Nuno expecting tougher season for Wolves
“It’s going to be tougher than last season, for sure” is Nuno Espirito Santo’s verdict as he sets about continuing Wolves’ rapid rise.
Nuno has enjoyed nothing but success since joining the club two years ago, guiding Wolves to the Championship title and then a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, securing European football at Molineux for the first time in 39 years.
That will lead to more matches and a longer season in 2019/20, but the boss is confident his players will step up to the mark – and make the improvements he requires.
“It is a new challenge and a new year,” Nuno said yesterday.
“It is going to be tougher than last season for sure. We cannot rely on the optimism of the (previous) results
“We are going to be in four competitions and all these things, but at the same time I expect the players to keep improving.
“It is going to be tougher because the season will demand a lot more from us.
“Time between matches and the games, we have to look at that. It will require more from us.
“That is not the message to players because the message is always inside of us, it doesn’t change.
“Now (in pre-season) is like filling up a bottle, each day that you don’t put a little inside you are going to miss it for the future.
“You have to work hard in the training session and prepare ourselves for what is coming in front of us.”
Wolves were ‘best of the rest’ in the Premier League last season, taking a host of top-six scalps along the way including Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs.
However, true to form, Nuno isn’t publicly setting a target for 2019/20.
“I don’t look at things like (cracking the top six),” he added.
“I think the team can improve in many aspects of the game , that is what I am looking for, not classification.
“We have to improve our game and be more consistent through the competition and avoid situations that not performing well in two or three matches can create a bad moment and momentum.
“You always have to try to react knowing you are not going to win every game.
“We don’t create expectations, you know how we work. The expectations are always to the next game.
“In this case it is a little bit different, we are preparing the pre-season the same way.
“We go block by block. Now we have a friendly on Thursday and then a trip to China.
“There is no real expectations.”
Talking of expectations, Wolves certainly surpassed them last season when adapting quickly to the top flight and finish above established Premier League sides like Leicester City, West Ham United and Everton.
While not wanting to indulge too much in enjoying memories of last season, Nuno said it was important to analyse their strengths and weaknesses from the campaign.
“We did OK!” he said. “Of course there were moments where you reflect and you look back and say: ‘Well done, the boys really worked hard’ and achieved far more than we expected in terms of performance and the ability to play against big teams.
“I don’t take too much time looking back, honestly.
“Of course we did the work of analysis – now we can say we went beyond outside expectations.
“It is not normal for a club from the Championship.
“I think the team has progressed and has played better than the season before.
“This is the expectations we have.
“But at the same time honestly we struggled a little bit in the beginning last season.
“But as soon as we felt comfortable enough inside the competition regarding ourselves that we were ready to compete against any team then the team responded well and kept on progressing.
“We had ups and downs and bad moments, situations that made us bounce back and react.
“Sad moments we had, big sad moments but we again stand up again and react well and finished the season pretty good. It is (about) staying the same, nothing is going to change this year, no matter we have Europa League qualifications and the Cups.
“Nothing is going to change, we are going to go game by game and we are preparing game by game.”
Nuno was repeatedly linked with the Chelsea job over the summer, but Wolves supporters will be glad to hear he ignores any speculation.
“I am here, I have a training session in the morning and afternoon,” Nuno added.
“I don’t care about rumours and all these things, I don’t really care.”