It appears that, in terms of league position at least, Wolves have finally stagnated. After a rollercoaster three years, starting with relegation from the Premier League in 2012, the last two campaigns have seen the Midlands club finish in almost identical positions in the Championship.
It has been all-change at Wolves this summer. The departure of Paul Lambert after the conclusion of last season was the first move in Wolves making a serious statement of intent for the next campaign. It was clear that the owners felt changes were needed and on the basis of league finishes that the club wasn’t progressing.
The arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo has been met with some scepticism by Wolves fans. It is the opinion of some that Paul Lambert had done a good job of steadying the ship at the Molineux and deserved more time. One other cause of concern for Wolves fans is the lack experience in English football of their new manager.
However, the Portuguese has a reasonable managerial record and Rafael Benitez, David Wagner and Jaap Stam all enjoyed very impressive seasons, despite none of them having a full season in the Championship prior to the last campaign.
The influence of super-agent Jorge Mendes on Fosun International has justifiably caused sizeable concern for many Wolves fans since the Chinese ownership took over the Championship club last July. The influence of Mendes was clear during the departure of Lambert, following a rumoured dispute over the Scot not getting the final say over which players were signed.
A great number of players have arrived in the Black Country since Fosun took over; including many from Mendes’ native Portugal or from clubs the super-agent has had ties to.
Of all the signings to arrive since the takeover, there is one standout signing – Helder Costa. The Portuguese was signed for £13 million and became a key player during the 2016/17 campaign, collecting the player of the season award and putting in a memorable display against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Although injury has just struck the talented winger, this could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Espirito Santo as a lengthy injury to a player is likely to tone down the reported interest in him. If Wolves are successful in holding onto Costa, he will no doubt have a major part to play in the 2017/18 campaign once he returns from injury.
Wolves have added eight new players into the mix this summer, which in itself is a large statement considering we are only halfway through July. A club that is sorting out it’s transfer business this early in the summer is giving itself the best possible chance for the players to gel and become accustomed to their new manager’s style of play.
The additions of John Ruddy, Barry Douglas and Roderick Miranda are all very good bits of business. The biggest statement of the bunch is of course new record signing – Ruben Neves. The former Porto man arrived for a Championship record fee.
The 20-year-old has two caps for Portugal and became the youngest captain in Champions League history when he led his side out against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in 2015 and was attracting attention from many top clubs on Europe, including Chelsea and Liverpool, according to the Express and Star. The midfielder is a real coup for Wolves and if he performs to his maximum could propel the team into the upper reaches of the division.
This signing indicates the benefit of having someone like Jorge Mendes on board at it has given Wolves the ability to sign players that they would never have had the opportunity to previously.
Despite concerns over the healthiness of the relationship between Fosun and Jorge Mendes, it is unlikely that supporters will be too concerned as long as the side is winning games and pushing for promotion. However, the risk appears if Wolves were to fail in achieving promotion this next season as they could begin to feel the wrath of Financial Fair Play.
This may be a risk that Fosun are willing to take as they have already shown that they are not scared to spend vast sums of money on players and there is still a long while left before the window closes. The playing squad undoubtedly has talent in it and new manager Nuno Espirito Santo has made a promising start to the pre-season with an impressive victory over Werder Bremen which drew praise for his side’s style of play.
It remains to be seen whether Wolves can still be competing towards the end of a long Championship season, but early signs indicate that they could be a surprise inclusion in the promotion chase.