Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer


1. Lopetegui is low-key reinventing football

When the substitution rules were changed to allow five substitutions, many thought that it was just another way to support the footballing establishment. Those with the biggest and deepest quality of squad would surely have another advantage over the rest. Wolves themselves under previous management had been vocally outspoken against the change. Ironic then that Wolves seem to have become pioneers in disrupting the settled state of how to utilise substitutions. 

Substitutions by numbers, pre-arranged at the start of games is for the dinosaur. Lopetegui is the meteor that will change the landscape forever. He has realised that the influence a manager can have on a game is now substantially higher, given the options that two additional substitutions bring, and he is ahead of the curve. Changes made smash into and change games, not always positively but it’s no longer subtle. It’s early in games, it changes formations, the limitations of what a manager can influence once a game has begun is gone. Gone too is the importance of players starting games. Players may need an adjustment of mindset and understand that it is less important to start games, than it is to finish or contribute to them.  This is new, this is a revolution. Yesterday punctuated what we have all see for numerous weeks with the substitutions. They haven’t all worked, how could they, but points have been won because of wholesale managerial adjustments as to what has been happening on the pitch. Against Tottenham only two players really left the first half with any credit. Jose Sa and the excellent Mario Lemina. Stunning then to see at half time that Lemina employed as Kane’s shadow for the entirety of the first half, was pulled at half time in favour of a complete team rethink. Astounding results followed which completely changed the momentum of the game. Lopetegui is a visionary.   


We all know the song. If ever there was a time to dust off the old classic then this was it. Five at the back, pace in attack indeed. Traore and Raul both excellent and reliving moments that most thought were distant memories. Moutinho and Neves paired again. Jonny delivering nothing but absolute 7 out of 10 consistency the entire game. When the backs were against the wall, it was the 19/20 vintage that stood tallest. 

There is now also serious conversations to be had about whether a return to five at the back should be retained. The back three of Collins, Dawson and Killman looked very good indeed. It freed players and with a faltering Nunes looking every bit like he needs a period out of the starting line-up, then it allows for more attacking players to be on the pitch. At the very least it has created an option that will no doubt be utilised more frequently as the season moves into its final stages. 


Now he may not like it, but this is not a criticism. Moutinho coming on the pitch as a substitute is an entirely different proposition than Moutinho starting a game. Is this age related, absolutely, but not perhaps in the most obvious way. This is deeper, something more on the subconscious level that I doubt Moutinho himself would be aware of or admit to. At a certain age however you do become aware of the need to preserve. How am I going to make this last 90 minutes? What parts of the game do I need to be involved in? When can I rest? Do I need to make this sprint or is it pointless? These are not calculations of the conscious, these are done by the body and brain instinctively. The difference with Moutinho as a sub, is that these are not required. He has half an hour, no thoughts of stamina preservation required, everything is back to being sharp. There are a lot of assumptions that this will be Moutinho’s final year, but if he can make the adjustment and understand his importance and value as a substitute, then there could be another season in the tank yet. 


Whilst on the subject of the value of substitutes. Adama Traore is the best substitute in world football, and I will die on that hill. It’s ridiculous to think he can change every game but by and large, he changes most games dramatically. Just his presence changes opponents set ups and formations. Teams drop deep and provide additional cover. We all know that he can be unplayable and unable to play in fairly equal volumes, but no player in the world changes a game more than Adama Traore. In a game that is becoming more about the squad than the starting eleven, Wolves must do everything they can to keep him. Traore was sensational, and the goal was one worthy of winning any game of football. Should one of the darlings of the footballing press had scored this one, it would be everywhere. Watch it again, this goal is sensational. That ball is too high for him, he has both feet in the air, he has no back-lift, the ball goes like a rocket into the top corner. It is an absolutely mesmerising finish. 


Let’s forget some of the kicking issues for a moment, though admittedly, the one pass played inside towards the goal certainly makes that task difficult. Jose Sa is winning football matches for us again. This upturn in form bears a more than slight resemblance to the form last year, that almost single handily made Wolves European contenders before the slump. We are low scorers, if we are going to win then you feel it has to be ‘to nil’. The sheer pressure of perfection on Sa is ridiculous, but game after game, we are talking about crucial Sa saves. He is directly responsible for points. I doubt there is a more underrated player in the Premier League at this moment. 


He might not score if you give him the ball anymore, but this was Raul of old. He will likely play now for the remainder of the season given the injury to Costa and that there are no real alternatives, but on the form shown yesterday, that is a very pleasing thing. Everything Wolves did as an attacking threat involved Raul to some extent. The sight of him moving toward Traore’s cross at the near post Infront of his marker, was something that has been instinctively absent from him since his injury. Goals will come again with performances like this one. Even the biggest Raul detractors would have been smiling and maybe dabbing a little tear in the eye. This was an awakening that we all hope has permanence.  


Such is the life of any team fighting for their survival. The gloom of losing whilst those around you pick up points, compared to the highs of winning when everyone around you loses. The result is a huge leap up the table to a dizzying 13th. The job isn’t done of course. More points are needed but there was enormous pressure to get a result somewhere. Having those precious points in the bag though, gives confidence and reduces the burden of fear going into the Newcastle and Leeds games. A success in one of those games brings the required tally so close, you can almost stumble over the finish line. It also starts to become a line that some teams simply will not cross. This was a massive result. 

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.  

Show CommentsClose Comments

1 Comment

  • by Mike England
    Posted March 5, 2023 1:37 pm 0Likes

    Excellent piece , insightful ,measured and reflective of what is actually going on .thanks .

Leave a comment


  • youtube
  • facebook
  • instagram
  • twitter
  • tiktok