Nuno Espirito Santo

Nuno Espirito Santo got Wolverhampton Wanderers roaring again

Wolverhampton Wanderers appear to be enjoying a dramatic upturn in fortune this season under Nuno Espirito Santo. From narrowly surviving relegation the previous campaign, they currently sit atop of the Championship standings after 16 games.

A lot has changed at the Molineux in the past 16 months. Steve Morgan is no longer their Chairman; having relinquished power to Chinese investment group, Fosun. Super agent, Jorge Mendes, has become pretty influential at the club. Evident in the high influx of foreign imports, especially compatriots. As well, four managers have come and gone with little success in restoring the club’s initial glory.

Paul Lambert, the last of the bunch,  led the side to a disappointing 15th-place finish. But that’s not totally strange. Mediocrity is something of a norm in the West Midlands in recent times. Champion of England three times in the 1950s, Wolves has had just two brief spells in the Premier League since 1992. The second ended in 2012. Relegation to the third-tier followed. And since returning in 2013, it has been steady but unspectacular, rarely setting the division alight.

But perhaps the most extraordinary coup of some sort in same period may be the capture of ex-Valencia and Porto coach, Nuno Espirito Santo. Like most young Portuguese managers, Nuno falls into the category of Jose Mourinho disciple. Though his footballing philosophy is afar off the Manchester United manager, the 43-year-old lends plenty traits from the man whom he won the Champions League under in 2004.

Immediately after he joined his idol in England, a monstrous – albeit welcoming task starred him in the face. Nuno had to galvanize the individual talents in his Wolves team into a formidable unit. Alongside the tactician, 13 other new faces had arrived at the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground. Add the likes of Rúben Neves, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro who joined the summer before, that’s almost an entirely fresh squad. But to the surprise of many, the 43-year-old has done that with ease.

Not only has Nuno seamlessly integrated his team, he himself has jelled perfectly to the rigorous demands of the English game. Wolves look well drilled and organized for a side with so many new additions, numerous nationalities and an unfamiliar formation. They’re playing attractive, winning football which has gotten the fans positively purring. They press out of possession and counter-attack in a direct manner.

Friday’s 2-0 victory over Fulham was their 11th this term and seventh in the last nine league games. With closest rivals, Cardiff City, crashing away at Bristol City, Nuno’s team are now four points clear at the top, going into the international break. Interestingly, exactly this point last year, the Black Country club was languishing in the drop, having racked up just four wins from 16 matches. Wolves flaunt the second-best defence in the division, along with the deadliest attack, led by the Brazilian, Leo Bonatini.

That’s not to say they haven’t endured their own fair share of downtime. Nuno’s troops have thrown away maximum points five times  – three of those unexpected defeats. But what seems even more startling is the manner they’ve recouped. Of the three times, they’ve lost, Nuno’s lads have followed up with convincing wins. The loss to Cardiff was succeeded by a win against Southampton. Sheffield United defeat was reprieved by a convincing 4-0 win at Burton. While the QPR debacle was forgotten with victory at Norwich.

Critics will argue that Nuno Espirito Santo has the luxury of the best squad in the Championship to work with. However, he still deserves all the plaudits considering his predecessors had something similar yet failed.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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