Get the double-sided 92 Club & National League map poster

Steadying the ship: A look at the great work Julen Lopetegui has done as Wolves manager

Steadying the ship: A look at the great work Julen Lopetegui has done as Wolves manager

The Premier League managerial gauntlet has been particularly ruthless this season, with a record-breaking number of sackings. At the time of writing, 13 different clubs have hired at least one new boss, so Wolverhampton Wanderers’ dismissal of Bruno Lage perhaps came at the right time in the context of their season.

Despite the Portuguese manager doing a great job in his first season, his sophomore year in English football was a reality check. Wolves were well-below par with their start to the new season, and edged dangerously into the relegation zone with the World Cup break on the horizon. Where they had perhaps overachieved at times last term, making Molineux an extremely tough place to go for winning teams, the Black Country had become a soft touch, and the relegation odds Premier League readings were beginning to expose the cracks for Wolves.

That was until the appointment of Julen Lopetegui. The Spaniard, who formerly managed the national team as well as various La Liga clubs including Sevilla and Real Madrid, arrived in the Premier League with the club at a crossroads. They could have easily been dragged into the relegation dogfight alongside the likes of Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, but having established themselves as a regular top-flight outfit since their promotion in 2018, all Lopetegui had to do was unearth the potential Wolves had. They were an experienced side; they just needed some fresh ideas.

Indeed, this is a Wolves dressing room that includes the likes of Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Diego Costa, so while they might have lost leaders in Willy Boly and Conor Coady, Lopetegui was still able to combine the senior members of his squad with the talent of Matheus Nunes, Hwang Hee-Chan and Adama Traore. On top of this, his own recruitment in January was spot on, with Matheus Cunha and Pablo Sarabia clever editions from some of Europe’s best sides. It meant they could put together a purple patch of form which saw them beat the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.

Although their form might have tailed off as we approach the final game of the season, Lopetegui has ensured his side won’t get complacent. The 6-0 thrashing away at Brighton was a true wake-up call, and the Spaniard was quick to apologise to the fans for what was an admittedly rare capitulation on the road.

"We are sorry a lot for our fans," he said. "Today we had a very bad day in all the situations. We suffered very early, one goal, two goals. When you have this kind of day the responsibility is the coach.

"We have worked very hard this season and for today for a lot of reasons we have lost 6-0 and when you lose like that you have to be able to recover your energy. We had big mistakes. The responsibility is the coach's."

Overall, it’s been a year of ups and downs for Wolves. Lopetegui has done a great job in steadying the ship and now begins his quest to get his side back in the top eight on a regular basis. A full pre-season to work out his best side and attract new players will certainly help but the unforgiving nature of the Premier League managerial merry-go-round means his job security is never a guarantee. He’ll be hoping to finish the season strongly and begin the new one in similar vein if he wants his time in the Black Country to be extended.

More articles from Football Ground Map...

Surviving football boredom - a football fans' guide

23 interesting things to do to pass the time until the football season restarts

Football Grounds To Visit While You Still Can

All good things have to come to an end, and the same unfortunately has to be said for football stadiums too. This article looks at the grounds which are soon to host their last match, the stadiums whose days are numbered and where fans will be watching their football from next.

The biggest football attendances ever recorded

An in-depth look at the biggest football attendances ever recorded, from the 1950 World Cup to pre-season friendlies in the States and the Scottish ground with dozens of 100,000+ attendances

The 91 Biggest Football Stadiums in Europe

The 91 biggest football stadiums in Europe. From Manchester to Munich, Villa Park to Valencia - each one with a capacity over 40,000

Buy our exclusive European football stadium poster