With Goals And Solidity, Fascinating Wolves Are As Good As Any Team On Their Day

Nuno Espirito Santo has turned Wolves into one of the Europa League's surprise package
09:00, 12 Mar 2020

There was a reason the image of Pep Guardiola screaming "TWICE" at the sky during the Manchester City loss to Liverpool went so viral. Partly because it was hilarious to see him lose his sh*t like that, but mainly because every single person watching had been him at some point in their life.

No, not a Premier League manager, but someone screaming at the sky for something that’s just gone wrong in life and wondering: "Why me?"

I’ve done it plenty of times, the latest being this morning, seeing reports that the UK could face a similar level of lockdown to the one Italy has right now, in about three weeks. Just in time for my 30th birthday celebrations. WHY GOD?

Well, if I think I’ve got problems, that’s nothing compared to how football managers are feeling at the minute, with the season in huge uncertainty and matches being shoved behind closed doors. 

That’s what Wolves face this Thursday with their Europa League tie against Olympiacos, with manager Nuno Espirito Santo wanting the entire tie postponed due to virus fears and also the fact football without fans is nothing. Different people will have different views on that, but given Wolves were one of the dark horses to win the Europa League, this entire situation must be so frustrating for them.

After a dire start to the Premier League season, where people were even talking about the club possibly going down, they’ve rallied not only in the race for the top six but also in terms of their Europa campaign. Despite there being some top-class sides left in the competition, Wolves know they’re as good as anyone on their day and in a knockout competition, they’ve got the goals and the solidity to progress over two legs. 

Nuno himself is a fascinating manager – and person – who clearly deserves to have shaken the connection to Jose Mourinho a long time ago, with interviewers always asking about the so-called Special One. Nuno himself takes a novel approach to management, refusing to fine players who are late to training, instead making everyone wait "f*cking freezing" and embarrassing the player. He said after doing that once, no one was late again.

So, shame works. It certainly did for me when I tweeted about my husband not doing the washing up. 

But seriously, he’s clearly a top-class manager and the work the Wolves coaching staff have done with their star players is second to none. People raised eyebrows at some of the transfer requests from Nuno, but they’ve worked. Players like Raul Jimenez are absolutely flying and Barcelona reject Adama Traore looks like a totally different player.

Perhaps if Barcelona had bothered to invest in him the way Wolves did, they wouldn’t be in such dire straits.

He also believes in a smaller squad and huge time invested in preventing injuries – something that’s paying off for the club and the players, with the unity and team spirit a key factor. Plenty of people have compared Wolves to Liverpool in their counter-attacking style of play, and their pressing nature – which worked so well for the Reds in the Champions League of course.

Nuno speaks about Wolves' style being different, and a focus on before the transition – Klopp is counter-pressure, his side are different. It’s genuinely fascinating to listen to him speak or read quotes, and he’s certainly part of a breed of manager who are redefining the game in slightly different ways all the time. 

It was clear how seriously they were taking the Europa League, and as the games went on, others were beginning to take them increasingly seriously – I was and put a bet on them some time ago. At this point, who even knows when, or if, the Europa League will end, and I’m willing to take the loss on my bet for a Wolves v Getafe final and a Wolves win. 

I’m also willing to take the loss on my birthday given the amount of gin I’ve stockpiled, but if I could shout anything to the sky for God to hear, it would be for the season to stop when Liverpool are just one game away from their first league title in 30 years. Seeing my husband’s face would be the best present I could ask for.