Lage | ‘We cannot blame anyone’ for fixture postponements

Bruno Lage has utilised the lack of Wolves’ Christmas fixtures to work individually with his players after six members of his squad having to isolate away from the club’s training ground following positive Covid tests.

Wolves are due to face Manchester United on Monday evening having seen their last two Premier League matches postponed due to Covid cases within the Watford camp on Boxing Day, before a lack of options within his own squad caused the visit to Arsenal to be called off. With the isolating players expected to return to Compton Park over the coming days, Lage admits it is still to be seen if they will be fit enough to take part in any on-field action.

On Wolves’ festive fixtures being postponed

“It was very hard because we prepared both games. We were preparing for Watford and then we moved on and started to prepare for Arsenal with a different strategy, and then we moved on and now we are preparing the strategy against Manchester United. It’s all different things, and every time different information.

“But we came from that victory against Brighton and then we came from that good performance, in my opinion, against Chelsea, so what we wanted in that moment was to play against Watford and against Arsenal, but this is our life.

“The first one was called off because of Watford, the second one because of us. But we cannot blame anyone. We have to focus on trying to play our game because these kinds of things can happen.”

On players returning from isolation

“For us, we don’t have too many cases, but we have a small squad, so four or five players and after we don’t have players to play.

“We closed the training ground for the 26th and 27th because some guys have symptoms, some guys not. We have nothing new, but now we need to understand if the players have time to recover, so the next few days will be important to understand which players are available and fit to play.

“The other players who are training with us in these 10 days are not the same when we are playing the games because the rhythm of the games in the Premier League is very high.

“We still have two more days to see which players are fit and ready to play this important game because after ten days without playing, even if your mind is ready to play, if you go 10 or 15 days without playing or training, you’re slower to make the right decision, and if you take one more second to decide, the other team comes to press.”

On teams having played different numbers of fixtures

“These are the kinds of things we cannot control. The most important thing when you are playing the games is that they are in the same conditions.

“It happened before for us when we were playing Burnley, they didn’t play the previous fixture against Tottenham, and when we played Brighton, they didn’t play also against Watford because of Covid. But they were different situations; one game we draw, one game we won.”

On adapting to Covid disruption

“I’ve been doing that since the beginning of the season because we didn’t have 20 players. Every time, I’ve been trying to arrange and create scenarios and context to work on the things we need to improve in our game.

“When you try to prepare a game having just the three centre backs you need for your team, which players do you put on the other side? That’s the thing we’ve been doing since the first day, so it’s nothing new.”

On getting the squad focused without games

“Every day is an opportunity to play. Even two or three days ago we just had midfielders and the right and left-backs, and we worked on things they need to improve in their games.

“We worked on little details and how to manage the game, especially from the sides, to work a little bit with Semedo, Ki [Hoever], Marcal and Rayan [Ait-Nouri] on which solutions they can have when they are pressuring our midfield.

“These are the things you have a chance to try to understand every time. Now we have time to work on these kinds of things we are not doing well. Be aware, we are here to play, so every time we have a plan for each player because we want to improve everyone.”