It has been well publicised that Wolves have set a Premier League record by selecting the same starting 11 for the first 8 games of the season, and there is every reason to believe that record may be extended on Saturday. Put simply, the players that have taken Wolves to 7th in the Premier League are giving the manager no reason to change the team. And it’s been a feature of recent Wolves performances that all 11 players have been giving credible performances week in week out.
Our assessment of the 11 is here:
Patricio – both Liverpool and Chelsea paid around £70m for their new keepers in the summer but are either any better than the new Wolves keeper that will probably cost the club around £20m once the wranglings with Sporting Lisbon are complete? His positioning is excellent, he has made a string of top-class saves, and he has given additional confidence to a Wolves back line that have conceded only 2 goals in the last 6 league matches.
Bennett – talking to a Norwich season ticket holder when Wolves signed Bennett on a free in the summer of 2017, I was told he was not sad to lose such an error-prone defender. But in the last Wolves home game when he brought the ball out of defence and passed straight to a Southampton player, there were gasps from the fans around me in the stands, such is the rarity of mistakes from the defender in old gold. In the summer Wolves signed Dendoncker from Anderlecht, probably with the thought in mind to replace Bennett, but such has been his reliability and solid defending, that Nuno just could not justify leaving him out.
Coady – possibly the most remarkable decision Nuno has made at the club has been to convert Coady from a central midfield player, and occasional right back, who was performing at an ok level at best in the Championship, to the centre of the back 3. The player has never looked back since, is now the captain, and is being touted as a potential England international, Lukaku, Vokes, Austin and Ayew are the strikers that have got no change out of him at all in recent weeks. His distribution has been excellent, and he is getting better and better.
Boly – imperious at times in the Championship when brought in on loan last season and it was a key signing when Wolves made him a permanent signing in the summer. Had a couple of below par games early season but is now looking as in control at this level as he was last season. He has put his body on the line to make a number of key blocks this season and his ability to bring the ball out of defence and find a pass to set up counter attacks is key to how Wolves play.
Doherty – brought in for £75k when impressing against Wolves in a pre-season friendly for Bohemians in 2010, and Doc has never stopped improving since. He is now excelling as a right wing-back, has broken into the Irish team, and just been voted PFA Premier League Player of the Month. Tireless work up and down the flank is a feature of his game and it will have been no surprise to Wolves fans that he provided the breakthrough at Palace last week on his first venture into the opponents’ area. Wolves are often at their best in attack when he gets forward.
Neves – his signing was the moment football started taking notice of the new Wolves, and to say he has lived up to the fee and the expectations would be an understatement. Hard to believe he is only 21 and has years of improvement left in him. Has scored a string of fabulous goals for the club, his passing range is already the thing of legends, and he stands alongside some of the best players ever to wear gold and black. And he is also very adept at winning the ball in midfield as he did countless times at Palace last week. Wolves goals at West Ham and Man Utd recently both came after he had won the ball and set up attacks. The sensational pass he made to set up a goal for Portugal last week further enhanced his reputation and let the rest of the world know what Wolves supporters have the privilege of watching every week.
Moutinho – it’s one of the great mysteries of our times that Wolves managed to bring in a player of this quality for £5m in the summer. Compliments Neves ideally with his probing passing and impressive work rate. Scored a great goal at Old Trafford and has quickly established himself as a first choice.
Jonny Castro Otto – apart from having a great name that wouldn’t be out of place in the Godfather, he is a more than decent wing-back and has now broken into the Spanish national team. Many were surprised that Barry Douglas was sold in the summer, but few now would argue with that decision and most would love his loan move to be made permanent sometime soon.
Costa – came to English fans attention when he ripped Liverpool apart in an FA Cup tie at Anfield. Injury halted his progress last season but he is back to his best now and scored in his debut for Portugal at the weekend. Clearly likes the big occasion as he was outstanding at Old Trafford recently, and his speed and trickery will trouble most Premier League fullbacks.
Jimenez – scored a couple of goals early season and hasn’t scored since, but his overall game has been excellent as his running off the ball, and close control in the area has seen him set up countless openings for teammates, and his list of assists has been increasing by the week. Would get my vote as player of the season so far.
Jota – one of the stars of Wolves Championship success saw him end as top scorer and his positive running at defences made him a real handful at that level. Not yet found that form this season but you sense he is only a goal away from take off and scoring for Portugal U21s at the weekend may have put him in the mood. Those positive attacking runs are starting to emerge though, and 3 players have been booked in Wolves last two games through stopping him illegally.
Outside of the regular eleven, the Wolves squad have had to be patient. Traore has been getting regular game time from the bench and looks an ideal impact sub. And the same may be said of Cavaleiro who scored with his first touch in the Premier League against Southampton, then hit the bar at Palace.
But for now, there’s nothing boring about watching the same 11 week, in week out. They have set Wolves up for their best ever Premier League season, and another 3 points against Watford at Molineux on Saturday would see Wolves knocking harder on the door of the European qualification places.