On the eve of the Premier League's return, Bruno Lage sat down with wolves.co.uk to discuss the objectives for pre-season and how the group met them across the past month.
A priority for the head coach was to implement a new system with a defensive four, in a bid to unlock an attacking brand of dynamic football for his side, which has been evident in pre-season friendlies this summer. On Saturday the Premier League returns with a trip to Elland Road, and Lage spoke positively on his players adapting to new ideas, which he believes has set them up nicely for the challenges which lie ahead over the next nine months.
On pre-season concluding
“It was very good. We came with two big targets for pre-season and one of them is to try to play in a different system. We were training in a different system since day one and after four or five weeks of work with everyone, we are very happy. That was the most important thing. I think the strategy was to challenge the players to play in a different system.
“The first weeks can be boring because of the double sessions and just with three weeks of holiday, so we challenged the players to play in a different way and to be more focused. We are happy and I can feel it that our team can play in two systems, so it gives us more solutions.
“In the first season, we played in that system and tried to change a little bit our philosophy. Sometimes we played with two midfielders, sometimes three, but most of the time with a line of five and now we have the possibility to change. It’s important because next season there’s something new, the five subs, so it’s important for us to manage the game since the beginning with substitutions, and we feel a big confidence that now we can play in there two systems.”
On double sessions of training
“Every manager has their own way to work. This is my way. I prefer in the first two weeks just training and giving information, especially when it’s something new. The first two weeks, it was about that. After that, it’s to create scenarios for the team to grow up in training and provide them competition, that’s why it’s important to provide game after game, so after five weeks of work, everyone has at least 90 minutes in their legs. That’s why we did it when we were in Spain, four games in one week, and when we went to Portugal we played Saturday and Sunday.”
On building on last season
“When you look back, every time you want to grow up and learn what happened last season and improve. The word I used when I came was not to make a revolution but do an evolution from the work that Nuno did with the team. Now, it’s my turn to understand what the team can do good and the things they can improve and with time I can give my input. I think we did that since the first day. We try to play more with the ball, try to dominate more of the ball, so that was the big thing we did last year.
“When you look at the way you play, sometimes we created chances and deserved to score more goals, and we are working on it. OK, we need to have the ball, manage the game, control the game, but eyes on goal. We were working since the first day on the new system to look for the goal. Change a little bit our exercise, small goals, big goals, with the goalkeeper. A lot of things so the players don’t forget we need to score goals, create chances, and to be confident about that.
“Plenty of games we could have scored goals and didn’t. We can turn the game to us and be more confident, and after we gave chances for the opponent to score. When you look back, it’s those two things we brought for this pre-season, and at the moment we are happy because we scored good goals in the games, we had good performances with this system, and now we start the real games and give us a good confidence that we did a good pre-season.”
On the players taking ideas on board
“When the camp in Spain ended, I spoke with my staff. The three things we thought more at the beginning was give opportunities for them to learn a new system and we’re happy about that, change a little bit our exercise with small goals, big goals, movements to score goals and we were happy about that.
“The other one was to start a week early, especially with players that spent six, seven, eight months without working with us. It was very important for Jonny and Pedro because they are doing a good pre-season and one of the reasons we started early with seven or eight players was to have time to work with them because they didn’t work too much with us in the last pre-season. Three decisions were very important, I was very happy because we took the best decisions for three situations.
“After, we went to Portugal, we played two games and I was very happy in the end. First, against Sporting, big team, a line of four against a line of five, Sporting created a lot of problems to us and defensive we were secure and offensive we controlled the game with the ball, scored one goal and deserved to score more in the first-half. Second game a big chance to give minutes to everyone and give an opportunity for some of the kids we had from the under-21s. When we look back on the work we did the first few weeks, we are very confident that the work we did they understand, now it’s to prepare game by game.”
On playing an attacking brand of football
“If you remember my first pre-season with the team, I didn’t have too much time, but we tried to change little things. Piece by piece, game by game, try to grow up in the way I like to play. I like to play with the ball, everyone likes to play with the ball, but you need to provide scenarios and exercises, and create a culture to play more with the ball, and I think we did that. Now, we need to improve.
“The line of four means we have one more man in midfield or as a striker, depending the team you want to play, and with Morgan, Daniel, Pedro, Raul, Hwang, we have a lot of dynamics. That’s the most important thing, after the season, look at what each player can give to us and the way they link with their teammates. On the right we are playing with Morgan and Jonny, different to when we played with Podence and Semedo, understand the way Semedo like to attack, Jonny likes to attack, we have a system, I will talk to the players about positions, and after that it’s their dynamics to give the best to the team.”