How has Wolverhampton changed under Bruno Lage?

In the two first seasons after getting promoted to the English Premier League (EPL), Wolverhampton played an attacking and passionate style of football that saw them finish in seventh place for two consecutive years. However, last year, the team demonstrated tiredness and a lack of eagerness to win, which resulted in a disappointing 13th place and a substantial decrease in quality. 

To restore the traits that once made it one of the most exciting teams in the PL, the club parted ways with Nuno Espírito Santo and made a risky decision of signing Bruno Lage. His signing raised many eyebrows, but he is looking to prove his critics wrong.

A New Chapter in Wolves’ History

Lage may not have much managerial experience in English football, but after 10 games in charge of Wolves, the team is showing signs of real change. In fact, their latest performances have gotten fans hopeful that the team is finally back on track and, according to Premier League outright football betting odds, they are priced to finish at the top half the table at odds of 10/11. 

However, this is not entirely surprising as Bruno Lage has experience in taking on teams that lack motivation. In January 2019, when he took over Benfica, the team was seven points behind league leaders, FC Porto, and, after an incredible sequence of results, they won the Portuguese League with 18 wins and a draw in their last 19 games. 

However, his start of the season at Wolves wasn’t as positive as the Wanderers lost their first three games against Leicester, Tottenham and Man United. However, in those early games, the squad showed positive signs, namely a confident defence that conceded only one goal in each game, with Ait Nouri, Max Kilman and José Sá delivering strong performances. In fact, the Wolves seemed dominant in all of those games, creating several chances while playing appealing football.

This may seem all the more surprising considering that Bruno kept the same 3-4-3 formation used by Nuno. He did, however, place a bigger emphasis on forcing opponents to make mistakes by pressing high and prioritising quick attacks that rely on one-touch passes, which proved particularly efficient in their recent victory over Everton.

Nonetheless, their biggest setback has been goalscoring. Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new, as last year, after Diogo Jota’s departure to Liverpool and Raul Jiménez’s injury, the team demonstrated difficulty in hitting the back of the net, scoring 15 goals less in the 2020/2021 season than in the previous year.

Adding to that, the lack of forwarding signings has not convinced fans. Francisco Trincão, who joined the team on a loan from Barcelona, plays an inventive and confident football but is yet to contribute with a goal factor that could be decisive for the team. On the other hand, it is still premature to say if Hwang Hee-Chan will be a reliable option. Additionally, Jimenez is still finding his way to his best form.

Nonetheless, little by little the team seems to be finding new hope as they now sit in seventh place, with five wins, four defeats and one tie. However, it is undeniable that the team could be doing even better when it comes to scoring goals.

Ultimately, Lage’s success will rely on his ability to explore the talent he has in his squad, achieve consistency in performances and get his players to score goals. These are still his early days at Wolverhampton, but he if plays his cards right and gets the right reinforcements in the winter transfer window he might be able to fight for a place in the European competitions.