The English Premier League once again capped off a nail-biting race for the title. Manchester City won the competition with a tally of 98 points, just one more than second-placed finish. While the top of the table had a lot in its store to entertain the fans, they also got to enjoy the battle outside the top 6.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were the surprise package of the season. Having gained promotion to the English top tier by winning the Championship, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men amazed everyone, teams and fans alike, with their explosive style of play. The West Midlands club finished seventh behind Manchester United with a tally of 57 points, scoring 47 goals throughout the season. The fantastic results will see them contesting in the Europa League next season, the first time they will ever do so in 39 years.
Courtesy to their galvanizing performances last season, Wolves are now being touted to break the top 6 this season. And, there are certain reasons why they can actually achieve this feat.
First things first, Wolverhampton’s performances against the top six were the crucial reason why they attracted so much attention last season. They registered 5 wins and 4 draws in 12 games against the top 6 last season, notching 19 points from a possible 36 last season. All in all, Nuno’s men sustained and absorbed the pressure from the league’s toughest teams excellently. If they can replicate the same form against the giants this time, they certainly won’t be overlooked as a mid-table club.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactics also deserve a special mention here. The Portuguese mastermind has worked his charm brilliantly at the Molineux. Having taken control of the club in 2017, seldom anyone might have expected Wolves to reach the level of success they have in two years.
Santo’s best characteristics are the fact that he isn’t a coach who relies on one philosophy to grind out wins. Unlike someone like Maurizio Sarri, the 44-year-old is flexible in his approach when it comes to the whiteboard. Over the course of past two seasons, the Wolves gaffer has tried out formations like 3-4-3, 4-3-2-1 and 3-5-2.
His flexibility is what makes him adapt to any challenge as quickly as possible.
Santo is usually known for implying a pressing style of play. A well-known admirer of a three-man defence, the manager instructs his defenders to play the ball out from the back and find his widemen. In a 3-5-2 system, his three-man defence consisting of Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho has worked wonders. Neves, in particular, impressed last season while operating in a holding midfield role. Dendoncker on the left added steel with his physicality while Moutinho put his creativity and ball-winning abilities to excellent use on the right.
Jonny and Matt Doherty fulfilled their offensive and defensive duties on the flanks to exceptions. Forward duo Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez flourished in a partnership chipping in with important goals.
While the current roster isn’t what one would call a ‘complete squad’, the Midlands outfit are taking every step towards building one.
Wolves have made some shrewd and intelligent moves in the transfer market in the current and the last summer. In 2018, Diogo Jota, Willy Boly, Rui Patricio, Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker arrived at Molineux, with the latter two signing on loan. This summer, the club have been wise enough to thrash out permanent deals for both Dendoncker and Jimenez. Further, they have strengthened defence by securing Jesus Vallejo from Real Madrid on loan.
Coupled with Nuno Espirito Santo’s brilliance, Wolverhampton’s transfer market activity and decision to sign players with the right attitude could well see the club breaking the top 6 barricade next season.
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