Players and supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers are enjoying their first season back in the Premier League. Wolves are currently seventh in the Premier League table with a total of 39 points from 26 games. They have won 11, drawn 6 and lost 9 matches, scoring 34 and conceding 33 goals in the process. However, the quality of their performance has transcended mere statistics. What is the secret to their success? What if anything can other clubs learn from Wolves?
After falling out of the Premier League in 2012, Wolves slipped further down the English pyramid and found themselves in League One by the middle of 2013. Wolves were promoted straight back to the Championship in the 2013/14 season. Subsequent seasons of mediocrity and mid-table stability followed. However, in 2016 things began to change at Molineux as Guo Guangchang and his Chinese conglomerate Fosun International took ownership of the club. The new ownership has helped the club repurchase ambition and positivity, something that was aided by significant investments in the playing squad.
What is the secret to their success?
The super-agent Jorge Mendes has hugely aided Wolves since the Fosun takeover. Mendes, who represents world footballers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, has helped Wolves to acquire quality players at bargain prices. Jota, Ruben Neves, and Joao Moutinho are among some players that Mendes has helped bring to the West Midlands. They are international players with excellent pedigree, experience and a potential to improve. There is no doubt that Wolves’ association with Mendes helped them gain promotion, and that he is still aiding them now.
While there is no doubt that the surge of quality additions has transformed the Wolves squad, the presence of other more humble players like Matt Doherty, Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett has been equally vital. These four men arrived at Molineux in more modest circumstances. Bennett came from Norwich. Coady transferred from Huddersfield, and Doherty was promoted from the youth academy. However, each of them has complemented their internationally touted colleagues, and they have all been key to the success of their side. They have added grit and work rate to their team and have blended beautifully with their often more talented teammates. It is a credit to the club that they have managed to improve less lauded players and use them to complement their more costly players.
The man responsible for mixing improved lower league gems with international stars is Nuno Espirito Santo. Nuno, a Champions League winning goalkeeper with Porto in 2004, was appointed Wolves manager on May 31, 2017. He guided the West Midlands club to the title in his first full season. His passion, outlandish statements and pure non-stop energy seemed to typify the exhilarating way that his team played last year. Nuno’s Wolves side blitzed the Championship, and he made things look simple. Few could handle the expectations of the owners, Mendes and the fanbase like Nuno. He is a big personality who carried huge expectations on his shoulders last season and has delivered above and beyond anything asked of him. I am not sure anyone could have managed so well at Wolves. He is a strength in Wolves armor and an open secret behind their success.
What if anything can other clubs learn from Wolves success?
Other clubs can quickly determine that investment wins games, and having a super agent on speed dial makes it easy to recruit quality players. They can also learn that the savvy mix of international stars and lower league starlets make a more than decent team. However, they can also learn that ambition and foresight will take a club far. As for what more Wolves competitors can learn from them, they will have to watch and see what they do next.