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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.
Season 5, Episode 58
Our quest for a successful title defence wages on. Our perfect month of results in March has seen us reach the Quarter Final of the Champions League and the Semi-Final of the FA Cup. Last season we bowed out at the Quarter Final stage of the Champions League to a superb Real Madrid side. I would like to at least go one better this one, but we have the other side of Madrid to face first.
The FA Cup looks like a real prospect for silverware this year with Arsenal being the last major contender in our way. Back-to-back FA Cups hasn’t been done since Arsenal when they won it twice in a row in 2014 & 2015.
We sit a point behind Manchester United in the title race, and we face them next in a tie which could define the league season.
Wolves (2nd) vs Manchester United (1st)
2/4/2024 Premier League
Manchester United are a force to be reckoned with this year and it’s to no surprise that they are up here with a title challenge.
Sandro Tonali is unfortunately suspended for the next two matches as he has picked up 10 yellow cards this league season.
Today’s victory proved just how vital squad depth is. Mbabu stood in for a tired Jose Lima and produced a masterclass of a performance while Cutrone came off the bench to a warm reception and found our 2nd goal.
Despite Marcio Antonio’s best efforts, we came away with all three points which makes us leapfrog United in the league, and we’re now two points clear. A huge victory for us.
Diogo Jota revealed he’s happy at the club after previously saying he wasn’t. His game-time has increased due to his improvement in form. It’s always good to know your players are happy. I hope to see more important goals from him.
Burnley (16th) vs Wolves (1st)
6/4/2024 Premier League
We continue to play against teams who’ve had an up-turn in form. While Burnley languish in 16th, they’ve won 3 of the last 4 Premier League matches. Despite knowing this, slight rotation is needed as we face Atletico Madrid in the 1st leg soon after.
Another routine win as Burnley didn’t offer much going forward. I was happy to see Vinagre get a few minutes under his belt after another one of his injuries. We have to be very careful we how we integrate him back into the side.
I think it should be noted that Manchester United just beat Aston Villa 9-0 and rocketed their goal difference up to 56. A far cry from our 39 goal difference and this could be a huge factor in who is awarded the title. We have to ensure we are not level on points with Manchester United.
Atletico Madrid (0) vs Wolves (0)
9/4/2024 Champions League Quarter Final First Leg
We’re going to have to be at our very best to get anything from this. An away goal will no doubt be crucial. Atlectico Madrid are a fantastic team, a team that won the competition 2 years ago.
We are at full strength, so we have no excuses there. A considered approach will be taken to this game. We cannot be caught out being too high up the pitch.
Another scintillating performance that stunned the home crowd. Within 13 minutes, we were two to the good and the whole home section of the stadium went silent. I don’t quite think anyone expected this.
This team continues to impress me as the games go on. We cannot think the tie is over though, despite our strong lead. Eight days lie between us and the 2nd leg. We must start preparation straight away. We know Atletico Madrid will no go down without a fight.
Wolves (2) vs Atletico Madrid (0)
17/4/2024 Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg
Prior to the match we got news that we have already qualified for the Champions League next year. The battle for 4th has really been a none-event and it’s strange to see this news with 6 games to go in the league.
With that news, the board were happy to announce a £116m transfer budget for next season, along with a £3.4m p/w wage budget. Very healthy finances going into next year and I look forward to strengthening our squad.
But back to the task at hand, we hold a 2 away goal lead over Atletico Madrid. All we have to do now is see this game out in a professional manner. The same team will start again.
We hardly gave Atletico a sniff. A professional and resolute performance. Goncalves notched his 33rd goal of the season, breaking Haaland’s record of 32 last year while Phil Foden finally got his moment and scored his first goal for the club.
Foden has shown what he’s capable of in spurts, but of late he has been chipping in with assists and now I hope his first goal will allow him to settle even more. His performances have not gone unnoticed either by England Manager Gareth Southgate as he was brought back into the England fold recently and was handed two caps. The only way is up for Phil Foden, in my opinion.
We face Arsenal in the semi-final as they beat Inter Milan 2-0 on aggregate. In the other semi-final, Manchester United face Real Madrid.
Wolves vs West Brom
21/4/2024 FA Cup Semi Final
The games are coming thick and fast and despite being a cup semi-final, rotation is in order here and this decision is helped by the fact we play Championship side West Brom.
West Brom are fighting for promotion and are in fine form themselves, but I have faith in my squad to do the business.
We were almost left red faced as I made seven changes to the side. We didn’t play particularly well, with a large part of that down to rotation. West Brom finished off an excellent counter-attack and I feared they would from then on in sit back and make us sweat.
