Nuno Espirito Santo

Wolverhampton Wanderers
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What we love about Wolverhampton Wanderers

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Wolves.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We love a lot about actual wolves, but let’s take a look at the capital-W variety of Premier League title hunters.


Wolves no stranger to glory: Wolves have history. The club staged a memorable run to the inaugural UEFA Cup final in 1972 (now the Europa League). After beating Juventus in the semis, Wolves fell in a thrilling two-legged final with Spurs. Wolves returned to the tournament thrice more but only advance past the first round once. The club hunted well in the 1950s, claiming the only three top-flight crowns of its 143-year existence. The three runners-up? Maybe none will surprise given the 60-year gap, but joining Manchester United were West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End.

Wolves fell as far as the fourth-tier in the 1980s before rising back to the Premier League for its launch in the 90s, then dipping into League One for a season in 2013/14. Now Nuno Espirito Santo has the club contending in the modern equivalent of two competitions it once won: the Premier League and Europa League.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ John Richards (second l) fires a shot at goal in the 1972 UEFA Cup Final (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Portuguese powers: Wolves nearly breached 100 points in their Championship-winning season and Espirito Santo’s side almost immediately adapted to the top flight with stylish football and a seventh-place finish. The side has navigated their first super congested fixture list by staying alive deep into an active Europa League run; Espirito Santo has coaxed next level performances out of club without as much depth as expected out of a European contender, and it’s reasonable to speculate they’d be in the top four with one more year’s investment (and it’s not impossible they rebound after a few months off to recharge the batteries). There are no new contract talks yet, but there’s little reason to believe he’d leave for a substandard job. Wolves have invested in becoming the next big PL club, and Espirito Santo carries plenty of love from the supporters and hierarchy.

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

The best player in CONCACAF: There is no North or Central American player anywhere near the form of Raul Jimenez right now. Christian Pulisic will want to make a claim to this soon, but El Tri’s Wolves striker is on another level. He’s already the club’s all-time leading scorer in PL matches. Not only has the 28-year-old Jimenez carved up Premier League and Europa League back lines, he’s doing it while chewing up minutes at a rate which would have many star strikers raising a white flag. Only Conor Coady, Joao Moutinho, and Rui Patricio have played more minutes for Wolves than Jimenez’s 3,564 in all competitions. All he’s done is score 22 goals with 10 assists. He’s roasting CONCACAF, too. Jimenez has 10 goals and six assists since the start of 2018, including five and four in Mexico’s six-match run to the Gold Cup crown. There is zero debate of his class amongst Mexican players.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Guardiola, Nuno not keen on empty stadiums

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Premier League managers Pep Guardiola and Nuno Espirito Santo do not want games to be played in empty stadiums but understand the escalating situation with coronavirus across Europe.

Speaking on Tuesday the managers of Man City and Wolves both shared the same view that games should not take place behind-closed-doors in the coming weeks.

With several Champions League and Europa League games set to be played in empty stadiums over the next week, Wolves’ trip to Olympiacos in the UEFA Europa League is due to be played in an empty stadium in Greece on Thursday.

Reports state the Premier League club have asked for the game to be postponed as Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis confirmed he has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Asked by our partners Sky Sports if Wolves want to play the game in Greece, Santo confirmed they do not want to travel to Olympiacos but will if they have to.

“We have obligations. Me as a manager, I am an employee of the club and the club has UEFA and FIFA. If we have to go there we will go but we will not go accordingly. We don’t agree. We don’t agree,” Santo said.

Asked if he wants to take his Wolves team to play at Olympiacos, this was his response.

“No, no. Because things are developing, news is happening. Even Olympiacos, they are suffering their own problems, the president and all these things. I think it is time to really think, is there another option?” Santo said. “Because we are only contemplating, are we playing normally? That is not the case. Now we play behind-closed-doors. Is there another option? Can we stop? No tie has been played in the Europa League yet. It is something that is developing. Eventually it will happen in the Premier League. Until now we have not played behind-closed-doors. All of the other countries are suffering this situation, what is to say the UK will not have the same problem? Let’s think about it.”

Man United’s Europa League game at LASK in Austria will be played behind-closed-doors, while Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League game at Bayern Munich next week also seems likely to be played in an empty Allianz Arena as Bavaria, Germany has taken similar measures to Austria in banning large events.

Games in Serie A are postponed, matches in Spain’s La Liga will be played in empty stadiums until early April and that will also happen in France for Ligue 1 games, while plenty of other leagues across Europe are also impacted.

What does Pep Guardiola think about the current situation? He believes that Premier League games will be played in empty stadiums in the coming weeks.

“It’s happened already in Italy and in Spain – and I think it’s going to happen here. We have to ask is it worth playing football without the spectators? We do our job for the people. If the people cannot come to watch the games, there is no sense. We are going to follow the instructions from the governments, everybody all around the world is involved in that – and we’ll just follow what we have to do.”

Santo said he and Wolves will follow the directions from the government but he had similar sentiments to Guardiola.

“I understand the decision of playing behind-closed-doors but what is the point if we go back to what is the point of football? It is to entertain, playing behind-closed-doors doesn’t make sense,” Santo said. “This has nothing to do with football. It is a social situation. Everybody is worried. I think something has to be done. I think closing doors in stadiums is not the solution because it is not normal. We are pretending to live a normal life when things are not normal. The point I am trying to make is that, is there another solution for this?”

Santo’s solution was to stop the games now and then try to make them up once the situation improves.

With big tournaments coming up this summer, like EURO 2020, could they be moved to 2021 and the domestic leagues across Europe extended into June?

