Wolverhampton Wanderers have hit a blip in form following back-to-back defeats in the Premier League over the recent festive period, culminating in a disappointing defeat at Watford on New Year’s Day.
It seems as if that stunning late victory over Manchester City was a few months ago rather than just three games ago, but that’s how much football can change over the Christmas break.
Nuno Santo’s side have slipped to seventh as a result and will host the red side of Manchester this weekend in the FA Cup – a chance to get back on track, perhaps.
But it is this entire month, January, that can hold the keys to shaping how Wolves’ campaign turns out come May. They have everything still to play for.
Additions are needed, that much is already known, as Nuno battles endless fixtures week in week out; squad depth is ultimately tested.
One possible drawback, or maybe by-product, of operating with such a small squad is that the players will surely know there isn’t much competition for places and thus, they could become ‘comfortable’ irrespective of their manager’s Ferguson-like traits.
This appears to very much be the case with Matt Doherty, who has suffered a huge dip in form in recent weeks. He may have netted the late winner against City, but aside from that, he’s been far from impressive.
Against Watford, the 27-year-old lost possession 12 times, missed two big chances and picked up the second-lowest rating of any outfield player in a green shirt, via SofaScore.
Doherty has struggled for fitness throughout the season, regularly referencing that he hasn’t been 100% too.
Behind him, there’s no one – against Liverpool, Jonny switched sides and then the only other option would be to pull Adama Traore back from his attacking role.
That is why they need to go out and strengthen this month, their previous target Aurelio Buta would be an ideal acquisition.
Less than a month ago, reports from Belgium suggested that the club were in for him alongside the likes of Leicester City and Southampton.
The 22-year-old has scored one goal and provided six assists in 20 league appearances this campaign, albeit in the Jupiler Pro League, per Transfermarkt.
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In addition to that, he is a Portuguese youth international and was once on the books of Nuno’s former club, Benfica, meaning he should have no issues settling in given the sheer volume of fellow countryman he would be around.
He has been described as ‘very gifted’ and ‘instrumental’ to Royal Antwerp this season by one Belgian football journalist.
Buta would be a very welcome squad addition, one that could ultimately push Doherty out given the difference in age and potential.
And in other Wolves-related news, are their recent struggles attributed to the poor form of this key man…?