Wolves sack Bruno Lage – here is where it all went wrong

Wolves sack Bruno Lage - Wolves sack Bruno Lage – here is where it all went wrong - GETTY IMAGES
Wolves sack Bruno Lage - Wolves sack Bruno Lage – here is where it all went wrong - GETTY IMAGES

Wolves have sacked head coach Bruno Lage, with owners Fosun taking action after the club’s poor start to the season.

Lage was dismissed following talks with Wolves owner Jeff Shi less than 24 hours after the 2-0 defeat at West Ham which leaves the club in the bottom three of the Premier League table.

The Portuguese has secured just one win from the last 15 league games, in a poor run which stretches back to April last season, and Wolves decided that a change has to be made.

Fosun backed Lage significantly with a spend of over £100 million in the summer, which included the club record capture of Sporting midfielder Matheus Nunes.

Yet results have been abysmal with Wolves only scoring three league goals this season and Lage will leave the club after just over 15 months in charge.

In a statement from the club, Wolves chairman Jeff Shi thanked Lage for his dedication and honesty, saying: “Bruno is an excellent coach, a hardworking and dedicated manager, and a warm, wise and honest man.

“He and his staff have been a pleasure to work with throughout their time at Wolves, so it is with much sadness that we have had to make what has been a difficult decision.”

Lage was appointed in June last year after the departure of Nuno Espírito Santo, with Wolves identifying Lage as their preferred choice due to his record of entertaining football with Benfica.

Lage’s start to English football was impressive enough, guiding the club towards potential qualification for European football with a notable victory at Manchester United.

But since April results and performances have tailed off with the poor display at West Ham the final straw for the Wolves ownership.

Wolves are expected to appoint a new manager before the trip to Chelsea on Saturday, with former Olympiacos coach Pedro Martins likely to emerge as a strong contender.

Julen Lopetegui, the Sevilla manager, has been a previous target for Wolves and could come into contention again.

Ange Postecoglou, the Celtic manager, has also been discussed as an option though there are doubts over whether he will leave Scotland at this stage of the season.

Where did it all go wrong?

By John Aizlewood

Disconnect

Starting with eight Portuguese at West Ham on Saturday gave this Wolves team the aura of journeymen controlled by distant forces. Afterwards only five players (Ruben Neves, Max Kilman, Joao Moutinho, Daniel Podence, Chem Campbell) sloped over to acknowledge the livid travelling support, who were fresh from chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “sacked in the morning”. The rest of his players followed Bruno Lage’s example and fled for the dressing room.

Lage promised to show more respect to those who had battled through the increased traffic caused by a rail strike, but the relationship seemed unsalvageable. Discontent had been simmering since the dying days of Nuno’s regime, the lack of goals being supplemented by the departures of the mostly loved Romain Saiss, Leander Dendoncker, and, most of all, talismanic Conor Coady, bafflingly loaned to Everton.

Coady’s absence and Collins’s suspension meant saw Wolves’ most creative payer, Ruben Neves, marooned at centre-back at West Ham. Lage was unrepentant, but his cause was hardly helped when Neves criticised the slack training regime afterwards.

Poisoned inheritance

For all that Wolves had swashbuckled their way to the Premier League under Nuno Espirito Santo in 2017-18, by 2020-21 the revolution had exhausted itself. Of their last 25 League games that season, they won just six and, ominously, no player managed half a dozen goals in all competitions. Whatever the question was, Nuno’s £36 million teenage striker Fabio Silva would not be the answer. Two seasons and four goals later, he is on loan at Anderlecht.

Poor choices in 2021-22

Lage spent his first summer acquiring a new goalkeeper and full back, but no striker was recruited until Hee-Chan Hwang arrived on loan in September and, to the rolling of Black Country eyes, permanently in January. The South Korean hasn’t scored since February. Lage’s first season was hardly a goalscoring bonanza too.

Poor choices in 2022-23

Lage’s second summer was spent splashing the cash of Wolves’ owners Fosun: £20 million on defender Nathan Collins and almost double that on midfielder Matheus Nunes. Striker Goncalo Guedes was taken off Valencia’s hands for £27 million. He hadn’t scored in his final nine games for Valencia and he has yet to score for Wolves. He barely had a kick on Saturday.

Misfortune

Lage was, however, desperately unlucky with his strikers’ injuries. Raul Jimenez has not been the player he was since his horrific head injury of November 2020. The Mexican has not scored since March and, suffering from the groin injury pubalgia, has not played since August.

Hee returned from the international break with an abductor muscle strain. And there is Lage’s other summer signing, £15 million, Sasa Kaljdzic. As a VfB Stuttgart striker, the Austrian missed the first half of last season with a shoulder injury. He was withdrawn halfway through his Wolves debut in September with a torn ACL, the same injury which forced him to miss almost all of 2019-20. He is unlikely to feature this season.