Picking up from where we left off in the last instalment of the series, ‘The Wolfpack’. Today’s post takes a deeper dive into our sides performance in the league at the midway point.

For those of you who enjoy analytics, you will be pleased to hear that there is both data analysis, and tactical analysis included within the update.

The blog closes with some data driven recruitment, as we look behind some of the numbers of individuals which have been identified by our vast recruitment team.

We are well on track to smash the club record Premier League finish (7th), which was set in 2019/20 by Nuno Espírito Santo. His Wolves side accumulated 59 points across the season, scoring 51 goals along the way, and conceding 40.

If we can mirror the first half of the season, we are also on track to achieve the most goals scored, and least conceded by a manager in the Premier League era. Whilst this sounds great, I am a little disappointed, as I was hoping this save would present a little more challenge in terms of breaking into the European competition places

Currently, all dropped points have come away from Molineux.


While matches between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa are not traditionally considered a local derby, they can still be intense and competitive affairs. The rivalry between Wolves and Aston Villa is not as historically rooted or geographically close as some of the other West Midlands derbies, such as Aston Villa vs. Birmingham City (Second City Derby) or Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. West Bromwich Albion (Black Country Derby).

However, football rivalries can evolve over time, given the fact that West Bromwich Albion find themselves playing their trade in the Championship, I know this fixture will still capture the attention o fans and provide exiting football moments. Speaking of which…

*click on the below image for the match detail

In the derby game, we struggled to progress the ball down the left-side (our strongest flank in the final third), with struggling to get the better of Leon Bailey who dominated with four tackles won, three clearances, and two interceptions. His defensive contribution has been singled out in the following data analysis, whilst I have also opted to show you how Aston Villa were more successful at progressing the ball than Wolves, which enabled them to get at our defensive line early.

For those of you interested in the finer details, you can find a comprehensive list of results here.


Finally I am at the point of the save where I can spend a little more time than usual in the data hub. For those of you who have followed my saves across the Football Manager series, you will know this is an area of the game which I enjoy the most, I love data analysis.


Given our unexpected league position, our attacking data metrics do not need much of a data analysis. We are only slightly performing better than average across a few areas, with our biggest outlier being dribbles completed per game. (Run at Defence Team Instruction is clearly working well)

The above image provides you with an example of our build up structure,  which entails having a consistent back three with two players ahead (3-2). The 3-2 shape enables teams to secure crucial deep central possession in the build-up phase. This possession disrupts opponents by making it challenging to maintain compactness while covering the entire pitch. It hinders progressive passing options, forcing the opposition to defend against multiple choices.

Maintaining deep central possession offers more passing options in the middle, eliminating the need to rely on flank play. Playing through the flanks would make it easier for the opposition to press and limit space, as the touchline acts as a natural barrier. The back three also allows for numerical superiority against the first wave of defensive pressure, thus allowing for greater control in the first phase of build-up. 

Members of the 3-2 are often a launching pad for direct attacks, as once the initial press has been surpassed there is a numerical superiority in advanced areas, perfect for the brand of projection style attacking football, the focus of this save.


As you can see from the above data visualisation, it is our defensive performance which is catapulting Wolves to our current lofty heights, you do not need to be an expert in data analysis to work this out. We are leading the way with regards to both clan sheets and pressures won per 90, whilst also conceding a low expected goals against, and committing few fouls per game.

The team adopts a 5-3-2 defensive structure without the ball, emphasising defensive solidity with five defenders, three midfielders, and two forwards. This formation creates a compact defensive shape, making it challenging for opponents to break through the defensive lines.

In my opinion a huge part of our success has been down to the teams fluidity. As many of you will know, a fluid team moves up and down the pitch in unison, sharing both attacking and defensive duties.

The three central defenders form a compact defensive line, usually operating as a unit to cover the central areas of the pitch. This compactness makes it challenging for the opposing team to penetrate through the middle.

The wing-backs have a crucial defensive role in a 5-3-2 formation. When out of possession, they drop back to form a five-man defensive line, providing width to cover the flanks. This helps in preventing opposition wingers or full-backs from easily exploiting the wide areas.

The three midfielders contribute to the defensive structure by forming a compact midfield block.

While the primary aim is to maintain a solid defensive shape, teams employing the 5-3-2 formation may engage in organized pressing and closing down when the opposition is in certain areas of the pitch.

Here’s a brief overview of how a 5-3-2 structure without possession may look:

Whilst on the subject of the projection attacking style, the above ‘Pitch Tilt’ visual is our main point of reafference within the data hub. Currently we find ourselves on the wrong side of the vertical axis, the aim of the save is to build towards creating a successful tactic which ideally will see us placed in the top left quadrant.


I have opted to make a minor tweak to the original tactic ‘The Old Gold’ moving the striker from a complete forward of attacking duty to support. The change was made with two drivers, firstly Matheus Cunha has the player trait comes deep to get the ball and shoots from distance, the role on support will see him drop more into space and run at opponents, rather than operate as more of the spearhead. Secondly it will see us have seven supporting duties, moving us into a very fluid structure, a greater emphasis on the pack mentality which has seen some really positive recent match analysis.


Ever since writing the Monchi Masterclass on Football Manager 21, I have been a little obsessed with the different recruitment strategies in world football. This has lead me down one very big rabbit hole, one in which I have consumed some really interesting content (Moneyball, The Gold Mine Effect, Football Hackers, The European Game, and Soccernomincs to name a few).