That is one option and considering that EURO 2020 will be spread across 12 countries in Europe this summer it could make sense if UEFA decides to go down that route.

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd look to advance

Europa League
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Fifteen places remain up for grabs in the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Steven Gerrard’s Rangers handled Braga in Wednesday’s lone second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Notable names Porto, Benfica, and Ajax enter their second legs with hills to climb, while the three Premier League teams have varying degrees of advantage.

Manchester United v. Club Brugge

United enters the second leg at Old Trafford with an away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Luke Shaw says the Red Devils are driven by a desire to play for silverware, and the UEL joins the FA Cup as their lone opportunities to claim trophies this year.

“It is a massive ambition for me,” said Shaw, via The Manchester Evening News. “I was there for the Europa League final, and the feeling, even though I wasn’t on the pitch, was a feeling I have not felt and I wanted more of. I wasn’t involved and that is what is pushing me on even more to get into this final, and others. We should be in finals and we should be in all competitions until the end. We are very confident at the moment.”

Arsenal v. Olympiacos

The Gunners claimed a 1-0 result in Greece, and know a draw will be enough to bring Mikel Arteta‘s men to the Round of 16.

The manager was asked what’s different about his Gunners, now back in contention to qualify for Europe via the Premier League table.

“I think the team is progressing well, the club is in a better place,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “We are getting much more unity on the sections of the club and as well a great energy back from the fans every time we play at the Emirates and away from the Emirates. There are a lot of positive things but there are still things to improve individually, collectively and as a club and we are in that process at the moment.”

Espanyol v. Wolves

Wolves rang up a four-goal advantage at the Molineux, and that may give Nuno Espirito Santo a chance to use his depth for a rare time this season.

The boss has counted on players like Conor Coady, Rui Patricio, and Raul Jimenez in all tournaments, and he admits that it’s worn on the squad.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve not suffered,” said Espirito Santo via Wolves’ site. “It’s been tough with a tight schedule, very demanding on the players and I think the credit is on them – the way they compete, the way they prepare themselves to compete, but it’s tough, very tough. … The credit is for the players, it’s for the staff, but the players buying, believing and working very hard, is what makes things go well.”

Look out for Diogo Jota if he plays; The Wolves star has five goals in his past two matches.

Thursday’s second legs

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Istanbul Basaksehir (1-3) v. Sporting Lisbon
Gent (0-1) v. Roma
Malmo (1-2) v. Wolfsburg
LASK (1-1) v. AZ Alkmaar
Porto (1-2) v. Bayer Leverkusen
Espanyol (0-4) v. Wolves
Basel (3-0) v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Manchester United (1-1) v. Club Brugge
Celtic (1-1) v. Copenhagen
Benfica (1-2) v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Red Bull Salzburg (1-4) v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan (2-0) v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax (0-2) v. Getafe
Sevilla (1-1) v. CFR Cluj
Arsenal (1-0) v. Olympiacos

Nuno: ‘There is not a clear advantage, but the law is the law’

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When criticizing the use of the video assistant referee (VAR) in soccer, it’s important — appreciated, at minimum — to be constructive in doing so.

[ MORE: Man City banned from European action ]

In other words, “VAR is stupid, get rid of it” doesn’t accomplish a whole lot in terms of making your audience receptive to anything else you might say. Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo saw his side become the latest to come down on the wrong side of an incredibly narrow, potentially controversial reversal via video review on Friday, yet he delivered his post-game comments on the incident in a calm and collected manner.

[ MORE: Report: Man City facing possible PL points deduction ]

The gist of his case for Wolves’ disallowed goal to have counted: Sure, Pedro Neto had a toe in an offside position, but what advantage was gained by doing so considering he was hurriedly shuffling toward and onside position as part of a short corner kick routine? The larger question that Nuno gets to is this: Does the offside rule exist for players simply existing in an offside position, or to prevent players from gaining an advantage by being in an offside position? (quotes from the BBC)

“It is reality now but each time it happens it upsets you. When you see the images, there is not a clear advantage but the law is the law. I am positive about the reaction of the professionals and the fans, but something has to be done. Let those who understand do something to have the joy of celebrating. We in danger of becoming robots.”

“It is not about frustration but realising what we did in the game and now analyze to say, ‘We could (have won).’ Leicester had possession in the first half but did not create, we scored in the first half and dominated a very good team. The boys created many chances but it requires more work from us to complete the actions.”

Of course, adding language to the rule stating that offside should only be called if a player gains an advantage from his position on the field would only add another layer of interpretation and discretion for the crew of referees to consider and attempt to decipher.

Espirito Santo: ‘Wolves is my obsession’ but no new contract talks

Nuno Espirito Santo
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Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo isn’t sweating his future, but the same might not be said for his team.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 46-year-old has been linked with a number of open jobs this season and has a contract at the Molineux through the end of the 2020/21 season.

Fans, of course, would love to see him inked in for the long-term, even in a world of wild managerial turnaround.

“I have had no proposal. I have one year more, I don’t think about that,” Espirito Santo said. “We will see but I’m only focused on tomorrow. We have one more year left on the contract. We signed it and are committed to it.”

His second season in England saw not just safety but qualification for the Europa League, and his third season has both top four and UEL final potential.

“(Wolves fans) can be assured every day this is my obsession. Wolves is my obsession, it’s my life. I don’t think about anything else. I’m talking to you but I’m thinking about the game.”

Why Wolves haven’t presented new terms to the former Rio Ave, Porto, and Valencia boss is a bit of a mystery.