The fixtures for the 2021/22 Premier League season were released last month.
For Wolverhampton Wanderers and their new manager, Bruno Lage, they have been given a tricky start against Leicester City, followed by matches versus Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
Although Lage has come in with a burgeoning reputation for aggressive, attacking football, fans should not be surprised if he opts for a more cautious approach to begin the club’s season.
Just look at Lage’s only managerial job at Benfica.
Despite priding his side for playing on the front foot, in big games Benfica had a record of taking a more defensive approach.
This was particularly the case in games where Lage’s team had something to hold onto. Yet, worryingly for Wolves, this was not a recipe for success.
In second-leg cup fixtures versus Sporting Lisbon and Eintracht Frankfurt, Lage was perceived to be guilty of mismanaging the ties with an atypical defensive display. Benfica were eliminated from both competitions.
Wolves’ new boss is expected to deploy a 4-4-2 formation.
Given the team have been largely used to playing a more defensive 3-5-2 under former head coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, it is natural to assume that there may be a transitional period for the West Midlands club to adapt to Lage’s methods.
Packing the midfield
Another cause for caution may be that last season both Leicester City and Manchester United tended to deploy three midfielders in the central areas.
Tottenham also did that, and the North London club could do the same under their new head coach Nuno.
Lage’s adaptability as a coach will certainly be put to the test in these opening fixtures.
He has not led a team neither in a league as competitive as the Premier League, and neither has he coached a team who are not one of its division’s frontrunners, as was the case in Portugal.
Following these opening three fixtures, Wolves have a much more favourable run of matches. Games against the likes of Watford, Brentford and Southampton may be when we see the more attacking approach.