A campaign that showed so much promise but instead withered away into mediocrity. Wolverhampton Wanderers looked like European contenders for much of the past season, but poor form and a lack of goals up front saw the club fall to mid-table. Here is our Wolves season review:
Wolves Season Review
New Summer, New manager
With Nuno Espirito Santo’s departure after four years at the club, Wolves took the opportunity to bring in former Benfica boss Bruno Lage. Departures followed, the biggest seeing Rui Patricio leave to join Roma with Jose Sa replacing the man between the sticks. Rafa Mir moved on with a permanent move back to Spain, Morgan Gibbs-White gained another loan back to the Championship and Owen Otasowie moved onto Club Brugge. Loan deals were also secured for Ruben Vinagre and Patrick Cutrone respectively.
Rayan Aït-Nouri also signed was one of the club’s biggest signings after a successful loan the season before. Young upcoming centre back Yerson Mosquera made a move over to the Black Country. Wolves also managed to secure loan acquisitions of Francisco Trincão and Hwang Hee-Chan.
The start of the Lage’s new era couldn’t have got off to a worst start with three 1-0 defeats on the bounce in the league. With the club in the relegation zone, it was feared the problems from the backend of last season hadn’t been ironed out.
However, the performances were seemingly promising with an attacking mindset being deployed despite the lack of goals. With the end of Nuno’s campaign being far from entertaining, the change in style was welcomed by the Wolves faithful with the belief the goals would come.
And the goals came in the very next game, an emphatic 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup got the ball rolling for Lage. The club would go on to win six of their next nine games in the Premier League, which included a stunning 15-minute comeback against rivals Aston Villa. This run would help elevate Wolves into the hunt for European football for the rest of the season.
Wolves Season Review: Strength At the Back
Continued success was seen on the pitch throughout the second quarter of the season. Built on a strong defence, Wolves only conceded six goals in 13 games. Victory against Manchester United brought back memories of the glory days with the club achieving their first victory at Old Trafford since 1980.
Max Kilman was on great form at the back with Lage trusting the former Futsal player with his first major run in the first team. New goalkeeper Sa seemed unbeatable keeping the ball out of the net when at times it seemed near impossible.
Out Of the Cup
Form began to slip at the end of January with a shock defeat in the FA Cup to bottom side Norwich City. Many fans would have hoped for a cup run with many dreaming of another trip to Wembley however, it was clearly never meant to be.
The departure of Adama Traore was a huge loss for the club. The pacey winger had been hot and cold all season struggling to get amongst the goals. However, form was on the horizon before the loan deal getting his first goal of the season against Southampton and having another disallowed in the 2-1 win against Brentford. The return of Pedro Neto from injury and the signing of Chiquinho was hoped to be enough to fill the gap but neither seemed to get that chance throughout the rest of the campaign.
The club attempted to recover from the initial dip in form with big wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City. However, two losses inside a month to Arsenal also ended many fans’ dreams of achieving the Champions League at the end of the season.
A Poor End to the Season
With the end of the season nearing, the brick wall at the back started to break. Zero clean sheets were kept in the last ten games with goals leaking in left and right. Romain Saiss, who was on fire before his call up to the African Cup of Nations, struggled to recapture his previous form. Kilman’s injury also didn’t help matters with the breakthrough centre half out till the end of the season.
In the final games, only five points were picked up out of a possible 30. Fans were witness to some big defeats including a 5-1 hammering to Manchester City as well as a 3-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion.
No wins in the last seven saw Wolves drop out of the European race and slump to a tenth place finish. Much of the optimism around the club in January had dried up when the final game against Liverpool arrived with many fans wishing the season ended months back.
Next Season Can Bring Cautious Optimism
Ending the season the way they did, many might consider it a failure. European football was within their grasp, but constant poor performances made sure that wasn’t possible. But what many forget is that the season overall was an improvement on the last.
Lage’s first season is now out of the way. He now has a better idea of the squad and what improvements are needed for the club to really kick on and get back into Europe. With a big summer rebuild expected at the club, the attacking mentality promised at the start of the season may come back in all its glory.
However, if the form from the end of the season carries into the next season it is hard to see Lage lasting much longer. A good start to the season is essential if Wolves are to really kick on in the next campaign and progress on the pitch.