Nuno Espirito Santo refused to be drawn into any speculation or dreams (at least publicly) of Wolverhampton Wanderers being top-four contenders following Friday’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, even in this chaotic and unpredictable 2020-21 Premier League season.
Allow us, Nuno, to speculate and make the case for you, then. Sure, you’re only seven games into the season and you still have to prove yourself against the sides that have dominated the top-six for the last decade, but won’t you live a little and humor us with words of what could be?
No, as it turns out, he would not — quotes from the BBC:
“It’s all about the performance, the table is not important. The work is important. Playing without fans requires a lot of focus, we haven’t the edge of Molineux”
“I think we were good but we should play better. We started well. We had a good team in front of us. At the end of the first half we slowed down our pressure and Palace had chances.
“Second half we adjusted and didn’t concede too many chances and had our chances where we should do better.”
Unlike fellow early performers Everton, Aston Villa, Leeds United or Southampton, Wolves have been close — just on the outside of the top-six, looking in — each of the last two seasons, finishing seventh immediately after winning promotion and backing it up with a repeat performance last season. Compared to every other non-Leicester City top-four hopeful, Wolves have been the most consistent side to threaten a top-four challenge. Of the non-top- or “big-six” sides, Wolves appear most ready and able to take the next step.
Nuno is nothing if not insistent on defending as if his players’ lives depend upon it — they’ve been incredibly well-drilled and disciplined since the day they arrived in the Premier League — and that gives them a very stable foundation and high floor in the event their luck should turn sour. It’s not the defensive foundation, but the evenly distributed ability to score goals which raises Wolves’ ceiling and could allow for a massive leap upward in the even their luck turns golden over the next 31 weeks.
“To have goals all over the team is important,” Nuno said after Friday’s win. “It’s what you need.”
Though they have scored just eight goals on the season — fewest of any side currently residing in the top-16 — Wolves have begun to spread the goal-scoring responsibilities around a bit more with five different players having scored a goal already in 2020-21. If that trend continues, so too should Wolves’ ascent.
Maybe they won’t get their in the end — it would still be quite the upset, in all honesty — but Wolverhampton Wanderers fans have so much to love about their team these days and plenty of reason to believe that the best is still to come.