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Matt Maher: Downturn that sets the Wolves alarm bells ringing

When the Premier League reached its winter break in late January things were going swimmingly for Bruno Lage.

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Bruno Lage
Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Bruno Lage

Wolves had won four of their previous five Premier League matches, sat just four points adrift of the top four and the argument was made in this space for the Portuguese being the top flight’s manager of the year at that point.

After nine defeats in 14 matches since, it is not one which can be made any longer. Perhaps an apology for jinxing him is needed instead?

Any serious assessment of Wolves’ season must first point out their current position, still just three points off European football with four matches to play, would have been considered more than an acceptable at the start of a season many supporters feared might be one of struggle.

That shouldn’t lessen alarm at the recent downturn. Lage is under the greatest scrutiny of his reign chiefly because he has been unable to resolve Wolves’ biggest issue since he replaced Nuno last summer. Namely, their continued struggle to score goals.

If anything, the situation has been getting worse. Wolves have failed to score in their last three matches, with only one player finding the net in the last four. Francisco Trincao, meanwhile, is the only attacking player to score since he, Daniel Podence and Raul Jimenez all netted in the 4-0 win over Watford on March 10. Only the Hornets, Burnley and Norwich have managed fewer than Wolves’ 33 goals this season.

The question inevitably asked in such circumstances is whether the problem is down to coaching or personnel? While the man in charge must always take the biggest portion of responsibility for performances, there is undoubtedly a sense Wolves’ failure to strengthen in key areas during the past two transfer windows has caught up with them over the campaign’s closing laps.

All of which points to a summer which, in terms of recruitment, is bigger than it seemed a couple of months ago. For much of the season Lage looked set to enter it in a position of strength but a run-in which features Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool means that is now far from guaranteed.

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