Why high flying Wolves could be relegated this season

One of the surprise packages in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons has been Wolverhampton Wanderers better known as simply Wolves. Under manager Nuno Espirito Santo the club hasn’t won any trophies but they have realised personal dreams.

This has included finishing in the top half of the table regularly and even qualifying for the Europa League and doing well in that competition. Last season Wolves really outdid themselves and got as far as the quarter finals before being narrowly knocked out by Spanish side Sevilla.

In the Premier League Wolves have finished 7th in their last two campaigns and have been solid in the league beating teams that finish above them. In short Wolves under Santo have become a team that other clubs even the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City do not look forward to playing. That is the respect that the club have garnered over the last few seasons.

Even in this campaign Wolves had started well and whilst nobody was expecting them to challenge for the league title another top seven finish did seem on. And then December came. But in reality one could go back to last summer when Wolves sold the excellent Diogo Jota. Not only did they sell Jota for just £40m (he was arguably worth between £60-65m) they also sold him to another Premier League rival in Liverpool. It made little sense.

In the Jota deal there was only one winner and it wasn’t Wolves. Of course Jota’s career has been halted at Liverpool through injury, that is just plain bad luck but before his injury he was proving his worth and why Jurgen Klopp wanted him so bad.

Then came a terrible blow in the winter months when Raul Jimenez Wolves’ prolific striker suffered a head injury after a clash of heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz. Luiz only missed a couple of games but Jimenez has been out for 2 months and it has really hurt Wolves. Jimenez scored 27 goals in all competitions for Wolves last season and had scored 4 goals in the league from 10 games before his injury.

Daniel Podence has taken advantage of Jota’s sale and Jimenez’s absence by stepping up and scoring goals and he has been a bright spark for the club although can also be prone to injuries and Pedro Neto is another player who is trying hard for the club.

But there has to be some concern now because Wolves haven’t won a game in the Premier League since December 15th, 2020 when they beat Chelsea 2-1 at home. That was an impressive result and seemed to underline that the club had some back bone to them, much like Leicester for example. But Wolves wouldn’t be able to tie any of the Leicester players boots right now to steal an infamous English saying.

Wolves have earned just 8 points from their last 30 and 2 points from their last 15 and in recent form the club would be 2nd from bottom in the league.

Now fans will be worrying if the club are free falling? It has happened before of course in any league and Wolves have lost their last 2 games in row against Everton and more surprisingly struggling team West Bromwich Albion. They conceded 3 goals at home to West Brom, a side who had previously scored just 12 goals from 18 games. Wolves’ defence seems to be going through a lack of confidence and they have conceded 8 goals in their last 3 games.

Wolves have dropped to 14th and one must be wondering is there any good news on the horizon? Well presently despite Wolves’ poor form the club do have a 10 point safety net from the bottom three. Also one would have to believe that with the players they have and despite the injuries that the club have had to endure that they will hit a sweet spot.

That doesn’t mean European football for next season though however the club may just except finishing 10th this season after this scare.

Manager Santos will be worried though because it could be argued that the club haven’t suffered like this over this extended period since Santos has taken charge. He will understand that one win will kick start his team again.

At the weekend Wolves will play a tricky match against Chelsea, however the Blues are suffering much like their opponents for a lack of confidence and belief in themselves, that game should be interesting.

Wolves should have enough in the tank, but no club as they say is too good to go down and if Wolves don’t start to pick up in their next 3 games a relegation fight could be on the cards. What a season it has been because just 8 weeks ago we couldn’t have seen this story coming from Wolves.

The question will be asked who will save Wolves if results do not go their way in the coming weeks and one light at the end of the tunnel could be the return of Raul Jimenez. No date has been fixed for the talented strikers return but just his presence will certainly lift the dressing room, and a huge lift is what Wolves need right now.

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How Wolves have made progress in the Premier League with their football and sports science

Wolves have had some rich and successful years in the top tier of English football though we would have to go back to the 1950s when the team were at their best. Then they won 3 league titles and finished that decade off with an FA Cup win. After that the club had many problems, even in the 1980s they were close to financial ruin and bad investments and runs of bad luck have not helped the club in the latter years. But all of that has changed under current owners Fosun International.

