Wolves season preview 2023/24: Why Lopetegui is preparing a revolution in west Midlands

Wolves season preview 2023/24 Matheus Cunha, Mario Lemina, Hugo Bueno, Matheus Nunes, Nelson Semedo and Craig Dawson of Wolverhampton Wanderers line up ahead of the pre-season friendly match between Celtic and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Aviva Stadium on July 29, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Wolves season preview 2023/24 focuses on how the club can return to Europe, which proved so fruitful for them half a decade ago.

Wolves have struggled to get near the seventh-place finishes that followed promotion in 2018, but 2022/23 was especially forgettable, bringing their lowest points tally in that time. They could easily have found themselves in troubled waters had it not been for some shrewd January moves, as Craig Dawson and Mario Lemina added the combativeness Wolves lacked. 

Julen Lopetegui will remain, despite reports to the contrary, yet the club have stated that they are now in a different fi nancial position to the one that ‘JLo’ thought he was getting last November – no more orange chips for veterans Joao Moutinho and Diego Costa, who left alongside Adama Traore, while the fee for Ruben Neves’ sale must be used to refresh elsewhere, including in goal. 

Nonetheless, top half is the target. FourFourTwo previews Wolves' Premier League season.

Wolves season preview 2023/24: The lesson from last year

Chase the value! Nathan Collins (£20m), Goncalo Guedes (£30m) and Matheus Nunes (a club-record £40m) had limited impacts. Sporting director Matt Hobbs said Wolves’ best signings have been those “under the radar for low fees” and finances may enforce that approach anyway. 

They must get their ducks in a row: while football’s food chain dictates that you can’t always move early, Collins being their only pre-season signing put Wolves on the back foot – and even with Fabio Silva returning from productive loans, a striker is needed. The half-retired Diego Costa flew in mid-season and played more pranks than he scored goals; Raul Jimenez is sadly half of the superb talent he was before his skull fracture; and Sasa Kalajdzic tore an ACL just 30 minutes into his debut.

The coach: Julen Lopetegui

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Julen Lopetegui during the pre-season friendly match between Celtic and Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Julen Lopetegui (Image credit: Getty Images)

Julen Lopetegui’s future did look in the balance post-season, due to apparent FFP restrictions, but any issues were resolved. The ex-keeper saved Wolves: bottom before the World Cup, with barely a goal to their name, they’d ultimately finish seven points clear of the drop. His away record must improve, mind.

Key player: Craig Dawson

Craig Dawson of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the pre-season friendly match between Celtic and Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Craig Dawson of Wolverhampton Wanderers (Image credit: Getty Images)

Arriving from West Ham in January, Craig Dawson not only provided stability and leadership, but helped to settle the talented Max Kilman alongside him. Loved by the fans, Dawson has also had some gentle ribbing from the South Bank due to being only the second ex-Baggie to play for Wolves in this millennium.

The mood around Wolves

Fans love the high-profile gaffer they’d been hoping for, but a June statement outlined the financial situation feared by most: a new sell-to-buy policy. The clarity helps, yet there’s a lot of work to do with a dysfunctional squad, made even more so by the departures of midfield mainstays Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho. 

Following several duds from his stable (his huge initial impact on Wolves notwithstanding), Jorge Mendes’ influence is waning, to many people’s approval. But even if Wolves aren’t knocking on the European door, fans will hope for better entertainment – 31 goals last season, and only eight up to Christmas, set few pulses racing.

One to watch

Pedro Neto of Wolverhampton Wanderers in action during the pre-season friendly match between Celtic and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Aviva Stadium on July 29, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)

Pedro Neto of Wolverhampton Wanderers  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Can Pedro Neto return to his own high standards after a frustrating few years with two major injuries? Pace is a key asset for the winger – but he’s just 23.

Most likely to...

Battle Burnley for the greatest transfer announcement video. When Diego Costa arrived, Wolves found something even he was scared of: actual wolves.

Least likely to...

Feel a sense of justice. Peeved fans perceived a lack of big calls going their way last season, let down more than once by unavailable camera angles and VAR thresholds for intervention.

The fan's view: Dave Azzopardi (@TalkingWolves)

Last season was dispiriting for Wolves. Thankfully, Julen Lopetegui came in at just the right time to save us. 

This season will be different because we’ll have a very fresh-looking squad. A lot of Nuno’s old players will have moved on from Molineux. 

The big talking point is how we’ll adapt to losing Ruben Neves, after his £47m switch to Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia.

Our most underrated player is Mario Lemina. His arrival in January was a huge part of our change in form. 

I’m least looking forward to playing Manchester City. They’re quite good, aren’t they? 

Fans think our owners are frustrating: after some lofty ambitions in their early days at the club, interest seems to have dried up. 

The one change I’d make would be the hefty level of influence from agents, such as Jorge Mendes. 

Look out for Hugo Bueno. He was given chances last season, and I think 2023/24 could be a big campaign for the 20-year-old left-back. 

The player I’d happily drive to another club is Raul Jimenez – I know it sounds harsh, but unfortunately he’s not the player he was before his head injury. 

The active player I’d love to have back is Diogo Jota. Wanderers haven’t been the same without him.

The opposition player who grinds my gears is probably Wilfried Zaha. He’s a good player, but so theatrical – and a bit of a whinger.

The fans’ opinion of the gaffer is that he’s fairly popular, although his future appears a little uncertain.

If he left, he should be replaced by Graham Potter. 

I won’t be happy unless Wolves rejuvenate their attack and start scoring some more goals, please!

We’ll finish 10th.

Season previews for the Premier League, League One and League Two are all available HERE

Subscribe to FourFourTwo today! Guarantee the finest football stories and interviews dropping on your doorstep every month

The FourFourTwo Season Preview issue is available in shops now. Click here to order yours with free delivery

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

With contributions from