The adoration Wolves fans have for Neves has always been clear.
What do Wolves do with Morgan Gibbs-White? It is a question that has been the centre point of discussions for Wolves fans since his return following a successful loan spell at Sheffield United. He produced a stellar campaign, amassing 13 goals and ten assists in what was a breakout season for the 22-year-old England U21 International.
Wolves, according to the press, value him at around £30m which would be their second most expensive sale (behind the £45m paid for Diogo Jota) and he has already attracted interest from Everton, Nottingham Forest and, most recently, Crystal Palace. With finances seemingly stretched, the idea of a sale certainly seems to be an attractive proposition. Selling a young, English player after one breakout season for a handsome fee seems to be a low risk move.
This is also considering the fact that his value could drop if he re-joins the side and doesn’t produce in the Premier League. Fosun will see Gibbs-White as one of their key sellable assets – a remit which falls in line with their ‘self-sustainable’ model introduced after the COVID-19 pandemic.
When looking at the situation from this angle, it is reasonable to deduce that the best course of action would be to bite the bullet and sell whilst his stock is the highest it has ever been. However, it is also important to look at the current Wolves squad and see where the gaps present themselves. Currently, Wolves are looking to find a central midfielder who can carry the ball and break the lines, something which the side has been crying out for for the past two seasons.
It has been made apparent in their lack of goals and speed in transition that a dynamic midfielder would benefit the side. Here, the club have a young, ready-made player to fill that gap and at no cost. From this standpoint you can argue that selling would make no sense as they would be unlikely to fill in many gaps in the squad for that £30m quoted price.
Bruno Lage has called for a centre back, central midfielder and a striker. If we take into consideration that Wolves are now a ‘sell-to-buy’ club, would they be in a better position with £30m in the bank but with yet another positional quota to fill? The club have already lost four senior players with no funds coming in, so can they really afford to let another player go in a position which is needed, and also in a squad the desperately needs bodies?
What can Gibbs-White add?
Whilst it is fair to say the squad needs bodies, we must also look at what quality the players can bring, and not just have players to make up the numbers. So what can Gibbs-White offer to this Wolves side?
The Stafford-born attacking midfielder produced a goal involvement every 143 minutes for Sheffield United last season. As seen in the graph below, his passing numbers show a willingness to go for riskier passes in exchange for higher chance creation, which is something that the club have missed.
He also ranked in the top three percent for assists in the Championship and top four percent for expected assists. In fact, he outperformed his expected assist of 0.24 with 0.27 being his final number (as per EFLanalysis). His high percentages of smart passes and through passes per 90 also illustrate an intelligence in attacking spaces and shows that his match IQ could certainly adapt in the Premier League.
We have already seen something to this effect when he combined with Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in a two-nil win against Cardiff in 2019. He knows how to utilise small spaces and improved his technical ability considerably over the course of last season.
His best games have come centrally according to transfermarkt, and when you look at his attacking numbers it fits. The majority of his shots come in the box which suggests a lack of fear when it comes to having shots in dangerous areas – an aspect of great frustration for Wolves last season. His goals percentages are also phenomenal for such a young player and again, goals from midfield are something we, as a fanbase, have called out for.
So what happens now?
Despite all the positives in regards to his match involvement, we are looking at a player who is uncertain about his future. Wolves have offered him a new two-year deal with the intention of making him a first team player. Whilst this contract offer is not considered a deal breaker, it would offer some assurance about his future as a Wolves player.
Bruno Lage has been complimentary of the player in the press and has made it no secret that he wants to keep him. The Portuguese head coach even offered him the chance to come back in January, but the player declined.
He was recalled in the 20/21 season by Nuno Espirito Santo during a good spell at Swansea in the hopes that he would be involved in the first team. After barely playing he was understandably reluctant to return again. His relationship with fans also became strained during lockdown as he attended a party after urging people to stay at home. These points provide insight into why his relationship with the club is not as good as it could be and why a transfer may be best for him to get a fresh start. Whilst fans may want to give him another chance due to his growth in maturity and talent, Morgan himself might be looking for somewhere new to begin the next chapter in his career which is probably his most important one yet.
Time will tell what happens with Gibbs-White. For now, we wait to see how Wolves will navigate the market in what is a crucial summer for the club.
