Wolves Fans' Verdict: Summing up a stunning season
Our fans reflect on another magnificent season for Wolverhampton Wanderers – and look ahead to what the future may have in store.
How can you sum up the season?
Almost perfect. At the start of the season, I’d have settled for 17th or above in the league just to continue the building process. To have sewn up 7th with a game to spare and been one tired Dendoncker challenge away from an FA Cup Final was an immense performance. Throw in City’s Cup Final win sealing a Europa League qualifying place for next season and we’ve gone into the realm of dreams.
A season that started with an enormous amount of hope and a little bit of belief that ultimately surpassed the expectations of most Wolves fans and certainly caught the rest of the football world cold. Two visits to Wembley and numerous victories and brave performances against some of the very best all culminating in the purchase of a map of Europe!
A total, unequivocal, unmistakeable, rip-roaring success. A slight tinge of frustration given our results against the bottom six, but this is but a mere speck on the most wondrous copybook of my time supporting the club.
Brilliant. If we are honest, better than any of us expected. Our previous experience of the Premier League had been about damage limitation and must win six-pointers and we had very few positive memories. This time it was different.
With such a young and inexperienced squad it has been a delight to watch them grow and improve during the campaign. Only at City (with ten men) and for an hour at home to Spurs have we looked out of our depth. Being so competitive and able to play such good football has made it a wonderful season. We have not looked out of place.
Simply unbelievable! When the season kicked off in August you could sense the expectation in the fans… something that is normally dangerous with Wolves!
Five years ago we had just got promoted from League 1 and it really felt like the start of our rebuild but I think it is safe to say I wouldn’t have imagined in a million years we would have finished 7th in the premier league, qualified for the Europa League and got to an FA Cup semi-final 5 years later!
Aside from the success what I have enjoyed the most is the style of football we have been playing, as a fan it is so exciting to watch. For so many years we watched boring sideways, backwards football with absolutely no creativity flowing and now it is the complete opposite.
Nuno has built a really special team that are not only individually gifted but also work as a team so well. We now have an entire squad that are going out every week and playing with everything they have for the badge on the front of the shirt instead of the name on the back – I don’t think many teams in the Premier League can say that. It also feels like there is such a connection between the squad and the fans. For many years I’ll be honest I used to prefer away games to home games as I found the Molineux crowd to be quite negative and toxic at times but this season has been different. Each week Molineux has been an absolute fortress that I’m sure a lot of teams have dreaded entering. The match day team behind the scenes at Wolves deserve a lot of credit for all of their hard work, they have made each home game feel like a huge occasion and it really helped create the special atmosphere we had this year.
I have always dreamed of watching Wolves in an FA Cup final and while we have to wait a little while longer our trip to Wembley for the semi-final was still something really special! I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch the highlights (and don’t think I ever will) but it was such a special moment to walk down Wembley way with thousands of Wolves fans and to experience such a big game. Now the season has finished I’m not as bothered that we didn’t make the final (even if we were about 120 seconds away from it!) as I think that loss gave us the extra push we needed to finish 7th. Hopefully, we will be having plenty more visits to Wembley in the years to come.
I have watched wolves home and away for many years and this year has been by far the most memorable, I could count on one hand the amount of games that I came away from disheartened or disappointed in the performance, practically every week has been special and I really didn’t want the season to end! The last 2 seasons under Nuno have been incredible but it feels like it is just the beginning which is what makes it even more exciting!
This has been an awe inspiring season. The football has been entertaining, and very often exciting; getting supporters on the edge of their seats in many of our games.
Is it value for money?
Too true it is! You can’t wait for the next game; it’s been that good.
How lucky are we to have Nuno and Jeff Shi in charge, backed by the fabulous FOSUN.
I’m old enough to remember the last time Wolves competed this well in the top flight.
It was during the 1970’s and that got me hooked on Wolves for life. I’m so happy that my son is now able to watch games with the same enthusiasm and expectations, that I had back then.
We are blessed and privileged to be able to watch Nuno put his stamp on the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s not just results, but the style of football. Also the way he has developed and improved players. The way he gives youth a chance.
