Wolves flying high as Nuno Espirito Santo prepares for 150th match

The day Nuno Espirito Santo walked through the door at Molineux Stadium might just be the most important in the Wolves' recent history.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Wolves finished seventh in its first season after returning to Premier League under the managership of Nuno Espirito Santo.   -  Getty Images

Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters could have been excused feeling a little sceptical when Nuno Espirito Santo was unveiled as its latest new manager three years ago.

He was, after all, the third manager in 10 months employed by new Chinese owners Fosun. He was tasked with restoring the Midlands club back into the Premier League after departing in 2012.

Wolves had just finished 15th in the Championship under Paul Lambert and was going nowhere fast.

The day Espirito Santo walked through the door, however, might just be the most important in the club's recent history.

This Saturday, Wolves hosts Arsenal in what will be the 46-year-old former Porto boss's 150th game in charge.

A win could move it level on points with third-placed Leicester City in the Premier League and the truth is few people would be surprised.

Espirito Santo, born on the island of Sao Tome and Principe, had a spell playing under Jose Mourinho at Porto.

Bowlfuls of apple pie later, Wolves' Matt Doherty back to realise Champions League dream  

To Wolves fans he is already their “special one”.

Backed in the transfer market, 'Nuno' turned to his own country to bring in Portuguese midfield duo Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota and French defender Willy Boly.

Wolves amassed 99 points when winning the Championship in 2017-18 with a silky brand of football which proved tailor-made for the Premier League in which it finished seventh in its first season back, qualifying for the Europa League.

Portugal international Diogo Jota has been an important figure in Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves   -  Getty Images

 

The craft of veteran playmaker Joao Moutinho helped blend Espirito Santo's mixture while the signing of winger Adama Traore, a Barcelona reject, was a masterstroke.

His high-speed dribbling is a terrifying sight for defenders and the Spaniard is living proof of how a gifted player needs a visionary manager to unlock his potential.

The same could be said of captain Conor Coady. The former Liverpool youth product typifies the Wolves approach, re-inventing himself as a cultured 'sweeper' in a back three.

“When I first came here, it was tough because the club was totally different to what it is now,” Coady, who joined in 2015, told the club's website. “The Premier League seemed like a million miles away when I first came.

“Looking back, it's been amazing. Since the owners and manager came in, it's been incredible.

Dendoncker strike steers Wolves past Aston Villa  

“Everybody knows their roles and responsibilities; everyone in that changing room is a clever footballer. It's a unique group we've got.”

Wolves has won all three games since action resumed following the three-month stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has won five of its last six matches and is unbeaten in eight league games since a 2-1 defeat by Liverpool in a humdinger of a fixture.

Much is made its panache and pace, but Espirito Santo has taken a leaf out of Jurgen Klopp's book and ingrained a high work rate and collective defensive responsibility.

The team has conceded only twice in eight games. Yet Espirito Santo strives for more.

“There is always room to improve and the most difficult is to sustain your level of performance,” he said.

“We'll have to find new solutions and we'll have to reinvent ourselves for a tough challenge.”

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

Read the Free eBook

  Dugout videos