Raul is back.
And for half an hour, he looked sharp, agile and ready to pick up where he left off. If Bruno takes nothing else from his first outing as Wolves boss, that’s at least one big tick in the plus column.
There was no goal for the Mexican but plenty of neat turns, intricate link-up play and even a deflected free-kick that kissed the bar on its way over.
New boy Trincao came to life and slalomed his way into space a few times in a lively enough 45-minute debut but skied his only meaningful effort on goal and misplaced several easy passes. When the rust has been shaken off, it’s clear he’ll offer more.
The midfield of Gibbs-White and Perry never looked like it had the balance Bruno would want from his central partnership, even if the former did produce one fantastic through ball that Patrick Cutrone couldn’t finish.
Collectively, Wolves controlled and dominated for 20 minutes, moving the ball around nicely and then swarming the opposition to get it back – two things Senhor Lage will be pleased to have seen.
But the longer the first half wore on, the more ragged it became and Crewe arguably worked the better openings. Hoever and Marcal were exposed a few times giving Boly, Kilman and Ruddy plenty to do.
Will Bruno persist with the Ait-Nouri in midfield experiment? He certainly showed he’s got the skill to play higher up, but that could have been the head coach just trying to fit everyone into the side.
It was all change at the break and the u23s that took over couldn’t exert much control or prevent Crewe from scoring a soft-looking winner.
Cutrone again had the best chances, denied once by a fine last-ditch block and then by a fine save from the goalkeeper.
Although it was very stop-start, Otasowie brought much-needed poise and physicality to the midfield. He’s rough around the edges, but if there was ever a player with the raw attributes to mould into an elite Premier League performer, it’s the big American. I hope he gets plenty more minutes.
Left-back Hugo Bueno was another who impressed with a controlled display. He reminded me a lot of Jonny in both his stature and style of play, also offering decent delivery from a deal ball. Another to keep an eye on perhaps?
With Sa, Coady, Mosquera, Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Podence and Traore still to link-up with the side (who could all conceivably start at Leicester), it’s hard to glean anything concrete as yet about Bruno’s preferences, other than a desire to play some version of a 4-4-2.
The identity and shape of the side will hopefully emerge more with each passing friendly, starting next weekend against Real Betis.