With our first taste of European football for 39 years beckoning, Wolves must now be 3 years ahead of their plan for success. That is due to Nuno and his superb backroom team. He is a man of few words. He lets his players do his talking, on the pitch and long may that continue.
Absolutely brilliant. To finish seventh and get to an FA Cup semi final in our first season back in the Premier League is fantastic. The fact we’re now in the Europa League is also beyond belief. I’m still in absolute shock that we’ll actually be going on a European Tour and I, just like any Wolves fan, cannot wait.
What’s been your most memorable game?
A few to choose from. Leicester at home for the entertainment spectacle and Jota’s fantastic hat-trick, the wins over Arsenal, Chelsea & United at home & Spurs at Wembley in the league for the immense performances put it to seal the victories but, for the combination of performance and atmosphere, it’s got to be the win against United in the FA Cup that sealed our first Semi-Final appearance since 1998.
Molineux was absolutely rocking that night from start to finish. All four sides of the ground creating a volume I’ve not known in years. On the pitch, the players rose to the challenge and put in a performance that will live long in the memory as the one that pretty much announced that we’re back to stay among the elite.
It would be hard to choose just one memorable game as every one of them had something the others didn't, but the most satisfying would be the brilliant comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Manchester United and clinch the U23 title. It just proves that the whole club is moving in the right direction and it would be great to see some of that squad breaking into the first team squad next season.
I’ll never forget the 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup for atmosphere, quality of performance and the sense of ‘arrival’ at the highest level of the game. The semi-final will of course live long in the memory for the wrong reasons.
Last season our season seemed to be defined by the away games at Bristol City, Boro and Cardiff. This season has also had a series of memorable moments. Away wins at Everton and Spurs, late goals at Newcastle and West Ham and coming so close at Arsenal and Chelsea have made away trips enjoyable. Comprehensive home wins over Arsenal and West Ham, plus of course Man United, sent us all up Waterloo Road, singing 'Everybody wants to rule the World'.
However, the 4-3 win over Leicester was my most memorable. Don't you just love a 4-3!
Coasting at 2-0, nudging ahead at 3-2 then a late winner, a hat trick hero and the Manager spends £8,000 to run down the wing for me.
This is a really tough question because there have been so many! One game that really stands out to me is Watford away. Going into that game every Wolves fan knew it was more than just another game, we needed to win there to prove ourselves, to bounce back from that trip to Wembley and to silence a certain pair of Watford players! The atmosphere in the away end that day was electric as was the performance on the pitch! It was one of the first league games this year I really felt like Neves was playing to his top ability and Jota and Jimenez were both flying! A real season defining game. Another great day was our match against Leicester at home, Leicester are a really good team and for a neutral it was a great match! For a wolves fan though it really showed our mental state and the players' never-quit attitude. Outside of the league we also had some great games in the FA Cup. My favourite was Manchester United in the quarter finals. There is always something so special about Molineux at night!
While these were all great games my most memorable game was Tottenham away. By the end of the season you would look at upcoming games and expect some sort of result against the bigger teams but going into that game it was safe to say I was expecting absolutely nothing but a great day out and a visit to Wembley stadium. Throughout the season we have had some great victories against the big 6 but this was topped them all.
I’ve picked Tottenham away, at the end of December.
Our first trip to the ‘new’ Wembley with Spurs scoring goals for fun. Nuno surprised us with the introduction of Dendoncker who brought some added steel to the midfield. The team played superbly that day and the fans were fantastic, especially when 1-0 down.
Nuno got it spot on that day. Most decisively, he made substitutions in the second half to go on and win the game once we had got the upper hand. We were well on top.
Not only were we enjoying possession, we were passing Tottenham off the great expanse of Wembley. They couldn’t get in a single shot for the entire second half.
United at home in the FA Cup. The atmosphere for that game was something else and when Jota scored the second goal after brushing off Luke Shaw, the whole ground erupted like nothing I’ve experienced before. The fact we welcomed a Man United side on very good form at the time, had not long beaten PSG away to get into the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, and we tore them apart was absolutely fantastic to see.
Who’s been your player of the season?
Like the most memorable game, there are several options to choose from here with any member of the regular starting XI able to stand up and give good reasons for their inclusion in the discussion.
