It wasn’t long ago when people were questioning if Bruno Lage was the right man to oversee a big project at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The first three games of the season were certainly an interesting time — former boss Nuno Espírito Santo had taken his new Tottenham Hotspur side to top of the league, unbeaten without conceding a goal, whereas Wolves were still yet to score one themselves. It was a turn of events that left the Molineux faithful frustrated on their return to stadiums and a situation that looked perilous for Nuno’s Portuguese compatriot Lage.
It had been a relatively quiet summer in the Black Country. The only real interesting piece of transfer business was the goalkeeper merry-go-round that ended up effecting Lage’s plans. Rui Patrício moved to Roma, so José Sá arrived from Olympics to fill the void between the sticks. Rayan Aït Nouri came in from Angers, while Hwang Hee-chan and Francisco Trincão completed loan deals to Wolves from RB Leipizig and Barcelona, respectfully. Hardly transfers that looked to set the world alite, Wolves quietly went about their business and eventually found their finishing touch to win some important games.
It was only a couple of years ago that Wolves were stalwarts in the top eight, finding themselves playing Europa League football and even had the Betting exchange uk touting them to breach that illustrious top six. While some may have predicted a more drastic downfall, there capitulation was relatively short lived, thanks to their solid backline. Yes, the goals might not have been flowing in a manner to which Wolves fans were accustomed, but with Sá in goal and a new look defence, albeit in the same three at the back system employed by Nuno to a high degree of success, Wolves have looked a solid outfit.
The game that appeared to change things was the 2-0 loss at home to Brentford, a newly promoted team who played the final half an hour with ten men. For a team like Wolves, losing in that manor was simply unacceptable and the fans certainly reminded them of that at full time, with boos hissing around Molineux relentlessly.
Their most recent win though was a far cry from that sorry performance, beating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford to inflict more damage on an already suffering side in Ralf Rangnick’s teething stages. You could tell by the passion the players showed at the back, as well as the celebrations that erupted when João Moutinho stuck the back in the net and sent the away end into delirium. It was the kind of moment Wolves fans must have imagined they’d struggle to see once Nuno departed for North London.
The only thing you wonder with Wolves is if their system is sustainable. In order to play such an intense style of football, whilst still garnering enough possession to control games, that when their old guard eventually age or move on to more fashionable clubs, that they can bring in the right personal to replicate Lage’s gameplans.
The Portuguese contingent seems to still be ticking over, but Moutinho is in the twilight of his career and Rúben Neves is constantly linked with moves away. Unfortunately for Lage, this team won’t be around forever so it is down to his shrewd recruitment to keep his side afloat and eventually sculpt it in his own image. For now though, we can reflect on the great job he has done at Molineux so far.