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5 to 4 – What will happen to the heart of the Wolves defence?

Bruno Lage’s Wolves are in transition, from last season’s five-man defensive line to a more familiar four-man defence for Wolves and Bruno Lage himself. The signing of Irish defensive prodigy Nathan Collins coincides with this move from a successful set-up, so what does this tactical adjustment mean for the future of the Wolverhampton Wanderers defence?

Firstly, it is important to outline the options Bruno Lage has to choose from as of 19/07/2022

  • Nathan Collins – 21, right footed

  • Conor Coady – 29, right footed

  • Max Kilman – 25, left footed

  • Willy Boly, 31, right footed

  • Yerson Mosquera, 21, right footed

  • Toti Gomes, 23, left footed

It is safe to say that 6 options for 2 slots each game, even taking into consideration fixture congestion unlike any other season due to a Winter World Cup, will result in some headaches for the former Benfica manager and Liga BWIN league winner. What can each man potentially offer in this renovated system?

Max Kilman – Mister Underrated

The definition of a modern defender, Maximilian Kilman has Wolves fans in awe whenever he steps onto the ball, having such a calm and composed demeanour on the ball. The former England Futsal international has been nothing short of a revelation for the West Midlands side.

Standing at 1.94m tall, Kilman featured in 30 league games last season, and will undoubtedly start the season as an undisputed starter on the left side of the Wolves defence.

Time to move onto the more disputed positions.

Nathan Collins, not just the future, but the present?

It has been reported that ‘The Wanderers’ had been scouting Collins for around three years before finally swooping in after Burnley’s relegation to the Championship.

Wolves technical director Scott Sellars admitted to “We’ve looked at Nathan for a while and admired him, so we’re delighted to bring him to the football club. He’s a very talented young man. We think we’ve signed a player with a lot of potential, as well as being a very good footballer now.

This could not be more true. Despite being only 21 years of age, Collins has 39 games of Championship and 19 games of Premier League experience, demonstrating that he is not only the future of Ireland’s and Wolves’ defence, but the present, with a cool head on a young pair of shoulders.

This shows in his style of play, Nathan is not afraid to receive the ball while being pressed, and always looks for a progressive pass to build up an attack to benefit his side. Also a clear aerial threat standing at 1.93m tall, the Irish international is not afraid to step out and be aggressive, being a brave defender that will certainly learn and grow from the likes of club captain Conor Coady.

There have been murmurs around a partnership between the former, Kilman with Irish record signing Collins – where does the aforementioned Conor Coady come into this?

What is coming for Conor?

Club captain since 2018, an influential figure behind the scenes adored by all, a fan favourite

Conor David Coady. The English international is in his prime years, but may begin to fall down the pecking order…

Many express concerns with Coady’s physical capabilities if Wolves are indeed to transition fully into a more aggressive and attacking set-up, especially with the signing of Collins and rise of Kilman, which may potentially see Coady become a rotation option.

Lage may fall back on the five at the back approach, and Coady has an influence in Wolverhampton that exceeds the playing field, however this will certainly be something for Lage to consider and perhaps Coady too, who will need guarantees of playing time going into a World Cup. Only time will tell how the story will unfold. Perhaps Kilman hasn’t fully earnt Lage’s trust, especially with this defensive transition, or Collins needs time to adapt. And there are more options to consider…

Toti totally reliable?

Certainly, brought back in January from his loan spell at Grasshoppers as an emergency option, Toti showed his competency on 4 occasions in the Premier League, including a 3-1 loss to Liverpool where the scoreline doesn’t flatter the rookie, however his performance was surprisingly solid.

The 23-year-old is relatively inexperienced, however the Portuguese U20 international has demonstrated that he has a cool head, and as a left footer, could edge ahead of Mosquera in the pecking order, especially as have reported that one of the two prospects could be sent out on loan – remember, there are six options currently available for Bruno Lage to choose from.

Toti is raw but has shown his composed style in limited minutes, perhaps a role as a fifth option rotating between Premier League 2 football and first-team training awaits him, while Yerson Mosquera finds a destination to hone his skills regularly.

Willy be going?

A man who has suffered from injury problems and coronavirus, Willy Boly, once a regular starter is now nothing more than a backup (featuring merely in ten 2021/22 Premier League matches) and has lost much of what made him such an intimidating opponent – a move away might be on the cards.

The Ivorian international will soon hit 32 years of age, and Wolves will certainly be looking to cash in now or give him serious gametime to avoid the player dropping off further in value to the team, and the transfer budget. Coady and Collins look set to be covering the position he once carried on the right-hand side of a Wolves defence.

All in all, Wolves fans could expect to see a regular rotation between Coady, Collins and Kilman with Toti covering the slack where needed, with Boly and Mosquera being the biggest question marks, together with a few defensive reinforcement rumours here and there.

Kilman as a covering defender will certainly partner well with the aggressive style of Collins or slight lack of pace from Coady who is still a fine classic central defender in his own right when the ball is closer to the Wolverhampton net. Collins and Toti will be moulded into what Bruno Lage sees fit, a manager who moulded former Portugal U21 international Ferro into a key player and hot defensive prospect, and started the development of Ruben Dias, a Premier League player of the season.

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