Wolverhampton Wanderers have enjoyed a rather fruitful start to life under Julen Lopetegui, racing away from the Premier League relegation zone having suffered just two league defeats since Christmas.
Several players have improved their performances under the Spaniard, which has led to the recent resurgence at Molineux. However, with the summer approaching, there could be widespread change across the first-team squad.
Nelson Semedo is a player who has been underwhelming this term. Across 20 league matches in the current campaign, his Sofascore average of 6.67/10 ranks him a lowly 19th out of the entire Wolves squad.
Defensively, he has managed to keep just two clean sheets, losing possession 9.1 times per match and committing 1.1 fouls per game; while his disciplinary record is the second-worst in the squad as he has accumulated five yellow cards, just behind the seven of Ruben Neves.
Lopetegui has already splashed the cash on a few new signings in January, and with Benfica showing interest in signing the Portuguese right-back, the summer could be time for a change.
Instead of scouring the transfer market for a successor, though, the Wolves manager could unearth his ideal replacement in a 20-year-old academy talent.
Can Luke Matheson replace Semedo at Wolves?
When Wolves signed a talented 17-year-old named Luke Matheson from Rochdale in January 2020 for £1m, there was clear excitement amongst the Old Gold faithful. This was a player who had made his first-team debut at the tender age of 15 and clearly was someone who had the potential to enjoy an extremely bright future in the game.
Four months before Wolves signed him, he scored against Manchester United in Rochdale’s Carabao Cup defeat at Old Trafford aged just 16. That sparked further intrigue around the youngster, although he remained down to earth following the occasion, having to sit a psychology exam the next morning.
Another wonderful display against Newcastle United in the FA Cup just before he signed for Wolves -setting up the equaliser which secured Rochdale a lucrative replay – was perhaps the catalyst for the Molineux club to sign him.
He hasn’t made his first-team debut in Old Gold as of yet, spending time out on loan at Ipswich, Hamilton and Scunthorpe United, and although these spells weren’t as productive as the player and club may have liked, he could have a new lease of life under Lopetegui.
Should Luke Matheson be given a chance at Wolves?
The youngster earned plenty of praise during his spell at Rochdale, especially from his former manager Brian Barry-Murphy, who said: “Luke is an exceptional guy. He is one player you would have no problems staying grounded and true to his family.”
After signing for Wolves, scouting writer David Alexander Hughes discussed Matheson’s traits, saying: “In terms of his defensive work, the defender is exhibiting a strong tactical understanding of the game, reading opposition attacks well and making a decent amount of interceptions and possession recoveries per game.”
The next few months could be a crucial time in his career, and if the 20-year-old manages to impress Lopetegui, there may well be a lifeline for him at Molineux, and scope for him to replace the potentially exit-bound Semedo.