Willy Boly has taken to Premier League football like a duck to water, Conor Coady has upped his game phenomenally and continued to lead the side excellently & Ryan Bennett has been the unsung hero of the side with some superb moments (that tackle on Willian against Chelsea!).
Jonny has been supremely efficient down the left and Matt Doherty has taken his game to a level few people will have expected. His goals and assists this season have propelled him into Team of the Season discussions and he seemed to be on a one-man mission to win the FA Cup for us at times this season. Not bad for a carpet-fitter signed for £50,000!
In attack Raúl Jiménez has defied some pre-season doubters following some indifferent World Cup cameos out of position for Mexico to cement himself as a fans’ favourite and seal a £30m permanent record transfer, while Diogo Jota overcame early season struggles with form and niggling injuries to become a key player after Christmas after being moved inside to team-up with Raúl in a front pairing.
That system change to 532 saw Leander Dendoncker finally introduced into the side regularly to add extra strength in the central midfield area and the Belgian has been brilliant, playing a key role in our run to 7th alongside Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho. While Neves has scored some spectacular goals, it’s amazing that his performances have been overshadowed by his Portuguese compatriot.
Oh, Joao Moutinho. He loves the vino!
For all of the claims of others above, the little maestro gets my vote as the Player of the Season. We sing that he’s 5’7” of football Heaven and it’s an accurate description of watching this guy play football. I’ve never thought I’d see a player of his talent pull on an old gold shirt and it’s been a privilege to watch him run games from central midfield this season. He keeps us ticking over with his metronomic passing game but also his ability to find pockets of space to make himself available to receive the ball from teammates. His reading of the game is so good that he’s also among the Premier League leaders for tackles made this season, a stat that’s overlooked by many but has been key to our performances.
Player of the season is a difficult one. Diogo Jota would have won it had he performed exceptionally before December whilst Wily Boly was a rock throughout. Coady was Captain Fantastic and out Nevesed Ruben with some of his passes and then you have Jimenez who added goals to his phenomenal workmate but the winner as chosen by most Wolves fans must be the five foot seven of football heaven Joao Moutinho who in my eyes ranks amongst the best midfielders I have seen in a Wolves shirt.
You really can’t look beyond Joao Moutinho, a player whose feverish enthusiasm combined with an intelligence and style that gives you the impression that he’s playing the game he wants to play any time he’s on the pitch.
Nuno has always built from the back. Being solid, keeping clean sheets, means you are always in the game. Other teams strive for the same, so in front of that, creativity and quality is needed to provide opportunities to score. Scoring becomes priceless. Jimenez has done that better than anyone. Adding to that his unselfish contribution on and off the ball, he gets my vote for Player of the Season.
Bennett and Coady were two of my question marks at the end of last year, they had a great partnership in the Championship but I was unsure whether they could repeat it in the Premier League. Instead they have both excelled and became vital parts of our team. Coady especially has really become something special.
Jota and Jimenez have to be one of the best striking partnerships of the year and one of the best we have ever had at Wolves. They read each other’s play so well and are both unselfish when it comes to taking a shot which is so great to see. I really hope these two go from strength to strength together. Individually they are both superb players, Jota’s speed and strength have been vital so many times this season and Jimenez’s skill and hold up play have created so many goals. I can’t wait to see this pair light up Europe next year!
Another stand out player for me is Matt Doherty. It has really felt like he has become a completely different player in the past 2 years and I can’t imagine where we would be without him. Some of his crosses this year have been world class and he is another one I can see going from strength to strength – not a bad player for £75,000.
I do think though there is only one player that stood above them all and ironically he is probably the smallest player out there! Mr Joao Moutinho. By far the best player I have ever seen at Wolves and someone that has undoubtedly been a major reason for our success this year. His ability to read the game is amazing, he spots opportunities before they even happen and controls that midfield like nothing else. He is also a fantastic athlete and competitor. A true Wolves legend in the making.
I can’t find the words to describe Joao Moutinho. He’s got it all.
I didn’t think I’d ever see a player better than Neves in a Wolves team, but it’s like the Master has come to mentor his Apprentice. He does all the simple things extremely well. His positional play and awareness is second to none. He is super fit and has a winning mentality which must rub off onto his team mates.
