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I think before I look at what we can take away from this game, it is worth adding some context. It’s currently 10:42 on Sunday morning and it is entirely possible that some of what I record here may be superseded by events later in the day. Usually I would write as close to the moment as my life or travel will allow, in order to capture the emotion. As I watched the events of last night through the luxury of a few gin and tonics, I had nothing. The worst thing that can happen to any football club is not anger, it is apathy. The inevitability of defeat was so certain at 16:30 when the team was announced that, when the wounds started to be inflicted, it wasn’t painful, it was just expected. When the match was done, a few tweets aside, I returned to my duty free Gin and caught up on some TV that I had missed whilst away. I am not engaged, I do not feel a togetherness, I am disillusioned and moreover, I am bored. 

I will also try my best not to single out players in the below. There were some hideous performances out there, but the team does not know what it is doing and most players were out of anything like a recognised position. It is very hard to critique individual performances against that backdrop.  With all of the above in mind, here’s what my key points as to what we learned from last night :-

1. Formations are important

I am still trying to work it out. What formation were we trying to play? Now I think it was an attempt to play two formations in and out of possession, (Something that I absolutely hate and will come on to), but even knowing that the formation was changing, it is still quite hard to work out exactly what was attempted. At a best guess, it felt like in possession it was a back 4, with Jonny at right back, moving Nelson Semedo into midfield, but not orthodox midfield as he stayed out wide, so something akin to a wing back but not a wing back. Rayan Ait-Nouri appeared to have a little more licence, but there didn’t seem to be the same requirement of Kilman as there was on Jonny to cover that area, leaving an out of form Bowen to be largely unmarked all game. The ‘wingers’ were finally more orthodox but very narrow and it was Guedes turn to try and play as a withdrawn forward. Even writing now, I still cannot quite put my finger on what the intended formation in possession was supposed to be, and I think that is a feeling replicated by the players themselves. 

Out of possession it was a little clearer. Jonny was meant to tuck in to a back 5 and the tactic seemed to be more of a 5-2-3, being played in reality as a 5-5-0 or if you like 5-2-3-0. I suspect there may be other views on the formation, and I am not convinced I have this right even now, but that’s the problem. Whatever we were doing, it was not orthodox and looked shambolic. You won’t pick up FIFA this week and see anything like the combinations Lage was attempting. It looked like chaos. 

2. Players can not play in two positions

You can have two mindsets in and out of possession. It’s fairly common to have an in and out of possession adjustment, particularly at the top end of the pitch, where a forward may drop back into midfield to create an extra man. That kind of small change. Lage however is trying to play with two or more formations at once with players trying to play in two positions at once. This is not restricted to yesterday, over the last few months we have seen it all over the team. I am still traumatised by whatever positions were being asked of Dendonker. This seems like a good idea on paper, but the reality of being asked to play two positions means you are never actually in any position. The Jonny/Semedo role yesterday was possibly the worst example I have seen of it, but it runs throughout the team. Guedes and Neto have not only been deployed on the wrong side (again this is a Lage fundamental, see Trincao and Benfica), but they have been asked to do far too much defensively, which means by the time we get the ball, they either have it too deep, are out of position or are too tired to make good decisions. 

3. Ruben Neves is an average premier league Centre back

Now this is meant as a compliment to Neves. He isn’t a centre half so being called an average one in the best league in the world shows how he can change his game as required. What Neves is however is a genuinely top class centre midfielder, and certainly our best and most in form player. Removing a player from where they constantly deliver top quality performances, pivotal to the team and moving them to a position where they are quite competent is, in the words of the new prime minster ‘a disgrace’ (holds for not forthcoming applause). It’s one of the worst managerial decisions I have seen, not only in terms of the context of the player and the game, but also in regard to whatever was left of the trust and confidence he must have removed from the centre halves on the bench. It was a decision in itself that nobody in the fan base expected or supported.  A decision that would topple those on the fence around Lage’s future off it. It was never going to work and the supporters knew it before the game even started. This in itself will be the silver bullet for Lage, the one bad decision on top of all the others that will cement Lage’s destiny. There was no need to do this, the decision is one of over complication, the sort of madness that only comes when severe pressure has been added, and a fog that descends, clouding all reasonable judgement. Make no mistake, this is the decision that will end Lage’s time at Wolves.

