EPL

Boost morale and win over the fans – The issues facing Gary O’Neil at Wolves

By Sports Desk August 09, 2023

Gary O’Neil has been appointed as the new Wolves head coach on a three-year contract following the departure of Julen Lopetegui.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key issues in his in-tray at Molineux.

Steady ship and pick up morale

It has been a turbulent summer at the club. Relegation was ultimately avoided with something to spare last season, but then problems began as the reinforcements Lopetegui wanted did not arrive and some key players left. With rumours of disquiet growing louder by the week, the players left have effectively been told throughout pre-season that they are not good enough. Morale will likely be low and one of O’Neil’s first tasks will be to restore some order.

Get the fans onside

As well as getting the players on board, O’Neil is going to have to win over the fans. After the high-profile appointment of Lopetegui, a former Spain and Real Madrid coach with a strong reputation, the arrival of the former Bournemouth boss is underwhelming by comparison. It was clear some supporters were beginning to tire of Lopetegui’s complaints and perhaps felt replacing him now was better than allowing the situation to deteriorate further, but they could be forgiven for having doubts about the new man at the helm. Despite making an impression at Bournemouth last season, he remains relatively inexperienced and needs to prove himself.

Identify modest targets

The root of Lopetegui’s problems with the club was their need to balance the books. After spending heavily prior to the Spaniard’s arrival, a tightening of the purse strings has been necessary to ensure compliance with Financial Fair Play regulations. The implication from Lopetegui was that he was not aware of the extent to which this was necessary and consequently felt let down. After that rumpus, O’Neil should be more aware of the club’s financial constraints. The squad will need strengthening in areas, particularly in terms of strikers, and he will need to identify realistic targets.

Make a point to Bournemouth

This will not be in his in-tray as such, but O’Neil will also be driven by personal ambitions as well as those of the club. He took over in difficult circumstances at Bournemouth early last season, when Scott Parker was sacked after saying his squad was “under-equipped” to compete in the Premier League. He took the same group of players and guided them to a 15th-placed finish. His subsequent dismissal by the Cherries was widely regarded as harsh. By making an impact at Molineux he can undoubtedly make a point.

Prepare for Old Trafford

There will be little time to settle before the first game of the Premier League season arrives, and it is hardly a straightforward opener. Wolves travel to Manchester United on Monday. He will need to catch up quickly on Wolves’ pre-season performances, analyse what he has at his disposal and put a team together. It is a tall order but, in terms of assessing United, he may at least have some recent work to fall back on, having faced Erik ten Hag’s side in his penultimate match with Bournemouth.

Related items

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s admiration of City ‘a complete honour’ says Pep Guardiola Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s admiration of City ‘a complete honour’ says Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola has thanked Sir Jim Ratcliffe for ‘helping him do his job’ by stating his admiration for Manchester City.

    New Manchester United co-owner Ratcliffe recently spoke of his ambition to knock neighbours City, and another of their rivals in Liverpool, “off their perch”.

    Yet in doing so he conceded United had fallen well behind both of those clubs and admitted much could be learned from their success.

    He even went as far as to say City’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals was “the best quality of football I’ve ever seen”.

    Guardiola says such compliments are a source of pride and feed his continuing desire for success.

    The City manager, whose side host United on Sunday, said: “I just say thank you so much.

    “Sometimes they are more than the titles, the compliments of the personalities that make this country, like Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments. It is a complete honour for us.

    “One can produce emotions and feelings for the players and our rivals. That helps to do our job. Thank you so much on behalf of all of us.

    “But I am sure tomorrow they will try, one way or another, to inoculate the Man Utd players with the best performance to try to beat us.”

    This weekend’s derby could be a key encounter for champions City in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League title.

    Considering their recent superiority over their neighbours, and United’s inconsistency this season, City are expected to come out on top but Guardiola is wary of the pitfalls of the fixture.

    He said: “Do you remember when United went to Anfield this season? Last season it was 7-0.

    “Remember the comments? How many goal are Liverpool going to score? It would be easy for Liverpool.

    “What was the result? Liverpool didn’t win.

    “It is United. The past is the past. Tomorrow it is 11 players with pride, with a manager – we cannot deny how good he has done in the past in Amsterdam – trying to do his best.

    “In different situations, with City in the position of United, I know my players would behave at Old Trafford with pride and the best character. It is going to happen to United on Sunday.

    “It will be a tough game, another final for us. I know how difficult it will be.

    “It has been more difficult here than at Old Trafford in our period together. We lost more (derby) games here than Old Trafford. We have to perform really well to do it.”

