Nuno Espirito Santo’s team is deep into their current campaign thanks to Europa League. Chelsea and Frank Lampard will be tested in the Molineux.
When the Wolves were promoted to the Premier League and made several shrewd transfers, many expected them to survive comfortably. But few would have expected them to be the top six slayers they were as they made the best of the rest spot their own in seventh.
Nuno Espirito Santo did all of this while sticking to roughly the same tactics that got the Wolves promoted. Nearly everything bar the move from a 3-5-2 from a 3-4-3 remained the same. Santo stuck to the devils he knew this season as he kept pretty much the same squad with few players coming or going.
Europa League has seemed to stall the Wolves in the Premier League so far this season, but Chelsea will not gain that same advantage. Santo’s side hosts the Blues in their first Premier League match without a preceding Europa League match. The Wolves know how to take points from top six clubs but Frank Lampard will be hoping to break the trend.
As mentioned, Wolves have used a 3-5-2 formation since Santo decided he needed to find a spot for Leander Dendoncker (and the team stalled in the 3-4-3 somewhat). Stylistically, little changed with the tactics as the goal is still to create triangles and overloads to overwhelm the opponent quickly. This works well as the Wolves rotate very little and the players know each other well (though that may be why the Europa League has caused them struggles in the Premier League).
Defensively they are more Antonio Conte than Julian Nagelsmann. Mostly they will retreat into their 5-3-2 defensive shape and wait for the opponent to make a mistake rather than looking to force one. Most of their issues this season have come from breakdowns in that discipline with individual errors ruining the structure (something Conte will have been familiar with in his last few months).
Offensively it is about getting the ball forward quickly in between the lines and the lanes between players. If they cannot play it forward quickly, they will look to draw the opponent to one side of the pitch before switching the play (a tactic Lampard also prefers to use).
Because of the overall absorb and counter approach Santo uses, the style is very well suited to causing teams that like to be dominant (the top six) issues and it struggles against teams that are comfortable not being in the ascendancy (nearly every other Premier League side). That as much as the Europa League could be why they have struggled so far this season.
Lampard will need to keep his side composed in attack as the chances may come rarely. Defensively, the side will need to do much better or they will be torn to shreds as the Wolves strikers find the gaps between midfield and defense.
Unfortunately, this is a match that could go either way. Wolves are great against top six sides and though Chelsea is very different than last year, the Blues are still part of that group. Over extend and Lampard will see his side punished. Santo will like his chances given how much the Blues overextended versus Norwich and Sheffield United, but some time to rest may prove the difference for Lampard’s team.