Wolves 2018/19 Season
Wolves enjoyed a successful return to the Premier League finishing an all-time best 7th position. Their impressive performances throughout the season have landed them a spot in the 2019/20 Europa League competition. For many fans, this is a brilliant opportunity for Wolves to showcase their new brand of football on the European stage. However, the question will be how the additional commitments affect their premier league campaign. In this article we are going to analyse previous Europa League sides, and determine whether Wolves can remain competitive and therefore attractive FPL assets.
Wolves were the break out side from last season’s campaign, providing managers with a selection of great FPL assets. Jimenez was arguably the FPL value player of the season, scoring the third most points for forwards. A game time security along with the balance of both goals and assists, Jimenez was a popular player throughout the season.
Another impressive player in the Wolves ranks was their attacking full back Matt Doherty. Manager Nuno deployed a 3-5-2 formation that put an emphasis on the wing backs supporting the attacks. This resulted in a decent return from the budget defender, scoring 4 and assisting 5 league goals. His ownership surpassed 1.4 million during the mid-season, highlighting the popularity of the Irishman.
Other notable mentions go out to Diogo Jota who began the season with high expectations after a wonderful Championship campaign. After starting the Premier League season poor, he showed his class at the turn of the new year, scoring a hat trick in a 4-3 win over Leicester. In fact, from gameweek 23 onwards Jota scored 7 of his 9 goals and assisted 5 of his 8.
Finishing the season in strong form, we imagine like the two mentioned, Jota will be a price dependant asset for managers to keep a close eye on. His FPL position will likely see a change to become a striker, after being registered as a midfielder last season. Playing the majority of the season as a second striker, his change of FPL position will negatively affect his value losing a point for every goal scored and no clean sheet point.
Wolves & the Europa League
While the Wolves assets seem a no-brainer for managers to pile into next season, questions have been asked about the impact the Europa league will have on the team. Due to their 7th place finish, Wolves will have to play a 2 legged qualifying match in order to reach the official competition. This means that Wolves’ competitive season starts on the 25th July, 16 days before the opening fixtures of the Premier League. A full cup run would mean an additional 12 matches to add to their league and domestic cup fixture list.
With both an ambitious manager and owner, we would expect Wolves to play a strong side in the opening tie. In turn this will naturally put a strain on the team playing more minutes and test the strength of the squad depth.
Wolves fielded only 20 players throughout the 2018/19 league campaign – the least of any team in the Premier League. This would suggest that Nuno is dependent on his core players with less alternatives to fall back on.
Wolves spent the entire of last season with only one recognised striker in Raul Jimenez. Jota featured as a striker for the second half of the season, but it is clear that they don’t have a wealth of choices in this area. Even if injury does not affect the core players in the team, the introduction of Thursday night football – especially away from home – will have a negative effect on fitness levels.
We think that it is important to monitor the summer transfer window activity by Wolves. At first glance, it seems that they do not have the quality in their squad to rotate in both the league and Europe while remaining competitive. But with the money available to Nuno, you would expect him to have the resources to strengthen in the appropriate positions.
Outside the ‘top 6’ Europa League history
There is a general perception on the Europa League, that the additional commitments hinder a teams league campaign. The assumption was supported last season when Burnley finished 15th, after finishing 7th the season before. Burnley had a similar squad to Wolves – reliant on a core of the team without the options to rotate while remaining competitive. Burnley ended up exiting the competition during the qualifying round, therefore the additional fixtures didn’t affect them as it has to others.
We have analysed the performances of mid-table sides over the years, and how their European commitments have impacted their league form:
18/19 – Burnley
Knocked out in the qualifying rounds
18/19 league position – 15th
17/18 league position – 7th (no Europa League)
Knocked out in the group stages
17/18 league position – 8th
16/17 league position – 7th (no Europa League)
16/17 West Ham
Knocked out in the play-off round
16/17 league position – 11th
15/16 league position – 7th (with Europa league)
Knocked out in the group stages
16/17 league position – 8th
15/16 league position – 6th (with Europa league)
15/16 West Ham – Qualified for Europa League through Fair Play table
Knocked out in third qualifying round
15/16 league position – 7th
14/15 league position – 12th (no Europa league)
Knocked out in play-off round
15/16 league position – 6th
14/15 league position – 7th (no Europa league)
14/15 Hull – Qualified through FA cup
Knocked out in play-off round
14/15 league position – 18th
13/14 league position – 16th (no Europa league)
Knocked out in round of 16
14/15 league position – 11th
13/14 league position – 5th (no Europa league)
As it can be seen from the data, the two stand out teams are Everton in 2014/15 and Burnley last season. Both seemed to suffer from a Europa League headache, finishing much worse than their previous season. While we can’t say for sure the Europa League is at fault for this, it is clear that it isn’t a benefit for the teams.
For the rest of the sides, it seems that the impact of the Europa League had a minimal effect on their league position. In fact, the likes of West Ham and Southampton have enjoyed some of their best seasons with the added commitments.
What is hard to measure is the impact the competition can have once a team progresses further into the cup. Everton are the only side of the teams mentioned that have achieved further than the group stage, reaching the round of 16.
Naturally, going further in the Europa League will have an effect on the players and stretch the resources available to the manager. From Wolves’ perspective, they are arguably in a better position than many of the previous mid-table sides to do well in the competition.
While they rely on a core spine in the team, they do have a number of international players that have featured on the big stage. These include Portugal internationals Patricio, Neves, Moutinho including Jimenez for Mexico. The games in which Wolves have faced the top sides, hint that they can hold their own against the European sides.
Buy or Avoid Wolves assets?
So should we be avoiding the Wolves assets? We don’t think the Europa League has the significant negative effect that many people believe. Our data highlights this for many of the mid-table sides, and while it doesn’t help them, it isn’t a guarantee to affect their league campaign.
The likes of Jimenez and Doherty are going to see a price rise this season after their great seasons and FPL performance. We think the main consideration will be whether their price rise still offers FPL value to managers. Doherty will likely start at £5.0m, therefore isn’t considered a budget option for many, so the question is asked whether he is an essential option. Whereas Jimenez was an essential budget pick, a price rise to the £7.5m/£8.5m range could price out many managers looking at 2 premiums and a budget.
We think that Wolves will still offer great FPL value throughout the season, however if they poorly invest in players over the summer, a successful cup run might devalue FPL their assets.
Do you think Wolves still offer FPL value? Will the likes of Jimenez and Doherty be in your gameweek 1 squad? Let you know over on Twitter, and give us a follow if you haven’t already!