Wolverhampton Wanderers were never a big-name team in the Premier League, however, the arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo as their manager in 2017 changed that. Since then Wolves went on to romp their way towards the 2017-18 Championship title and returned to the Premier League after an absence of 6 years. Since returning to the Premier League, Wolves continued their trend of impressive results with a seventh-place finish, which is their second-best finish since 1979-80. In the 2019-20 season, Wolves were in a respectable sixth position and were drawn against Olympiakos in the Europa League round of 16.
Let us check out how Nuno transformed this side.
Nuno Espirito Santo modified Wolves’ formation to a 3-4-3 when he took charge of the Championship club in 2017. This meant he followed a counter-attacking approach to his game and had to establish a very strong defensive base, which he did by having Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Ryan Bennett, Matt Doherty and Jonny Otto being his regular starters.
The offensive threats are mostly provided by Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez. The attacking duo was supplied by the No. 10, Joao Moutinho. The Portuguese playmaker created havoc by regularly playing the ball forward to the two strikers who pressurized the opposition defence with their relentless pressing.
Nuno changed his formation this season to a 3-5-2. Unfortunately, though this didn’t bring the results Nuno hoped it would. Hence Espirito Santo changed the formation from 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3. This allowed the emergence of Adama Traore, who was able to shred opposition defences with his blistering pace and his extraordinary physical strength. Perhaps the biggest example of this took place when Adama Traore left Manchester CIty’s defence stunned and exposed when he scored twice in Wolves’ 2-0 win over The Citizens.
A Coach for the Team
One of the biggest strengths that Nuno possess is his elite man-management skills. This can be exemplified with the rise of Adama Traore. Traore initially struggled to make an impact in the Premier League, but Nuno never lost faith in him. After a pretty average first season, Nuno decided to make some tactical tweaks and Adama is now a star player for Wolves.
Nuno is not a rigid coach and besides being very flexible with his tactics, he also has a great problem-solving ability. This was proved after Wolves had a very tepid first half to the 2019-20 season having to wait 6 games before getting their first win with a 2-0 home win against Watford. He completed an utter turnaround of those misfortunes after Wolves’ big win against the defending champions, Manchester City. Since then, Wolves have lost only 4 games in the Premier League with 2 of them coming from the hands of league leaders Liverpool.
Since Wolves were bought by the Chinese investment group Fosun, Wolves have made a great transition from their Championship days having brought in Premier League players whilst they were fighting for a promotion bid in the Championship.
In their 2017-18 season Wolves managed to sign Ruben Neves, a player who was playing in the Champions League with his side FC Porto. The following season, Wolves signed experienced stalwarts like Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho from Sporting Lisbon and Monaco respectively. They also managed to bring in Jonny Otto from Atletico Madrid and signed Raul Jimenez on a loan, which was made permanent in the 2019-20 season.
Signings like these meant that players from all around the world were interested in joining Wolves because they believed in the project set by the Wolves’ board and Nuno’s approach towards a game.
Wolves’ transition from a side fighting in the Championship to becoming Premier League heavyweights in just 3 years shows the quality of the job that Nuno has carried out for this team. Impressive results against the ‘Big 6’ of the Premier League has made Wolves into a side which needs to be taken seriously. The narrowness and the counter-attacking approach using the formation 3-4-3 reminds us of Antonio Conte’s revolutionary 3-4-3 tactic in the Premier League, and just like the Italian, Nuno is likely to go on and achieve great results with his Wolves’ side.