Wolves technical director Scott Sellars has outlined the club’s approach to the January transfer window, with an initial focus on returning loanees and an eye on the injured players nearing comebacks.
Head coach Bruno Lage has made an excellent start to life at Wolves with the team sat in eighth position in the Premier League, and has expressed a desire to add more players to the group he is currently working with, particularly at a time when the squad has been affected by Covid-19 and injuries.
Sellars explained that the club is unlikely to welcome a host of new faces this January and will firstly bolster Lage’s squad with loanees who have made an impact at their loan clubs, before assessing the situation throughout the window and moving for other targets only if they meet certain criteria.
Sellars said: “It’s hard to predict what happens in any transfer window, but it’s certain that we won’t bring in a large number of new signings, and firstly we will focus on providing Lage with immediate back up at a time when all clubs are suffering with injuries and Covid issues, and at the same time give opportunities to our young players who have been doing so well out on loan.
“We obviously had a game postponed due to Covid last week and Romain Saiss is now with his country for the foreseeable future at the Africa Cup of Nations, so it is important that we supplement the squad with some of our players who have been progressing excellently elsewhere and can provide the squad with competition and Bruno with options at a difficult time of year.
“You’re always looking at the makeup of the squad and in recent years we’ve never been a football club that carries lots of players. We believe in giving the first-team the opportunity to play and be competitive, but also leave spaces for academy players to come through as well. It’s important we don’t stockpile and there’s a blockage.”
Wolves have had 22 players out on loan across the EFL and Europe during the first half of the season, and have already recalled homegrown youngsters Ryan Giles and Dion Sanderson, as well as Portuguese centre-back Toti Gomes, with the option to activate further recalls should it be required.
Sellars added: “We’ve seen over the last few weeks a number of young players are coming in at Premier League level and doing very well, and these opportunities have arrived due to Covid and injuries.
“I’m not saying that the players we have recalled will do that immediately, but at a time when we are still waiting for some key players to return from injury, it is a good time for these boys to be training with the first-team and showing Bruno what they are capable of.
“The Championship is as good as any league to develop and prepare for the Premier League. Some of the boys have been getting fantastic exposure in what, in my opinion, is one of the toughest leagues out there, and it’s going to be great to see how they’ve developed.”
Aside from loans, Sellars also discussed the club’s approach to what he expects will be a slow market, with clubs still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and reluctant to let their assets leave mid-season.
He reiterated that dialogue between Lage, Jeff Shi and himself is constant, and there is an understanding that there will need to be patience before the club makes significant first team additions.
“January is always difficult because clubs don’t want to let players go, especially with the uncertainty of the current circumstances. It’s difficult to get the targets you want, and as a football club, we won’t buy players for the sake of it to make up numbers. We’d rather use the young players out on loan, and wait for our injured players to come back, than spend money on players who aren’t going to improve the squad we already have.
“Finding better players than what you’ve already got, as you go through the leagues and progress, is tougher. We’ve got a fantastic squad, whose mentality, work ethic, professionalism and focus is outstanding, and that’s why we’re in the position we are.
“Like any manager, Bruno is always looking to improve his squad and bring new players in, and better players, which would always be our target. If there’s someone who is going to enhance the squad and team, then of course we will explore the option and see if we can make it work.
“As Bruno mentioned in the press after our win over Manchester United, our communication is constant, we speak a lot, we understand what he wants, and he knows what our principles are. Ultimately, we’ve got to be ready for whatever comes up.”
In the summer, Wolves signed Jose Sa, Rayan Ait-Nouri, Yerson Mosquera, Francisco Trincao and Hee Chan Hwang, who have made a combined total of 62 appearances this season and contributed to a successful first half to the 2021/22 Premier League season.
However, Hwang and Mosquera have since joined long-term absentees Jonny and Pedro Neto on the treatment table, but Sellars is optimistic that they can all play significant roles in the second half of the season.
“Jonny and Pedro have been out for such a long time that it is easy to forget the quality that they bring this squad, and we are really hopeful to have them back and involved by February. Pedro was voted Player of the Year last season, and personally I am really excited to see what he can do once he is back to fitness and working closely with Bruno and the rest of the squad.
“With Willy (Boly), Pedro, Jonny, Hwang and Yerson all still to come back, we won’t do anything knee-jerk just to cover absentees until their return and then be left with new signings that are not able to get a game and become down or disruptive. We must be patient and if the opportunity arises for us to make a meaningful addition to the team then we will, but not at the expense of our overall squad and its morale and makeup.”