Norwich v Wolves: competition will only raise the bar at Molineux
There are two facts that hold true. They are an extremely talented team, but a little too small.
Luck with a lack of injuries played a role, but the players who stepped up when called up have been the biggest advantage in recent weeks.
Rayan Ait-Nouri has played in the last four Premier League games, keeping his place against West Ham last time despite Fernando Marcal returning from injury.
And rightly so. Marcal had a good preseason and a good start to the campaign, but slowed down to some extent with below-par performances.
Ait-Nouri had done well in both Carabao Cup games and from the moment he entered the league starting the eleven against Leeds he impressed. Offensively, he offers a lot more. He’s delicate with the ball, has an eye for a pass, and can deliver a wonderful cross – both in play and on set pieces.
He also improved defensively and now wins more duels, which he was criticized for last year.
Even against Crystal Palace, when the whole team underperformed, Ait-Nouri was one of the few bright lights.
âFrom day one I’ve been happy with Rayan,â said Lage.
âHe knows he is competing with Marcal for this position. I’m also happy with Marcal because he’s playing more minutes than last year.
âI want to manage the players as best I can, even with guys who are having problems and Marcal is having problems. We have to deal with this because I want the players to be available for the matches.
âThis is the kind of competition I want. I know Rayan is strong offensively and he knows he needs to improve his defensive game and he also needs to be competitive for 90 minutes.
âThat’s what I want for my players. They should be ready to play and then give it away for 90 minutes.
More recently, Daniel Podence also tried his luck.
Entering for his second league start this weekend, he occupied smart spaces, created chances and assisted the game-winning goal.
Adama TraorÃ© and Francisco Trincao still knocking on the door for the same position, Podence launched into the conversation.
And while the team needs additions and depth, Lage is starting to see some of the competition he desires.
If the incoming players can seize their opportunities and raise the level of their failed teammates, Wolves will only benefit.
Entering a potential banana peel clash with 19th-place Norwich, Wolves need to be at their best to come away with three points.
The attitude and dedication of Lage’s players, as well as the desire to make a mark on the squad, is what will help them continue to their current form.