This is the first part of a series where we analyse a few of the top teams in the Championship. We’ll ask the same questions of each one, taking an in-depth look at each side from transfers to tactics, form to chances.
First up, a club who have a new manager, plenty of investment and are off to a great start, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
How solid is the squad? Is there enough depth?
Wolves have brought in a few names, the most notable by far being the defensive midfielder Ruben Neves. The Portugese international midfielder was signed from Porto this season for a Championship-record £16.1 million. The squad has been boosted by another 11 signings, all with impressive pedigree and experience.
With a fantastic level of experience, a new coach, a nice mix of English players and foreign flair, it’s a squad that looks as though it could go the distance to me.
Does the manager have enough experience?
Wolves have brought in the experienced Nuno Espirito Santo to help guide them to promotion this year. He was a former goalkeeper, playing in Spain for Deprtivo la Corouna and Osasuna, among others. He also featured briefly for Porto, as well as a short spell in Russia. His coaching career has been more successful, leading his first team, Rio Ave to both of the domestic cup finals in his native Portugal. Reaching the finals lead to qualification for the Europa League for the first time in their history.
His success caught the eye of Spanish club Valencia, who signed him on a three year deal. After leading them to an impressive 4th place finish and Champions League qualification (including beating a certain Real Madrid 2-1 at home and drawing 2-2 away), he helped to restore a little glory to a faded giant.
After resigning the following year, he had an unsuccessful year at Porto where he unfortunately didn’t win a trophy – a disaster for the premier club in Portugal. He was relieved of his duties at the end of the season. Barely a week later, he was appointed head coach of Wolves.
With top-level European experience, experience in finals, a couple of major clubs on his career I’d say yes, he’s more than experienced to cope with the Championship!
The Club’s transfer business…
The summer window for Wolves has been one of the most impressive of the window for me. There have been 12 arrivals and 8 departures. The arrivals column sees a mix of Premier League and European experience, with a few internationals amongst the group.
The Championship record signing, Ruben Neves had already played 59 times for Porto by the age of 20. Keep your eye on him – he has plenty of potential. Add in the experience of Barry Douglas (who has played top-flight football in Scotland, Poland and Turkey.
The 12 have been boosted with homegrown talents such as Ryan Bennett and John Ruddy.
It’s a squad that has been heavily invested in, but the transfer business seems to have been done with a plan and a measured approach. There’s no panic-buying here, that’s for sure.
How do they play – more defensive or more attacking football?
Santo has lined Wolves up with 3 at the back and a patient, possession-based style. This slower pace may be the key to winning games in the Championship, where teams are likely to throw men forward and overwhelm with numbers. As Boro proved a couple of years ago, a tight defence is key in this league and so far, it’s a strategy that is working well for Wolves.
It’s a long season in the Championship and such a relentless season can take its toll on players, especially those not used to the English game. By adopting a slower tempo, the smart money says Wolves will be effected less by this than most other teams.
Will they play better at home or in the away games?
So far, so good for Wolves – they’ve played well both home and away. Their only defeat so far was to Cardiff, which is no shame – they haven’t dropped a point all season. If the defence holds tight on the road, they will be tough to anyone to break down, home or away.
With goals coming from all over the field, Wolves aren’t relying on a single area of the team to score. Again, this could prove key to success this year.
What they can get from the next 6 – 10 fixtures?
The next few games don’t look too tricky for an in-form Wolves side. They face a couple of stiff tests against Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, but aside from that I’d wager them to be winners in most of the others. In mid-October they face Aston Villa in a midlands derby. It’s a game Wolves should win, but you never can tell with a derby game. Given Wolves are the home side I’d expect three points going to Wolves.
It’ll be an interesting season for Wolves – a new manager, investment in the squad and a great start. Could it all be a fairy tale start that fizzles away to nothing? Only time will tell, but so far it looks like Wolves could certainly be challenging for promotion come the end of the season!