Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

2019/20 Premier League preview - Wolverhampton Wanderers: Balancing Europa League and domestic duties the challenge

Richard Jolly runs the rule over Wolves ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers passes the ball during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers passes the ball during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Not since Ipswich Town in 2001 had a promoted club fared better than Wolves, who finished seventh.

The curiosity in a campaign when they kept beating the best lay in strangely poor results against the strugglers, suggesting that if only they win the most winnable games, they could rise still higher.

If the surprise is that such an obviously ambitious club have not brought in more new recruits, which could see them leapfrogged by mid-table rivals, the Italy international Patrick Cutrone, who scored 27 goals in two seasons at AC Milan, is an important arrival - and Wolves already had an excellent forward line in Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota before his acquisition.

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Who finishes where in 2019?

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Key player: Conor Coady

The captain looked a hugely accomplished centre-back last season, rather than someone in his first season in the top flight and only his second as a defender. A converted midfielder was a reason why Wolves only conceded 40 goals. Yet can they be as frugal again with the same personnel who felt like overachievers?

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The best summer transfers

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Signing to watch: Jesus Vallejo

Wolves’ wait for a new face belatedly ended with the arrival of the Spanish centre-back on loan from Real Madrid. A bit-part player at the Bernabeu, Vallejo played more regularly for Real Zaragoza and Eintracht Frankfurt, though there are questions if he has the physical strength required for the Premier League.

Talking point: How will Wolves cope with European football?

The extra workload and the Thursday-Sunday routine can cause problems for teams, like Burnley last year, who are not accustomed to it. Admittedly, Wolves flourished in a 46-game Championship campaign two years ago but Nuno only gave 18 players Premier League starts last season and two of them, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa, have already left.

The Portuguese’s preference is for unchanged teams but if Wolves reach the Europa League group stages, he faces a difficult balancing act. Wolves scored 17 goals in the last 15 minutes of games last season, but doing that again will be tougher if the players are not as fresh.

Prediction: 10th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:44 PM

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