Maximilian William Kilman, classy by name, classy by nature. A young man on a mission to write himself into Wolves’ starting XIs for the future. After years of widely reported success playing futsal, and a three-year stint in the National League, a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers followed, joining the u-23’s on their quest for promotion. Kilman played a key role in achieving this goal, the personal reward being recognition from Wolves’ first team Head Coach Nuno.
Espirito Santo’s penultimate year at the helm of Wolves birthed the start of Max’s rise. A plethora of confident cameos in Europe gave Wolves fans something to be excited about, appearing assertive in the tackle and quick across the ground for someone of his stature. Additionally, a combination of major injuries and stagnating form for the likes of Willy Boly, gave Max even more reason to stake his claim in the first team selection – warranted with a contract extension. Nuno’s final year of his tenure was where the centre-backs confidence shot for the moon, pocketing the best of what the Premier League had to offer. Wolves fans were particularly impressed by Kilman, despite the clubs shambolic season of defensive frailty. His album of standing and sliding conviction, partnered with an underappreciated ability to bring the ball out from the back was ever-growing for the 24-year-old, akin to “national hero,” Harry Maguire at the time.
COVID-19 took fans out of stadiums, players struggled to adapt to the change of scene. But not many had a worse season behind the scenes than Max, with his father passing in November 2020, it would have been entirely understandable to see a significant drop off in his form. However, Max’s performances displayed consistency that his defensive teammates could only wish for that year, and a Premier League man of the match award was to come following a hard-fought battle in Yorkshire at Elland Road.
A season of dire football and a 13th place finish in the Premier League meant NES was consequentially relieved of his duties at Wolves. Fears began to grow amongst fans over who would take the wheel, with rumours appearing out of the cracks of Wolverhampton pavements. Yet, there was an overriding hope that the new gaffer would start with a defensive 4, taking the shackles off our attacking talent and bringing our defenders off the by-line. Left-footed centre backs somehow became the talk of footballing punditry during the European championships, particularly those who can pass the ball efficiently, with pace.
Unsurprisingly, Portugal provided Nuno’s successor, by the name of Bruno Lage. A coach with an attacking mindset and an unrivalled admiration for goals galore. Being the baby of Wolves’ first-team centre backs (minus the addition of Yerson Mosquera), fans worried that experience would take him out of favour of Lage. Don’t let his height deceive you though, Max is still a cub amongst this pack of Wolves, he just so happens to be a better hunter than his elders. Seven games into the new Premier League season, not one performance below a 6/10. Beyond comfortable in the most competitive league on the planet, baffles me to this day that FIFA would not permit this man to play for Ukraine if he could, no doubt that he’d be a seasoned international already. A proper centre-back, a position Wolves fans have been crying out to fill in the rear of 4 years with midfielders protecting our goalkeeper.
Max hasn’t got to his peak just yet, but he’s way past base camp. Kilman’s climb is well underway, evidencing a constant lesson in the art of defending, and pride in a clean sheet. Molineux is his classroom, the prem is his playground. Preachers state that consistency is key, and if that is the case, Max has got a bright future at the top echelons of professional football.
Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here
This is Our Love and it Knows No Division. This is Our Game and we’ll make the Decisions.
18th April 2021. Wolves had edged past Sheffield United the night before, Fulham have just conceded yet another late equaliser and the nation was nursing its first Sunday hangover for months. Some would say normality is resuming. But twelve despicable custodians of some of the biggest clubs in Europe had other ideas, six of whom brought shame upon the English game. It was during Manchester United’s victory over Burnley that news really began to gather pace that a European Super League was set to be announced, with the self-proclaimed and media enhanced ‘Big Six’ signing up.
Within that six were Arsenal, the same Arsenal who had just hours ago scraped a point at home to Championship heading Fulham. Among those six were Tottenham, less league titles than Wolves and the same amount as Burnley. Yes, Burnley. Among those six were Manchester United, who have struggled every single time they have faced little old Wolves since 2018. You get the idea. But this was not about creating jokes, this was not about gloating over your rivals. The announcement spoke of a tournament that ‘will provide significantly greater economic growth [and] uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues’, how exciting. They weren’t even trying to hide the money grabbing experiment. This abomination was enough to unite fans up and down the country and even brought about a sense of unity in the wonderful world of football twitter. This was nothing short of an attack on our game, our traditions, our history and our heritage. An attack from people whose football opinions would not be worth the time of day. It was an attack even more relevant to Wolves fans, and fans of many other ambitious Premier League clubs, which would kill our dreams and Fosun’s dreams of one day challenging the elite on a regular basis, of competing at the pinnacle of European football. The response from neglected club officials, staff, players, the media and most impressive of all the fans was exemplary and showed the impact fans still have on our game. Our game because that is what it is. It does not belong to the cash cows in America, or the executives at Sky Sports. Gary Neville was praised and rightly so, he articulated the thoughts of millions perfectly, as did many others. But there was one moment, just 24 hours after the news gathered speed, that filled us with a particular sense of pride. It was no surprise that Fosun and Wolves as a club would be against the formation of a Super League, but the way in which they expressed their disgust was mesmerising.
