Portuguese Panache key to Wolves Strong Start

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Wolves vast Portuguese contingent have been heavily responsible for the club’s excellent start to the season in the SkyBet Championship.

Manager Nuno Espirito Santo, the ex-Valencia man, has eight Portuguese players at his disposal. They have helped propel the West Midlands club to first position.

His 3-4-3 formation, advocating devastating counter attacks and high pressing, has proved successful. Wolves have dropped just ten points out of a possible 36. The Molineux club are also the league’s second highest top scorers and have the best goal difference figure in the league.

Portuguese Panache key to Wolves Strong Start

In an competitive league where results go from one extreme to the other, some international influence can add that cutting edge. Wolves have six Portuguese players in their squad compared to just five Englishmen.

30,329 watched the 2-0 win against Aston Villa which was their highest league attendance since 1981. Nuno has a Wolves side playing the most attractive and entertaining football in the league.

The 43-year old can take credit for his tactical nous in the dugout. But who on the pitch has been responsible for Wolves’ fantastic start?

Diogo Jota

The on-loan Athletico Madrid youngster has been the standout performer in English football’s second tier this season. He scored eight goals on loan at F.C Porto last term and looks set to eclipse that tally this campaign.

He averages three shots per game and the third highest average dribbles per match of any Championship player.

The 20-year old scored six goals before the end of September. The last Wolves player to do that was Chris Iwelumo in 2008/09.

One of his best moments to date includes the brace against Nottingham Forest in September. Jota displayed predatory instincts for the first goal sliding in to convert Ivan Cavaliero’s cross.

He began the move for the second in his own half. After a through ball and run by Leo Bonatini, the Portuguese smartly finished past Jordan Smith. He was also instrumental in the 2-0 win against Aston Villa last weekend.

Jota is an outstanding talent and a proven goal-scoring midfielder. His close control and astute finishing will be useful for Nuno’s side so long as he keeps fit and stays in form.

Ivan Cavaliero

Cavaliero joined Wolves during the 2016 summer transfer window for £7 million on a five-year deal. The 23-year old made 15 appearances for Monaco during the 2015-16 campaign and has had previous stints at Deportivo and Benfica.

The midfielder then went on to make 31 for Wolves last term, scoring five goals from midfield. He’s part of the deadly attacking trio along with Jota and Helder Costa. Expect Cavaliero to make darting runs on the left hand side and play slick through balls.

His pass for former Wolves man Nouha Dicko who made it 3-1 in the 2-1 away victory against Hull in August, and his calm finish in the victory against Derby after great work by Jota are some of Cavaliero’s season highlights to date.

He has five assists, level with Jamie Paterson and Luke Freeman, for the highest number of Championship assists this season.

Helder Costa

Costa signed a five-year deal in the January transfer window after an initial loan in 2016. The signing broke the club’s transfer record with an undisclosed fee believed to be agreed for around £13 million.

The 23-year old has only featured three times so far this term, Costa is currently returning after an ankle injury. All of the games he has been involved in this term though have been victories however.

He has shown glimpses of class with close control and positive dribbling in his recent games. But the Portuguese will be aiming to hit the heights of last season where he netted 10 goals in 35 appearances and topped the Championship assists chart last season.

The link-up play between the front three though is evident. The stylish 3-4-3, a formation not adopted by many teams in the Championship, has worked very well for Nuno’s team sofar.

Nouha Dicko’s summer departure to Hull City seems to have had little impact on Wolves prolific goal-scoring record.

Ruben Neves

The Black Country club broke their transfer record again in July 2017, signing Neves for an undisclosed fee believed to be somewhere in the region of £15 million.

The 20-year old scored arguably Wolves best goal of the campaign sofar – a 25-yard screamer against Hull City in August.

But it is his passing ability and breaking up of play he is more useful for in central midfield. The Portuguese has an 84.9% pass success rate so far this term, averages 2.3 tackles and 1.7 clearances per match as well.

Starting every game so far this season, former Porto man Neves is forging a robust partnership with Romain Saiss in central midfield. This will be vital to Wolves’ Premier League promotion push.

Roderick Miranda

The former Benfica defender joined Wolves in the summer after a 5-year spell at Rio Ave in the Premiera Liga. The 25-year old was delighted to be playing under Nuno Espirito Santo again having been a young defender at Porto during the Portuguese manager’s tenure there.

Upon his signature in July, the Championship defender was keen to integrate and link up with his fellow Portuguese players, “I’m very happy to be here, I’m very happy to work with Nuno again and I’m sure Nuno will bring a lot of joy to Wolves fans.

“I’m familiar with Silvio (Pereira), Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro – that will make it easier for me to fit in perhaps, but I hope to join with everybody, to speak to everybody, to understand the English culture and to improve my English as well.”

Since joining the West Midlands club, Roderick has been a stalwart in Nuno Espirito Santo’s defence alongside Conor Coady and Danny Baath.

The defensive trio have started five out of the last six Championship league matches together as Nuno looks to establish a regular back three. Along with John Ruddy, the Wolves back line have conceded eleven goals so far and have kept ten clean sheets in all competitions.

Individually, Roderick makes 6.3 clearances per match and an average 2.3 tackles with a 79.1% pass success rate.

Ruben Vinagre

Nuno’s use of the loan market continued in the previous transfer window. The 43-year old  signed the 19-year old left-back from A.S Monaco for the duration of the 2017/18 campaign.

He scored his first goal for Wolves in the 4-0 demolition of Burton Albion two weeks ago. Vinagre fired in a low range left-footed finish against the Championship stragglers.

Making six appearances already this season, it will be hard for the teenager to break into a strong starting line up. But his performances to date have been astute he has proved himself defensively and going forward.

The Portuguese sextet are setting the Championship alight this season with their flair, guile and complete performances. Surely Wolves are destined to finish at least in the top six, if not in the top two this season.

 

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I am primarily interested in and write about lower league English football, I support Bristol City and follow Nottingham Forest and Notts County. Cricket, in particular Somerset and England as well as Bath Rugby include some of my other sport writing interests as well as European and Premier League football. In terms of previous and current sports journalism experience, I was sport editor of my university’s radio station and magazine last year, have been nominated for Student Publication Awards and Student Radio Awards and have had work experience at two regional newspapers. I am also currently studying for a masters degree in broadcast journalism.

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