It is beyond belief that we signed him for £5m. He wanted a challenge. To play in the Premier League and, most specifically, to win more trophies. He’s Football Heaven.
Joao Moutinho. £5m for him was an absolute steal and one of the best buys the Premier League has ever seen never mind just this season. Never mind the best midfielder I’ve seen at Wolves before, he’s the best footballer I’ve seen at Wolves.
Who is your unsung hero?
As mentioned above, Ryan Bennett gets my vote for this one. Written off by many in pre-season, including even by Nuno based on his deployment of Saiss at right centre-back in friendlies, Bennett has stepped up to the plate and played a big part in our success this season.
He’s never going to be a top level, ball-playing centre half but his willingness to get stuck into a challenge and strength in the air is something that we’ve needed at times this season when we’ve had to dig in and defend. It’s inevitable that he will be replaced at some point as we continue to develop the squad to take us to the next level but, until then, he’ll continue to unfussily go about his business. Shirt tucked in at all times, of course!
Whilst not really being unsung, one of our most improved players – coming from a starting point of being very good – was Matt Doherty and he proved to be one of our most potent attacking outlets and nearly netted double figures. A great season.
I honestly don’t believe that Willy Boly has got the credit he deserves for making the step up from the Championship, having never really made a name for himself at this level of football, whether it was in France or Portugal. He’s been a colossus and looked just as at ease as he did for the vast majority of last season.
Matt Doherty has been outstanding throughout the whole season. Seriously, his goal tally is hugely impressive, likewise his assist numbers. He deserved to be in the Player of the Season top three, and to have better national recognition.
Leander Dendoncker has quietly become quite a big part of our team, he works so hard and his stats show it! Defensively he is sound (bar the FA Cup semi-final leg out incident!) and he is great at playing the ball out from the back. If we look back across the season he has made so many vital blocks and tackles in key areas of the pitch and supports the wing-backs superbly. I don’t think he will ever get the praise that he deserves and it feels like he is happy with that! I was so happy when he got his winning goal against Fulham. It would have been awful for him to have his season defined by an error at Wembley, instead he scored a key goal in our hunt for 7th place.
This has to be Ryan Bennett. He is instrumental to our defensive back three. He has played 34 league games. In the 4 he missed, we lost 3 and drew 1. He also missed the FA Cup semi final. How I wish he had played that cup game. It’s haunted me for a while since.
Strangely, he will be one of the players vulnerable for next season, but people were saying that last year. I hope he stays and has a part to play.
Leander Dendoncker. Ever since we switched from a 343 to a 352 with Dendoncker coming in, we have got better and better. In the 343 we had problems in midfield due to other teams being able to bully us and our weakness was not having the numbers in the middle really. It’s not just down to Dendoncker that we improved, Jota and Jimenez up top as a partnership is a huge reason but for me having the Belgian who offers power, strength and height in the middle helps us so much.
He is very astute defensively and for £12m he’s another one who’s a bargain for the quality he brings to the side.
Where should the club look to strengthen this summer?
With a Europa League tilt on the horizon we’ll need a bit more depth in key positions but, from interviews with Nuno, Kevin Thelwell and Jeff Shi all indicating the squad will be kept lean and youth players expected to step up, incoming transfers could be kept to a minimum while we trim some of the excess parts of the squad to raise some capital to reinvest.
I’d expect to see competition at wing-back so that Doherty isn’t required to potentially perform heroics and play on Sunday-Thursday-Sunday from July to May. Another centre forward who can be competition to play Raúl’s role in the pairing in attack is a requirement. The links to Salomón Rondón indicate that this is on the club’s agenda too.
I think a Boly-esque centre-half could also be on the shopping list to play on the opposite side of the back three to him and another central midfielder of a similar ilk to Dendoncker to provide both competition there and to potentially allow us to use Dendoncker in Coady’s positions to give the skipper a break could be needed. Asking Coady to play every minute of every game again next season with a potential European run added to our schedule might be stretching him a bit much!
