The Inside Track: Wolves

By SFC Media Wed 23 Aug Saints vs Wolves
Photo by Getty Images | Nuno Espirito Santo

Southampton host Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carabao Cup second round tonight, and we got the lowdown on the Championship side from Express & Star reporter Tim Spiers.

How have Wolves started the season and what is the current mood like?

With a new head coach, a revamped backroom team, 11 new players and a new formation and playing style, no one really knew what to expect. But winning the first three league matches against very stiff opposition in Middlesbrough, Derby County and Hull City was a very welcome surprise. It wasn't just that Wolves beat these sides, it was the manner of victories, particularly at Derby, where Wolves produced some of the most impressive technical football we've seen them play in recent years.

Saturday's defeat at home to Cardiff City was a bit of a wake up call, but it should serve them well in the long run, as the Bluebirds are more akin to what Nuno Espirito Santo's men can expect to face week in, week out over the next nine months. With a number of new signings hitting the ground running, the mood is one of quiet optimism for the season ahead.

What is the team’s style of play like?

Former Porto boss Nuno has worked his new squad incredibly hard on the training field since the end of June, imprinting a 3-4-3 formation with a strong emphasis on possession-based football. Wolves have a number of technically gifted players in their ranks now and the system and style suits them well, while the likes of 'old boys' Matt Doherty and Conor Coady have adapted to the new regime.

The wing backs are crucial to the system's success and Doherty and Barry Douglas have both made impressive starts to the season, with the latter already looking a bargain buy at just £1m from Turkish side Konyaspor. Record signing Ruben Neves has been pulling the strings in midfield and Atletico Madrid loanee Diogo Jota has been a creative influence alongside the tricky Bright Enobakhare and new Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini, who has scored twice in five appearances.

How important is the Carabao Cup being seen at Wolves?

To be blunt, not very. With so many new signings from overseas having to get used to the relentless, unforgiving nature of the Championship schedule, the Carabao Cup equals extra games that Nuno would probably rather do without.

That said, it does represent a good opportunity for a number of fringe players from what is a large first-team squad to get some game time and try and force their way into the team for Saturday's trip to Brentford, particularly after a disappointing league defeat a few days ago.

Wolves have won this competition twice (in 1974 and 1980) but their EFL Cup record in recent years is nothing short of atrocious. They've been dumped out the competition by a number of minnows and not overcome a team from a higher division since beating Coventry in 1995. An overdue run in the competition would be welcome – but only if it didn't distract from their league campaign, with promotion to the Premier League the very clear aim for the season.

Who do you think will be the key men for them?

Nuno made nine changes for the 1-0 first round victory over Yeovil at Molineux, and the chances are he'll do something similar at St Mary's. In that case, the likes of talented young Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, loaned Monaco wing-back Ruben Vinagre, pacy winger Jordan Graham and striker Nouha Dicko will come into the XI and can all offer a threat.

Ivan Cavaleiro, a £7m winger who joined from Monaco last summer, has yet to start a game this season owing to initially being suspended and then being kept on the bench by the form of Nigerian younger Enobakhare. If he starts, he'll be Wolves' dangerman – a creative and explosive winger who looked great in pre-season and has a spectacular goal in him.