Wandering to Titles – Title Defence Going Strong (December) Episode 54

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 5, Episode 54

The top of the table is looking very congested but that could all change quite dramatically with the amount of games on offer this month. The winter transfer window is looming and there’s always potential for both ins and outs. Can we make any deals to help further our title defence?

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Manchester United (2nd) vs Wolves (4th)
2/12/2023 Premier League

A very tough afternoon ahead of us. Manchester United have strengthened significantly in the summer. Despite selling Martial to Real Madrid, they improved by bringing in Amine Gouiri from Lyon for £70m. He’s taken to life at Old Trafford in his stride and has amassed 10 goals in 16 appearances for them already.

Gouiri has seemingly taken over from fan favourite Rashford as he has only managed three starts this campaign.

We’re again without our first choice wing-backs but we will have to make do.

A bizarre match that ended 1-0 which in all honesty flattered Manchester United. They clearly have their eyes set on their mid-week fixture against Benfica in the Champions League. A win or draw will see them through to the next round.

But their line-up largely consisted of players who are not regular starters in their squad this season. The likes of Dalot, Diallo, McGregor, Mejbri, Deulofeu, Dele Alli and Greenwood all started. It was a shock to see. I imagine they thought being at home they could put out a team like this and still win.

We ended up with 3 clear cut chances and 4 half chances. A shame we didn’t score more but I’m very happy with coming away with all three points. A mistake from Man United.

Mbabu in for the injured Lima scored only his third goal for the club, but what a goal it was – an absolute rocket from just outside the box.

Red Bull Salzburg (3rd) vs Wolves (2nd)
6/12/2023 Champions League Group E

It would take something special for Anderlecht to beat Inter which would allow us to claim 1st place. I doubt that will happen. We also have Arsenal at the weekend and that’s a must-not-lose game in my book.

A rotated side will be used here. We trounced them 7-1 last time out, so more of the same would be ideal. Young English 20 year old Keith Dudley starts in goal for the first time. Not a bad way to make your first competitive start.

A routine win for us, but I was especially pleased for Mason Mount as he scored his first goal for the club. He’s been touch-and-go since he arrived at Wolves. I have expected better from him, but I still hope he can contribute enough so he is considered a solid squad player.

Wolves (5th) vs Arsenal (2nd)
9/12/2023 Premier League

To see Arsenal doing so well at the start of this campaign has been a bit of a surprise, especially as we battered them 4-0 in the Community Shield. But I’m confident in today’s match. We’re at home and I believe overall we have the better squad.

Jose Lima will continue to miss out due to injury. He should we back in training within 3-7 days. He’s a huge miss and I can’t wait to have him back in the side.

Another great win for us today. Harder than predicted – Audero ended up picking up his first player of the match award for the club, but in truth he didn’t have to do too much in between the sticks. The game felt quite flat and we required a corner to grab the opening goal. From there it was easy sailing to victory.

The table is really hotting up now. It’s very congested at the top with a surprise Watford in the mix.

Targets Identified

I’ve had my scouts scouring the football market and we’ve identified two potential transfer targets.

They are both young and would be ideal candidates to come in and provide great cover for Vinagre. Augustinsson is 29 now with a year and a half left on his contract. I cannot see myself offering him a new deal, which is why Luca Netz or Mirko Italiano would be ideal. Could we get a deal done? I’m not sure the price tag both these clubs have set on their players, but I suspect it might be quite high.

Mirko Italiano would be the ideal candidate out of the two due to his home-grown status. He’s been with West Ham since the 20/21 season.

I had a bid of £33.5m accepted for Marc Cucurella at the start of the month but he wanted £150k p/w which would make him one of my open earners. I think there’s better value in the market, which is why I went searching for someone a bit younger.

Wolves (4th) vs Burnley (17th)
12/12/2023 Premier League

A routine win I expect for today. With the fixtures piling up, this gives me a chance to rotate slightly. Jack Scott gets another chance to shine. My strikers haven’t been hitting the net of late and that much change soon.

Just what I wanted from today. Goncalves back in the goals (he’s up to 16 already this season) and Jack Scott getting in on the act with a well timed run to the back post to head home. I couldn’t be happier for the lad.

To One Again Be Disappointed?

Our youth intake preview has once again arrived, and we may be disappointed all over again. It’s becoming a regular occurance.

I’m unsure what the problem is. We have “excellent youth recruitment” and “state of the art youth facilities” yet we have get to have a decent intake of youth players. My fingers are crossed for a surprise, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Aston Villa (16th) vs Wolves (3rd)
16/12/2023 Premier League

Jose Lima is finally back on the bench. He still has some way to go to get match fit, but I’m glad to see him back. Jack Scott continues at right-back. He’s impressed with the little game time he’s had this campaign.

