Wolves: The summer transfer window and what they need to do

Wolves are searching for a new manager following the departure of Nuno Espirito Santo but this is a big summer for the club in terms of playing personnel too

WOLVES
Image: Wolves face a big summer ahead with a new manager and maybe some new signings too

After a challenging campaign and with popular manager Nuno Espirito Santo gone, we analyse the plans and priorities for Wolves in the summer transfer window.

Which positions are Wolves targeting?

Wolves' back three for the final game of the season was the first-choice trio of Conor Coady, Willy Boly and Romain Saiss - three regulars from their Championship promotion of three years ago, albeit with Saiss then operating in midfield. It highlights the need for change.

Departing head coach Nuno Espirito Santo did attempt to bolster the back line with the loan signing of Jesus Vallejo from Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 but that move did not work out and Wolves have looked to the squad for cover at the back since then.

But changes to formation and personnel have exposed the one-on-one skills of a previously watertight defence and emphasised the need for greater quality at the back. A specialist centre-back is expected to be a priority as Wolves look to freshen things up this summer.

It is a similar situation in midfield where Ruben Neves, Leander Dendoncker and Joao Moutinho have been the main options for the past three seasons. With Moutinho turning 35 in September, there is an acceptance another strong option is required in the middle.

Exclude Neves' three penalties and Wolves' three midfielders mustered only four goals between them in the Premier League this past season. Whether it is a genuine holding midfielder to protect the defence or a box-to-box option, Wolves will look for more there.

In attack, the return of Raul Jimenez should allow Fabio Silva to return to the deputy role for which he was first earmarked, with any signings likely to come in wide areas, depending on the formation plans of the new coach. The budget is tight but an overhaul is expected.

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What do the stats say about Wolves?

While Wolves' defence looked less assured than in previous seasons, the more glaring issue has been a lack of creativity at the other end of the pitch. Only the bottom four scored fewer goals and no Premier League team created fewer big chances than Nuno's side.

The injury to Raul Jimenez cannot be overlooked. Wolves were sixth in the table on the night he fractured his skull against Arsenal in November but there was a significant dip in form after that and though they scrambled enough points to stay up it was a real struggle.

At their best, Nuno's side were able to control games even without possession, but their more patient approach, choosing not to press but stay in position instead, appeared to go awry this past season. Now, that lack of energy in their game has become a problem.

No team in the Premier League covered less ground than Wolves with only Crystal Palace making fewer high-intensity sprints. That passivity has become a weakness.

What the manager has said…

Santo goodbye
Image: Nuno Espirito Santo suggested in April Wolves needed to rethink their squad size

Outgoing manager Nuno Espirito Santo on the squad size: "Our initial plan was A. It did not work out. We have tried to find other ways. We have to plan a different way.

"We have long-term injuries. We felt when we have problems with big players, the solutions are not ready. This is on the table to plan better."

What should Wolves do this summer?

Adama Traore celebrates his equaliser
Image: Adama Traore's future will be under the spotlight unless he signs a new deal

Sky Sports' Adam Bate writes: "While there is sadness that Nuno is leaving, many will be relieved a tough campaign has come to an end. The problem for Wolves is that it will need more than rest and recuperation to resolve some of the issues they are facing.

There will be hope Jimenez will hit the ground running on his return, although there can be no guarantees of that. The bigger problem is that Pedro Neto, the club's player of the year, and Jonny Otto, their much-missed wing-back, will not be fit again for some time.

For the new coach to improve Wolves in time for the restart, they will surely need to look to the market but the noises coming out of Molineux suggest any significant funding will need to be raised through player sales. Who can Wolves let go to make that happen?

Circumstances dictate that Jimenez and Neto are unlikely candidates. Boly has his admirers but at 30 cannot be expected to generate the funds required for a rebuild. Adama Traore, who is yet to sign a new contract, and the 24-year-old Neves are the obvious options.

Given how little threat Wolves posed once Traore went off the field with an injury during the first half of the defeat to Manchester United on the final day, allowing him to exit would be a risk. At times, giving the ball to Traore and hoping for the best has been the plan.

Whatever happens over the summer, the need for quality additions is obvious. Wolves managed that upon their arrival in the Premier League with Jimenez, Jonny, Moutinho, Traore, Dendoncker and goalkeeper Rui Patricio all making a big impact.

But the recruitment has been patchy since then. Whether it is through Jorge Mendes' contacts book or the work of the new manager on the training ground, Wolves can ill afford a misstep now. This 45-point season shows the margin for error is perilously small.

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