At periods of [our] history, we were one of the most successful and decorated clubs in England, falling out of the country’s top three just once over a nine-year period and winning the league three times. But at others we tumbled down the leagues, spending seasons in the second, third and fourth tiers, almost going out of existence on more than one occasion. (Official Wolves)
And this is certainly worth remembering. If you dare mention the fact Wolves were in League One just seven years ago on twitter you are often shunned down, and don’t you dare mention the years of struggle when Wolves nearly went out of business. Now when trying to make excuses for Wolves’ lacklustre campaign that may be fair, but Wolves fans should take pride in the ride this club and its fans have been on, in both long standing and modern history. Everyone reading this now will have endured the double relegation, the feeling of desolation and despair. But will also have enjoyed the revival, spearheaded by Kenny Jackett in what was a thoroughly enjoyable two years that followed. ‘This is Our Love and it Known no Division’ was the banner and the phrase that rejuvenated the fanbase, and it is a mantra that means more now than ever before. From that season we finally had a team that cared. We had a team that gave 100% and that is all a Wolves fan is ever going to ask for.
In sport, nothing is forever; champions come and go, dynasties disappear, sleeping giants awake and new challengers test the status quo. That is the beauty of sport, and what epitomises the beautiful game. (Official Wolves)
Perhaps the most striking and quotable part of the Wolves statement. It needs no explanation and speaks to football fans up and down the country. It emphasises the point that this is not about who you support, or where you watch your football, this is about our game itself, our passion and our way of life.
As a foreign owner, Fosun came to the UK in 2016 and embraced our club, our history and our supporters, but also the country and its proud traditions, one of which is the most historic football system in the world. That sense of competition is what appealed most to Fosun then, and still just as strongly now. Our promotion and relegation systems, built on solid foundations of competition and fairness, create promise, ambition, success and failure – all of which are essential in the sport. If you work hard enough and operate with greater intelligence and commitment than your competitors, you will be successful, you can challenge the top clubs and rise to their level through your own efforts, and that cannot change. Fosun made a commitment in 2016 when they took over this historic football club and have displayed their dedication since, taking Wolves on a journey from the Championship to the Europa League – an example of the type of ascent which makes English football so special. That commitment stands just as strong now, in 2021, as it did five years ago. Fosun remain completely devoted to Wolves and harbour the same sizeable ambitions, which they hope to achieve through a meticulous, long-term plan. (Official Wolves)
This is certainly where the statement becomes personal to Wolves fans. Fosun have brought huge success on and off the field since buying the club in 2016. Although the past 12 months have been disappointing, the club is in as good as a position now as it has been for generations. Much was made of such a historic and traditional club being taken over by a Chinese investment group, but almost all Wolves fans had a feeling we’d hit the jackpot (unlike some of our neighbours). Jeff Shi openly admitted he knew little about running a football club and the rollercoaster first season certainly didn’t argue with that. But he learnt, Fosun learnt, and three near-perfect years followed. There is certainly learning to be done from this season too, but Fosun relayed their commitment with this statement, while providing Wolves fans and English football with a reminder that not all foreign owners are bad. The mention of operating with ‘greater intelligence and commitment’ to ‘challenge the top clubs and rise to their level’ was a direct warning to the owners who are scared. Scared of us, Leicester, West Ham, Leeds and all the others who have bridged the gap to the cosy club in the Premier League. Well, we’re here to stay, all of us. There is no doubt Fosun are here to run Wolves as a business, they are an investment group after all and a successful one at that. But they respect our traditions, and they respect history, the clubs’ values align with theirs and they want success for the club just as much as we do.
A kick in the teeth and a kick in the pockets of these billionaires, cowardly billionaires, that own some of our biggest and most historic clubs with some of the most loyal and vocal fans around. A victory for us who dream, to put our trust in Fosun, Jeff Shi and Nuno and to get back on track. Next season brings new hope and huge expectation, and if they get it right, we’ll be playing for a place in European competition once again. A victory for football and its fans (Sorry, legacy fans), and this is just the beginning.
