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Wolves comment: Nuno 'the new special one' sticks to his guns

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

There's a new chant that's started being sung by the now indefinitely-giddy Wolves supporters.

Nuno takes the acclaim of the Wolves fans (© AMA / Sam Bagnall)

"Nuno's the special one", they've been singing since Old Trafford, to the familiar strains of Verdi's La Donna è Mobile.

Wolves held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw that day, when 'apprentice' Nuno watched his team play more attractive (and often more effective) football than that produced by his former master Jose Mourinho's boys.

And, while the chant is partly a dig at Mourinho, as the self titled Special One trudges through turmoil at Manchester United, there's a growing weight behind the notion that Nuno Espirito Santo is announcing himself as one of the Premier League's (and, given his background and previous clubs, also Europe's) hottest managerial properties.

Even though he was relatively unknown at the time, it still felt like a coup when Wolves, thanks to Jeff Shi and Jorge Mendes, lured Nuno to WV1 last summer. Everything that's happened since has merely confirmed how lucky Wolves are.

This is a head coach who sees things that many of his contemporaries don't. His attention to detail, his man management, his tactical nous and, above all, his principles of both the way he thinks football should be played and the way his players should approach their profession...they're the qualities that mark him out as different and, yes, special.

This is a football team built in his image; organised, diligent, stylish and disciplined.

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Long-time sidekick Ian Cathro, who linked up again with Nuno in the summer, told the Express & Star not long after he joined that the 44-year-old will 'without doubt become one of the top head coaches'.

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He added: "The top guys reach a point where they see things really clearly and there’s very few things that could happen that would knock them off track.

"That’s something that comes from inside, from your own strength and what you commit to and are convinced of.

"Nuno has the strength of vision to go through with his own convictions."

He certainly has.

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When approaching the Premier League campaign it would have been tempting to spend Fosun's many millions on team of superstars.

Instead, the starting XI selected for all eight matches so far (a Premier League record for the start of a season) contains seven of last year's Championship title winners.

New boys Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho, Jonny Castro Otto and Raul Jimenez have all been hand-picked for the roles they play and the (as Nuno would say) the very specific tasks they must undertake. They've slotted in seamlessly.

It would also be tempting to start £18million club record signing Adama Traore after his game-changing contributions from the bench.

Or to blood £12million newbie Leander Dendoncker instead of free transfer and 'unfashionable' Englishman Ryan Bennett.

Or to throw in Ivan Cavaleiro from the start.

Or to sign Benik Afobe (six goals since Christmas and a better goals-er-minute ratio than anyone in the Wolves squad) instead of Leo Bonatini (no goals since Christmas).

Or to switch formation to a more conventional four-at-the-back to try and negate the Premier League's most explosive forward lines.

Tempting for most, but not for Nuno.

While Fulham, for example, have partly ripped up what made them successful, spending £100m and fielding almost a new XI at times (which included a positional switch for Ryan Sessegnon) and duly finding some teething problems, Nuno has stuck to his principles.

What's followed is the consistency, particularly in defence, that set such solid foundations for a hugely successful 2017/18 season.

The only gripe has been the amount of goals Wolves have scored – but they weren't prolific scorers by runaway Championship leader standards last year anyway; they rarely handed out thrashings (scoring four times on four occasions) and didn't get near the 100-goal mark that most teams who reach around 100 points have in the past.

And to get where they'd love to go this season they don't have to be prolific.

Witness Burnley scoring 36 times on their way to seventh last season, or Southampton reaching eighth when netting only 41 goals in 2016/17.

Manchester United finished fifth in 2015/16 when scoring just 49, while a few years back miserly Fulham (39 goals in 2008/09) and Everton (45 goals in 2004/05) finished seventh and fourth respectively.

The elusive '20 goal a season striker' is a myth. Only four players managed this last season and there names are Mo Salah, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy.

Instead, sharing the goals around and not being over-reliant on one player (witness Wolves stopping Wilfried Zaha and therefore stopping Crystal Palace on Saturday) is to be welcomed as a positive. Wolves have amassed eight different goalscorers already.

With just one (incredibly unlucky) defeat so far and games against Watford and Brighton to come next, the table may look even more unbelievable in the coming weeks.

And their success, if it continues, will be built on the rigid shape, organisation and discipline that has characterised Wolves' Nuno era, more so than the goals, the skill, the free-flowing football.

That's why everything that's going so right with Wolves so far this season can be attributed to Nuno and his backroom team.

Incessant, repetitive shape work on the training ground, a 'one game at a time' approach that's so inflexible it borders on the obsessive, a humility in their approach, respect for the opposition but at the same time fearlessness and positivity...it's all down to Nuno.

He's coached the hell out of his players. And boy is the hard work paying off.

The 'new special one?' Maybe. One of the best managers Wolves have ever had? Even after just 14 months, it's a resounding yes.

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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