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Liam Keen comment: Wolves had to act on Bruno Lage to try to get themselves out of a rut

The writing was on the wall for Bruno Lage.

Bruno Lage. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.
Bruno Lage. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

When factoring in the end of last season, Wolves have won one of their last 15 Premier League games. This season, they have won one of their first eight and scored just three goals.

Unfortunately for Lage, that record is difficult for any manager to survive and Wolves needed to make a decision to save their season.

The club hierarchy can not be accused of resting on their laurels. Some felt Lage may be given longer, particularly with a crunch clash with Nottingham Forest on the horizon, but anger among the fan base has seen Wolves act quickly in the hope of avoiding the situation becoming even more severe.

Wolves are currently in their worst rut since returning to the Premier League, but by acting now the club have time to avoid a proper relegation battle with a squad that is far better than current showings.

Lage should have done better with what he had at his disposal, but equally plenty of players let him down.

Several international footballers have put in consistently poor performances for a number of weeks. Some have not listened to instructions or been willing to take on the ideas presented to them. In addition, injuries and suspensions have been cruel to Lage. The lack of a fit striker in his prime is damning, and Nathan Collins’ suspension has proved incredibly costly. Add to that, too, that the club have made some mistakes of their own with the summer recruitment.

Wolves did smash their transfer record and bring in a handful of big names – players that Lage should have done better with – but they equally left the head coach short in other areas.

The club started pre-season with an abundance of centre-backs and ended the window with two unproven kids as their only back-ups.

Wolves only have three senior full-backs, who all started in Lage’s final game against West Ham.

Lage was left short in some areas but should have done better with the squad he had – both statements are not mutually exclusive.

However, despite these very real factors that worked against Lage, he also made mistakes.

He often overcomplicated formations and player roles. Look at Leander Dendoncker last season in the 3-5-2 formation – the midfielder was deployed in a hybrid role that saw him act as the third midfielder and a makeshift inside forward.

But how many times did it actually work? Regardless, Lage persisted with it.

This season, record signing Matheus Nunes has been used in a similar position as Dendoncker last term, but in a 4-3-3, and it has yielded similar results.

Players have been shoehorned into positions and when it has not worked, they have consistently been given chance after chance.

In recent weeks, playing Ruben Neves at centre-back is another example. The best footballer at the club and one of the best midfielders in the world being dropped into defence because Lage cannot trust to play either of his young back-ups.

Whether that decision was a message to the board over how unhappy he was with the lack of a centre-back replacement for Willy Boly or not, it certainly backfired.

Lage’s options at times may have been limited but he also persisted with players that were wildly out of form and more often than not that ends in disaster.

Off the pitch, the relationships with the players were collapsing.

The public dressing down of Ki-Jana Hoever last season – in one of the most extraordinary rants in Premier League history – may have been warranted but did not do Lage any favours in the dressing room.

Relationships with key and experienced players broke down. Just look at Conor Coady’s comments since leaving for Everton on loan, as he insisted something felt wrong around the squad during the summer.

John Ruddy, too, has publicly criticised Lage’s man management. Romain Saiss was offered a deal but chose to leave and Boly refused to turn up to Molineux on a match day as he looked to forced through a move to Nottingham Forest.

Boly would never have done that when Nuno Espirito Santo was in charge and the feeling among the players under Lage was that they could do as they pleased.

Certain players began voicing their displeasure. The respect and authority had gone. Lage lost the dressing room, the supporters had turned, and Wolves had to act.

As a person, Lage is a very likeable man. He is, most of the time, a good communicator and had a superb relationship with the media.

He is charming, affable and intelligent. His attention to detail is impressive and he was obsessed with making it work at Wolves.

Lage loved the club and the supporters. He wanted success and felt he could bring it. He would often eat dinner at the training ground and leave extremely late, working into the night ahead of fixtures – while past managers would be back home by the early afternoon.

The passion and work ethic was there and he is a very capable coach, but in hindsight the Wolves job came too soon for him.

His coaching career had consisted of academy football, assistant in the Championship and Premier League, and a title-winning 18 months at Benfica before he joined Wolves.

At a huge and historic club like Wolves, in the best and most challenging league in the world, perhaps his CV did not match up.

Lage will likely go on to have a good career at the top level, he has all the ability, but it was not meant to be at Wolves.

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