Wolverhampton Wanderers are so close to being on the cusp of something special. They are in the knock out round of Europa League which starts in February, FA Cup replay with Manchester United this week and challengers to not just top 6 but even top 4 this season. So what could be the factors which determine whether the great team that manager Nuno Espirito Santo has built will achieve big or be disintegrated as we have seen with many great outperforming teams in the past.
Ability to retain players during January transfer window ?
Two major summer signings, Patrick Cutrone and Jesus Vallejo, are leaving just six months after signing because they have failed to shine at Molineux. Raul Jimenez’s future has been postponed by Nuno until the end of the season but will he be able to hold the player.
Nuno Espirito Santo said ” We have to make a decision when we have to make it – and that moment is the end of the season. For now, Raul is doing very well, and he has to maintain these levels of intensity, the high standards that he puts himself in every training session and every game for him to have good performances in the day of the competitions. When that day comes, we will be able to decide.”
The Spaniard Adama Traore has been putting in superb displays for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side of late. He was nominated for both the Premier League player of the month and PFA player of the month awards for December – after scoring against both Tottenham and Manchester City. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have had kind words for Traore.
Ruben Neves is being heavily linked with a move from Wolverhampton Wanderers to Manchester United. The Wolves central midfielder even sent United fans into meltdown on Friday when a picture was circulated purporting to show him in the back of a car heading to the club’s Carrington training base. Of course, that picture wasn’t of him with the Portuguese later snapped by the club training with Nuno Espirito Santo ‘s side on Friday ahead of yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle United. Neves is an integral part of Nuno’s setup, with the club challenging for another European spot this season.
A small bench with games coming up thick and fast
Injuries to Willy Boly and Diogo Jota, combined with the sale of Patrick Cutrone, means Nuno only has 14 fit first team players at present – and that needs to be addressed. Wolves’ bench last season included Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa, and both were discarded on the premise that it was full steam ahead with 3-5-2. That changed in September, which begs the question as to why one of them (Cavaleiro) wasn’t kept on. When left wing-back Ruben Vinagre is the most viable attacking option available off the bench it’s concerning.
In order to keep on progressing, Nuno will have to change his mantra otherwise the club will falter at the next hurdle of their quest. The 45-year-old recently revealed why he uses such a small squad and so far this term, that hasn’t looked likely to change with ten players featuring in 19 or more Premier League matches (there’s been 21 in total so far).
Patrick Cutrone just couldn’t buy a game, starting nine of 24 games in all competitions with Raul Jimenez being Nuno’s first and regular choice. But here lies the problem, if Raul Jimenez were to get injured, Wolves are quite frankly stuffed as there’s no other senior striker at the club. Likewise at right-forward for Adama Traore, at right wing-back for Matt Doherty and even at centre-back, the Portuguese native has been deploying two central midfielders there to make up for Willy Boly’s absence. He’s rather lucky that injuries and suspensions haven’t completely ripped through the squad.
Nuno’s strategy has to change if Wolves are to cement their place amongst the Premier League’s elite. Only the chief himself holds the cards to alter that.