Wolves: Will they survive life in the Premier League?
Wolves brushed off Derby County last night in comprehensive fashion to move 12 points clear of third place.
In July 2016 Wolverhampton Wanderers were purchased by Fosun International with the expectation that the team would be contending for promotion.
Last season they floundered out of the gate with Walter Zenga before Paul Lambert steered the team to an unremarkable 15th place finish.
Change was afoot this summer and Nuno Espirito Santo was ushered in to bring about positive change at the Midlands club. But how have the club gone from 15th to 1st in the Championship?
While Wolves have flashed the cash since they got new owners, the most impressive thing about their summer business was the influx of great free transfers.
Ryan Bennett and John Ruddy have both been mainstays in the current side and have solidified the spine of Wolves while provided promotion experience from their days at Norwich.
Barry Douglas was brought in for £1 million which looks an absolute bargain – the left back has chipped in with four goals this season.
Oh, and who can forget Portuguese international Ruben Neves? He was brought in at a cost of over £15 million but looks worth every penny.
His six goals have been stunning and every game he looks a level above anyone else on the pitch. It will be difficult for Wolves to hold onto the 21-year-old this summer.
While it is important to bring in permanent transfers, often teams need a compliment of loan players if they are to see the job through. Wolves have utilised the loan market better than any other side in the Championship.
Willy Boly, Ruben Vinagre, Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini, Alfred N’Diaye and Benik Afobe have played 165 games collectively for Wolves and contributed 38 goals. Jota, who will be signed permanently this summer, and Bonatini have been excellent scoring 27 goals between them.
People may think super agent Jorge Mendes is giving Wolves an unfair advantage and that remains to be seen. However, you cannot deny how impressive his transfer business has been with the club.
It will be no shock to see Wolves as the highest scorers in the division because of the breadth of attacking talent they possess.
While they do not have the divisions top scorer – that honour goes to Matej Vydra of Derby – they have goals from around the team.
In defence Danny Batth, Willy Boly, Barry Douglas, and Matt Doherty have contributed nine goals between them. In midfield Ruben Neves, Romain Saiss, Alfred N’Diaye, and Ruben Vinagre have scored 14 goals.
There attacking unit has been outstanding too. Diogo Jota, Ivan Cavaleiro, Leo Bonatini, Helder Costa and Benik Afobe have contributed 45 goals. The attacking talents of this team will surely not diminish in the Premier League – such is their quality.
Great results against the divisions best
Wolves have won ten of their 16 games against the eight teams currently below them in the league.
The fact that they have been able to secure impressive victories away from home against Middlesbrough and Cardiff in the last couple of weeks shows that this team can deal with the high-pressure games.
But not only that, the team have gone toe-toe with Premier League sides this season in the cup competitions. They won 2-0 away at Southampton in the League Cup before blanking Manchester City for 120 minutes and then losing on penalties.
In January the team succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against Swansea but the Swans were enduring a new manager bounce at the time with Carlos Carvalhal.
What to expect next season?
While Wolves are not yet mathematically promoted – the likelihood is they will be over the next couple of weeks.
There is no doubt that Espirito Santo, Jorge Mendes, and the club have already began planning for next season to shape this side into a Premier League unit. But what do they need to do?
The target will obviously be survival, but Wolves can take heart from the fact that the last three teams to look this good at Championship level took to the Premier League with flying colours.
Sunderland in 1999 finished 7th in the Premier League after a +100 point season. Reading finished 8th after they finished with 100+ points in 2007. Newcastle also finished with over 100 points in 2010 and managed a comfortable 12th place finish the next year.
If the club invests money, there is no reason to suspect they won’t, and they can keep their best players then this team should survive comfortably next season.
Do you think Wolves can stay up next season? Let us know in the comment section below.