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Wolves relationship with Conor Coady has ended abruptly, it’s painful to see them with someone else, parts of us will never forget the good times and there have been more in the time we have spent together than many of us can remember. The reality though is that from the moment Lage retained his role at the end of the season, the termination of this relationship was inevitable. The writing has been on the wall for some time. It’s time for both parties to move on. 

It’s quite simplistic to blame this all on a formation change and the assumptions that Coady simply can’t play in a back four. It’s more complicated than that. The roots of this decision can be traced as far back as Matt Doherty’s departure. Other individuals leaving the club and injuries to key players, have also contributed to doubt over the longevity of the union. Jota, Nuno, Traore, Jonny Otto injury. They have all played their part to the diminishing value of Conor Coady and it can be summed up in one word. Width.


The value of Coady as a defender can be debated. Can he play in a back four or not? – does he deal with aerial threats enough? – is he exposed should attackers isolate him? does he lean away from the ball to clear on crosses when any natural defender would move towards the ball? All of the above are valid arguments and they can’t be dismissed, but I think it is unfair to simply say that Coady cannot function in a back four. He has played international football in a back four and most opponents now play with an isolated front man in any event. It’s more than this and to fully understand the problem, you have to look at the diminishing contributions that Coady has been able to make over a period of years, not just in respect of defending, but as an overall contribution.

What was Coady in the team to do? what was he best at? and where did he add value? A deep lying defender has to do more than just defend. The roots of the separation are sewn in the summer of 2020. This was an awkward window for Wolves. Doherty was sold and replaced by Nelson Semedo and Jota found himself in and out of the team at the end of the previous season having suffered a temporary dip in form. Jota and Doherty were replaced with combinations of 3-4-3 or 5-3-2, but whichever one was deployed, it did not recreate the width previously provided by Jota and in particular Doherty. This hurt Coady’s overall contributions. Losing both Jonny and Jota created issues with width on the left, particularly if Marcal was utilised. The combination of Traore and Semedo on the right liked to operate deeper and use pace to pass players. Doherty in contrast not blessed with genuine speed, was reliant on his positioning for space and was the regular recipient of the Coady out ball. The need and ability for Coady to be able to find wide players with passes that genuinely rivalled Neves in regularity and quality was significantly reduced. When they did happen, they tended to be deeper and safer owing to the positions offered. Coady as an attacking quarterback, a direction changer had been significantly reduced. This was also the final Nuno year, the one that had been almost paranoid in it’s attacking identity. Fullbacks were not as high and attacking runs sacrificed for positional rigidity. The overall value of Coady to the team was becoming difficult to assess from anything other than the value he offered as a defender. A problem because previously he had offered so much more to the team. 

Wolves News Goodbye Conor Coady


Lage does not preference a back five, it was a formation played owing to necessity and personnel available. Football ideology is however pretty engrained in a belief system and whilst the back five was still used, it always felt like something was missing further up the pitch. An attacking midfielder or an additional forward was embarrassingly obvious, but from where do you take it? The answer is was clear for most, because the overall value of Coady had been supressed by changes in personnel and formations over two seasons. 

Can Coady play in a back four? The jury is out, but it is fair to say that he cannot play in the type of back four that Lage is trying to employ. The performance against Leeds was noticeably improved in the second half when Wolves were much more advanced in their starting positioning. The team ran out of steam for obvious reasons, but it was noticeable that the press was higher in midfield, which was allowed owing to the back four pushing higher. This is Coady’s problem. Coady wants to play deep. His value as a defender is having clear pictures in front of him and blocking passing lanes. That is simply not possible in Lage’s preferred style.

The inner conversations between manager and player will only probably be documented in a future autobiography, but it is not beyond imagination that Coady has been taken aside and told in no uncertain terms that his fall from grace is not simply to the bench. The case could be made that all three of Boly, Toti Gomes and Mosquera may ALL have overtaken Coady in the race for the two central spaces. That’s simply not a fight that Coady could win or as an England international trying to cement a world cup place, even entertain. His quick escape and at a glance unwillingness to graft for his place is possibly unfair if the above conversations and declared order of merit, had been privately conveyed to Coady. 


Lage has taken a massive risk. He has gone ‘all in’ with his back four formation and is relying on his cards being strong enough to win the hand. He is however gambling with Wolves Premier league security as well as his own job. To remove the safety net of a return to a back five ends the formation conversation for good. It ends the press conference questioning, the painful glance to the bench thinking ‘what if I had played with five at the back’, it saves the spectre of your former captain painfully keeping a brave face, bringing down the mood. A captain in pain. The counter argument however is that it eliminates a formation that has been pivotal to everything Wolves have achieved over recent years. The master reset has been removed. Time will tell if this was the right move, but there is no going back. 


Conor Coady will be remembered as a legend for Wolverhampton Wanderers. The most successful captain on and off the field that many of us have ever known. His love for the club obvious and his pain for the relationship ending must be every bit as deep as it is for the vast majority of fans. Its painful and it hurts, but it was a necessary separation before things got toxic for both parties. It’s not sudden though, the split has been years in the making and the break up inevitable. Coady’s seeming lack of fight or loyalty should not take anything away from his legacy, he had no choices here. Wolves have initiated the irreversible break up and the only genuine reason that can be given is ‘it’s not you it’s me’. 

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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