Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton FC - Premier League
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Bruno Lage defends Hwang Hee-chan after recent criticism, points to distractive transfer talk

Wolves manager Bruno Lage has defended winger Hwang Hee-chan following heavy criticism from some fans in recent times.

The South Korea international has not had the best time at Molineux in 2022.

The star made an explosive start to his Molineux career, scoring four goals in his first six Premier League matches.

Photo by Gustavo Pantano/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But Hwang’s form then dipped, and he then suffered a hamstring injury in December.

When he returned in February, Hwang really struggled to get back to the level he showed when he first joined the club.

He scored against Arsenal on February 24, but that remains the last time he bagged for Wanderers in a competitive match.

So far this term, Hwang has continued to struggle and some fans have really come down on him hard on social media.

But last Saturday against Southampton, a section of the home crowd sang as the star made his way onto the pitch as a substitute in the second-half, something Hwang really appreciated.

And now, Lage has launched a passionate defence of the 26-year-old. And the manager pointed to recent transfer talk as a potential factor in Hwang’s struggles.

He said (as quoted by Birmingham Mail): “He missed a penalty and he made that mistake against Newcastle but I am still very happy with him and I don’t change a word of what I am saying about the player he is and the professional he is.

Photo by Jack Thomas – WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images

“Bad things sometimes happen because there is too much talk around the player. This is not good for the player when there is a lot of talk about him. Now I know some people made a lot of pressure to him to go.

“I don’t know if any proposal came – all I know is that he was here in the morning (on deadline day). I don’t change a word about him – I like him and I know what he can do when he’s in a good moment like he was in the first half of (last) season.

“In the last two months, in my point of view, there was too much talk around the player. Now I understand why the player wanted to score a goal just to score a goal. Nothing helped him in the last two months, so that’s why I’m happy the transfer window has finished.”

Lage also pointed to the fact that Hwang arrived back later than most of his teammates for pre-season.

The player returned to Compton Park this summer after completing compulsory military service back in his homeland.

Hwang then picked up a knock, which meant he only featured in Wolves’ last pre-season game against SC Farense.

Hwang Hee-chan is here to stay, and must now feed off support at Wolves

So in the end Hwang stayed put at Molineux, amid speculation Everton and Leeds United wanted to sign him.

It is interesting to hear Lage suggest the transfer talk may have had an affect on him.

While that may be true, Hwang has still underwhelmed long before this summer.

The £14 million star’s form has been poor, but he’s shown when he first joined the club how good he can be.

Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

He’s had a rough ride from some on social media in recent weeks, but that show of support on Saturday from fans against Southampton was great to see and will hopefully do him the world of good.

And Lage’s comments will be nice for him to hear, too.

Hwang simply needs to feed off the positivity, and he’ll find his mojo again.