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Exclusive: O’Neil wants ‘big shift’ at Wolves, aims to improve Cunha and Kilman

Exclusive: O’Neil wants ‘big shift’ at Wolves, aims to improve Cunha and Kilman

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Gary O’Neil hopes for a “big shift” in the club’s culture and believes he can inspire improvement in Matheus Cunha, Max Kilman and Tommy Doyle.

Wolves have one win and three defeats so far after four games of the new Premier League season, but will count themselves unlucky not to have had at least a point from their opening-day fixture against Manchester United, when they were controversially denied a penalty.

Their first match after the international break sees them take on Liverpool on Saturday, live on TNT Sports.

O’Neil took over on August 9 to replace Julen Lopetegui, who failed to recreate the success he had enjoyed at Porto and Sevilla.

The Spaniard had been at odds with the club’s board and O’Neil told TNT Sports that he wanted to change the mentality of the side.

“They link well, I think, culture and the mentality of the group,” O’Neil said. “What we demand on a day-to-day basis, what we demand of each other on a matchday. Trying to make a big shift on that, everyone at the football club, not just playing staff, staff around the training ground.

“Just trying to maximise what we can achieve by getting every last bit out of everybody. That’s going to be really important for us this year so that’s been the real focus, as well as then trying to shift the team to look more how I think it should. And we’ve shifted it a bit, but it’s going to take time to resemble exactly what I think it should look like, but [there have been] a couple of decent spells in the last couple of days when it’s looked closer.”

O’Neil also picked out a couple of players who he thought could be developed to help the side. Brazilian forward Cunha has been recalled to the national side, and the former Bournemouth manager believes that his game can be improved significantly.

Of his international recall, he said: “Delighted for him – big fan of Matheus and the energy he brings. I feel like I can help him loads, there’s still so much room for improvement, just on understanding positioning, widening areas and improving his goal numbers.

“He does an awful lot, he has a real desire to be involved, so you’ll see him drifting and coming and getting touches of the ball.

“I’m trying to help him understand when the team needs that and when the team needs a focal point and when we do manage to have one of our decent spells and the ball gets crossed in, that’s when you earn your money and you show what a good No. 9 you are.”

Central defender Kilman has been appointed the new captain after the departure of Ruben Neves, and the 26-year-old is another player that O’Neil thinks can step up to offer more.

He said: “I think Max has been here a long time now. He’s signed a new contract after interest from some big clubs this summer. There’s loads of areas where we can improve him. I think he’s had some fantastic moments in the first few games,and some moments I’d like to work on and help him with.

“As a character, what he’s done, how hard he works, how desperate he is to train and play even if he’s not quite feeling right, what he brings to the group and the club, he’s very important for us. But I do see a lot of room for improvement for him.”

As part of the shift in the team that he described, O’Neil brought in Manchester City midfielder Doyle on loan to improve the depth in the squad.

“Tommy, when he was training with us last week, there weren’t a lot here, but there’s a real energy,” O’Neil offered. “He’s keen to make a mark and wants to fight his way into the starting 11.

“The people in the squad are really pushing to get the shirt. Tommy will be really important. We were a little bit short in a couple of areas just going into the last few days of the window and we managed to get a couple to bolster the numbers.”


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