  • Eve eyes improvement from Soca Warriors in second friendly clash with Jamaica Eve eyes improvement from Soca Warriors in second friendly clash with Jamaica

    While pleased with their performance in a 0-1 loss to Jamaica in game one, Trinidad and Tobago's Head coach Angus Eve is anticipating even more improvements from his Soca Warriors when the two teams meet in the second game of the two-match series on Sunday.

    With Jamaican debutante Kaheim Dixon scoring the game's lone goal in the 58th minute at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday, Eve opted to focus on the positives in the exercise, which provided an opportunity for several local-based players to make their national senior team debut.

    Eve gave debut starts Tiger Tanks Club Sando pair of left back Shervohnez Hamilton and midfielder Kai Moos, while AC Port of Spain's versatile wing back Liam Burns also got his first start for the twin island republic. The overseas-based pair of Kai Garvey and Justin Obikwu, who started at the left wing and centre forward positions respectively, also found favour with Eve, who felt the new players adjusted well in their first outing.

    "It is going to be difficult for these guys (Garvey and Obikwu) coming from where they are coming from and trying to adjust in just a couple days of work. I thought they adjusted well. They tried to bring the strengths they had to the group," Eve said in a post-match conference.

    "For the most part, I thought the group did really well. We gave up a really soft goal and we could not get ourselves back in the game. I think it was a lack of belief and that happens when players are not accustomed to playing at this level consistently. For effort, you must give all of the guys an A," he added.

    Still, with the main objective being to identify players to fit into his final squad for the upcoming Copa America playoff fixture against Canada on March 23, Eve is expected to look at a different line up with hopes that they will be mor fluid and consist in their play to give the coaching staff much to think about.

    "I thought it was a great exercise for the guys. When you look at the starting team, we had about six or seven players who were uncapped. We need more exercises like this to expose these guys and give them the opportunity because they have been doing well in the league," the tactician shared.

    "So, it's now to give the guys who are more established a run out going into the playoff game. Rhondel Gibson was good on the ball and when he came on, the team started to believe a little bit more. He wasn't afraid to get to the ball and those are the type of players we are looking for to be that brave and show themselves," Eve ended.

    The second game is scheduled for a 4:00pm kick off (3:00pm Jamaica time), at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar on Sunday.

    NB: That game will be live on SportsMax.

  • Villa boss Unai Emery hails Ollie Watkins as ‘an example for other players’ Villa boss Unai Emery hails Ollie Watkins as ‘an example for other players’

    Unai Emery hailed Ollie Watkins as one of the best strikers in Europe after his double helped Aston Villa to a dramatic 3-2 win over Luton at Kenilworth Road.

    A header in the 89th minute from substitute Lucas Digne ensured Villa won for the third game in a row in the Premier League to stay five points clear of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

    Emery’s side were comfortably on top in the first half and went in at the break with a commanding two-goal lead given to them by Watkins’ brace.

    Luton struck back, seemingly re-energised by the looming prospect of a fourth straight league defeat, with goals from Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris, but Digne’s late intervention settled the contest in Villa’s favour.

    However, it was the contribution of Watkins that was singled out by Emery.

    “Fantastic, brilliant,” he said of his team’s top scorer, who now has 21 for the season.

    “He’s an example for other players. Every day working hard, every day trying to learn more.

    “His mentality, to increase his level, practising and practising on the training ground. His commitment to work in the tactical areas we are planning every match.

    “He’s scoring, he’s getting chances, he’s assisting, defending set-pieces. He has been available to play 90 minutes more or less, keeping fit to play a lot. He’s fantastic.

    “But he needs his team-mates as well to help him. We are a team. We have to try to get our performances through the team. With the commitment he’s showing, for everyone he is an example.

    “For mentality, it’s difficult to find a player better than him. But his skill is also a high level.

    “He wants to learn every day, to increase his level. Of course, his first objective is scoring goals, but then as well, tactically, his work has been fantastic. Understanding, being clever.”

    Asked if Watkins was one of the best in Europe, Emery said: “Yes, of course, he’s showing. The Premier League is the toughest league maybe in the world.

    “But as a person he’s humble. He avoids the ego changing him. He’s fantastic as a person and as a professional.”

    Luton boss Edwards, whose team are four points adrift of safety with 12 games to play, reflected on a result he found difficult to take.

    “Bitterly disappointed,” he said. “The goals were avoidable, all three of them, as they always are.

    “There was so much to like about the performance. Villa are so organised and a good team and it is not easy to score goals against them. They can hit you hard with counter-attacks or control the game.

    “They are a very good team, but I thought we dominated the second half and had an outstanding performance.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.