Mel Eves believes Wolves’ aim this season should be to close the gap on the Premier League’s top six.
Last season Wolves surprised many by finishing seventh in their first season back in the top flight to clinch the highest place of a promoted team since Ipswich were fifth in 2000-01. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were nine points behind sixth-placed Manchester United, and 13 behind Arsenal, who finished fifth. They were three points ahead of Everton in eighth and five above Leicester in ninth.
League Cup winner Eves, a regular summariser on Wolves games for BBC Radio WM, reckons Nuno’s side can turn the top six into a top seven. “The next thing Wolves are looking to do is to establish themselves in the Premier League, but I know Fosun will be aiming to make it a top seven (with Wolves),” said the former striker, now 62.
“Wolves have got to close the gap (between sixth and seventh) – that’s all they can do. You can’t expect them to be in a position to challenge to win the League, but they will be challenging to get into Europe.
“Everyone talks about Wolves breaking into the top six; well, there’s no hard and fast rule where there’s a divine right for the top six to be those clubs, unless I have missed something. There isn’t. Leicester proved that in one season (2015-16 when they won the League) but then it’s all about consistency, and that’s where you look to build the right quality in your squad.”
Now Wolves are back in Europe, with a Europa League third qualifying round tie at Armenian outfit FC Pyunik on Thursday night, Eves would love to see them competing on the continental stage on a regular basis. But he believes they must continue making the right signings to achieve the necessary consistency. “From a really positive point of view, that’s what we’d love to see, and I’m sure that’s what they’ll be planning for,” he said. “But Fulham invested massively just to stay in the Premier League and got it wrong. Wolves on the other hand, brought in players of the calibre of Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez and Jonny, added to the players already here to make one heck of a difference.”
Raul Jimenez made his first start following his late break in last week’s 4-1 win at Crusaders in the Europa League, scoring twice. The Mexico international picked up where he left off after 17 goals in all competitions for Wolves in his debut season in England. But Eves reckons he can improve, especially in his hold-up play.
“It was a tremendous return and it’s all credit to the recruitment of the club,” said Eves. “It took him time to bed in but he’s done very well. I think he has been excellent. He can improve – one of the things as a centre forward he needs to get better at is holding the ball up, because I thought that’s what needed to happen at times last season.
“Don’t get me wrong, he does it very well, but he can get even better. You’re always looking to get even better at what you do. The strikers have to hold the ball up for Wolves better when we’re under pressure. Because when you get out (up the pitch), you’ve got to hold it up and make sure the opposition don’t come straight back at you, which has happened at times.”
Wolves have added to their attack with the £16m signing of Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan. Eves believes they might need other options if Nuno looks to revert back to 3-4-3 at some stage. “You’ve always got to look to get better, the same with Diogo Jota,” he said. “If those two look to get better then great. But you’ve also got to look at options of playing in different ways. If he wants to play 3-4-3 one game, have we got the right options to do it? Because at the moment, the only other option is Adama Traore.”