Ahead of Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup third round clash with Sheffield United, Bruno Lage welcomed Pedro Neto back to Compton Park as the winger returned to the training ground to continue his rehabilitation from injury.
Although the 21-year-old is still a few weeks away from training with the first-team group, Lage explained the Portuguese international comes with a ‘big ambition’ to improve the options available to him for the second half of the season.
But with attention turning to the FA Cup this weekend, the head coach insists he will be going into the game with the best team possible, while discussing the possibility of utilising a four-man defence with just two of his regular senior centre-backs now available with the absence of ever-present Romain Saiss throughout January due to his Africa Cup of Nations commitments.
On Neto returning to Compton
“I talked with him yesterday and he’s come back with a big ambition, he’s feeling well, and he’s been feeling his knee, but it’s ok. Now he starts another step and maybe at the end of this month he will start working with the team. That’s the plan, so for now, it’s good news.
“I’m excited to have him back, but he needs to see what the other boys are doing. He needs to come with a big ambition because I’m very happy with what Adama [Traore], Trincao, Daniel [Podence] and Hwang are doing.
“He needs to come with everything and I think he’s that guy who, every time there is training, he plays because he comes with that ambition. We cannot forget what the other boys are doing for us, but of course, Pedro will come and help the team to continue to improve.”
On the grass, back where he belongs 😍 pic.twitter.com/NM2Ijdn356— Wolves (@Wolves) January 6, 2022
On watching the FA Cup in Portugal
“If you go back 30 years ago, in that period around the world, the people don’t have any chance to watch English games, but there was one game which you would watch.
“It was in the middle of May and I remember that because I was born on the 12th May, so I know around that date was when people would go to Wembley to watch the FA Cup final.
“I have those memories, that every time in that period, that was the one English game on Portuguese TV, so that’s why it means a lot, not just for me, but for everyone. That’s why it’s an important trophy for everyone in the world.”
On clubs rotating players for the cups
“It’s depending on a team’s opportunity and depends on the moment. For us, we didn’t play too many games in the last three weeks, but you can imagine the other teams who were playing on the 26th, the 28th, and the beginning of January, so they play five games in 15 days.
“Sometimes you need to rest some players and when you are playing to win in the Premier League, after that, if you don’t give some days to recover for those players, and you continue to play with the same players, and after you have Champions League, it’s very hard, especially in the modern day.
“But when teams have the big squads that they have, they don’t have weakness and they don’t have a second line – everyone is a top player.
“For me, the FA Cup is the history of football and we go with our best team to play. We’re going to go with a big ambition to win because Sheffield United is a strong opponent and we need to continue to do the work that we did in the last games.”
On his expectations of the Blades
“I was there and worked two-and-a-half years in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday, and sometimes you don’t feel the difference. I have good memories of beating Arsenal in the League Cup, so the chances are there in these games, being just one game where teams go with everything.
“They will come with a big ambition and I’ve watched two or three of their games, I watched the game against Fulham and they know how to play in their system and sometimes they play with two midfielders or three midfielders.
“Morgan gave them a different dynamic because he can play as a winger or play as a third midfielder, so we have to be prepared for them and have a big mentality to play at home, with our fans, to continue in the competition.
On the possibility of changing Wolves’ defensive system
“If I answer that question, the manager of the opponent won’t need to do their homework! You never know. In every moment, there is an opportunity to change something, or an opportunity for another player to appear – like what happened with Max [Kilman] at the beginning of the season.
“What I know is that we have players who can do the jobs and can offer us different dynamics, and let’s see if we continue to play a line of five or change to a line of four. I’d like to play with five and four, because they could dominate everything, but when I came, I realised we had to continue with five because these guys we had have the habit to play with five.
“What I want is to continue to play with five, but also to play with a line a little bit higher than before and try to dominate more at the line. When you control the spaces in five, the spaces are much shorter, but when you play with four, the dynamic, you need to do more and have more spaces to cover, and the jobs of the centre-backs are different.
“When you are playing a long time with that and a new manager comes with different ideas, if you want to change everything at the same time, I think you are making a mistake. That’s why we need to go with confidence to change little details every day. The guys are doing the things I want them to do, but we need to adapt and create the habit to play with the line of four.”