Hungry Wolves are living it Lage under Bruno – the Portuguese started his Premier League career favourite for the sack but has transformed his side’s fortunes and they now lie in sixth
- Three early losses meant some questioned Wolves boss Bruno Lage’s credentials
- But the Portuguese manager has turned things around brilliantly at Molineux
- His side now lie in the Europa League spots after a fine 1-0 win against West Ham
West Ham will dust themselves down after this disappointing loss in the knowledge a trip to Vienna awaits on Thursday.
Their Europa League run is going well and, if they fade in their top-four quest, they should still have eyes on winning a trophy and qualifying for next season’s Champions League that way. It’s a nice back-up plan.
For now, after brushing aside David Moyes’ men and making them look average in the process, Wolves are up to sixth.
Wolves are living it Lage under new manager Bruno – the boss has transformed their fortunes
Lage began the season with three losses but now has Wolves playing fine attacking football
WOLVES (3-4-3): Sa 6; Kilman 7, Coady 7, Saiss 7; Semedo 7, Neves 7.5, Moutinho 7, Ait-Nouri 7; Podence 7 (Traore 76min), Jimenez 8, Hwang 6.5 (Dendoncker 87).
Scorer: Jimenez 58.
Manager: Bruno Lage 8.
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 7.5; Johnson 6, Dawson 7, Zouma 5, Cresswell 6.5; Soucek 6, Rice 6.5; Bowen 7 (Yarmolenko 71, 5), Benrahma 5.5 (Vlasic 71, 5), Fornals 5 (Lanzini 59, 5); Antonio 5.5.
Manager: David Moyes 6.
Referee: Mike Dean 5.
Bruno Lage, their manager, began the season as favourite for the Premier League’s sack race. He was relatively unknown but came with a Portuguese league title on his C.V. — with Benfica — and a reputation for playing attacking football.
Three losses to start the season meant some were questioning his credentials just weeks into his English stint. How wrong they were to doubt him.
Even in those three first matches, the principles were evident: solid defending, flying wing-backs and fast, exciting football. Eventually the wins followed. Six victories in the next nine, in fact, to take Wolves into the European spots.
A glance at the team-sheets showed the same back-three system used by Nuno Espirito Santo. But the differences are tangible. Although efficient and tough to beat under Nuno, Wolves were boring to watch. Now they are entertaining and attack with pace, while still being a solid unit.
Lage is getting the best out of players who dipped in form or lacked consistency last season. At his best, for example, midfielder Ruben Neves is a pleasure to watch.
After a skull fracture, Raul Jimenez seems to be slowly recovering the prolific levels he once hit. His goal settled this match, a beautiful finish from distance, and it would have been a bigger margin of victory but for steely goalkeeping by Lukasz Fabianski.
The Mexican’s goal came after sustained pressure, with West Ham unable to deal with Wolves’ three-pronged attack supported by Nelson Semedo and Rayan Ait-Nouri’s runs in behind from wing-back.
Raul Jimenez, who scored the winner in a 1-0 win versus West Ham, looks to be back to his best
After that, Wolves showed they can still defend adequately, as the Hammers threw men forward in search of an equaliser. One of their back three, Conor Coady, is already in the England squad and another, Max Kilman, 24, must be a candidate.
Defensive partner Romain Saiss looks more solid than ever, though he and Willy Boly will soon go to the Africa Cup of Nations.
That’s a problem for later. For now, Wolves have won three straight top-flight games at Molineux for the first time since 1980. It’s fair to say after Nuno, Wolves are living it Lage under Bruno.
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