Premier League Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolverhampton Wanderers deservedly returned to the Premier League after a six-year absence after blowing away the competition in the Championship last term. Nuno Espirito Santo’s Portuguese contingent were a cut above the rest of the teams last season and secured the Championship title as they finished on 99 points. Santo is an enigmatic character on the touchline with his celebration and ‘spat’ after Wolves 1-0 away to Cardiff with Neil Warnock just one of several incidents last season. ‘Super-agent’ Jorge Mendes’ influence on player recruitment has without a doubt attracted the likes of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota to the Molineux whilst allowing Wolves to boast a squad with promising Portuguese talent. There are high hopes for Wolves this campaign as many are tipping them to challenge for a European place whilst continuing to produce attractive passing football on the pitch.


Once again, Wolves have managed to secure top talent with the help of Mendes. They’ve turned loanee’s from last season’s title winning season into permanent deals as Jota, Willy Boly and Leo Bonatini have all stayed at Molineux. Much like last summer, they’ve been able to grab top Portuguese talent as European Championship winners and members of Portugal’s 2018 World Cup squad have made permanent moves to the West Midlands. After a player revolt at Sporting Lisbon which saw several first team players terminate their contracts, Wolves managed to pick up Portugal shot stopper Rui Patricio on a free transfer. Following the signing of Patricio, they added to their Portuguese core; signing combative central midfielder Joao Moutinho for £5.4 million from AS Monaco and Benfica’s Raul Jimenez on loan to bolster their attacking line-up. To refrain from a financial fair play penalty, Wolves signed Benik Afobe and then shipped him out on loan to Stoke with the Potters having an ‘obligation to buy’ the forward for a rumoured £12 million in January. Apart from Afobe there hasn’t been any high-profile departures from Wolves and the West Midlands club have also announced the signing of Adama Traore from Middlesbrough for a club record fee of £18million.


Shock reverberated across the Sky Bet Championship when it was announced that Wolves would sign the youngest ever player to captain a team in the Champions League. It appeared that Jorge Mendes was starting to have a real impact on how Wolves recruited, and the signing of Neves placed a statement of Wolves’ intent for the 17/18 season. Neves’ was the heartbeat of the Wolves midfield, averaging 2.3 tackles, 1.7 interceptions and 1.7 completed dribbles per match. His passing ability and threat from long distance allowed Wolves to be affective anywhere within the final third. All six of his goals last season were from outside the box and none of them would look out of place in a Matt Le Tissier goal montage and the pick of the bunch came at home to Derby. The ball broke to Neves following a corner and the Portugal midfielder flicked it up and struck a magnificent volley from 30-yards into the top corner. If Neves is to continue to impress for Wolves as he did last season, the West Midlands club will have a task to keep hold of him.


Former Porto and Valencia manager Nuno Espirito Santo took the reins at Molineux last summer and has made quite the impression. As a player, Santo kept between the sticks but often found himself as a backup goalkeeper throughout his career; only hanging his boots up in 2010 after his second spell with Porto. His greatest achievement during his playing days is arguably lifting the 2004 Champions League under Jose Mourinho and it is those who he has worked with and under that has shaped his managerial philosophy. Santo became Jorge Mendes’ first client in 1996 and as a result, may be the reason why he was given the Wolves job after a relatively unsuccessful spell at Porto; in which he only lasted one season at the club. At his first club, Rio Ave, Santo adopted a counter attacking style of play which saw him guide the club through their first Europa League campaign whilst reaching two cup finals during their next campaign. He also guided Valencia to fourth place in La Liga with the most memorable result coming in a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid. He wears his heart on his sleeve and despite getting into trouble on the touchline on occasion, he’s a welcome addition to the Premier League.


Many fans and pundits alike are predicting a seamless return to top flight action for Wolves and after strong transfer activity once again, they could be challenging for a Europa League spot. They’ve added much needed experience to a youthful side, giving them a perfect balance of cool-headed leaders and young hungry talent looking to impress. Their first six games will truly put the cat amongst the pigeons if they are to qualify for Europe as they face Everton, Leicester City, West Ham and Burnley, who will all be looking to battle it out for a top 8 finish whilst also facing Manchester City and Manchester United. If they can carry their momentum from last year’s campaign into this new one, then they shouldn’t struggle to adapt to Premier League life. A comfortable ninth placed finish will please most fans at the Molineux and progressing far in a cup competition will accumulate a fantastic season back in the big time.


Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-4-3 football formation

Sub-edited by Ciaran Wiseman

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