today as we succumbed to a 2-2 draw to a struggling Aston Villa side. It was nice to see Mason Mount provide his first assist while Vinagre headed home. But Vinagre’s day was ended prematurely as he twisted his ankle and had to come off. It’s 3-4 weeks back on the treatment table for him. He’s really not showing much luck at the moment.

Manchester City (5th) vs Wolves (1st)
22/4/2023 Premier League

We’ve got the upper hand over Manchester City in recent fixtures and I hope we can do the same again today.

Prior to the match, Liverpool played Chelsea and were beat 2-1. This seemed to be the last straw for the board and Jurgen Klopp was sacked moments after. A tough time for him considering he delivered three league titles in a row. They sit 8th, 1 point off a Europa League spot. It seems no job is truly safe in the game of football.

Injuries are really starting to pile up, especially around my wing-back area. It’s a demanding position and having good natural fitness and stamina is key. Jonny who has been plagued with injury this season makes only his 2nd start of the campaign.

An emphatic win today as we cruised to a 5-1 win at the Etihad stadium. Embarrassment for City as they crumbled following the sensational displays of Haaland, Jota and Fernandes. Another victory that brings us closer to the title. It’s actually happening…

Haaland’s hattrick today put him on top of the scoring charts with 19 goals, 2 ahead of Callum Wilson of Bournemouth and Diego Rolan of Norwich. It’s been a strange season with none of the traditional ‘big six’ able to hold any form of consistency.

Wolves (1st) vs West Brom (18th)
28/4/2023 Premier League

West Brom are all but relegated as they sit 8 points adrift with 4 games to go. A slightly rotated side will be used here to give some of our players legs a little rest. It’s been one hell of a season and we need all players fit and ready to take the title home.

Another thumping today at the expense of West Brom. They put up a good fight initially, but as the game went on we totally outplayed them. We’ve increased our goal difference by 9 in just two games and Haaland has scored 6 in 2 – incredible. Despite Djalo’s lack of game time, he always seems to pop up with a goal or two in each season. Whether he’ll stay beyond this season is unknown, but he’s been a good back up.

With that win we officially qualify for the Champions League next season, but given our situation I don’t think that was ever in doubt.

The board have also set our transfer budget for next season. £76.3m will be available for players, and more should we sell any of our own. The biggest issue with my team is the lack of quality in the youth teams. Perhaps some of this money could be spent there to help bolster the youth?

Should we win the league, I’m eager not to ‘do a Leicester‘ and end up selling our best players like they did with Mahrez and Kante.

Manager’s Player of the Month

Slight ups and downs this month in regards to player performances. Our schedule against Manchester United twice, Real Madrid twice and Arsenal all one after the other didn’t help and this saw us lose our first match in a very long time.

But considering we’ve hit the net 10 times in the past two matches, there’s only one winner here; Erling Haaland.

He’s been the standout performer this season and should we go on to win the league, he will be considered one of the big reasons why we did.

At just 22 years old, he already appears to be a world-beater. He still has a £110m minimum fee release clause in his contract and I will do my upmost to remove that this summer. We still can’t pay crazy high wages like some others in our league, but we are slowly but surely improving that.

Manager’s Player of the Month Winners: Haaland (4), Kimpembe (1), Fernandes (1), Augustinsson (1), Neves (1).

Looking Ahead

Despite the Champions League exit, it’s been a good month. At this stage, it’s unfair to assume we should still be competing for three trophies. We’re a young squad and this situation we find ourselves in will be very new to a lot of my players.

Looking back I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t give Real Madrid more of a game, but they are just the better side.

We were able to better Manchester United twice this month, once in the league and the other in the FA Cup which sent us to the final – our 2nd in two years.

To have a 15 point gap at the top of the table is just incredible and there’s going to be a party atmosphere in the City of Wolverhampton for some time to come just as soon as we officially clinch the title.

Liverpool’s defence of their title has been awful and with that Jurgen Klopp lost his job. As of right now, Barry Lewtas is still the caretaker manager, winning one and losing one in the process.

Join me next time as we aim to complete an historic season by lifting the league title and perhaps even the double with the FA Cup still within our grasp.

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