Wandering to Titles – Left Back Woes (November) Episode 53

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 5, Episode 53

From thrashing Salzburg 7-1 to losing 2-1 to Watford, that was the short tale of our October results. But that’s football. An unpredictable game that keeps us all on our toes.

But we’re looking strong. Above is a selection of all our players that have achieved an average rating of 7.00 or more so far this season. A core contingent of Portuguese players lead the way for us and that’s to no surprise to be honest.

Despite playing well, we are already six points behind Arsenal in the league. I never would have thought this would be the case, considering we smashed them 4-0 in the Community Shield in the first game of the campaign.

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Stoke (18th) vs Wolves (5th)
5/11/2023 Premier League

We kick off this month with an away tie against Stoke City. They’re struggling again this year which is just a regular occurrence. Pietro Pellegri’s goal and work rate against Blackburn last time out has not gone unnoticed, and he will start today – up top with Goncalves.

£62m rated striker, Diogo Jota, has some slight concerns for the first time in his Wolves career. He’s not happy with his playing time so far this season and might be looking to go out on loan. It’s not something I’d ever consider, but I will be thrusting him into the first team more often soon.

A very comfortable win today. Stoke barely threatened all game. I was very happy to see Pellegri in on the action again. He’s looking like a good purchase already. Four goals in nine appearances in the league and only three of them have been starts.

Vinagre picked up another injury again today and I’m starting to think whether I should buy a replacement or not. He will be out for another 3-4 weeks. As much as I like the guy, he just keeps getting injured. He cannot seem to put together a long run of games.

Since I’ve been manager he’s had 8 injuries that have been classed as “moderate” or higher. I’m in a real dilemma here. I’m going to start putting together a shortlist of potential wing-backs to sign.

Anderlecht (3rd) vs Wolves (2nd)
8/11/2023 Champions League Group E

Jota is to make a rare start here. His poor performances last season have really knocked him down the priority list and this is the first time he’s not played regularly under me. The emergence of Goncalves hasn’t helped either.

A game that was tougher than expected, but we got the job done. No matter the opponent, away days in Europe can always be troublesome. But we’ve officially qualified for the next round. The all important game against Inter at the end of this month will more than likely determine where we finish (2nd or 1st) in this table.

Our goal difference could play a huge part in this and beating Salzburg 7-1 may prove extremely pivotal.

Wolves (4th) vs Chelsea (2nd)
25/11/2023 Premier League

The day the media have all been waiting for. Haaland vs Wolves. After his controversial move in the summer, Haaland is set to face-off against us for the first time. Prior to this game, Haaland has 4 goals in 10 matches. Not the blistering start Chelsea would have wanted, but still a decent enough of a return. My players seem to be focused on just the game itself, a game that would see us leap frog Chelsea should we come away with all three points.

But before the match, we have some news from the international break.

Goncalves earned his first Portugal cap, coming on for 22 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Sweden. Congratulations are in order. There is no doubt in my mind this will be the first of many.

Jose Lima unfortunately came back with an injury and will be out for 2-3 weeks. That’s both first choice wing-backs on either side out for this one.

A fair result in the end. It had to be Goncalves and Haaland scoring the goals, didn’t it? Chelsea have a very strong squad and it’s no surprise they gave as good as they got in our own backyard.

Tonali was a disappointment today as he made 5 mistakes before I hauled him off at the 55-minute mark. Perhaps a player to be replaced for our next match against Inter Milan.

Wolves (2nd) vs Inter Milan (1st)
28/11/2023 Champions League Group E

The battle for 1st place. Inter Milan have the upper hand as they beat us in our first meeting, putting all the pressure on us. A draw for them would surely see them finish 1st. But we play at home and I’m hoping our fans will become our 12th man.

A frustrating afternoon. Inter Milan barely created any chances as they sat 10 men behind the ball at all times. Right from the off it was obvious what their game plan was. Setting up with two defensive midfielders and two defensive wingers, their aim was to restrict any form of football.

But in their eyes it doesn’t matter how they did it. It’s going to have to be something special from Anderlecht if they are to beat Inter. Our fate lies in their hands now – something I never want.

End of Month Joy

Despite the draw to Inter Milan, we end the month off with some good news.

The board were happy to increase the wage budget to £3,258,252 per week. We currently spend £2,699,216 per week, so we have a lot of leeway in regards to new contracts for existing players and for new signings. The future is bright!

I’ve been careful to not overspend on wages, and let it gradually increase over time, in-line with the progress of the club as a whole. The inclusion of the Champions League has been a huge factor, and more recently, winning the league.

We are still some way off our competitors for wage expenditure. Manchester United are close to double what we pay our players.

Goncalves also picked up his 3rd Young Player of the Month award. It was always going to be a tough ask for a player to replace Haaland’s goals, but I never expected Goncalves to do it with such ease.

Searching For A Left-Back

As much as I love Ruben Vinagre as a player, he continues to pick up injuries far too often for my liking. It’s not noted from my coaches that he has trouble with injuries, but it may in part be due to the fact he has a fairly low natural fitness rating (11).

I’ve looked for some home-grown talent to fill a void but none at the moment seem possible to acquire. England’s Ben Chilwell is a regular starter for Manchester United and is having a blinding season so far. I highly doubt I could take him away from the Red Devils.

This conundrum has left me to look further afield. Marc Cucurella of Napoli is a good option. He has asked to leave Napoli as he wants a new deal. With my interest stirring the pot, Napoli may cave-in and offer him a new deal. He’s a top player but his assist outlay isn’t something to be desired.

Marcelo Saracchi is another on my shortlist. A hard-working full-back that has the speed and stamina to get up and down the left-flank. Could he provide the consistency we need? He also could be cheaper than Cucurella.

January isn’t too far away so a deal for a left-back in high on my priority list.

Looking Ahead

No losses this month but slight disappointment towards the end as we couldn’t get one-up over Chelsea and Inter Milan. We scored six goals this month in four matches, and all six are from different players.

It’s good to see everyone chipping in with goals. We cannot just rely on one or two players for goals like we have done in the past.

The table of course hasn’t changed much with only two Premier League matches played in November. Arsenal did however suffer their first loss of the league campaign with a 4-0 thumping from Everton. Their first loss since we thumped them 4-0 ourselves back in the Community Shield.

It’s very tight at the top at this stage. Arsenal have been brought back down to earth a little. With so many league games next month, a lot will be changing.

We start the month off with two tough league fixtures, but after that I hope we can generate a good run with the likes of Burnley, Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle all to play.

Fresh bids for left-backs will be put into motion. The question is, do I then look to sell Augustinsson, despite the fact a new wing-back will be coming in mainly for Vinagre’s problems?

Augustinsson is 29 and has a year and a half left on his contract. He’s a great player, but he is slowing down. Ideally I would like to see Vinagre outgrow his injury problems.

If there is anything within the save you would like to see, drop a comment below and I will add it in the next episode.

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