Premier League prediction – Wolverhampton
Following an impressive seventh-place finish in the Premier League last season, the expectations put on Wolverhampton ahead of 2019/20 EPL season have been set high and rightfully so. With the strongest squad Wolves have had in decades, they look like a solid contender to finish top six in the league, and while the competition is tough, there are a few factors that work in favor of their ambitions heading into the next season.
The biggest nuisance for the “Big Six”
Wolverhampton returned to Premier League in 2018/19 season after seven long years fighting in both Championship and League One, however, they did not need long to make their presence known.
The same year Wolves climbed back to English top flight, they showcased immense strength and class by displaying incredible performances against the “Bix Six” across all competitions. While by no means the dominant force against English elite teams, Wolverhampton achieved a remarkable 6-4-4 record against such opposition. Furthermore, it’s worth noting Wolves failed to find the net in only three out of 14 clashes against the English best. Yet, it was their relatively poor performance against the remaining 14 teams that kept Wolves from finishing higher than seventh. They lost half of their 12 fixtures against the bottom six, which is a complete contrast to what Wolves produced against the top six.
With Europa league on the menu for Wolverhampton this season, Nuno Espírito Santo decided to bring in some much-needed reinforcements into the squad as they look to leave the mark on the European stage.
During the summer transfer window, Wolverhampton started spending like a big club, with almost €100 million (97) flying out of their pocket in order to sign 5 players. While spending big does not immediately mean success (looking at you Fulham), it is a sign of big and serious ambitions of a club. Both Leander Denconcker and Raul Jimenez have been brought back on a permanent deal following successful loan spells last season. Joining the already familiar duo will be Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordao from Lazio as well as talented Partick Cutrone from AC Milan. All of the signed players come off as a solid addition to the squad, which with that gained some much-needed depth to compete at the European stage.
The beloved AC Milan forward alongside Neto will beef up Wolves’ attack, which is a very welcome addition, considering Wolves scored only 47 goals last term. That, to put it into perspective is the least out of all top 12 teams. While we talk about new additions, it’s worth noting Wolves landed the 22-year old Real Madrid center-back Jesus Vallejo on a loan, who is considered a significant addition for the already solid Wolves defense.
Fighting on two fronts
Last but not least, we have to touch one thing that will could harm Wolves‘ chances of finishing top six. The added burden of competing on the European stage alongside incredibly tough EPL is Wolves’ biggest concern ahead of 2019/20 season and we cannot argue with that logic. Plenty of teams in the past struggled to juggle two balls, most notably Burnley, who finished 2017/18 EPL season, only to barely escape relegation the next season, when the Clarets finished 15th due to the added stress of European competition.
While we can comfortably say Nuno Espirito Santo’s men won’t be dragged to the bottom of the table like it was the case with Burnley, their packed schedule could harm the small core squad of players, which Santo heavily relies on to reach domestic success.
Nonetheless, the western-Midland outfit seem ready to take on the challenge. While acknowledging it may not be smooth sailing to the top six, Nuno Espirito Santo remains confident Wolves first foray into European competition in 29 long years will have no impact on their top-flight form. Yet, a change in his coaching style will be needed for them to remain relatively unfazed by European commitments.
It was no secret Santos preferred working with a compact squad last season, as he used the same starting XI for all nine opening matches of the season. However, with the added stress of additional matches, a more flexible selection policy will have to be used, giving key players a chance to rest ahead of important matches. If Santos manages to acknowledge that and start utilizing the full depth of his squad, we don’t see how Wolves’ Europa League campaign will harm their chances to finish in the top six.
Prediction: Wolves top six finish
Odds: 4.89 on Betfair exchange, 5.50 on most soft bookies and 7.50 on BlackType