Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Having conquered the Championship with relative ease last season, Wolverhampton Wanderers bring their distinct Portuguese flavour to the Premier League for 2018/19.
Wolves coasted to the Championship title in 2017/18, racking up 99 points during a campaign that confirmed what many observers and pundits had postulated last summer – Wanderers were a Premier League club in all but official status.
Now that Premiership status has been achieved, returning Wolves to the summit of English football for the first time since 2012, the footballing fraternity will be watching on with interest, eager to see how Wolves talented squad takes to life at the top of the pyramid.
Wolves have been one of the more active clubs in the transfer window, though their moves have had a more calculated, clever look to them rather than the usual giddy splurge of a Premier League greenhorn awash with new money.
While survival is usually the standard target for any team promoted from the Championship, the quality in Wolves squad suggests that they should be aiming higher.
Position last season: 1st (Championship)
Top scorer: Diogo Jota – 17 goals.
Adama Traore – Middlesbrough (£18m)
Diogo Jota – Atletico Madrid (£14m)
Benik Afobe – AFC Bournemouth (£10m)
Willy Boly – Porto (£10m)
Raul Jimenez – Benfica (On loan)
Rui Patricio – Sporting Lisbon (Free)
Leo Bonatini – Al-Hilal (£4m)
Ruben Vinagre – Monaco (Undisclosed)
Paulo Alves – Liverpool (Free)
Joao Moutinho – Monaco (£5m)
Jonny Castro Otto – Atletico Madrid (On loan)
Jordan Allan – Released
Dan Armstrong – Released
Anthony Breslin – Released
Nicu Carnat – Released
Ross Finnie – Released
Jon Flatt – Released
Conor Levingston – Released
Tomas Nogueira – Released
Hakeem Odoffin – Released
Adam Osbourne – Released
Ryan Rainey – Released
Jose Xavier – Released
Christian Herc – Dunajska Streda (On loan)
Aaron Collins – Colchester (On loan)
Benik Afobe – Stoke (£12m)
Duckens Nazon – STVV (Undisclosed)
Sherwin Seedorf – Bradford (On loan)
Ben Marshall – Norwich (Undisclosed)
Roderick Miranda – Olympiacos (On loan)
Prince Oniangue – Caen (Undisclosed)
Rafa Mir – Las Palmas (On loan)
Carl Ikeme – Retired
Barry Douglas – Leeds (Undisclosed)
Ben Goodliffe – Dagenham & Redbridge (On loan)
Player to Watch
While his teammates Ruben Neves and Diego Jota are often talked about in more glowing terms than him, Ivan Cavaleiro enjoyed a superb individual season for Wolves in 2017/18.
The 24-year old attacking midfielder was one of the team’s chief creators last season, assisting 12 goals in the Championship last term, a total that put him 4th in the division’s overall rankings for that statistic.
Playing in a similar style to compatriot Nani in his Manchester United heyday, Cavaleiro combines pace and trickery with some explosive finishing. He should have little trouble making an impact in the Premier League.
The Season Ahead
Clever Summer Business
With highly connected super agent Jorge Mendes an omni-present influence, Wolves have done some fabulous looking business in the summer transfer window. Wanderers have strengthened considerably in terms of numbers and quality – but best of all they have made those enhancements for a relatively modest outlay.
Wolves capitalised on the breakdown of player and club relations at Sporting CP to sign Portuguese number one Rui Patricio for free, while his experienced international team mate Joao Moutinho arrived from Monaco for a snip at £5m.
Benik Afobe was signed from Bournemouth and flipped immediately to Stoke at a profit, while flying winger Adama Traore was lured from Middlesbrough for a club record £18m fee.
Other business included the permanent signings of Willy Boly, Leo Bonatini, Diogo Jota and Ruben Vinagre after the quartet enjoyed productive season on loan at Wolves in 2017/18. Wolves shrewd use of the loan system continued this summer, allowing them to secure Benfica’s Mexican striker Raul Jimenez for a year.
As the transfer window reaches its climax, Wolves are one of the few clubs not scrambling around in a panic for players. Their efficiency in the market should set them up for an equally productive season when the Premier League gets under way this weekend.
Set piece threat
Wolves won plenty of plaudits and admirers last season for their slick, on the deck football. Their ability to move the ball quickly and accurately through the lines proved a style too hot to handle for the rest of the Championship.
Though something that’s flown a little under the radar as Wolves approach their first season back in the Premier League, is the team’s threat from set pieces.
Wolves scored a staggering 21 goals from set pieces in the Championship last season, placing them on equal footing with fellow promoted side Cardiff City for goals scored via that avenue.
Much of the club’s success from dead-balls can be traced to Scottish left-back Barry Douglas, whose devastating deliveries from corners and free kicks helped him collect 14 assists in the Championship in 2017/18.
Douglas, who finished as the Championship’s joint top assist maker last season alongside fellow Scot Robert Snodgrass, was sold to Leeds United this summer, though if Wolves can find a player to replicate the service he provided, they have already proved they have the personnel to take advantage.
Making the most of their early season fixtures
Although there are never any easy games in the Premier League, the fixture computer was relatively kind to Wolves this summer. Wolves face just two of last year’s Premiership top six in their opening ten league matches.
They host champions Manchester City on August 25th and travel to play last year’s runners up Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 22nd.
Dotted around those tricky games are contests that Wolves will fancy taking points from. Clashes with Everton, Leicester, West Ham, Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Watford are all matches with point-winning potential for Wolves.
However, if things go awry and Wolves unexpectedly find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle, they face the prospect of a trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on the final day of the 2018/19 season.
Wolves look equipped to bloody plenty of Premier League noses this season. There is arguably more talent and technical ability in their ranks than many of the more established teams in the division and we expect that talent to shine through this season. A strong mid-table finish is likely, anywhere between 8th and 10th.
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