Matt Maher: Not even Nuno can be immune from the strains faced in 2020

It won’t just have been Lee Mason’s eyes widening upon hearing Nuno Espirito Santo’s criticism of his performance following Wolves’ defeat at Burnley.

Nuno Espirito Santo the head coach / manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers speaks with Referee Lee Mason at full time. (AMA)
Nuno Espirito Santo the head coach / manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers speaks with Referee Lee Mason at full time. (AMA)

You can also include pretty much everyone in West Midlands football media who, over the last three-and-a-half years, have become used to the Wolves boss delivering clinics in the art of talking lots without actually saying anything at all.

Nuno never criticises the officials, even when there is just cause. Just nine days prior to the defeat at Turf Moor, he passed up the opportunity to comment on Mike Dean’s card-happy outing in the derby loss to Villa, where his team conceded a stoppage-time penalty. “You’ll have to speak to Mike,” was all he would say.

Then came Monday and the blunt dismissal of Mason’s ability which will surely lead to an FA fine. “He cannot control the players, he does not have the quality to whistle a Premier League game.”

Where on earth did that come from? Granted, Mason’s nit-picking doesn’t exactly allow matches to flow but his showing at Turf Moor wasn’t as poor as the one Wolves gave themselves.

Was Nuno’s outburst a none-too-subtle deflection tactic after an underwhelming display? Yes, quite clearly.

Was it also a sign of a head coach maybe starting to feel the strain? Perhaps a little of that too.

That’s not to say Nuno is under any particular pressure from above at Molineux, where there is an acceptance the current campaign is going to be one of transition. Yet change can be immensely frustrating, particularly for a head coach who has a track record of finding swift solutions.

Fixing the inconsistencies of this current Wolves team is proving rather trickier. If last week’s comeback over Chelsea represented a step forward, this was certainly a step back, not helped by the tactics of a head coach who, sometimes accused of not having a Plan B, has done more tinkering in the last month than the previous three-and-a-half years combined.

The human element shouldn’t be ignored. This has been a rough year for everyone, footballer managers included. Nuno has spent a good portion of it away from his family and while he might come across a cool customer, everyone has a trigger point.

Speaking of the bigger picture, Wolves possess the same number of points as they did at the same stage last season and are just seven adrift of second-placed Leicester.

It is far too early to dismiss this season as a write-off though, for now, it is undoubtedly tough going.

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