Wolves are on the verge of signing striker Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan.
The young Italian is rumoured to be in England already undergoing his medical and is expected to soon seal the deal and join Wolves in a move worth £16m. Cutrone is a boyhood fan of the Rossoneri but after reportedly finding out he wasn’t in their plans for next season, he is set to swap Milan for the Midlands, albeit after some cajoling.
“I’m ready and excited to join Wolverhampton. It’s a big challenge for me,” Cutrone said. And surely this is an enormous challenge for the youngster. At just 21 years of age he has risen through the ranks at Milan, a club he joined when he was just nine. He’s a true hot prospect, having played and scored for Italy at every single level of youth football.
So how could Wolves’ attack line-up with him in it? We’ve had a look at three different options for Nuno Espirito Santo’s men for the upcoming 2019/20 season.
Wolves didn’t really have a Plan B last season, which almost worked out just fine for them. They finished an impressive seventh, three points clear of Everton and only nine behind Manchester United. A very impressive return to the Premier League, except now they need to evolve.
Staying still is the same as going backwards, so Cutrone offers Wolves the chance to shift things around and play in a different way. Well, the same way but with more oomph in attack. You see, Wolves were a supreme counter-attacking side last year but often had issues when they were the dominant side. Well in a 4-4-2, Wolves would have great scope to handle both situations.
Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker would hold down midfield. The pair of them have all the technical and athletic skills needed to thrive as a duo. With the sophistication of Joao Moutinho replaced with the sheer speed and thrust of Diogo Jota and Adama Traore out wide. These two wingers would provide pace and width, allowing Wolves to transition from a very deep defensive block into a crazy high 4-2-4 when they have the ball.
This would benefit Cutrone who would be up-top with Raul Jiménez. The pair would act as a two-man whirlwind in attack. They’d pester opponents on the ground and then terrify them with their aerial prowess. They’d never let defences have a moment of peace and would always be available as outlets.
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Wolves need to beef out their squad. With as many as four competitions to juggle (should they make it into the KO rounds of the Europa League whilst advancing in both domestic cups) there will have to be some rotation in games that will allow for the prized assets to be rested for certain games. Key to this is that Cutrone has the skill-set necessary to play in the lead striker’s role.
So Romain Saiss holds midfield, perhaps not as fluidly as other team-mates but he functions as a quality bulwark. Ahead of him, Dendoncker retains his place because he has energy to burn. With him in the most advanced slot is Morgan Gibbs-White. The teenager is a promising young talent who Nuno would like to develop, so getting him minutes here makes sense.
On the left another youngster, Ruben Vinagre, spells Jonny Otto. Vinagre gets up and down the touchline just like the right-sided back-up… Matt Doherty! Of course Doherty has no back-up. The man is made of iron with lungs like balloons. Doherty played in every single Wolves game last season and he will want to keep that streak alive here.
In attack, Cutrone leads the line partnered with Adama Traoré. The Mali winger has often been frustrating when out wide given his spotty end product, but play him through the middle where his devastating dribbles are working away on centre-backs and he could be transformed; especially with a player as associative as Cutrone leading the line. And that’s the key, Cutrone’s impressive skill-set, if properly unleashed, could make him the centre-piece of a very interesting back-up XI.
It sounds weird to say but Cutrone also allows Wolves to more confidently play a formation that doesn’t even feature him. The 5-3-2 that served them so well this season is a fine formation but the major problem with it was that it relied on individual skill-sets to function.
In attack they needed someone who could be relentless in the way they pressed, in the way they tackled, in the way they handled opponents’ defensive physicality. Jimenez exemplified those things, so he played. All the time. No other striker in the Premier League clocked up more than 3000 minutes but Jimenez topped out at 3,122. That is a phenomenal workload for one man to carry, and there’s no way he’d be able to do that for a second season running, especially with the Europa League to juggle as well.
Enter Cutrone. Obviously he could replace Jimenez (as shown above, or even just in the regular XI) but he could also come off the bench for the Mexican, providing some much-needed relief. Jimenez was subbed off 16 times in the league last season, but only five of those came before the 80th minute mark. Wolves simply couldn’t afford to lose him and his colossal minutes tally shows that.
Well now they can. Cutrone has the size, speed and athletic ability to double for Jimenez. It could be from the start but it could be from the bench. And if from the bench, Wolves will know that Jimenez can run his heart out even more than he did. They won’t have to worry about saving him (as they did against Manchester City when, 2-0 down at the half, Nuno subbed Jimenez off) because if he picks up a knock or simply isn’t playing well, then he can be replaced without drastically changing Wolves’ shape and the way they play.
Nuno can try the same way with a different striker, a powerful striker whose instincts, ability and willingness to work could make him a key part of Wolves’ ascendancy into the big time of the Premier League big six.