Typical Wolves. Just as you’re ready to pen a withering diatribe about system failures or thump out a tweet listing the names of players you’d gladly flog in the summer, up pops Traore with a screamer. Grimacing, you accept the three points.
Nuno and his coaching staff merged in to a familiar celebratory huddle as Alphonse Areola committed the ultimate goalkeeping crime of being beaten at his near post. In the opposite corner, Scott Parker looked like a man who could do with an arm around the shoulder himself.
Fulham’s tears on the Thames
As anyone with a pair of eyes will attest, it was far from perfect, but Wolves got the win, smashed and grabbed three points and left Fulham wallowing in literal tears of misery. It was harsh on the home team.
In fact, making a case that either side deserved maximum points would be a stretch. Silva’s through ball was divine, Traore’s thumping finish ruthless and the previous hour-and-a-half of tedium almost forgotten.
Conor Coady won his battle with Mitrovic
There were personal battles raging all over the pitch. Kongolo, Tete and Andersen toiled hard to keep Podence, Neto (briefly) and Traore honest. Back in the side to torment his old defensive foe, Conor Coady, Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic had spent a lot of the season warming the bench.
Enjoying good international form, when Mitrovic scored against Aston Villa on Sunday, Fulham were half an hour away from closing the gap even more on a Wolves side that lost to West Ham shortly after. Fulham opted for capitulation, Villa came back to win 3-1 and the gap remained.
Jose’s first Wolves goal disallowed
Back at Craven Cottage, in first half injury time Daniel Podence teased a dainty cross into the box and Willian Jose did what he was supposed to do. Powering a header past Areola, the Brazilian wheeled away in delight having finally broken his duck. Or so he thought.
Instead, VAR crashed the Wolves party room, flicking on the light like an angry parent. Jose and company had been cruelly foiled. This new-fangled technology, designed to remove discussion and debate over contentious decisions, once again attempted to suck away any last vestige of goal scoring enjoyment.
Cavaleiro missed his opportunity for revenge
The sign of Ivan Cavaleiro leisurely jogging on to the turf may have filled some observers with dread. Old player coming back to bite Wolves, just as former favourite Diogo Jota had done for Liverpool. It was written. Or maybe not. As reliable as a Duncan Castles scoop, ‘Cav’ dutifully drifted into obscurity.
Time and again Adama was outnumbered and ruthlessly dumped to the ground. Time and again Daniel Podence, still sluggishly recovering from injury, found his usually reliable touch and tidy ball control strangely absent.
Despite Fulham’s apparent tooth lessness going forward, still the Wolves handbrake remained intact. Scott Parker’s urgency increased. His substitutions became more offensive. Fulham fancied it.
With 15 minutes remaining Wolves suddenly looked a little fingernail ragged, clinging on with a touch more desperation as each minute passed. The end-to-end frivolity of Monday night’s defeat to West Ham garnered little fruit while providing sporadic moments of entertainment. This was just dire.
Portuguese wonderkid drops an assist
The away side’s kit may have strongly resembled the free-flowing pleasures of a prime Portugal, but that was where the similarities ended. Wolves’ approach was stale. It lacked imagination. Nobody would’ve batted an eyelid had the camera panned pitch side to find Jose Mourinho sitting in the away dugout, pulling the tactical strings.
Bounding around the field with all the enthusiasm of a new-born puppy, snapping at the heels of the Fulham players, Fabio Silva’s endeavour was never beyond question. Even an unfortunate collision with an advertising hoarding failed to dampen his zeal.
Unlike his impressive cameo against West Ham, Silva was unable to hit the net. No matter, VAR probably would’ve ruled it out anyway. Fabio made do with a silky slide rule assist to release the beast that is Traore and help push the Cottagers further into the relegation mire.
Wolves meander into mid table
Even the slithering killjoys at Stockley Park were unable to prevent the marauding Spaniard from ending his goal drought. Adama’s powerful strike successfully killed off any lingering doubts around Premier League survival.
The muscled Adonis had engineered a reward for months of fruitless labour and for another night the wider cracks remain glued with a few sheets of A4.
As bubbling frustrations across Wolverhampton and beyond quickly simmered, Nuno will not sit comfortably. Those withering tweets are merely postponed. Consigned to drafts until we return.
Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here