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Wolves: Lopetegui must avoid Costa disaster with Antonio

Wolverhampton Wanderers have enjoyed a strong transfer window so far as Julen Lopetegui aims to put his own stamp on the team following a series of ill-judged signings by his predecessor Bruno Lage.

Lopetegui has already shipped out Goncalo Guedes to Benfica on loan after he struggled to impress during the first half of the season, while Matheus Nunes and Diego Costa have also failed to assert their authority at Molineux – neither ranks in the squad’s top 12 performers according to WhoScored.

January arrivals include Matheus Cunha, Craig Dawson, Mario Lemina and Pablo Sarabia, and Wolves should now have enough to avoid relegation from the Premier League this year.

The 56-year-old will likely add another one or two new faces before the transfer window closes next week, although he could repeat one of his predecessor’s mistakes as Wolves have recently linked with a move for West Ham United striker Michail Antonio.

Lage signed Costa in September with the premise that the former Chelsea predator could score the goals that Wolves so urgently required. It hasn’t exactly turned out that way, though, with the 34-year-old failing to find the net across 11 matches in all competitions in Old Gold.

Lage found out the hard way that signing ageing players who have had success in the Premier League before isn’t always the correct move, and Lopetegui would be on course to repeat that should he sign Antonio.

Once dubbed “frightening” by Harry Redknapp, the £85k-per-week machine still has the pace to terrorise defenders, although his performances this season have taken a downward turn since the goalscoring exploits of last term.

The 32-year-old scored 13 goals in all competitions during 2021/22 as he spearheaded the club to a Europa League semi-final appearance while securing seventh place in the Premier League table, but he has so far failed to replicate those performances during the current campaign.

Indeed, Antonio has scored just five times in 26 appearances this term, with only two of those coming in the Premier League. Also, having averaged 2.3 shots and 1.3 key passes per match last season, these have dropped to just 1.1 shots and 0.5 key passes per game, showing an obvious decline.

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Lopetegui will be looking to build a team which is not only capable of avoiding relegation this season but then able to push into the top half and potentially challenge for the European places in 2023/24. With that in mind, signing a player who will turn 33 in the next couple of months should be avoided.

Costa has been a colossal disappointment during his spell at Molineux so far, and signing Antonio could well go the same way if his 2022/23 trajectory is any barometer.