What Wolves fans can expect from Matheus Cunha
Isn’t the Premier League just bonkers?
The January transfer window hasn’t even opened yet and the relegation-threatened Wolves, who appointed Europa League winner Julen Lopetegui as manager before the World Cup break, have made the first big splash of the winter.
Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha has joined the club from Atletico Madrid on an initial loan deal, but Wolves have an obligation to buy the 23-year-old outright for a fee that could rise to £35m at the end of the season.
Lopetegui desperately needs attacking reinforcements this winter with Wolves currently reliant on an exfoliating Diego Costa to lead their line. Raul Jimenez and Hwang Hee-chan have been woefully out of sorts for quite some time, while summer arrival Sasa Kalajdzic has barely featured after tearing his ACL in September.
Saviour might be too strong of a word, but Cunha is an enigmatic talent who could spearhead Wolves’ resurgence under Lopetegui despite enduring a difficult spell in La Liga. Here’s what Wolves supporters can expect from their new signing.
Wolves were a dire watch under Bruno Lage during the first half of the season as they scored just eight times in their opening 15 Premier League encounters.
While the west Midlanders possess an array of crafty playmakers and wingers, they’ve been bereft of a reliable scorer since Jimenez cracked his skull against Arsenal in November 2020. The Mexican scored 30 Premier League goals during his first two seasons in the top flight, but he scored just six times in 34 appearances last season and he’s yet to find the back of the net in 2022/23.
Wolves desperately need a goalscorer but, unfortunately, Cunha isn’t that. The Brazilian’s most prolific league season arrived in 2020/21 with Hertha Berlin as he scored seven times in 27 Bundesliga appearances.
Cunha scored at a decent rate during his first season at Atletico, averaging a goal every 177 La Liga minutes, but he only bagged six times as his opportunities under Diego Simeone were limited. Either way, the 23-year-old is yet to prove his capacity to score bundles of goals at the highest level, and this should concern Wolves supporters.
Don’t worry, there’s even more to be worried about in regards to Cunha’s competence as a goalscorer!
According to FBRef, Cunha has outperformed his expected goals tally in just one season at a senior level. This came with Hertha in 2019/20 as he scored five Bundesliga goals from an xG of 3.3.
Outside of that, though, the Brazilian has underperformed in front of goal. Although, he did match his xG haul of 6.0 last season.
During his most prolific league season to date, Cunha’s xG was 8.4 but he scored just seven, and he underperformed his xG by 2.0 and 2.2 during his two Bundesliga campaigns with RB Leipzig.
So, not only does Cunha struggle to score regularly, but he also can’t be relied upon to finish the chances that do come his way.
While he’s often functioned as a number nine at both Leipzig and Atletico, Cunha is capable of operating across the front line while some of the best football he’s played in his senior career to date came when playing off target men Krzysztof Piątek and Vedad Ibišević at Hertha.
Lopetegui is expected to play a 4-3-3 at Molineux with Cunha likely operating from the central striker position. However, Wolves are blessed with a bunch of canny, between-the-lines operators who enjoy drifting infield from wide positions. Thus, their attack could look incredibly fluid with Cunha involved.
The Brazilian boasts a rather imposing profile which means he’s adept at operating as a lone striker, but he’s at his best when he’s dropping into deeper zones, turning and running at defences.
There’s not a moment that depicts Cunha’s capacity to thrill better than his sequence of vintage samba ingenuity against Bayer Leverkusen in April 2019.
The then-Leipzig forward bemused Leverkusen defender Wendell with a stunning pirouette before calmly dinking his effort over the onrushing goalkeeper. It was a goal that wouldn’t look out of place in a Ronaldinho compilation.
So, while he might not be a reliable goalscorer, there’s no doubt that Cunha is a talent that’ll get the Molineux faithful off their feet. He can be incredibly exciting to watch with the ball at his feet, and an argument could be made that the 23-year-old’s a more effective playmaker than he is a finisher.
Cunha has an impressive sense of timing in the final third and he combines well with his teammates. The Brazilian possesses the attributes of a seasoned number ten or an inverted winger off the left, and it’s from these roles where Cunha could thrive at Wolves.
It’s hard to envisage him shining as a lone forward in the Premier League given his sub-par goal record, but he nonetheless remains an X-factor talent who adds greater variance and unpredictability to Wolves’ play in the final third. If he wants to best accommodate Cunha, Lopetegui should switch to a 4-2-3-1 and allow the Brazilian to operate between the lines as much as possible.
Tottenham weighing up decision on Antonio Conte future
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is weighing up whether to sack manager Antonio Conte this week, 90min understands.
While Spurs remain fourth in the Premier League, limp exits in the FA Cup and Champions League threw the Italian’s future into doubt and his meltdown at Southampton plunged the club further into crisis.
90min revealed earlier on Monday Tottenham could be forced to pay Conte a whipping £15m if they dismiss him before the end of the season.
