Home Ground: Molineux Stadium
- 5 English Premier League Titles
- 4 FA Cup Trophies
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo
Wolverhampton Wanderers are coming off an English Championship campaign that saw them win the title and the promotion to the English Premier League. The Wolves have been one of the most active teams during the summer, on a mission to create a more competitive roster.
It seems that survival and avoiding relegation are not among the things that concern Wolverhampton Wanderers. They broke the bank this summer and acquired a number of players that are supposed to help them make a dent in the English Premier League, in their first season back to the top flight.
I have prepared an overview of main Wolverhampton Wanderers storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
Finish: Newly Promoted (1st in the English Championship in 2017/18)
Wolverhampton Wanderers had a dominant English Championship campaign which saw them secure the title and promotion to the English Premier League. Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad had high expectations from the get-go, but few have expected the level of play that the Wolves have demonstrated.
The Wolves opened the season with 3 straight wins against Middlesbrough, Derby County and Hull City, two of which were won by a clean sheet. During the whole 2017/18 season in the English Championship have kept a clean sheet amazing 24 times out of 46 games.
During this run, the Wolves cemented the 1st place in the English Championship and they never looked back. Wolverhampton Wanderers finished the season with a club-record 99 points. On top of that, the Wolves have finished the season with No. 1 ranked offense and No. 1 ranked defense. A truly dominant performance from the Wolves.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have displayed the willingness to play possession soccer and attack throughout the last season. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has a lot to do with this and the Wolves are trying to keep the same mentality when the English Premier League begins.
Key Additions and Departures
Wolverhampton Wanderers wasted no time this year in looking for players to strengthen their squad, despite their dominant title in the English Championship. The English Premier League is a much bigger challenge and extremely competitive and the Wolves are trying to put together a great season, fresh off the promotion.
During the summer, the club has broken both their highest transfer fee record (GB 20 million) and their highest spending in a single offseason record (GBP 70 million). Already, more than 10 players have been added to the Wolves roster.
The Wolves further strengthened their attack by adding the forward Benik Afobe from Bournemouth for a GBP 11 million fee, another loan player from the previous season at the Molineux Stadium. He was quickly resold to Stoke City though for a GBP 14 million fee. The newly-acquired Leo Bonatini, who was signed from the Saudi Arabian side Hilal for a GBP 4 million fee, will provide more depth up front.
The Wolves didn’t stop there. They have also added creative midfielder Joao Moutinho from Monaco on a GBP 5 million fee. Moutinho has fallen out of favor at AS Monaco but he was one of the most sought-after midfielders in the world, just a few seasons ago.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have also continued their practice of signing high-quality players on loan contracts from bigger clubs, where they are not getting enough first-team soccer. They followed the same recipe from the last season and added several players again.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio also signed with the Wolves on a free transfer and he is expected to be the Wolverhampton Wanderers starting goalkeeper once the season begins.
The key loan addition was the signing of 27-year-old Mexican forward Raul Jimenez in a loan contract from Benfica for a GB 3 million fee. Left-back Jonny Castro from Atletico Madrid and defensive midfielder Leander Dendoncker from RSC Anderlecht were both signed the same way but without the loan fee.
The final addition was the 19-year-old left back Ruben Vinagre from Monaco but his signing fee was not disclosed by either of the clubs.
When it comes to departures, the Wolves were much more conservative as they tried to keep their core of players together. The main departure from the squad was the already mentioned Benik Afobe who has signed with Stoke City for a GBP 14 million fee.
The other two major departures were the 28-year-old left-back Barry Douglas who signed with Leeds for a GBP 3.4 million fee and 27-year-old right midfielder Ben Marshall who has signed with Norwich for a GBP 1.7 million fee.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have improved their roster significantly and added quality players to most of the positions on the team. Still, it will be up to manager Nuno Espirito Santo to put all these new additions into a cohesive unit that will show results in the top flight.
Style of Play
Nuno Espirito Santo is a young Portuguese manager who is quickly making a name for himself in the world of soccer. After a successful playing career, Espirito Santo decided to give coaching a try and he was an outright success.
He led his first team, Rio Ave to the UEFA Europa League place and solid league finish. He was quickly lured away by Valencia, as they needed a new manager to help them get out of a slump. Espirito Santo finished 4th in the La Liga with Valencia in his first season.
After deciding to leave Valencia and go back to Portugal, he took over the Portuguese giants Porto but his first and only season was trophy-less and he was quickly let go. Espirito Santo finally landed at Wolverhampton Wanderers last season.
He quickly began to reshape the way the Wolves played and introduced a more modern passing approach to the game which is focused on possession and creating mismatches. Throughout his managing career, Espirito Santo has used a number of formations, depending on the team he had available and the opponent he was facing.
Espirito Santos’ system at Wolverhampton Wanderers requires 3 central defenders who are athletic, strong and have excellent communication with the goalkeepers. They have to be able to cover a lot of ground and close down opposition attacking moves.
There are no classical wingers in the formation though, rather Espirito Santo likes to employ his fullbacks as wing-backs that cover the whole flank and like to go forward as often as possible. In the center of the midfield are two key players for all the offensive moves that the Wolves make. They are Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho.
The 21-year-old Ruben Neves is a more defensively oriented midfielder that will mainly focus on the defensive assignments and covering the holes in the Wolves defense. He often comes forward though and is integral in starting counter-attacks. Moutinho, on the other hand, is a technically gifted attacking midfielder that can create for himself and others.
Up front, Espirito Santo likes to employ versatile forwards that can easily switch sides, overlap with wingbacks, run into space and shoot. The central forward can be played alone in front of the wing-forwards or behind them in the “hole”.
When attacking the Wolves like to keep possession and use an intricate build up to create chances. Defensively their 3-4-3 quickly transforms into 4-5-1, which is much more adept at thwarting attacking moves of all sorts.
The Wolves employ a zone pressing scheme when defending, as they rather not chase the ball carrier all over the field but rather just close down space around him as he moves the ball.
Espirito Santo has vowed to keep the same style of play as they enter the English Premier League this season. The adaptation to top flight soccer might take a bit of time but the Wolves are keen in their efforts to leave a mark on the English Premier League in his maiden campaign back.
2018/19 English Premier League Season Expectations and Predictions
The ambitions are high at the Molineux Stadium from the start, which is self-evident by just looking at the amount of money the Wolves have spent this offseason on new additions. Signing 11 players is a clear sign that you are building something well above the relegation zone level.
The adaptation to top flight soccer can be problematic and it is important that the ambitions are kept in check, especially in the first season back from the English Championship. Personally, I believe that a safe mid-table finish is something that would be more than satisfactory to the Wolves board and fans.
The Wolves kick off their English Premier League season with a home game against Everton, who are also entering the competition with high ambitions. The schedule doesn’t get any easier from them one, as they will have to face Leicester and Manchester City in the next two rounds.
I believe that Wolverhampton Wanderers have more than enough talent on their roster to safely avoid relegation from the English Premier League and finish in the mid-table. Of course, this is easier said than done, but Nuno Espirito Santo is more than up for the job.
Still, due to a huge influx of new players into the club, it will take time to build chemistry and give their optimal performances. This is why I am picking Wolverhampton Wanderers to finish 11th in the English Premier League.