Now many of you will know that have become fond of firing up Tableau and using the data to make informed decisions, well today I want to show you the approach that I have taken for my first two acquisitions here at Wolves.

Again, I want to emphasise that I am only looking to sign players which my scouting team have identified through their existing knowledge, or from the pre-assigned recruitment focuses (12).

These have already returned 412 players, with 86 individuals being signposted to my attention, directly from the recruitment focuses. already it feels as if the winter update fix is working.


Rayan Aït-Nouri is showing early signs that he is going to be heavily relied upon in our tactical system, the Algerian second highest average rating (7.25) and leads assists (5). The pizza chart above is a comparison to players performing a similar role across the Top 20 Leagues and expressed as a percentile.

Rayan is also lighting up the charts in pressures attempted, and dribbles. Whist he is also shows his ability to win the ball back, and win his fair share of headers.

Step One: Edit the player search under the scouted players tab to include only those who are natural at playing either Defender (Left), or Wing Back (Left). This filter immediately cuts our sample down to a more manageable 32 players.

Step Two: Add in the KPI’s which I feel are essential for playing the role, Possession Won (>10 per 90), Dribbles (>2 per 90), and Key Passes (>1 per 90). It is a shame that some of the other metrics aren’t available in the chalkboard, this is where I would usually extract the data to use in Tableau. However, this time we simply let Football Manager conduct search based on the in game data analysis tools.

Above are the top five players stemming from the data filter, sorted by recommendation. It is pleasing to see that two of the top three ratings are are players that fall within my price range (given we only have £5 million of funds available).

Option One: Leonardo Lelo – at 23 years old the Portuguese wing-back is performing exceptionally well in the Portuguese top tier with Casa Pia, as demonstrated by his analyst report.

  • Tackles Won 43 (2nd in Liga Portugal)
  • Progressive Passes 76 (3rd in Liga Portugal)
  • Distance Covered 157.8km (4th in Liga Portugal)
  • Open Play Key Passes 21 (4th in Liga Portugal)
  • Tackles Per 90 3.62 (7th in Liga Portugal)
  • Possession Won 178 (9th in Liga Portugal)

The above outputs, paired with his scout report, which included a low estimated wage, fairly consistent performer, and the potential to develop into a good Premier League player. Paired with the fact that Liverpool, Lille, Ajax, and Braga are all actively interested in the player, means he certainly is a great option.

Option Two: Domagoj Bradarić – the 24 year old currently is playing his trade in Salerno for Salernitana, who find themselves in 11th place in Seria A. The Croatian who is a fairly consistent performer, who enjoys big matches is also producing some headline outputs.

  • Interceptions Made 17 (1st in Seria A)
  • Blocks 7 (1st in Seria A)

You will note that these are pretty defensive metrics, with Domagoj only covering 36.6km, the data analysis highlighting that he is being played in a fairly static role by his manager Fabio Liverani. He also would expect a wage between £40k, and £50k, making him a larger investment, which isn’t needed at present due to needing the signing to play deputy to Rayan Aït-Nouri.


Pablo Sarabia is the current highest earner at Wolverhampton, his £110k per week is 25% higher than the next high earner Nélson Semedo (£85k per week). Whilst it is clear to see that the 31 year old Spaniard plays an important role in this Wolves side, he is yet to consistently produce the attacking contribution which a player of calibre, in his prime, should.

The initial sample for this search began with 133 players that were capable of playing in the central CM/AM strata. However, after applying the filters (Possession Lost Per 90 less than 12, Possession Won at least 10, Shots Per 90 1, and Open Play Key Passes per 90 1) I was left with the below high flyers.

Similarly, the search has included two players which would be considered affordable for Wolverhampton, Albert Grønbæk, and Daichi Kamada. Immediately the Dane stuck out as a signing which could both add value to the existing playing squad, and have a significant sell on value.

At 22 the midfielder is already identified as a player who is both a consistent performer, and enjoys big matches. He also is in the top ten of the Eliteserien with regards to the following.

  • 34 key passes, 4th in the Eliteserien
  • Seven goals , 5th in the Eliteserien
  • 7.10 average rating, 9th in the Eliteserien

Whilst I was unable to conduct a data analysis comparison with Kamada, due to the Japanese International only featuring for Lazio less than a handful of times, the decision for me is a no brainer.

Both players were signed with the use of the transfer instalments, Lelo joined for an initial £2 million, with a further £2 million to be paid in 12 months. Whilst the Dane was signed with a more complex fee, £2.5 million upfront with the rest to be paid across the next six years. The details can be viewed here, although immediately this appears to be smart business with the players estimated value siting between £40m-£48m.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and the use of data analysis, the next update will take us to the end of season one in ‘Wolves – The Renaissance’ providing a review of the first season in charge at Molineux. I think it is fair to say that I am almost having as much fun as the lads did after securing a victory on the road (IRL) against Tottenham Hotspur.


  • SteinkelssonFM

    SteinkelssonFM is a distinguished tactician in the Football Manager community, celebrated for bridging the virtual and real football worlds through meticulous analysis. His knack for recreating iconic real-world tactics in-game, like Mário Zagallo’s 1970 Seleção strategy, offers a nostalgic yet innovative gameplay experience. An active blogger on Medium and WordPress, SteinkelssonFM shares his football philosophies and FM adventures, enriching the community with guides on youth development and tactical masterclasses. His contributions extend to the official Football Manager website, affirming his position as a reliable mentor for aspiring virtual football managers. Through his content, SteinkelssonFM continues to blend historical football charm with modern-day FM gameplay.

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