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Wolves prove to be slick in FA Cup early stages

In days gone by Wolves would have slipped up against Championship opposition in round three of the FA Cup.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Daniel Podence celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with Fabio Silva of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United at Molineux on January 09, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images).
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Daniel Podence celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with Fabio Silva of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United at Molineux on January 09, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images).

But these days they are a well oiled machine under Bruno Lage.

It was not perfect against Sheffield United, but Wolves finally found the net more than once in a fixture and paired with another clean sheet, it was a good day at the office.

Forward thinking

Man-of-the-match Daniel Podence shone at Molineux and deservedly got his brace.

His manipulation of the football in tight areas is magnificent and his ability to drive forward with the ball, drop into spaces on the flank or centrally and find his team-mates with deft passes is superb.

Having started the last four games in a row, Podence is in some of his best form in a Wolves shirt and deserves his place. With Hwang Hee-chan injured, Pedro Neto still recovering and Adama Traore and Francisco Trincao out of form, Podence is currently the first name on the teamsheet out wide.

Alongside him, Fabio Silva did well on his first start since September and followed up his impressive Manchester United cameo with aplomb.

The young striker has proven in this short space of time that he is capable of being an option for Lage and a loan elsewhere may not be necessary.

He still needs to do more but Lage seems pleased with him and has promised more Premier League minutes if he keeps it up.

Daniel Podence celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with Fabio Silva of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers(Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images).

Defensive decisions

With Romain Saiss away with Morocco, Wolves needed to plug a gap in the back three.

Fernando Marcal slotted in and looked out of sorts from the start, but grew into his role, while Leander Dendoncker looked more confident when he took over in the second half.

Although Lage said after the game that Marcal was taken off as a precaution and may not be injured, it was somewhat fortunate that Wolves and the head coach could take a look at both of them at centre-back.

Playing Dendoncker there means moving Max Kilman over to the left side, which could further disrupt what has been a solid back three, but he has shown he is more than capable on both sides.

Dion Sanderson offers an option but is unlikely to have too many premier League minutes, particularly if he did not feature in this game, which seemed tailor-made for him.

Lage wants a senior signing at centre-back and has again called for 'solutions' but in the meantime Dendoncker may prove to be the better option.

FA Cup dreams

One thing that was certainly refreshing was seeing Lage taking the FA Cup seriously.

He made five changes but did not start any inexperienced youngsters and instead played a strong side that should have progressed to round four.

For all of Nuno Espirito Santo's success at the club – and his journey to the FA Cup semi-final in 2019 – he was rightly criticised for throwing away cup opportunities in his final season.

But Lage, in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, has largely played senior players and intends on continuing that trend.

He says he wants to win titles with Wolves, and if he takes this competition seriously in the next stages then there is no reason they cannot go far this season.

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