But we persevered. Ruben Neves delivered two delightful balls to allow Goncalves and Cutrone to head home. We’re in the final!
14 times FA Cup record holders, Arsenal, await us in the final. Arsenal have not beat us in the last 7 marches we’ve faced against them. A good record to have going into both this final and the semi-final of the Champions League.
Investing In Youth
I’m always on the lookout for youth. Especially English talent. I went searching and came across Billy McCarron. An unknown figure in the world of football. Three professional appearances to his name and zero youth caps.
I instructed my best scout to keep a close eye on him over the next few weeks. What he came back with was “sign McCarron whatever the price”, which I found quite astonishing considering his lack of heading ability for a centre-back.
But the 6’5” young lad is a unit with mental attributes to go with it. His technical ability has time to be worked on and I’m told his potential is through the roof. I trust my scout and started negotiations with Premier League club, Brentford. Within the afternoon, an agreement had been made, and we signed the lad for £4.5m.
I’m sure his name will be battered around after the papers get wind of this transfer, and I cannot wait to see his development.
Chelsea (3rd) vs Wolves (2nd)
24/4/2024 Premier League
We face Chelsea again for the 2nd time in 2 months. Both teams have a clean bill of health as we go into this one.
Currently, we sit 6 points ahead of Chelsea, and we even have a game in hand. A win here today could be huge for us as we continue our battle to defend our league title.
A poor performance today. We were far and away the lesser side. We never really go going and Chelsea kept possession well enough to frustrate us. Our 13 win streak is finally broken.
To see Tonali sent off was a disappointment. His 2nd yellow of the game, and his 16 yellow in 40 appearances. I’d like him to curb his aggression a little if I’m honest. Too many times he puts us in difficult situations with his yellow cards. But we move on.
The English Investment Continues
Not long after the Chelsea game I was informed that our contract offer for Simon Damms was accepted. The 16 year old has 1 competitive game and 1 goal under his belt for Leeds, but the promise he shows is incredible.
At just 16 years old, he has incredible mental attributes that could rival many current Premier League players. His physicals and technical abilities are also good, but he has many years ahead of him to continue to develop them.
We managed to agree a deal with Leeds for £10.5m. A lot of money for an unproven 16 year old, but needs must. I’m very excited to have him join our team and it’s possible he could be in the first team next year. Welcome, Simon Damms!
Brentford (11th) vs Wolves (2nd)
27/4/2024 Premier League
We travel to an impressive Brentford side as they sit 11th in the league in their first ever stay Premier League era. The last time they were in the top tier of English Football was just after World War II in the 1946/47 season.
But we have no time for complacency. Every match from now on is so incredibly important. Unfortunately, we go into this match without our central midfield partnership. Tonali is of course suspended, while Neves strained his groin during training and will be out for 2-3 weeks. A huge blow!
It was so obvious that we were missing our mainstay duo in the centre of the park today. More points dropped in the title rice at this stage is not good. And our formed has dipped as we prepare to face Arsenal in the Champions League Semi-Final 1st leg in three days time.
I hope the players liven up a bit and play ourselves back into form.
Arsenal (0) vs Wolves (0)
30/4/2024 Champions League Semi-Final 1st Leg
We’ve already beaten last years feat in the Champions League by getting to the semi-final. The boys are excited but nervous at the same time. A lot of weight has been put on their shoulders, but it’s times like this which will show what we’re really made of.
Losing our club captain, Ruben Neves, is such a huge loss but we have to make do. Mason Mount gets his chance to side on the big stage. The world is watching.
Another bore draw. This game will be quickly forgotten. Neither side mustered up anything of note, but we can go into the 2nd leg knowing we can use our crowd as the 12th man to help push us over the finishing line towards the coveted final.
Crunch Time Looming
A fantastic start to the month that ended with three very poor performances. The whole team was as smooth as silk until we hit the brick wall that is Chelsea. I’m not sure what has gotten into the lads, but they don’t seem themselves.
It’s been a while since we’ve had such a small run of poor form and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Had our win streak made us complacent? Are we becoming overwhelmed by the small possibility that a famous treble could be on the cards? The lads need to get it together!
We sit 6 points adrift of the top, but with a game in hand. We need Manchester United to drop more than just three points, due to their superior goal difference. That Brentford draw could really come back to bite us!
The end of the season draws near and we still have it all to play for. Our quest to defend our title. Our media defying run in the Champions League and another title defence in the form of an FA Cup.
I’ll be having a stern word with the boys to get their heads back into the game. A lot is riding on them right now.
What do you think of Simon Damms? Could he be a world beater?
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