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Basel 1 Wolves 2 – Five talking points

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

Wolves kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 victory over Basel.

Wolves beat Basel 2-1 in Biel (© AMA / James Baylis)

Goals from Rafa Mir and Diogo Jota saw Nuno Espirito Santo's team come from behind to win in Switzerland

It was a game of two halves with Nuno selecting different sides before and after half time.

So what did we learn from the game? Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers picks out five talking points.

Winning breeds winning

"Winning breeds winning" said Kortney Hause on the eve of this game.

You can't argue with that statement, especially for a team that won 65 per cent of its league matches last season.

No one is expecting Wolves to get near that percentage in the Premier League but what they can certainly hope for is to carry that winning mentality – and some momentum – into the start of the upcoming season.

In Basel they faced a good standard of opposition who are further ahead of Wolves in their pre-season preparations (the Swiss league starts a week on Saturday and Basel have a Champions League qualifier before the end of the month too).

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But Nuno's team were good value for this victory. They recovered from an early setback to deservedly level at half time and then took control early in the second half when the senior side began dominating possession and midfield.

Another victory on Saturday and Wolves could have a pre-season trophy on their hands too. That winning habit is a priceless commodity.

Mir-aculous strike

Rafa Mir hasn't been seen since January when he made the last of his four appearances following a move from Valencia earlier that month.

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You probably won't find many fans calling for him to be part of the Premier League squad but the striker got his pre-season off to the perfect start when notching Wolves' equaliser, volleying home Ivan Cavaleiro's corner.

The goal will do his confidence some good and hopefully Wolves can now see the Spaniard go on a bit of a run.

At aged 21 he's not in the 'untested youngster' bracket – he'll need to do something tangible sooner rather than later if he's not to miss the boat for this season.

After a few dodgy touches early on Mir improved after his goal with some decent passes and movement in the final third.

With new signing Raul Jimenez due back in training until next week and Leo Bonatini the only other senior striker at the club, Mir may only have a small window of opportunity to stake a claim.

This was a good start.

Cavaleiro/Costa

Nuno split his squad into two teams that could be termed as first choice and second choice, although Will Norris was in goal for the senior side instead of John Ruddy.

Interestingly – particularly amid rumoured interest from Fulham – Ivan Cavaleiro was in the second XI with Helder Costa getting the nod for the seniors.

Cavaleiro was a star player in 2017/18 with 12 assists and nine goals and he looked sharp here, displaying some magic feet and plenty of work rate, producing a great ball across the face and a decent effort at goal after starting the move himself with a searching pass to the right flank.

Fans will probably do a double take of Costa, who looks to have bulked up considerably since last season.

Costa, like his Portuguese counterpart, saw plenty of the ball in the second half and plenty of Wolves' play went through him, but his end product was quite disappointing, so of the pair Cav edged it.

Cavaleiro was probably the standout player of last pre-season but had to bide his time for a place in the league side. He'll be hoping to avoid that scenario this time around.

The kids are alright

Diogo Jota's winning goal from a deluxe back-to-front team move (hat tip Matt Doherty for some excellent work down the right) and Willy Boly's goal-line clearance in the dying minutes were the standout moments from this pre-season opener.

But the most indelible marks were made by the promising performances of Wolves' cherubs, particularly Ryan Giles, Elliot Watt and Pedro Goncalves.

Giles played a big role in helping Telford survive relegation at the end of last season with some virtuoso displays on the wing. The Premier League is a world away from New Bucks Head but against a good standard of opposition he produced an enterprising performance here, beating his man of a couple of occasions and always looking to make something happen down the flank or cutting inside, from a wing back role.

Most of the balls fed to him came from the boot of Scottish central midfielder Watt who was busy as the proverbial bee, picking up the ball from the back three and recycling it quickly. Alongside him 20-year-old Portuguese midfielder Goncalves brought some sophistication to the occasion with some excellent touches, a nice dink into the box that almost found the head of Mir and a 30-yard piledriver that flew just over the bar.

Cameron John held his own at centre half and Ashley Benny-Seal was full of running but got little change out of the Basel defence.

All in all a good start to the tour for Wolves' new kids on the block.

If it ain't broke

Nuno fielded a 3-4-3 formation for every single game of 2017/18 and there's no reason to suggest that won't be the case in 2018/19.

What's different this season is that Wolves already have some very solid foundations from last year on which to build. The formation, the tactics, the shape, the personnel...it all feels very familiar now.

You could see how assured the first choice team looked when they took to the field in the second half and Jota's winning strike was reminiscent of a few excellently worked team goals from last season.

Thanks to a rigorous off-season running schedule Wolves look at a good level fitness-wise. They produced some decent football here and beat a team that's a Champions League regular.

With just a month to go until the start of the season, everything is going pretty swimmingly. With a couple more signings in the bag Wolves will be well on track.

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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