The bare facts will say Wolves beat Burnley by 1-0 on Saturday but there was a chasm between the quality of the two teams on the day. Wolves had 50% more possession, more than 4 times as many shots, and 4 times as many corners. And I am sure I wasn’t the only Wolves supporter in the stadium thinking I was in some kind of dream watching the quality of football on offer compared to much that has been seen at Molineux over the last 30 years or so.
The win took Wolves up to 9th in the league which was around the position that many, including me, were hoping they could achieve this season. It’s so tempting now to raise the bar more and look for a higher position based on what we have seen so far but let’s not be greedy. 9th would be by far Wolves best ever season in the Premier League and if the owners, management and best players stick with the club then the future does look even rosier.
Nuno has decided to open the season with a settled side despite a nervy opening game against Everton and a defeat at Leicester. And the decision has reaped its benefits with the wins in the last two games and the fact that Wolves are the only team to take points of last year’s champions Man City. The side has an excellent balance and blend to it. The quality of Neves, Boly, Jota and Costa was there for all to see last season. Then Patricio, Castro, Moutinho and Jiminez have been new additions that have clearly improved the squad. And we have the trio of Doherty, Coady and Bennett who have all improved beyond recognition over the time Nuno and his coaching staff have been at the club.
And there is more than the first eleven that add to the confidence. Traore and Bonatini are the players being first called on from the bench to add fresh impetus to the team in the latter stages. The pair of them combined to get the winner at West Ham, and against Burnley, just as the visitors were looking they might make a late rally to grab an unjust point, the subs came on and created 4 or 5 really good scoring opportunities in the closing minutes. There are many that will be critical that none of those chances were taken, but there is surely also a positive note that Wolves were able to tear apart so often the defence of a team that has grown a real reputation in the top flight of being hard to beat. The goals will surely flow in time if Wolves can continue to be so successful in opening teams up.
On Saturday this new Wolves team will have the chance to play in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford and they certainly don’t go there as no-hopers. United themselves have been showing improvement in recent weeks and will be looking to build on that to make a challenge for a Champions League spot next season, and, they will hope, also challenge local rivals City for the domestic title this season. But there aren’t many that have seen Mourinho’s team this season that believe they will be good enough to do that, although they will clearly go into Saturday’s game as favourites to win. Wolves will give them a run for their money, and the fact they go into an away game against one of the country’s top teams, with a real chance of upsetting the applecart, shows how much the club have progressed.
After the trip to Old Trafford, and before the next international break, Wolves have a home game against Southampton and a trip to Crystal Palace and there will be every confidence that they will end this phase of the season still in the top half. And the rest of the country is now waking up to the idea that this Wolves team is a different proposition to most of the newly promoted teams that the Premier League has seen.