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Can Wolves establish themselves as top Premier League team of the future?

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Cast your eyes back 12 months, and Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 0-0 away from home to Brentford in the Sky Bet Championship. Fast forward to the present day, and sure enough, another draw for Wolves.

It would be a fair question if one was to ask: "Well, where is the improvement in that?" Well, the team in question this time around was Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Both Wolves and City showed parallels of each other last season, emerging victorious in both the Championship and Premier League respectively. 

Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo arrived at Molineux in the summer of 2017 with a well-balanced and varied management history, being at the helm of clubs such as Porto and Valencia, but his first season in English football goes down as his greatest achievement to date.

His style of controlling games, evolving tactics he used at previous clubs on the continent, proved revolutionary and successful for the Molineux crowd to lap up, finishing nine points ahead of Neil Warnock's Cardiff City.

Returning to the top flight of English football for the first time in six years, a hefty overhaul of the squad was needed and duly followed up. A combined total of around £50 million was spent on 11 players, all with a mix of experience, youth, talent and pedigree.

Following a 2-2 draw at home to 10-man Everton and a 2-0 away defeat to Leicester City, they faced the most monumental task possible: taking points from the best team in the country, which they managed in a gripping performance.

Nuno's decision to play wingers Helder Costa and Diogo Jota as inside forwards supporting on-loan striker Raul Jimenez paid dividends and set a precedent for how to play against the English champions, with Gary Neville even claiming that it was the most he'd seen captain Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte exposed since the defeat to Liverpool last January.

Further praise must be extended to the Wolves manager for his courage to play Manchester City, and not play into their hands by setting up two banks of four and inviting pressure on to them. Fellow managers of teams outside the 'Big Six' should take note of this performance, and use the base tactics as the blueprint for how to deal with Guardiola's men. 

The Molineux crowd also provided the necessary acoustics to further echo their team's masterpiece, and provided true context and meaning to the often overused cliche 'The 12th man'. 

This was a completely different test than what this side is used to, but an even bigger test will be to maintain this level of performance throughout the 38-game season.

In terms of predictions, fan channel TalkingWolves think the club should finish around mid-table especially with the options now present within the squad.

Speaking to Dave Azzopardi, the founder of TalkingWolves, about the future of the club, he said: "Short-term, I think Wolves will continue to invest as they have been and grow gradually.

"Long-term, I think Wolves can become one of the big six with state of the art facilities and a Champions League level squad. It may sound like wishful thinking but that's what the board want to achieve."

With many national media outlets also predicting a mid-table finish, coupled with the shared transparent ambition between board, manager and fans, it sure is an exciting time to be a Wolves fan. 

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. Twitter.

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