Wolves don’t score goals and are selling all their defenders – you already fear for them, you really do

Dave Tickner
Julen Lopetegui shouts during a match against Liverpool

It’s still only the first week of July, teams are only just starting to worry back for pre-season, and it’s far too early to be writing anyone off or casting definitive judgement on anyone’s transfer business.

But it’s not too early to start getting The Fear for certain teams. There’s time to turn it all round, and who knows, maybe we’re just totally wrong. It’s happened before, it has been known.

But right now we’re extremely worried about Wolves.

They extricated themselves from the nine-team Royal Rumble relegation battle comfortably enough in the end to finish 13th last season but still ended the season with only 31 goals. Nobody scored fewer.  It’s not a new problem, but nor is it one that showed any signs of being solved last season and nothing is happening yet this summer to indicate a solution is forthcoming.

Money has been spent, lots of it, to try and find a solution and Wolves have got worse. They never scored loads of goals when they were good and aren’t about to do so now they’re a bit shit.

But having thrown money at that problem they now have a new one: balancing the books.

The Wolves firesale has already seen main man Ruben Neves depart for Saudi riches, while what’s happening to the defence is arguably even more alarming. Conor Coady and Nathan Collins have gone, Max Kilman is probably going as well and suddenly it all looks grim.

Few clubs can afford to lose their defensive reliability but absolutely none more so than goal-shy Wolves.

It might be that they sort it all out in the weeks ahead. But, and these seem more likely right now, they might a) not do that, or more pointedly b) not have the luxury of taking the rest of the summer to do it.

Because things looking bad right now brings another even greater problem. It makes Wolves’ key asset, manager Julen Lopetegui, wonder if he’s made the right decision.

Wolves did brilliantly to get him last season. They were patient and held their nerve in waiting for him to be ready to take the job and it paid off. Bottom of the table when he took over, Wolves then collected a distinctly mid-table 31 points from their last 23 games to stay up with plenty to spare.

Julen Lopetegui celebrates victory for Wolves

But even then Lopetegui wasn’t sure. He had to be convinced when the season ended the owners hadn’t sold him a tale. He had to be shown Wolves would compete.

Maybe they’re just holding their nerve and being patient again. But from the outside it does right now look a little bit like a bed being comprehensively shat.

Defenders and a talismanic midfielder departing, no new first-team players yet through the door and a plan that already starts to look like it might rely on Fabio Silva being Like A New Signing. Which as plans go is not a particularly compelling one.

At this stage this would all just about be okay if there weren’t those nagging doubts about whether the manager will stick around if the optics of the summer don’t improve soon.

He’s a manager a level or two above Wolves and while that’s always good it does also leave you vulnerable. We know he has doubts; we don’t know what promises were made to assuage them in May but it surely didn’t look like this.

If he decides to return to Spain or even gets an interesting phone call from Saudi Arabia, Wolves are in serious bother. The next manager will not be as good as Lopetegui, and however fine you might think things are it doesn’t take long in this game before you get to Dean Smith.

A better looking Wolves squad than this one was right in the sticky stuff before Lopetegui sorted it all out. Things could get far worse very fast at Molineux.

We always imagine the first thing promoted clubs do is look at the rest of the division and start totting up who they think they could maybe finish ahead of in the great race for 17th. Right now Wolves would be in the obvious three the promoted sides would target along with Bournemouth and Forest. And each other obviously.

It’s still early July. It’s still too early. But we’re already getting the worst feeling you can get about a club: because you fear for them, you really do.