4. Fitness looks an issue

Before even looking at Neves’ post-match comments about commitment of the players in training, something that would be absolutely unheard of under previous regime’s, fitness was looking visually and statistically to be a problem. We haven’t scored a second half goal. We have lost leads in the second half and we look very vulnerable at the end of games. On top of those statistics, the body language looks like we are tired from very early periods in the game. Whether this is a mental malaise that is impacting the bodies of the players or not, you can see that players are hugging their knee’s or have hands on hips, and there is no urgency or energy in recycling a ball that has gone out of play. Players getting back look sluggish and slow. Before Neves spoke after the game, I had already noted to highlight this within this article. I would have attributed the fitness as a consequence of low morale, the weight of being on such a poor run of form, but if the captain of the club is outwardly voicing concerns over the commitment of players in training, then perhaps this is genuinely physical. Either way, we look slow and lacking in energy. 

5. The myth : We play good football under Lage.

We do play attractive football at times. The first ten minutes of this game was no different. It lacked the usual cutting edge, of course it did, but we were comfortably the better team and Fabianski made a couple of fairly regulation saves. They certainly were not the kind of saves that would make him a man of the match contender, that is very much a Lage attempt at fake news to gaslight the fanbase. The reality is that we have a team of very good footballers, the best most of us have probably ever seen, and from time to time good footballers are going to play well despite Lage not because of Lage. This is the kind of level that can and should be achieved throughout games and not in small periods. A competent manager, not even an outstanding one, would get more out of this team. Lage disrupts the team, he makes it worse than the sum of its parts. We don’t play good football at times because of Lage, we play it despite of Lage. 

6. Substitutions

This could be copied and pasted from so many previous games, but it was evident again that Lage acts like a man who doesn’t think it is his job to make substitutions. Again we have a clearly injured player, who after an age of assessment whilst playing with 10 men, is allowed back on to the pitch only to come off again. Everyone could see it, the fans were shouting for Adama as everyone knew.   Why does it take so long? How does this keep going wrong? Now this may not be solely on Lage but more his medical team, but this is a real problem. When Adama finally come on to replace Neto, there was no adjustment. He was, defying all logic, put on the left as a direct replacement. It took well into the second half before Adama was placed on the right and crosses finally started to come in. It doesn’t end there though, Semedo was replaced when Jonny was having an absolute horror show of a game. Moutinho was another left on the pitch whilst offering nothing throughout. The substitutions were rightly met with derision from the crowd. It’s not a one off mistake, its an issue that has plagued Lage throughout. 

7. Costa offers hope

One of very few positives was the performance of Diego Costa. Yes he should have scored with his header, but he looked better than many of us probably expected and did manage to occupy defenders. Adama feeding Costa is something to be excited about. Consider though that the one singular light of optimism that our team has managed to offer, is a winger who is not being played and is out of contract at the end of the year, crossing to a 33 year old that was only signed because there were literally no other options left in the football world. Having spent over £100m on players that have proven quality, this is a very sorry position to be in. 

At this moment, I have checked my phone again expecting to see confirmation of the sacking of Lage, it hasn’t come yet, but it will. Fosun are ruthless with their decision making and they have had extended patience with Lage, probably owing to some feeling of combined culpability taking into account the lack of investment in January and the lateness of transfers.  It will come though, today or tomorrow and his dismissal is well earned. He has turned absolute rigid stability into chaos, turned wins into defeats and perhaps most criminally, has turned passion for my football club into apathy and boredom. 

Dave Porter, Always Wolves Fan TV


Wolverhampton born, East Sussex based supporter. Old enough to have seen the descent to the bottom, young enough to not have experienced the days my friend. Not many Wolves fans to celebrate or commiserate with round these parts, so had to find an outlet to discuss the enormous highs, crushing lows and share the frustrations that only come with following Wolves.  


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