Wandering to Titles – Busy Winter Window (January) Episode 55

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 5, Episode 55

I’m very happy going into the new year. We start 2024 top of the table. By just one point, but it doesn’t matter how many points were ahead, as long as we finish top. That’s the aim.

I suspect a busy window for us as three transfers have already been confirmed. I tend to be a little conservative in the January window, but times are tough with these home-grown restrictions in place and I will jump at a chance to grab any top quality home-grown talent when I can.

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Day One Deals

As I said, three transfers have already been confirmed. You know of Christian from Arsenal for £45m. My plan is to slowly ease him into the squad and play as a rotation option with Vinagre. Have we over-paid for him? Possibly, but only time will tell for sure. He’s already a full Brazilian international, so he’s definitely got talent. Be sure to check his attributes over in Episode 54 of Wandering to Titles.

Vinagre’s injuries of late made me look for extra back-up for left wing-back unfortunately.

Elsewhere, I completed the deals of two players leaving the club.

Morgan Gibbs-White and Willy Boly both leave. Gibbs-White left for Championship side Southampton for £14m. Not bad for a player who sat in the under-23 team. He had a lot of potential in his younger years but there were always better players ahead of him and he never really got a chance to shine. Good luck to the lad.

Willy Boly also leaves for £5.25m. Another good deal for a player yet to play this campaign and who is about to turn 33. He was a regular appearance maker during my first three years at the club so it was sad to see him leave, but it’s for the best. He joins fellow ex-Wolves player Andre Horta at Dynamo Kyiv.

Cream Of The Crop

Huge news arrived on my desk in the morning as wonderkid Sandro Goncalves won the European Golden Boy 2023 award. I’m ecstatic with the news, and we’re so lucky to have such a gem of a player.

In just half a campaign, he’s made me and our fans forget about Haaland. He’s recorded 18 goals in 23 appearances this season. Can he surpass Haaland’s 32 goals from last season’s campaign? A tough ask, but he’s on the right track anyhow.

He follows the likes of Fabio Silva (2022), Mason Greenwood (2021) and Bukayo Saka (2020) by winning this award.

Manchester City (4th) vs Wolves (1st)
1/1/2024 Premier League

We’ve always found Manchester City to be a tough team to play against. Jurgen Klopp has them well drilled and were on a fantastic run of form before losing 1-0 to Burnley last time out. Can we take advantage of this and land another defeat for them?

Well our 10 match unbeaten run in the league is well and truly beaten. I’m struggling for words today. We started the match in flying form, going 2-0 within 15 minutes. What happened afterwards is just a blur. Error after error. We couldn’t contain them. They scored 3 back-to-back goals from set pieces. Our defence just capitulated.

No doubt about it. Everyone is straight into training first thing Tuesday morning. Today was not acceptable for a title defence.

Liverpool vs Wolves
6/1/2024 FA Cup 3rd Round

Normally at this stage in the FA Cup I would be rotating my squad to give other members a chance to impress me. Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn a very tough fixture away at Anfield.

While Liverpool may be struggling this season, I’m under no illusions that this will be a tough game. After Mepham’s poor performance against Man City, Tuanzebe comes in as his replacement.

Young 22 year old Gonzalo Bianchi fresh from his huge £116m move to Liverpool from Juventus starts against us today. Despite being in EURO II compeition, Liverpool still have money to burn!

Not a great performance by any stretch of the imagination, but we got the job done. Ruben Neves pulled his groin around the 60th mark and had to be brought off. Mason Mount was raring to go and rewarded us with the winning goal. Fantastic!

Bianchi had a great game for his debut and almost scored twice had it not been for star man Audero in net.

New Deals!

As I said, I suspected January would be busy, and I was right.

BOUGHT: Phil Foden (AMC) £26m
From: Man City, 7/1/2024

It came to my attention that young Phil Foden was coming to the end of his contract with Man City. He hasn’t been given a fair shot at City during his career until this year, but it seems bridges have been burnt and he wasn’t interested in signing a new contract.

There was significant interest from PSG, Lyon and Arsenal for the intelligent attacking midfielder and I had to act quick.

Knowing the figures PSG and Arsenal pay for wages, I couldn’t try my luck on getting him for free. No doubt there would be a plethora of new suitors for him should he have left it till the summer. Instead, I haggled City down to £26m. An absolute bargain if you ask me. Home-grown, English, Young and a cracking left foot.

He’s played 12 times in the league this season for City. Scored 6 and assisted 5, marking up a massive average rating of 7.80. He’s been a real standout in the league this year. Manchester City will be really hurt by this sale, but I don’t care.

You may have noticed that Foden scored against us in the first game of the month. Our bid of £26m was already accepted at the time and we were deep in contract negotiations. It was a huge surprise when I found out he would be starting that match. I think it’s safe to say, we will eventually get the last laugh.

I cannot wait to see what Foden can do for us! Welcome, Phil.

SOLD: Bruno Fernandes (AMC) £52m
To: Inter Milan, 7/1/2024

As soon as one comes in, another is out the door. This time it’s Bruno Fernandes. A favourite amongst fans and the squad, but I thought his time was up at Wolves. He’s been a great player for us, but ultimately he hasn’t been pulling his weight of late.

I hadn’t considered selling Fernandes until Foden suddenly appeared available. We managed to recoup our money back on a player that had a year and a half left on his contract and who will be turning 30 this year. It’s a shrewd bit of business, if you ask me.

His ratings his season are nothing to be desired. 13 appearances, 2 goals, 3 assists and an average rating of 6.76. Not good enough for a man who is meant to be our main outlet of creativity for the team. I hope Foden can more than fill his boots.