Now, sources have confirmed Conte is back in Italy for a routine trip to his homeland having held talks with Spurs boss Levy. A final decision has not yet been reached but a number of officials at the club believe Conte’s position is untenable.
Tottenham Hotspur: Who is to blame?
Here at 90min towers, we’ve realised that there is always at least one Premier League club in relative crisis at any given time. In tribute, they are christened as the ‘crisis club of the week’.
But Tottenham Hotspur have crossed a line. You can’t keep continuously wrestling back the championship belt (you know, proverbially – we all know about the trophy drought). There must be a price to pay.
As such, we’ve had to dust off the old ‘who is to blame?’ gimmick instead. So, who really is to blame for Spurs’ current distress?
Blame rating: 0.1/10
Look at him. That big smile. Those big shoes. Those big wings.
He is everything wrong with Tottenham Hotspur.
Blame rating: 0.2/10
What’s worse than one big giant cockerel?
TWO big giant cockerels.
Blame rating: 0.5/10
It’s time to hop in the time machine. It’s time for some domino-effect interrogating.
Midway through the 2011/12 season, Tottenham had separated themselves from the top-four chasing pack and were within touching distance of Premier League title contenders Manchester City.
In a crunch game at the Etihad Stadium, Spurs fought back from two goals down to level it at 2-2. Mario Balotelli somehow escaped a red card for stamping on Scott Parker’s head, and would score a stoppage time penalty to seal a win for Man City and send Tottenham’s campaign into a tailspin.
That’s why they’re still stuck fighting for top-four finishes now.
Blame rating: 0.75/10
With Tottenham in the midst of that title fight, they recruited Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha on free transfers on deadline day.
How do you think it went?
Blame rating: 1/10
But the person most at fault for such a collapse is Harry Redknapp. Or more specifically, his dog Rosie.
During a trial of two counts of cheating the public revenue, Redknapp explained to a court that he set up a Monaco bank account with Rosie’s name because he loved her so much.
All the while, Spurs’ season was going down the pan and he was flirting with the England job.
How could you do this, Rosie?
Blame rating: 1.5/10
At the end of Redknapp’s tenure, star midfielder Luka Modric was sold to Real Madrid, with Spurs announcing they had entered a special ‘partnership agreement’ with the Spanish giants.
Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid a year later.
Blame rating: 2/10
Though Juande Ramos is also Real Madrid alumni, his connection to Tottenham is for a very different reason.
He was the last manager to win a trophy with Spurs. Much better managers have followed in his wake and failed. What a lottery.
Blame rating: 2.1/10
Ramos won the cup, but that team spiritually belonged to Martin Jol. He’s just as culpable.
Blame rating: 2.5/10
Because you can’t blame who Spurs are and what they’re about without referencing Lasagna-gate 2006. I don’t want to go into it, though. Too painful.
Blame rating: 3/10
One of Tottenham’s most famous fans just happens to be someone who can also sell out Wembley – how are Spurs supposed to live with that pressure?
But speaking of Wembley…
Blame rating: 3.5/10
Tottenham had outgrown their old White Hart Lane stadium and had to move on. During construction of a new ground, they had to play at Wembley – a soulless stadium which was a nightmare to get to and from.
Spurs were unbeaten in their final season at White Hart Lane and lost their first game at Wembley. Go figure.
Blame rating: 4/10
Tottenham haven’t quite felt the benefits of their new home just yet. Why not? Why can’t a stadium play at wing-back?
Blame rating: 4.1/10
Among proposals for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were a cheese room as part of the club’s luxury offerings.
It did not make the final blueprints.
Blame rating: 4.5/10
Beavertown have a microbrewery inside the new stadium. They now run a pub where the old ticket office stood. I am the proud owner of Beavertown x Spurs merchandise.
They truly run the world.
Blame rating: 5/10
The NFL have a 10-year agreement to play matches at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. There is a specific-use American football pitch underneath the soccer one.
It’s just not football anymore.
Blame rating: 5.1/10
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium featured on an episode of Richard Hammond’s Big.
Did the club further need their ego stroked? No.
Is the episode any good? Oh yeah, really great. Rivalries aside, definitely go watch it.
Blame rating: 5.2/10
Do podcasters even say anything interesting? Anything noteworthy? Are they worth the hassle? Everyone’s got a bloody podcast these days.
Anyway, please subscribe to Oh What A Night, part of the 90min podcast network. Hosted by me.
Blame rating: 5.5/10
The referee who gave a handball against Moussa Sissoko 22 seconds into the only Champions League final Tottenham might ever play.
I hope you’re proud of yourself. You ruined it for everyone.
Blame rating: 5.6/10
Off the back of reaching that Champions League final, Spurs made an audacious move to sign Paulo Dybala from Juventus.
He didn’t seem overly keen on the deal anyway, but a move fell apart on deadline day as Tottenham could not legally work their way around an issue with the forward’s image rights.
Blame rating: 6/10
Jose Mourinho was hired to get Tottenham over the line in their pursuit of a trophy.