“Goncalves sends Wolves top”

Goncalves was at the double again and sends us top of the table, but may only be briefly as we’re level on points with Chelsea and they are still yet to play this weekend.

Slight concern regarding the way Iheanacho socred his goal though. We play a high defensive line but a boot up field from their keeper was not met with a headed clearance. Instead Mepham let the ball bounce in front of him and Iheanacho ran on to slot it home. But we came away with all three points, and that’s all that matters.

Champions League Draw

Despite our efforts, we finished 2nd in the group with Inter Milan pipping us to 1st place. But we’ve been handed a favourable draw regardless.

Fantastic news for us as Schalke are probably the easiest tie we could have got. Manchester United get a very hard draw having to face Bayern Munich.

Wolves (2nd) vs Norwich (15th)
23/12/2023 Premier League

We’ve amassed seven straight victories against Norwich, and I expect to add another. Jose Lima starts his first game since the beginning of November. It’s good to have him back.

It wasn’t vintage Wolves, but we got the job done. Jose Lima played as though he hasn’t missed the last seven matches. A great day out for him. Chelsea have slipped up in recent weeks and we now lead the pack by 1 point.

Done Deal!

BOUGHT: Cristian (DL) – £45m
From: Arsenal – 24/12/2023

With the winter transfer window looming, I’ve taken action already and raided fellow rivals Arsenal for their Brazilian left-back.

West Ham were not budging on Italiano so I opted to bid for Cristian. My initial bid was rejected and left Cristian angry with his club for not letting him join us. After this I was confident we could get our man.

Further bids were made and Arsenal were hanging on for £64m. But I was digging my heels in and made a non-negotiable offer of £45m. After a couple of weeks, it was finally accepted, to my delight.

Cristian is already a Brazil international, amassing 9 caps at just 20 years old. He will be trained as a left wing-back and will have plenty of time to learn his new role. I’m very excited for him to be joining the squad.

Newcastle (20th) vs Wolves (1st)
26/12/2023 Premier League

No doubt the players enjoyed their Christmas as we sit 1st in the table. Boxing Day rolls round and every club in the league plays today. Newcastle are yet to register a win this season. They’re having a torrid time of it.

Ruben Neves will get a well earned rest today.

A disjointed performance today, but that was to no surprise. A lot of changes were made to day to accommodate for the amount of fixtures lately. We started with a new midfield pairing of Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips today. With that in mind, I’m very happy with the way we played.

New boy Tuanzebe also grabbed his first goal for the club. A proud moment for him I’m sure.

10 matches were played in the Premier League today. Only nine goals were scored across the 10 matches. When will the English FA realise that all these Christmas games are not healthy for the sport. Players are shattered. I hope something changes in the near future. Other leagues have a winter break and come back revitalised to put on a show for the paying supporters. Here in England, we push our players to the limit, resulting in less entertainment.

January Looms

It’s been a perfect month for us, result wise. Going into this month, we had a tough start with both Manchester United and Arsenal in our way. But we overcame both of them and the rest of the month was smooth sailing.

We’ve had a real mixture of goalscorers this month which is pleasing. We’re not relying on one or two players. Everyone is chipping in with a goal or two.

The tail end of our fixtures this month allowed me to rotate more than I normally would, and it worked to great effect. Despite some disjointed performances, we had the likes of Jack Scott, Jota, Mbabu and Tuanzebe all scoring. This rotation has enabled me to keep our top players fresh and ready for the ‘bigger’ games.

Our perfect month has allowed us to slip into 1st place, ending the year where we finished the last campaign. Arsenal have really tailed off since we beat them earlier this month. It appears our beating of them started a downward trend.

Chelsea have also slipped up in recent weeks and we now hold the advantage.

The biggest shock of the season so far is not Liverpool (who sit 7th), but Spurs, who are way down in 12th. They have been gutted of all their best players in the last few years with the likes of Kane, Son Heung-Min, Dele Alli and Ndombele all leaving. Their recruitment with this money they’ve made from the sales has not been up to scratch.

Monthly Awards At The Double

It’s to no surprise that we picked up two awards this month. Goncalves with his 4th Young Player of the Month award in 5 months, and I managed to pick up my first Manager of the Month award of this campaign.

In these six matches, we only conceded one goal. A fantastic record, considering we played Manchester United and Arsenal through this.

Fixtures Piling Up

January (as always) is going to be a hectic month. We already have 20 year old Brazilian Cristian coming in from Arsenal, while I have a couple outs in the works that could boost our transfer budget up a little.

Fixture wise, we have two competitions this month. Disappointment that we managed to draw Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd Round. With so many teams still in the competition, it’s very unlucky of us to draw such a big team already.

Nevertheless, we will always attack whoever is put in front of us.

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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