Bournemouth (7th) vs Wolves (3rd)
14/1/2024 Premier League

Bournemouth have been performing above expectations this season but regardless of this fact, I demand we bounce back straight away from our humiliating defeat against Manchester City.

With a hole in the centre of the pitch due to Fernandes‘ departure, Phil Foden of course will make his full debut here.

This was a surprisingly entertaining match. It was end-to-end. The pace of Callum Wilson and Bruma gave us real problems at times and I immediately instructed our back line up drop a little deeper to soak up the pressure a bit more comfortably.

But we managed to do ourselves justice and put in a professional performance. Of late, Mason Mount is really starting to prove his worth. Another solid performance from the lad and it will be interesting to see if him and Foden can link up well.

As debut’s go, Foden had a good game. Slowly finding his rhythm in our system and you could really see the excitement on the fans faces today whenever he picked up the ball.

Wolves (2nd) vs Blackburn (19th)
20/1/2024 Premier League

Last time out against Blackburn they were really struggling, having not registered a goal all season. As fate would have it, they scored against us, but it wasn’t enough to stem the tide of goals we laid out for them.

Since then they have picked up 2 wins and a draw, leaving them 19th, but still well behind the pack. It’s not looking good for Blackburn or Newcastle (20th) right now.

Jota is becoming a real thorn in my side of late. He’s complaining of a lack of football and he is affecting the morale of the squad. He really needs to knuckle down and just concentrate on football and take his chance when it arises.

Blackburn were woeful. I’m surprised we didn’t win by more. They didn’t register a shot until the 91st minute, and even that was off-target.

Sandro Tonali has quietly become a very important player in my side this season. Since I’ve switched him and Neves around, he’s been really thriving, mopping up any lose balls that come his way. Averaging a 7.43 rating across all competitions, he’s really starting to look world-class and he’s still just 23 years old. He is starting to attract major interest from the likes of Bayern Munich, Dortmund and PSG with his performances this season which is a slight worry.

Liverpool (8th) vs Wolves (3rd)
23/1/2024 Premier League

No doubt Liverpool will want to get revenge after we knocked them out of the FA Cup earlier this month. Anfield will always be a tough place to go so a measured approach for this game will be taken.

Not much news to share in the lead up to this match. We’re close to a full squad and Fiezzi is finally back in training after being our for 3 months with a broken foot.

Another nail-biting match at Anfield, but we’ve managed to do the double over them in their own back yard. In all honesty, they were the better team today. But we hung on and came away with all three points! I’m delighted.

Brentford vs Wolves
27/1/2024 FA Cup 4th Round

I would like to win the FA Cup, but I do see these matches as an opportunity to rotate slightly. I have faith in the squad I’ve built and I will continue you use all my players.

Despite going a man down very early on, Brentford gave it a real good go. But overall, I’m happy with the performance. Jack Scott was exceptional today and he’s close to earning himself a new contract. A brace of assists for him today. He may not have the best crossing in the world (7), but his pace enables him to get into great positions to deliver a ball. Liverpool are said to be sniffing around for him.

Bella-Kotchap got his first goal for the club and is proving to be a solid back-up.

Winter Transfer Window Round-Up

It’s been a busy winter as transfer windows go. We added Cristian and Phil Foden for a combined total of £71m while letting go Willy Boly, Gibbs-White, Kitolano, and Fernandes for a total of £74.25m. A healthy set of deals if you ask me. Selling ageing and surplus to requirement players while bringing in fresh young talent that can only get better with age.

It’s been quite a busy window for other teams too. Liverpool backed Steven Gerrard by spending £116m on Gonzalo Bianchi only to sack him just before the month was up. Gerrard didn’t even last a year in the job. A sad moment for any Liverpool fan, to see a club legend sacked while at the helm.

Alphonso Davies joined Chelsea in a big money move and has so far taken the Premier League by storm with 6 goals and 1 assist in his first 4 matches. He’s averaging a 8.68 rating. Incredible!

Dodged A Bullet!

If you remember, I had a bid of £33.5m accepted for Marc Cucurella but I thought better of it since I felt there’s better value in the market.

He ended up at Manchester United this winter window in a deal worth £35.5m and has already played one league match for them.

But incredibly, I’ve just been informed that he’s already handed in a transfer request, citing that the club did not bring someone in to help him settle in as the club promised. Regardless of what Manchester United promised, the fact he’s thrown such a hissy fit already tells me we dodged a huge bullet in this deal.

Looking Ahead

Despite a battering from Manchester City at the start of the month, we’ve done very well this January. Two wins at Anfield coupled with a victory to send us to the next round in the FA Cup, I’m very happy.

I’m still yet to find a true strike partner for Goncalves. Jota, Cutrone and Pellegri all play too inconsistently for me to keep choosing them week in week out.

Mason Mount has done a lot better this month and is proving his worth in the squad while Phil Foden has been solid enough and I expect him to get better and better as the campaign goes on.

5 points behind league leaders Chelsea, but we have a game in hand at the moment. 2 of our three losses have come against Watford and Leicester and may come back to bite us come the end of the season.

But we’re still in the mix and it only takes Chelsea to slip up once or twice and we will be there to pounce on that opportunity.

We start the next month off again with another couple tough fixtures. I know Spurs are currently 12th, but they still have talent in their squad and we will have to be cautious.

The Champions League kicks off again, finally. It will be over two months since we last played in the competition, and I hope we take our chance, given that we’ve been handed a favourable draw.

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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