Wolves need to buck a worrying trend if they are to continue progress under Nuno Santo – opinion

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Wolves have practically one foot in the group stages of the Europa League following their third round qualifying first leg routing of Pyunik last week.

A Raul Jimenez brace in between Matt Doherty’s opener and a Ruben Neves penalty secured a four-goal advantage going into the second leg at Molineux on Thursday.

By the time they face Manchester United in only their second Premier League game of the season on Monday night, Wolves will have played four European ties and it’s only the middle of August.

That run of Thursday-Sunday games will only continue as they look dead certain on making the next round.

How much of an impact that will have on their Premier League ambitions remains to be seen but their opening stalemate with Leicester City has to be a good signal towards a positive result.

Having travelled to and from Armenia in the week – a 6,700-odd mile round trip, Wolves showed no signs of adversity but it’s still only early days.

On the chalkboard

As the season trundles on, something will have to give unless Wolves take the European burden on top of another decent finish in the league like a duck to water.

Nuno Santo may believe that the club’s first venture into a European competition in nearly 40 years will have little impact on where they finish in the Premier League, but history suggests he is wrong.

A couple of seasons ago, Sean Dyche’s Burnley extraordinarily finished seventh but their time in Europe appeared to hamper their progress in the league even though they didn’t make it past the qualifying stage, as they finished 15th last season.

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Similarly, Everton, West Ham and Southampton have all followed the same precedent making it seem all too likely that Wolves will be the next to feel such a strain – one that involves being in another country during the week and then somewhere else in the UK by the weekend.

Everton went from fifth to finishing 11th the following year whilst making the round of 16 matches in the Europa League; West Ham followed a seventh place finish with 11th and Southampton were nearly relegated a year after facing Inter Milan in the group stages.

Having finished seventh themselves last term, it looks ominous that Wolves could be an addition rather than an exception to the rule.

However, they do seem slightly better equipped for bucking the trend – they won’t be selling some of their major stars to Liverpool as Southampton have done in the past for example.

Santo has also added depth to his squad with the additions of players who carry some sort of European pedigree – Jesus Vallejo from Real Madrid and Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan are just two and they come from teams that regularly compete in Europe and have numerous trophies to their names.

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