Wolverhampton Wanderers season previews: Will Europe be a distraction?
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: A general view of the outside of Molineux before the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at Molineux on April 2, 2019 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Last season Wolverhampton Wanderers over achieved far and beyond what anyone could have predicted - qualified or not. Not even the most optimistic of Wolves fan will have realistically predicted themselves to be snatching points away from home against the big six, and finishing in a Europa League qualifying position.

When you look at their squad from the season just gone, it may not have been as deep as the quality portrayed, but it certainly wasn't your usual newly promoted relegation contending side.

The question is now, not only should they have finished where they did, but also, can Nuno Espirito Santo improve on their already prosperous return to the Premier League with the combined pressure of a historic return to European football?

Transfer Business

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After all of the accusations towards them since being taken over by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, Wolverhampton have not been afraid to slow down their spending. The Midlands side look set to boil more blood of their rivals as they have spent a Financial Fair Play shaking £97m.

Since the opening of the transfer window, it seemed as though Nuno was fairly content with the players he had available to him, with only a few rumours been thrown around with very little substance - Diego Costa being one of those consistent names.

That was until the final week of July in which we have seen four major signings since the 27th. The loan signing of Spanish Under-21 captain Jesús Vallejo from Real Madrid kickstarted somewhat of a raid in the transfer market.

Within the last few days, three new faces have suddenly appeared at Molineux. Including a potential fresh new goalscorer in AC Milan's Patrick Cutrone who signs on a permanent deal worth £16m. There is an expectation that the youthful Italian striker can challenge already prolific Raúl Jiménez in being the main man up top for the Wanderers this season.

Other additions include the Portuguese duo Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordão from SS Lazio for a combined £25m. These are two exciting prospects who although may not instantly make an impact in the first team, they are certainly part of Nuno's plans for the future.

Neto is a frantic young winger who has the pace to compete in the Premier League. As soon as he adapts to the English physicality and he has the intelligence there is no doubt he can become a crucial fit into Wolves' thrilling counter-attacking style.

A key aspect of Wolves' summer transfer business is that they haven't rolled over to 'bigger clubs' aiming to poach core members of their successful squad last season. Impressively, the only permanent exit of the transfer window so far has been 24-year-old centre half Kortney Hause to fellow Midlanders Aston Villa for £3m, following their play-off promotion from the Championship.

Key arrivals:

  • Raúl Jimenez - £35m
  • Pedro Neto - £16m
  • Patrick Cutrone - £16m
  • Leander Dendoncker - £12m
  • Bruno Jordão - £8.5m
  • Jesús Vallejo - Loan

Key departures:

  • Kortney Hause - £3m
  • Ivan Cavaleiro - Loan
  • Hélder Costa - Loan
  • Rafa Mir - Loan

One to watch

Morgan Gibbs-White

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His first full senior season. A break-through season. The Stafford born, Wolves supporting midfielder featured 26 times - only managing to aid his teammates directly in a goal once. This could be the season the youngster puts his stamp on his native Midlands.

It appears as though Nuno is aiming to be playing a 3-4-1-2 in the coming campaign, so Gibbs-White's impact on the side could depend on where João Moutinho features in that - whether it be as part of the two central midfielders, or the creative attacking midfielder.

The 19-year-old definitely will be expected to chip in creating more chances in this Wolves side this season. But that all depends on whether or not Nuno gives the midfielder the trust he deserves.

Wildcard

Ruben Vinagre

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The Portuguese full back may have not been the most favoured left-back at the club, competing with experienced Spaniard Jonny Otto. However, for the 21 appearances he did make for the Wanderers, Ruben Vinagre certainly aimed to impress.

Not only did he impress last season, he has been preferred in both legs of the First Round Europa League Qualifiers against Crusaders FC - even managing to get on the scoresheet.

Powerful, pacey, positive full-back slot elegantly into Nuno's style of play and that's why he will definitely play a role in whatever Wolves achieve this season.

What to expect

Despite the piling external pressure on Nuno and his men, there is absolutely no doubt that they will be challenging in every competition they feature in.

It is likely that the domestic cups may suffer due to fixture congestion and a shallow squad but the with everything taken into account, there is no reason why Wolves can't finish as strong as they did in last season and still have a successful return to Europe.

Predicted Premier League finish: 7th.

Europa League prediction: Quarter Final.

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