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The Tim Spiers debrief – Wolves 4 Pyunik 0 (8-0 on aggregate)

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

Wolves breezed past Pyunik 4-0 to complete an 8-0 aggregate victory.

Wolves are into the Europa League play-off round (© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY)

Nuno Espirito Santo handed out four debuts on what was a very satisfactory night at Molineux.

Bullish

Wolves' early forays into Europe have produced impressive performances and results.

Fourteen goals scored, one goal conceded (an own goal) and a comfortable passage through to the play-off round with no injuries picked up – it's been a perfect start, while also forming part of their pre-season preparations to boot.

The professionalism of the players – and Nuno wouldn't have it any other way – has been exemplary in terms of preparation and also coping with last week's long jaunt to Armenia, while the boss also eulogised on Wednesday how his staff had ensured the players had everything at their disposal.

"Not only the players, the staff have been amazing," he said.

"It requires a lot of effort from us, it requires a lot of non visible work by (the players) to respect their bodies and recover well.

"We’re delighted and we want to continue (in the competition)."

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The early signs are, whisper it quietly, that Wolves can go far in Europe.

They have been ruthless and clinical in despatching their opponents, whose lack of quality must of course be taken into account. But Wolves can only beat what's in front of them and deserve praise for overcoming defensive-minded opposition, which was their Achilles heel last season.

Diogo Jota's breathtaking goal typified the bullish swagger they have shown in front of goal. They're playing with confidence and assurance – and a swagger.

If they can take this brash attitude into matches against sterner opposition (and it must be said their clinical touch was lacking at Leicester), they will thrive.

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Cool Cutrone

The evening was also satisfactory in that Nuno could make nine changes, rest key players for Monday's game against Manchester United and not see the team's performance levels dip from last Thursday when a first-choice XI also won 4-0.

This is Nuno 'idea' writ large...players slotting in seamlessly and still showcasing the same philosophy and work ethic of the first XI.

He also handed full debuts to four new boys, who all made their mark.

Maximilian Kilman, who a year ago was with Maidenhead United, has worked hard to earn his first proper appearance (a fleeting 30-second token appearance against Fulham in May aside) and looked to be nervous in the opening stages, but soon settled after he sent a lovely sand-wedge over the top towards Patrick Cutrone and grew into the game. He'll have an eye on a Carabao Cup appearance next. Nuno is clearly a fan.

Jesus Vallejo also showed a couple of early nervy touches (like Kilman, understandable when making your debut in front of 30,000 people in a Europa League game) but, again, improved as the night went on. He showed good technical ability and an excellent passing range when playing in that man Cutrone on two occasions with lofted through balls, including for the opening goal.

Vallejo was perhaps lucky to stay on the field when crashing into Erik Vardanyan on a booking, but otherwise he had a solid debut. While the solid Ryan Bennett will surely get the nod for Monday in the intensity of a big game against Manchester United, Vallejo comes across as a class act who can make an impact in the Premier League.

Up front Pedro Neto was a sprightly and positive presence. All left foot, the Portuguese forward is quick and technically excellent, as well as direct in his approach.

A goal and a nice assist capped his night off perfectly. He could be an x-factor from the bench in the coming weeks.

The pick of the new signings, though, was Cutrone. The Italian was inventive, hard-working and savvy, popping up here, there and everywhere in both defence and attack, drifting in behind the back line or chasing back to the halfway line to harass defenders.

His touch to take Vallejo's pass before setting up Neto for the first goal was slightly sexual, while he almost topped Jota's later goal with a blockbuster swing of his right boot and a searing volley on the turn that whistled over the bar.

The only thing missing was a goal – but on this evidence that won't be far away.

Roadrunner

Both wing-backs could afford to play as wingers and they filled their boots against Pyunik's obliging defenders.

Ruben Vinagre continued his excellent start to the campaign and also got on the scoresheet for the second Molineux match in a row.

Adama Traore, after a hit-and-miss first half, adopted full Roadrunner mode in the second half to great effect.

The Spaniard gave his man a standing start and a five-yard gap at times but still bombed past him for fun, toying with the Pyunik back-line and taking on one, two or three at a time.

Sure, Armen Manucharyan, formerly of Banants, isn't the most gifted left-back he'll ever face, but Traore not only beat him time and again, he also added end product in the form of some teasing crosses and a well-deserved assist.

Traore looks to be benefitting from having only one position to concentrate on and he'll be better off from having had a full pre-season with Nuno.

There will be tougher tests to come but in games where the onus will be on Wolves to attack, he will be a very useful option.

Traore was excellent against Burnley's Charlie Taylor towards the end of last season and you'd imagine the home game against the Clarets next weekend, after two huge matches against United and Torino when Matt Doherty will surely play, is one Nuno could be pinpointing to unleash the human express train.

Italian Job

Torino lie in wait next week and no one at Wolves will be under any illusions as to the task at hand.

Walter Mazzarri's team, like Wolves, finished seventh last year but only lost seven matches (five at home, two away) with Juventus, Roma and Napoli accounting for four of those defeats.

Historical similarities include a glorious past (five successive titles before the Superga tragedy of 1949) and a lack of recent European experience (one appearance in the past 24 years when they reached the last 16 of the Europa League in 2015).

In the likes of Italian international striker Andrea Belotti (74 goals in 151 Torino appearances), ex-Spurs and Roma forward Iago Falque, former West Ham striker and Italy-capped Simone Zaza, Argentine international defender Cristian Ansaldi and Venezuelan midfield stalwart Tomas Rincon, Torino represent a humongous step-up in quality from Wolves' two Europa opponents thus far.

On paper there is little to separate the two teams. And with United to come first on Monday, a big seven days has the feel of a March/April type week in terms of importance.

Wolves, though, with an improved and balanced squad and key players in form, look to be in fine fettle and will fancy their chances.

Let battle commence.

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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