Wolves boss O’Neil sends a four-words response as he answers to Lemina’s absence and explains why it’s necessary to unleash “superb” Wolves ace amid selection dilemma ahead of Bournemouth’s clash…

Wolverhampton Wanderers are gearing up for their clash against Bournemouth, but they’ll be without the midfield dynamo, Mario Lemina, which prompts some intriguing possibilities for the team.

Wolves are making their Premier League return today as they face Gary O’Neil’s former club, Bournemouth, on matchday nine of the 2023/24 season. Wolves seem to be finding their form with two draws and a memorable victory against Manchester City in their last three league matches.

In their previous Premier League fixture, Wolves played to a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, where Hwang Hee-chan scored his fifth goal of the season, only to have it matched by Pau Torres’s equalizer two minutes later. This result placed Wolves comfortably in 14th place, five points ahead of today’s opponents, who have struggled and find themselves in the relegation zone this season.

O’Neil is eager for a win, not only to prove himself against the club that released him over the summer but also to establish momentum for Wolves in the early stages of the season.

While O’Neil will have the dynamic duo of Pedro Neto and Hwang available, he will be missing Hugo Bueno due to injury and Nelson Semedo due to suspension. Furthermore, midfielder Mario Lemina’s absence is a significant setback, as he ranks in the top 7% of Premier League midfielders this season for his impressive average of 2.17 interceptions per 90, making his replacement a crucial decision for the manager.

With Jean Ricner-Bellegarde returning from a three-match suspension, O’Neil faces a decision on how to configure his midfield. The most probable choice is to pair the Frenchman with Joao Gomes for a solid defensive midfield duo. Alternatively, O’Neil could consider introducing Manchester City loanee Tommy Doyle to inject creativity in place of Lemina.

Doyle had a slow start to his time at Molineux due to a knee injury and ineligibility to play against his parent club. However, his loan spell at Sheffield United last season showcased his abilities, earning him praise as a “superb midfielder” from talent scout Jacek Kulig. Doyle is versatile, contributing in the final third and displaying a strong defensive presence in the midfield, as indicated by his average of 5.68 progressive passes and 1.51 tackles per 90 last season.

Bournemouth’s defensive vulnerabilities this season, with 18 goals conceded in their opening eight games, suggest that a creative midfield presence could greatly benefit Wolves in their efforts to take on the Cherries.

This moment could be the ideal opportunity for O’Neil to experiment with some roster changes in Lemina’s absence, a tactical move that might prove astute.


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