FALL FROM GRACE: IS TIME UP FOR NUNO AT WOLVES?
For the youngest generation of English football fans Nuno Espirito Santo is part of the furniture at Molineux, having brought the club back to the topflight.
Joining the club in 2017, Nuno and Wolves won the Championship in his first season finishing above Cardiff City after being top for the majority of the season.
Wolves hadn’t looked back since their promotion, even reaching the quarterfinals of the Europa League while achieving two consecutive seventh place finishes in the Premier League.
But this season hasn’t quite gone to plan and after 23 matches they sit 12th in the league with only eight wins, so is it time for one of the ex-Porto keepers to move on?
This season hasn’t been straight forward for any club, with an incredibly condensed schedule but the Wanderers have had some major injury and transfer woes as well.
Diogo Jota left to head to Jurgen Klopp’s champions, Liverpool, but the hefty fee of around £41m made that loss more acceptable as it turned a huge profit in a financially difficult time.
Nuno had cover in the wide regions, with the young talent of Pedro Neto and new signing Daniel Podence offering pace and creativity to supply Raul Jimenez in tandem with Adama Traore.
Traore’s productivity can easily be questioned this season, last campaign it appeared he’d overcome this weakness, but he has no direct goal contributions so far.
However, the plan comes undone once more, with Jimenez suffering an awful head injury against Arsenal as him and David Luiz crashed into one another from a corner.
There were major doubts about whether Jimenez would ever play football again, but that hurdle appears conquered with everyone around the club remaining reluctant to speculate a return date.
Nuno had invested this summer to develop the squad for the future and there is no clearer example of this than the record-signing of Fabio Silva for around £35m.
Like most players of his age, the plan would’ve been to bed the 18-year-old into the side, but the injury has led to him already starting 10 games and scoring twice.
There have also been times where Nuno has decided to play without a recognised striker instead and has led to the signing of Willian Jose in the January transfer window.
I think it’s unfair to blame Wolves’ poor performances on Nuno when the main talisman of his side Jimenez has been unavailable for such an extended period of time.
However, one area that would worry Nuno would be the greater fragility of the Wanderers defence, last season they conceded 40 goals, already this campaign they’ve had 32 scored against.
The only transfer in and out was that of Matt Doherty to Tottenham and the purchase of replacement Nelson Semedo, fresh from Barcelona’s 8-2 thumping from Bayern Munich.
There has also been an occasional tactical change away from the typical back five, to a conventional four to carry a more attacking threat making the defence more penetrable.
This backline has also introduced a few young talents with Max Kilman appearing 15 times in the Premier League who has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water.
I genuinely believe this season must be viewed as one of transition for Nuno and those around Wolves, with the injury woes and players lost this transfer window.
He has shown he is capable of taking this side into Europe and it would be very hard for an alternative manager to achieve Europa League football with a squad so suited to Nuno’s style of football.
The obvious manager out of work would be Frank Lampard and it’s still yet to be seen how he would manage without the massive financial backing of an owner like Roman Abramovic.
Nuno is the perfect manager for Wolves at this moment in time to continue to see them fight for European football for next season, with the entire squad one year more experienced.