Not so much a case of being on the beach since April, but more a reminder that our castle was made of sand.
It would melt into the sea, eventually.
Our team (plus one or two other capable replacements) was a cavalry that stormed some of the Premier League’s most feared fortresses in recent times, conquering territories across Europe, but the likes of Saiss, Dendoncker and even Braveheart Raul became weary by the end.
For all the Bruno-bashing of late for our latter-season relegation form, it was a chronic lack of reinforcements that was the ultimate reason for a no mans’ land feel to the end of the season. It had nothing to do with the players swapping Pumas for plimsolls, but just a matter of running on empty to eventually stand still. To see so many of our mid-season heroes struggling by the end was a stain on Fosun’s copybook and the players deserved better.
This blog will waste no more time cogitating over the past, other than to say that the manager was shunned in his windows of need and our wretched form was a direct consequence of presumptuous thumb-twiddling as if we could ever keep up our Old Trafford levels for 38 games.
A reminder that Bruno said the following in August 2021:
“I think we need three or four guys (more players) in different positions. I don’t say now the positions. Top players to help us to be competitive, because, see the good example is what happened with Raul last year.
“If you miss Raul, OK we had Fabio who did very well, but we need every time to put all the positions in the competitive (environment). I think we have a good squad, we can improve it, we have one month to work on that and two weeks to work on the pitch to be competitive. That’s the plan.
“They (the club) already know what I want, the profiles.”
A lack of support ever since (contriving to actually weaken the squad in January with *that* braindead Traore decision to strip the side of our one point of attacking difference) has married with some deflating Ask Wolves Q&As to paint a much more pragmatic picture than the dream we brought into back in 2019. That and an impending sale of Ruben Neves to underline the fact that the ‘project’ no longer exists.
Admittedly, it’s a more sobering summer because we got a glimpse of what could have been, and the loss of our wonderkid from Porto will feel as symbolic as will feel sad, with our dreams dissipating for free. Better to have loved and lost and all that, though?
Despite some natives being restless and no evidence to suggest we’ll be as proactive as Bruno has been imploring us to be, I still don’t feel that the future need be too depressing, not if the money yielded from Neves goes straight back into reinforcements.
Whilst hardly an observation to absolve Jeff Shi of full accountability, I remember the Paskins and Peacocks like they were yesterday, so visions of Podence and Palhinha in a Wolves shirt aren’t so bad, are they? And speaking of the latter, would his signing not be a statement of sorts? That we’re not going to go through the motions without a much needed facelift? Irrespective of Jeff’s ill-advised 2019 comments about challenging for European now sound today, I always felt that a Premier League position with a bit to spare was good enough for me.
If we invest in another four or five players of similar quality, then I see no reason why we can’t remain competitive, and if skincare deals and EA Sport signings are rubber stamped in-between, then why not welcome them as we look to squeeze as much dosh as we can from other revenue streams? That’s not a sign of Fosun downing tools, but quite the opposite in a more prudent project, no-matter how unpalatable it is for some.
In response to Jeff’s Q&A and in an attempt to quell concerns amongst the brethren, I have devised a 5-point plan of my own to guarantee more happiness ahead in a new-look project of my own, which aims to infuse our souls with some excitement as we wait to see what actually happens.
1. Sign Palhinha (and don’t stop there)
An early statement of intent is vital, precisely because we haven’t had one in 2yrs or more. With rivals already spending big and paper talk galore about who we’re about to lose, let’s get this deal over the line to send a signal that we won’t be around to make up the numbers next season.
2. Sign a minimum of five additional players
If Bruno wanted up to four in August 2021 only to lose Adama in January and then release Ruddy, Marcal and Saiss, five incomings is the absolute bare minimum. Another combative midfielder is a MUST alongside Palhinha to give us more game changing moments from such areas. (Moutinho and Neves were both our biggest strength and weakness at times last season and as such, we need reinvigoration). A centre forward is also desperately required, featuring one of the following: The ability to play on the shoulder in behind or a brute who can hold the ball up to bring others into play. Preferably both! Andrea Belotti would fit the bill perfectly for the latter role. And then, if Yerson and Toti are still not deemed to be at the levels required defensively, an oven-ready centre-half to finally allow us to play a back four is also an obvious requirement.
3. Keep Adama and MGW
You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone and it feels that way with both of the above. Adama’s exit reminded us of our inability to play up the pitch or even transition from defence to attack in the first place. If he is still hellbent on leaving then let him, but only after one last season with us. He can then walk away with our blessing in a manner similar to Kenny Miller to Celtic when Jez Moxey showed rare benevolence to do likewise in the hope of salvaging a play-off place back in the day. Traore is our one insurance policy against relegation, purely because he can yield 15 points on his own through moments of magic, irrespective of what does or doesn’t happen in-between. Without any evidence to suggest we will embark on a summer shopping spree, such an insurance is worth its weight in old gold. Player husbandry is needed here, as of now.
The same goes for MGW, who clearly dazzled for Sheffield United. When an entire fan base is universally smitten with a player, then you know they can’t be wrong. Again, he’s our asset so why would we give him away at the very moment that 15yrs of careful development bears fruit? ‘Golden Tit’ springs to mind. He is ours, he’s a point of difference that we don’t currently have and someone somewhere needs to earn their corn by reassuring him that he’s integral. Over to you Jeff?
4. Loan out Fabio Silva
It’s not that I don’t have time for him, and there have been signs of improvement, but hasn’t Gibbs-White’s loan proved the value of the loan system in the first place? It’s hardly Silva’s fault, but the £35m millstone around his neck is a really unfortunate juxta-position when we’re now in an era of austerity. What’s more, he’s not what we need in the here and now. What’s needed in the here and now is a box-fresh striker ready to hit the net from the get-go. Say what you like about Fabio (and call me a bald da), but he doesn’t fit that category. Let him roam at his own speed like MGW did and let him come back invigorated. He is yet young and another season flitting in and out won’t do anyone any good, least of all him.
5. Trust in Jorge
Let’s not throw the baby out with bathwater over the summer and let’s remember who got the likes of Neves through the door in the first place. I wholeheartedly advocate a scouring of non-Mendes talent, as to be solely dependent on the super-agent is folly. But let’s not consign the relationship to the dustbin because he’s a self-serving tycoon who is using us like he does the rest of his cartel. Getting relegated is inconceivable and Jorge Mendes is another insurance policy that we won’t. Risk / reward will always exist, but isn’t that the case with any signing that’s ever been made?
Granted, he’s the kingmaker that will probably reduce point 3 to rubble, but if we’re aligning ourselves more with Barcelona and the like, it can only benefit us, as a club of that stature don’t generally deal in duds. What’s more, do we really trust Scott Sellars to do anything well, other to deny he’s ever made blatant mistakes?
So there you are. A five point plan to bring merriment to add foundations to our castle, which cannot be built on sand this summer.