Nuno Espirito Santo insists the coming season will be harder for Wolves than last time.
Wolves are in Europe for the first time in 39 years which means they start their campaign on July 25, 16 days before their Premier League counterparts.
Head coach Nuno guided the team to seventh place last season, the highest a promoted team has finished since Ipswich were fifth in 2000-01, while it was the club’s highest position since 1979-80.
But the Molineux chief is expecting a more difficult challenge this time around. A year on from maing their return to the top flight, the element of surprise has gone from Wolves, while they have extra matches to contend with, as well as a renewed challenge of the teams around them such as Everton, Leicester, West Ham and Watford, plus others.
“It is a new challenge and a new year. It is going to be tougher than last season, for sure. We cannot rely on the optimism of the (previous) results,” said Nuno. “It is going to be tougher because the season will demand a lot more from us.
“Time between matches and the games, we have to look at that. It will require more from us. That is not the message to players because the message is always inside of us, it doesn’t change.
“We are going to be in four competitions and all these things, but at the same time I expect the players to keep improving.”
Sporting director Kevin Thelwell recently said the expectations are to repeat what they did last season. But Nuno is refusing to set any targets publicly himself, or offer any thoughts on challenging the top six.
“I don’t look at things like (making the top six),” he said. “I think the team can improve in many aspects of the game , that is what I am looking for, not classification.”
Perhaps more than anything, Nuno wants more consistency from his players to iron out blips such as the double defeat to relegated Huddersfield and their return against the bottom six, which was 13 points, three less than they picked up against the top six teams.
“We have to improve our game and be more consistent through the competition and avoid situations that not performing well in two or three matches can create a bad moment and momentum,” he acknowledged.
“You always have to try to react knowing you are not going to win every game. We don’t create expectations, you know how we work. The expectations are always to the next game.
“It is (about) staying the same – nothing is going to change this year, no matter that we have Europa League qualifications and the Cups. We are going to go game by game and we are preparing game by game. In this case it is a little bit different (because of Europe) but we are preparing the pre-season the same way.
“We go block by block. Now we have a friendly on Thursday and then a trip to China. There is no real expectations.”
Nuno aso acknowledged that in finishing seventh, Wolves surpassed expectations on what they hoped for following promotion from the Championship.
“Of course we did the work of analysis; now we can say we went beyond outside expectations,” he said. “It is not normal for a club from the Championship. I think the team has progressed and has played better than the season before. This is the expectations we have.
“At the same time honestly we struggled a little bit in the beginning last season. But as soon as we felt comfortable enough inside the competition regarding ourselves that we were ready to compete against any team, then the team responded well and kept on progressing.
“We had ups and downs and bad moments, situations that made us bounce back and react. We had big sad moments but we again stand up again and react well and finished the season pretty good.
“We did OK! Of course there were moments where you reflect and you look back and say: ‘Well done, the boys really worked hard’ and achieved far more than we expected, in terms of performance and the ability to play against big teams.
“But I don’t take too much time looking back, honestly.”
Nuno was linked to the Chelsea job before and after the departure of head coach Maurizio Sarri to Juventus. But Wolves fans will be relieved to hear he didn’t have his head turned by the speculation.
“I am here, I have a training session in the morning and afternoon,” he added. “I don’t care about rumours and all these things.”