Wolves sack Bruno Lage after slipping into drop zone with West Ham defeat

Wolves have sacked head coach Bruno Lage after a dismal start to the season culminated in the club dropping into the Premier League relegation zone. The club’s owners, Fosun, decided to act after defeat at West Ham on Saturday extended their dire form to one win in 15 matches, a run that dates back to April.

Lage took charge in June 2021 but he and his backroom staff were dismissed on Sunday following talks with the Wolves chairman, Jeff Shi. Last season tailed off badly, as Wolves finished 10th and squandered the chance to qualify for European football, and Lage’s failure to provide any uplift this campaign resulted in his exit.

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Wolves backed Lage with more than £100m for signings in the summer but a series of alarming displays saw supporters turn on the Portuguese and prompted the club to take swift action. Lage was able to landscape his squad in pre-season and made big calls, changing formation to a four-man defence which saw captain Conor Coady depart for Everton, decisions that have backfired.

Fosun had hoped to see the fruits of their heavy investment, including a club-record £38m outlay on Matheus Nunes from Sporting, but new signings have struggled and goals have been a major problem, with Wolves scoring just three times in eight games. Lage was unfortunate that striker Sasa Kaladjdzic, a £15m summer arrival from Stuttgart, suffered a serious knee injury on debut last month.

Wolves are working to appoint Lage’s successor and while nothing is imminent are hopeful of having a new manager in the dugout for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea. Lage succeeded Nuno Espírito Santo, with both clients of the Gestifute agency headed by Jorge Mendes, who represents several Wolves players, including £27.5m summer signing Gonçalo Guedes who remains without a goal.

The former Olympiakos coach Pedro Martins is keen on managing in the Premier League, while Wolves previously considered the Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui. Steve Davis, a former Crewe and Leyton Orient manager and now Wolves’ under-21s coach, and James Collins, the under-18s coach, will take training in the interim before the trip to Stamford Bridge. Lage’s backroom staff, including his brother and assistant coach, Luis Nascimento, have also departed.

Lage was disappointed that Wolves did not sign a centre-back and another striker before the transfer deadline but Diego Costa arrived on a free and made his debut as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at the London Stadium. Lage pointed to Costa’s appearance and the absence of strikers as mitigation for his side’s poor form. “Strikers are important, not just for my team,” Lage said on Saturday.

“Others teams, the goals come from where? 60-70% of the goals come from where? We will continue to work hard, but we are completely different when we have a striker in our team. When we have started with a striker in the first eleven, we have not lost in the Premier League. This is not an excuse, but it’s a fact.”

Shi said Wolves were left with “no choice but to act”. “Bruno is an excellent coach, a hardworking and dedicated manager, and a warm, wise and honest man,” Shi said. “He and his staff have been a pleasure to work with throughout their time at Wolves, so it is with much sadness that we have had to make what has been a difficult decision. I honestly have no doubts about Bruno’s ability, and I’m sure he will succeed elsewhere, however the team’s form and performances over the last few months mean that we have no choice but to act.”

Shi added: “On behalf of everyone at Wolves, I would like to place on record our gratitude to Bruno and his coaching team for all their efforts during their time with the club, and wish them the very best for the future.”