We know we will need to strengthen but with the promotion of some of the younger stars, we may not need too many more, but with Europe beckoning then we will probably need a bigger squad to cope with the potential 60 game season should we do well in the cups and Europe.
I don’t think anything major needs to happen. Competition for Jimenez, competition in the centre-back positions as well as a midfielder who can feature as a genuine no.10 at the requisite level. That will give us the required depth to compete in Europe if we don’t lose anyone over the summer, whilst keeping the harmony in the squad that has been so key.
The subs bench. Our starting eleven has rarely been tweaked and has done remarkably well. Early in the season we had some impact from substitutes Costa, Cavaleiro and Traore – they could offer some improvement on the hour mark – but that has faded since Christmas.
We need options, when players are injured, suspended or off-form, that don't make us weaker. Had any of Boly, Coady, Doherty or Jimenez been out for a month our results would have suffered. It is quality not quantity we need and if the potential new substitutes are an improvement on our current starting eleven, all the better.
We need to score twenty more goals too. Relying on Jimenez, Jota and Dendoncker to increase their output is probably not sufficient to achieve that target.
I am all for a small squad but I do think we need to add a fair few more players to our ranks especially if we are going to give the Europa league a good go. I’ll be honest I’m quite happy with our starting 11 so I wouldn’t really want to mess with it too much. It is incredible that we have gone another season with no serious injuries but injuries are going to happen and we need to be prepared! Jota and Jimenez as I mentioned have created an unbelievable partnership which I’m sure will continue next year but we also need one or ideally two backups.
The issue here is we need a couple of strikers who are happy to be sitting on a bench and be ready whenever they are called upon… a tricky situation but I’m sure Uncle Jorge could do some convincing. We could also do with a backup centre back ready to be called on when we have injuries and when we need to park the bus in the 87th minute!
It’s the spine of the team that needs more options. We need a centre half, attacking midfielder and another goal scoring centre forward.
A centre back, right-wing back (cover for Doherty), central midfielder for cover and at least one forward as cover for Jimenez/Jota.
What should Wolves’ targets be for 2019/20?
I’d like to see us consolidate our position in that 7th-11th group in the middle of the table, have another good Cup run and a decent crack at the Europa League. With the right investment there’s always that opportunity to exploit any underperformance from a member of the top 6.
With United heading for a rebuilding phase under a manager who I don’t think is the right fit for them, they could be a target for us to aim for. Chelsea’s transfer ban could see them drop off a little too, especially if Eden Hazard decides that it’s time to make his move to Madrid.
However, I’ll take the same mantra as Nuno throughout the season once it begins and take one game at a time, enjoying watching this side as they continue to develop.
As Jeff Shi said in his recent TV interview, we can only get to then next level by winning trophies so the target must be to get some silverware in the cabinet. Having followed Wolves for nigh on 50 years, just typing that and realising the it is not some pipe dream is fantastic.
Maybe I’ve been drawn in to the Nuno media spin machine, but I really believe the ‘game-by-game’ approach pays dividends. If you take each game on its own merits, you’ll treat each game with the respect it deserves and give yourself the best opportunity to win the game. The more we win, the higher we will finish in the league and the further we will progress in the cup competitions. Why burden yourself with targets?
It will be hard to better seventh, Europe and a semi. Sounding a bit like Nuno, to see players continue to improve and maintain the feel good factor that surrounds our club at the moment would be an achievement. While aiming at the likes of City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus over time is commendable, I hope the club remember to treat us as supporters rather than customers.
There is a part of me that thinks the sky is our limit and I think over time that is the case, but I think next season it vital for us, probably more important that this season. We need to show that we are not one season wonders and that we are here to stay. Realistically we need to be aiming for top 10 again… specifically being in with a shout for 7th again next year.
I would be delighted with a similar season, finishing 7th and a decent cup run would be excellent. We all hear about the ‘second season syndrome’, but I don’t see that happening. Our greatest challenge/risk is the Europa League games with the season starting so early.
It’s difficult to say too much without knowing who we’ve signed yet but we just need to take each game as it is and I really hope we take the Europa League seriously and try our best to get into the group stages. I think our targets should definitely be to try hold our own in Europe which I believe we most certainly can do and also trying to maintain a good position in the league too.