Welcome to my season two round up with Wolves. If you read my season one round up you will know that we won promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship, and if you are wondering about the title of this post, well you will have to read on. The board wanted us to avoid relegation from the Premier League and gave me a transfer budget of £9m in the summer and then £17m in December ready for the winter transfer window. I agreed to the avoid relegation option even though in my mind I never thought that we would be involved in a battle at the wrong end of the table come the end of the season but I don’t see no point in putting pressure on yourself in your first season back in the big time.
The screenshot below shows the boards expectations but to be honest I am not bothered one bit about the cup competitions this season, I want to focus on a strong position in the Premier League and have decided that I will field a second string XI in the cup competitions and that’s what I did.
The bookmakers didn’t fancy our chances this season giving us odds of 1000-1 to win the league and have us down to get relegated with just Huddersfield being ranked lower. I suppose that’s a fare reflexion but I am so going to enjoy trying to prove the bookies wrong come the end of the season. So with a war chest of £9m to spend I went in to the transfer market to bag a bargain or two and to be honest I was pleased with the business that we got done. First player to come through the door was midfielder Tom Carroll who had been transfer listed by Swansea for £2.2m closely followed by forward Andre Gray who was also transfer listed for £1.4m by Watford. A bargain if you ask me and a good start to our transfer business. Just 5 days later the red carpet was rolled out again for another 2 newcomers who like Carroll and Gray were of English nationality with the first one left full back Charlie Taylor from Burnley for £1.7m rising to £2.2m with add ons. On the same day we completed the season long loan signing of forward Jerome Sinclair from Watford. Following the pattern of signing two players at a time the 1st of July brought another double intake when we signed forward Lukas Julis from Sparta Praha for £1.1m rising to £1.3m with those add ons. That same evening we finalised the signing of Sporting Club de Portugal’s midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia for an initial 950k rising to £1m with performance related add ons. Now I was feeling pleased with our transfer activity because I felt we had brought some quality in to the club for peanuts and then we added goalkeeper Sam Johnstone who was a free agent and forward Ze Gomes from our affiliate club Benfica were the young forward was in their B squad on a season long loan. So with £7.25m spent I was more than happy when we raised £7.75m from players leaving the club with Jack Price’s move to Hull bringing in £6.25m rising to £9m with add ons. I sent a few players out on loan to get some first team exposure with the most notable promising players forward Niall Ennis joining Plymouth were he ended the season scoring 21 goals and midfielder Bright Enobakhare getting rave reviews at Millwall. So with our business done it was now time to get some team cohesion and go about our work in the Premier League were we would be playing with a new system that lined up 4-1-2-1-2 with a narrow midfield diamond , and this is how we got on.
Premier League Results 17-18
We kicked the season off with two 1-1 draws against both Newcastle United and Middlesbrough with us playing good football in both games. Our new Argentine roaming playmaker Rodrigo Battaglia scoring both our goals with one of them against Boro coming in injury time. A trip to the Emirates followed and another gutsy display in a 2-3 defeat shown me enough to be encouraged for the long season ahead. We then actually went unbeaten in our next 8 games with 5 wins and 3 draws that included a 2-2 draw against Manchester United before we lost 1-2 at Chelsea. Now there was something about this Wolves squad that had got me craving for more and more game time and although we fell to back to back defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Tottenham we were winning or drawing our games against the club’s outside of the elite 6 in the Premier League and by the end of the year we had a record of Played 21 Won 10 Drawn 6 Lost 5 Points 36 now you don’t need to be a mathematician but we were just 4 points away from the magic 40 that should see you close to survival, but we were not interested in the survival talk we were looking at a top 10 finish that would be a damn good return to the top flight. Our forwards Ze Gomes had scored 10 goals, Gray had netted 6 times and our attacking midfielder Dave Edwards was enjoying life in the Trequartista role netting 7 times. Our first choice central 3 of Neves, Battaglia and Carroll were dominating game after game with impressive performances, these boys were playing some good stuff which I was enjoying watching. Whilst playing a narrow system it ment two of the most talented players in the squad Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro were not getting much game time however they surprisingly were also not knocking my door down moaning instead they were both training in the False 9 role, which we were using then Costa was delt a blow with a knee injury that halted his progress and when Sunderland came in with a January bid I decided to let him leave the club. I feel Cavaleiro will leave in the summer but it was two other Portuguese players stealing the show in Neves and Ze Gomes so far.
