Why Nuno Espirito Santo deserves to manage a bigger club
Background photo: Ruth Sharville, CC BY-SA 2.0
Due respect to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but they have a manager who deserves to be managing a bigger club. Judging by his fine work at Molineux, Nuno Espírito Santo can go nowhere but up.
One way or another, Espírito Santo was always going to be a manager in an elite league. As a player, the former goalkeeper portrayed a football brain and thrived in the task of marshalling his teammates. Less than a year after hanging his gloves, the 45-year-old secured an appointment as a goalkeeping coach at Malaga; before taking up a full-time coaching role with Portuguese outfit Rio Ave.
Espirito Santo has grown geometrically since his days as a greenhorn manager at Rio. Just before his brief stint at Porto, the Portuguese gaffer carved a niche for himself at Valencia – leading Los Che to a Champions League berth. Then came the challenge at Wolves.
What Espirito Santo has achieved with Wolves is nothing short of remarkable. Despite being a newly promoted side, his Wolves side is statistically the best team outside the top six. No team in the Division has robbed more points off the top-six than Wolves (10). In fact, they’ve picked points away at Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and recently, Chelsea.
Wolves are from being relegation-threatened, with over 40 points already in the kitty, while sitting pretty on seventh, the Wanderers are primed to earn a place in Europe at season’s end.
The players making it happen deserve accolades – guys like Raul Jimenez have already matched the record for most Premier League goals by a Wolves player (12). Joao Moutinho’s seven assists put him among the top goal manufacturers in the League. Altogether, Wolves is a pretty difficult team to beat. All that is due to the tactical framework painstakingly set up by Espírito Santo. Wolves quickly realized this and handed him a contract extension last July.
Espírito Santo is among a select group of managers who can effectively adapt their style depending on the opponent. It’s exactly why the top dogs find them difficult to take on. Remember, they bundled Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
Nuno’s system worked wonders in the Championship last season – they seemed a step too good for that League all year... It has continued to carry Wolves through the top tier.
Seventh in the Premier League table and into an #FACup quarter-final for the first time in 16 years 🐺👏
Conor Coady says #Wolves are building something special under Nuno Espírito Santo at Molineux 👇 https://t.co/M2RMcLmetA
The 45-year-old tactician favours the 3-5-2 formation. It gives Wolves solidity at the back with three centre-halves vigilantly guarding the backdoor and two wingbacks shuttling down the flanks. In midfield, Wolves are thick as thieves, marshalled by the intelligent Moutinho, who by the way is a stellar signing, alongside fellow Portuguese Ruben Neves. Not the point here, but who else notices the increasing number of Portuguese nationals in that Wolves team?
Nuno has somehow managed to build a strong partnership between his top two strikers – Diogo Jota and Jimenez have produced a combined 18 League goals this term. They’ve helped each other to the Wanderers last three League goals.
It shows Espirito Santo's craft at building a team that works efficiently as a functional unit. The fans couldn’t crave a more competent manager. But Nuno doesn’t smile a lot. And his dress sense is a little below par. All that though, are inconsequential in the discussion of managerial prowess.
The big leap
Sooner than later Nuno would have to move to a bigger club. He clearly deserves it. With 49 wins in 88 games, the man’s win percentage has risen impressively at Wolves. That’s something the big clubs love to hear.
There is a growing drought in pragmatic managers like Espírito Santo. As a keeper, Nuno played under Jose Mourinho at Porto. The trend indicates the dramatic and arrogant methods of the then ‘Special One’ is now antique. Guys like Nuno are the future of modern-day football.
Except for Chelsea, there may not be vacancy just yet for Nuno at any of the Premier League top-six sides. But elsewhere in Europe, there’s a vacancy at Roma. The question is, will Nuno Espírito Santo remain at Wolves beyond 2018-19? Don’t bet on it.