Fosun themselves were only founded in 1992 and took ownership of Wolves in 2016 for just £45m and steadily they have seen incredible progress. When one thinks that Wolves have become a staple top 10 side in the Premier League and reached the quarter finals of the Europa League last season that is a stunning achievement compared to just over a decade ago when the club were plying their trade in the 3rd tier of English football.

It took a season to get their man who would turn out to be a superb capture in former Porto player Nuno Espirito Santo. And he has gone on to have a win rate of 51% with Wolves winning 84 of the 164 games he has coached for the club and losing just 39 games. Indeed only in his first managerial job with Rio Ave has he ever dipped under a 50% win average.

It was in Santo’s first season with the club that he made a huge impact as Wolves won the Championship for promotion to the Premier League and it was special given that it was in the clubs 140th anniversary year. The following season in the Premier League was Wolves’ return to the top tier since 2012 and they finished seventh and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup in a memorable season for them.

The next season the club finished in the same position proving their consistency and of course had that superb run in the Europa League reaching the quarter-finals and only being beaten in the end by Sevilla who would go on to win the competition that season.

In Santo’s time so far there are a few players that have really stuck out. One was sold on to Liverpool this season in Diogo Jota and the player was initially taken on loan and then bought from Porto. Jota was an incredibly important part of the Wolves set up but was sold to Liverpool this season for a reported £45m. This was smart business from an financial stand as Fosun had made back their total investment in the club on one player. But it does remain to be seen how Jota’s sale especially to another Premier League club could hurt Wolves in the long run.

The other player who has made an impact and arguably the biggest is Raul Jimenez. Rare has it become not to see the players name amongst the goalscorers for the club now. Jimenez was bought from Benfica after a loan spell and he has scored 34 league goals in the last 82 games and has started this season well too scoring 4 goals in the first six matches.

Good investment, a driven manager and buying the right players are just three things that any club needs to be successful but there is also a key element that has been keeping Wolves well above the water and that has been in their injury department. Compared to other Premier League clubs Wolves have a very small percentage of injuries and in most games last season key players were always available and they hardly had any problems on the sidelines- they have started this season off in the very same way.

One of those key players behind the scenes was physio Phil Hayward who spent 11 years at the club. He has since moved onto LA Galaxy but the thinking is that Hayward spent such a happy and successful time at Wolves that he has passed on much of his information. Currently only Jonny is out long term for the club and Santo’s has a clean bill of health for his squad, he will be touching the dressing room wood that it stays this way throughout the season just like it has for the previous years.

Presently Wolves have had a bumpy start to the new season but the club are finding their way now and have gone their last 3 games unbeaten winning two of them and drawing their game last weekend 1-1 against Newcastle. They go into this weekend in 9th place and are keeping up that tradition of not only being a thorn in the side of so many of the bigger clubs but also a top 10 staple side.

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EPL Player of the Week – Diogo Jota (Wolves)

jotaIt is not really creating any headlines to say that Premier League new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers have impressed many a neutral this season. The club have been in the Premier League before, of course, and have experienced football as low as League One in the intervening years, but this time they have played their top flight football at a level which seems assured to keep them among England’s elite for the forseeable future. While things can change in the blink of an eye, of course, Wolves have some real quality among their ranks – chief among them is this week’s EPL Player of the Week, Diogo Jota.

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EPL Best XI – Week 29

pereiraThis past weekend saw no less than three local derbies in the Premier League, with two of them winding up as draws. Of the six clubs involved in these three games only Chelsea triumphed, toppling Scott Parker’s Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a spirited performance from the hosts, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri last week after only 19 games in charge. Spurs hosted Arsenal while Liverpool made the short trip to Everton, with both of these games ending in stalemate. Arguably the finest action to be seen was at Old Trafford, where resurgent Man Utd battled to a 3-2 home win against Southampton, who on this performance alone really should not find themselves in the trouble they are in. Adopting a 4-3-3 this time, let’s see which players stood out!

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