With the transfer window open I decided to dip in and made two signings, both had been transfer listed by their club’s the first being attacker Jese Rodriguez who joined from PSG for £5.5m a steal at the price and a good long term investment I hope. The second player coming in was defender Harry Maguire who joined for £3.5m from Leicester City. Now I brought Maguire in to strengthen our defence and on his debut for us he got himself sent off and then after his suspension he scored an own goal in his 2nd appearance for us that left me thinking what have I spent our money on but to his credit he finished the season with some solid performance’s averaging 7.17 in his 12 games played. Now Jese made his debut in our opening game of the new year against Arsenal were we found ourselves 0-3 down and looking dead and buried but I tell you what this side has character and with goals from Joe Mason 2 and the debut boy Jese himself we earned a very creditable 3-3 draw. Wins against Leicester, Everton and Stoke followed and pushed up in to 7th spot in the table which would secure a Europa League qualifying game, hey but let’s not get ahead of ourselves so I play it down in the media but at the back of my mind I know this is possible and after our next 7 games we are in 7th spot 9 points ahead of Everton and 3 behind Liverpool in 6th. Now those 7 games produced wins against Watford, West Ham and Crystal Palace and draws against WBA ( who scored a last minute equaliser), Swansea and Chelsea and one defeat at the hands of double winning champions Manchester United 0-1. Now in good old FM tradition just when we are buzzing we travelled to Wembley to play Tottenham Hotspur who give us a 2-5 spanking in Pocchetino style but I am not complaining plus we managed to get young attacking midfielder Joshua Onamah on loan from them until the end of the season to cover injuries to Edwards and Mason and it was a move that proved fruitful with the young Spurs star netting 4 times in 4 starts for us starting with a 2-2 draw at Anfield were Jese had put us 2-0 up after 38 minutes, now I know we let a 2 goal lead slip but I was happy with the point because it kept us in touch with Klopps boys. Liverpool then slip up at Southampton meaning a win against Huddersfield would see us leap frog the Merseyside boys in to 6th place on level points. Well remember young Onamah he scored twice along with a Charlie Taylor brace in a 4-1 win against Huddersfield, we were in 6th place flying high with 3 games to go. The visit of Southampton to Molineux was next and a top performance gave us a 3-0 win with a brace from Ze Gomes and another from Onamah with another slip up from the red side of Merseyside our destiny is in our own hands. Our next game sees us lose at Manchester City 0-2 which takes us in to the final game of the season away at Eddie Howes Bournemouth with us knowing that a win secures 6th place. A team meeting lifts morale and then forgive me for saying bloody, but bloody Fernando Santos the Portuguese national team manager goes and tells Ruben Neves that in order to be in with a shout of a call up he should play for a bigger team all this on the eve of Santos naming his squad for the World Cup and more importantly our biggest game for a good number of years. Guess what happens next, yes you gave guessed it Neves knocks on my door asking for a move 2 (sorry again) bloody days before we play Bournemouth. Now what do you say to one of your key players asking for a move on the back of his bloody (sorry) national team boss telling him to move to a bigger club. Well the team is more important than any individual so I tell Neves that if a bid comes in for him I will accept if it meets our valuation of him. He leaves happy and I know he won’t upset the rest of the squad before our game against Bournemouth. I name a strong side including Neves and we go out and beat AFC Bournemouth 2-0 with a brace from the outstanding Ze Gomes that secures 6th place and European football in Wolverhampton, what a season I am ecstatic and pleased for this group of players and the fans. (Continued after a few screenshots)
Ze Gomes Claims the young player of the year award.
No sooner as the dust as settled the board have set an initial transfer budget of £44m for next season. I have attempted to sign Ze Gomes from Benfica but to no avail they want to give him a run in their own first team next season. I would love to have made him a permanent member of our club but Benfica wont budge, Over the close season I am going to have a good look at our squad because I feel a few players need to move on because they are not part of my plans for next season plus general turnover has a few players are coming to the end stage of their careers. I am very much looking to give both Niall Ennis and Bright Enobakhare a call up to our first team squad to see how their development is going. Last seasons signings have faired very well in the Premier League and I am pretty sure a few may have attracted some interest from other clubs. What will become of Ruben Neves, Manchester City are showing an interest in him and I am a man of my word so if they offer the right price he will be allowed to leave. Don’t get me wrong I want to keep him here but you know the drill. Thank you for taking the time to read this update and hope you will be back soon to see how we get on in our third season that will see us play Europa League football.