Matt Doherty believes Wolves might have to increase the size of their squad to cope with the added number of games next season.
Wolves have just 16 senior outfield players yet face up to six additional matches in the group stages of the Europa League, and will start their season on July 25 in Europe – 16 days before the beginning of the Premier League campaign, August 10. They are also prepared to offload two players who drifted to the fringes during the second half of last season – Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa – but would replace them.
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo deliberately wants to keep a small squad to keep all the players involved and ready to play.
The issue of adding to the size of the squad came up when Doherty was quizzed on international duty for Ireland last week.
Asked if challenging for the top four was too much to ask, the 27-year-old wing back replied: “Possibly, it’s kind of hard to say now.
“I guess it depends on how we start the season, especially with Europa League qualification – we might need to make the squad a bit bigger if that was the case.”
Chairman Jeff Shi has said Wolves will promote their Under-23s to the squad to play in the Europa League, rather than sign players just for the sake of increasing numbers, then be left with them if and when they are out of the competition.
Expectations of Wolves have risen after their seventh place finish last term. The Molineux men shocked a lot of observers, particularly from outside the region. This season they arguably face a tougher task, with the teams around them – Everton, West Ham, Leicester and Watford – all looking to improve as well, and those clubs haven’t got the distraction of Europe.
But Doherty insists Wolves will only be looking upwards, at the top six, focusing on an improvement on their results against the lower-placed teams. Last season Wolves picked up more points against the top six than the bottom six sides.
“Initially, we will be just looking to improve on seventh, said the long-serving Dubliner. “There were a lot of games against the lower-half teams that we lost when you would expect us to maybe win, so from this season, there’s a lot we can improve on.”