Wolves season preview: Molineux men want more than survival
How high can Championship winners finish in Premier League?
By Adam Bate
Last Updated: 06/08/18 9:03am
Wolves have huge ambitions after winning the Championship but will they be able to flourish in the Premier League? We take a look in our season preview...
Last season: 1st (Championship)
Title odds: 250/1
Relegation odds: 8/1
Major ins: Rui Patricio, Benik Afobe, Willy Boly, Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini, Ruben Vinagre, Joao Moutinho, Jonny Castro (loan), Raul Jimenez (loan).
Major outs: Ben Marshall, Barry Douglas
Key player: Joao Moutinho
Excitement abounds at Molineux after Wolves' Championship title win. The famous old club is back in the Premier League with momentum on their side and supporters now dreaming of much more than mere survival. That there is a waiting list for season tickets seems to sum up the mood and the summer signings have only added to the feeling of optimism.
At just £5m, Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho looks a bargain, while his compatriot, goalkeeper Rui Patricio, is another top-class arrival. The departure of Barry Douglas baffled some but even that could dampen the excitement - if he is not good enough for where Wolves want to go than what exactly lies in store for Nuno Espirito Santo's side?
Of course, the Premier League will still be a challenge. The first three games pit Wolves against Everton, Leicester and Manchester City. But the reasons for hope extend beyond having super-agent Jorge Mendes on speed dial. Nuno has shown that he can set up a side to defend and attack. That will be crucial to their ambitions at the higher level.
Wolves were a fine possession side last season - second only to Fulham for short passes - but they also scored more goals on the counter-attack than any other team in the Championship. Diogo Jota and the rest have the pace to hurt better teams on the break and, in Ruben Neves, Wolves have a player with the passing range to find them.
Wolves success was built on a solid defence and soaking up pressure. While there are fears that the pivotal figure of Conor Coady, a converted midfielder, will be tested more in the top flight, the signs are that Nuno is doubling down. Romain Saiss also dropped back into defence during pre-season with Moutinho and Neves forming an adventurous midfield duo.
The pace of change is rapid. Too much too soon? Nobody at Molineux is thinking like that. While no promoted team in the past ten years has finished in the top eight at the first attempt, Wolves have the quality and the momentum to buck that particular trend. Will they do it? What is certain is that it is going to be fun finding out.
Charlie Nicholas' verdict
Wolves have made some excellent signings but they are also a big strong unit. Despite some people saying they can compete for a top-half finish, I see them being in the bottom half - but of the newly promoted sides they're the least likely to struggle. Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota were great last season but I really like the look of Joao Moutinho coming in for a ridiculously small fee of £5.5m. Creating chances and finishing them are what make and break newly-promoted sides and, with Moutinho added, they should be confident of having enough firepower.
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