He took the club backwards instead.
Blame rating: 6.1/10
Tottenham were handed a boost in their 2020/21 UEFA Europa League last 16 tie with Dinamo Zagreb when it was confirmed that manager Zoran Mamic had been sentenced to four years in prison.
Spurs managed to blow a two-goal lead and lost the second leg 3-0. Maybe if Mamic was let off the hook things would have been different.
Blame rating: 6.2/10
Off the back of that surprise elimination, the social media manager of Joe Hart – who spent just one season at Spurs – praised the result on the goalkeeper’s Instagram page, assuming that Tottenham wouldn’t have ballsed it up.
Hart issued a public apology for the incident, but the damage was done.
Blame rating: 6.5/10
This really was a time where bashing Tottenham was the lowest of hanging fruits. Even Dulux – who had become the club’s official paint supplier days earlier – posted tweets mocking their empty trophy cabinet.
Blame rating: 6.6/10
“Lads, it’s Tottenham.”
This utterance from Fergie set up a generation of Spurs jokes.
Blame rating: 6.7/10
Ah, the man behind the modern person’s Spurs proverb.
“It is in the history of the Tottenham.”
That’s another generation sorted.
Blame rating: 7/10
The best fried chicken in north London, why must you always tempt us back to N17?
Sources (Matt Le Tissier and David Cotterill) suggest the secret ingredient is Chirpy.
Blame rating: 7.5/10
Ok, I’m only being half-satirical with this list. 75% at a push. 100% if you think I’m a moron.
But there are genuinely Tottenham fans who think that Beyonce playing concerts at the stadium this summer is an awful thing which somehow ties to the club’s ambitions.
Blame rating: 8/10
Is it a good thing when your managing director of football could be banned from football for two-and-a-half years for financial irregularities?
Blame rating: 8.6/10
Antonio Conte was meant to be different. He was hired to get Tottenham over the line in their pursuit of a trophy. He took the club backwards inst- hey, didn’t I say this already?
Blame rating: 8.7/10
The unlikeliest of heroes, all things considered. 271 goals for Tottenham Hotspur, and by dumb modern-day logic, none of them mean anything.
What a sad little life, Harry.
Blame rating: 8.8/10
Well, Tactics Tim, you always wanted to take credit for Kane becoming one of the best players in the world.
Time to have your cake and eat it.
Blame rating: 9/10
Whooooo remembers ‘4th – Arsenal’ jokes?
No but seriously the Gunners have made the leap Spurs were supposed to and it’s causing misery down the other end of the Seven Sisters Road and I hate it.
Blame rating: 9.1/10
Lord Sugar was the owner of Tottenham during one of the worst stretches of their entire history. Nowadays, he just tweets discriminatory things and hosts The Apprentice.
Quite a brush for the club to be tarred with.
Blame rating: 9.5/10
Objectively and subjectively, Tottenham have made huge strides under Daniel Levy’s chairmanship.
They’ve also stagnated in recent years because of some really poor decisions and refusal to learn from mistakes.
Levy giveth, Levy taketh away.
Blame rating: 10/10
Here he is. The man who raised the bar, who made modern Tottenham Hotspur the club they are today.
It’s only right that he should be forced to return and sort out this mess. Who’s with me?
Nottingham Forest midfielder Lewis O’Brien joins D.C. United on loan
Nottingham Forest midfielder Lewis O’Brien is officially headed to Major League Soccer.
The player will join D.C. United on loan through July 16, though the contract contains a purchase option.
As reported previously by 90min, the two parties agreed to terms for the temporary stint after head coach Wayne Rooney convinced O’Brien of the project at D.C. United.
“Lewis has been one of the best players in the Championship over the last few seasons,” Rooney said in a release. “He reads the game well and creates goal-scoring opportunities. Bringing him in on loan from Nottingham Forest was a great bit of business for us and he will be a brilliant addition to our midfield.”
The player’s future was initially at risk when failing to secure a transfer to Championship high-fliers Blackburn Rovers on deadline day. Director of football Gregg Broughton revealed Rovers experienced “internal and external” reasons that led to late submission, and the club appealed the decision in the hope of the move being ratified.
But the EFL rejected the bid as Rovers had not submitted all of the required paperwork in time.
The unfortunate outcome left O’Brien unable to feature for the remainder of the season, after Forest did not name him in their 25-man Premier League squad for the second half of the campaign.
But Rooney stepped in with the chance at a new chapter with the Black and Red in Major League Soccer. O’Brien will now join D.C United with one goal in 17 appearances under his belt. He stands as D.C.’s third Premier League addition in the last six months after striker Christian Benteke arrived last summer from Crystal Palace and Mateusz Klich joined this winter from Leeds United.
Under Rooney, D.C. United has seen a decent start to the 2023 campaign with four points in four games and a 1W-1L-1D record. After concluding the 2022 season in last place of the Eastern Conference, the head coach hopes the new additions will propel the team out of the bottom and into the playoffs.
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