WOLVES were fairly comfortable winners at Sheffield United in their first match of the Premier season, but you got the feeling it could have been even better than a 2-0 victory at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United could find their sophomore season a tough one, although the neutrals will delight in any success that comes their way. For Wolves, the only thing stopping them from being popular among the average British football fan is the fact they are owned by a Chinese conglomerate and they are part of the Gordian knot that is the mysterious Jorge Mendes network – hence there are 10 players from Portugal in their first team squad.
Wolves are not in the very top billionaires’ club, but they are among the leaders of the second tier of wealthy club owners, and they play a brand of football that is exciting and easy on the eye. After two seasons of finishing seventh, they could be ready to make the leap to the next level of the Premier League. In their more traditional old gold shirts, as opposed to a rather over-yellowed version in 2019-20, Wolves showed pace and aggression. They were also way ahead of their hosts, Sheffield United, whom they killed-off in the first 10 minutes with two goals.
Wolves had a longer season than most in 2019-20 and reached the last eight of the Europa League, losing to Sevilla in their 17th game of the campaign. They failed to qualify for Europe by a narrow margin (goal difference of just three goals), but that didn’t extinguish the feel-good factor around Wolves. In fact, an absence of European football might improve their chances of a higher Premier League placing.
The pace and purpose of Wolves’ attacking impressed against Sheffield United, with Raúl Jiménez and Adama Traoré looking particularly sharp. Jiménez scored their first goal with a finish that underlined his agility and accuracy. He’s 29 and a client of Mendes (West Ham will need no reminding of that) and has scored 45 goals in 100 games for Wolves. The Mexican is, without doubt, one of the best strikers in the Premier League.
Traoré, who is 24 years of age, looks like a force of nature. His bulldozing style shouldn’t detract from the fact that he is richly skilful and is one of the best dribblers in the game. The 2020-21 season could be his time and if he can curb the temptation to hold on to the ball too long, he will be a valuable creator, as well as a taker, of goals.
Wolves lost Matt Doherty to Tottenham but received around £ 15 million for the Irish defender. The club has already been in the market with the £ 35 million acquisition of Portuguese teenager Fabio Silva from Porto and Lyon’s experienced left back Fernando Marçal, picked up for a bargain € 2 million. They also signed, on loan, Porto midfielder Vitinha. Silva is a rising star but Wolves may look at what happened to the last young player who had expectation poured upon him, João Félix, and how he has fared at Atlético Madrid. For a club with a relatively small core squad, new signings were badly needed at Molineux.
The Wolves project is still in its early stages but it is clear the club’s owners consider coach Nuno Espírito Santo is the man for the job. He’s just signed a new three-year contract and there are certain to be further reinforcements at the club in the coming weeks and months. Judging by their opening weekend win, this season could be their best chance to break into the top six for the first time for 40 years.