Jimenez Hwang with Molineux in the background
FOOTBALL Sport Wolverhampton Wanderers

Opinion: How Wolverhampton Wanderers have become contenders for European qualification under the radar

There was an air of uncertainty at Wolverhampton Wanderers when Nuno Espirito Santo left Molineux at the end of the 2020-21 season.

That level of uncertainty was heightened when they succumbed to defeat in their opening three league matches under his replacement Bruno Lage.

Very little was expected of Wolves after such an inauspicious opening to the campaign but Lage has galvanised his players to resuscitate their season.

Just two defeats from their last nine matches has propelled them into the top six and Wolves could be set to continue the success they achieved under Santo.

The return of Raul Jimenez has been crucial to their early season form. The Mexican marksman is gradually returning to his best after returning to action from a skull fracture suffered against Arsenal in November 2020.

Jimenez has scored twice in his last four league matches and is building an effective attacking partnership with Hwang Hee-chan. The forward, currently on a season-long loan from Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig, has settled seamlessly thus far in the Premier League.

The South Korean forward scored from the bench on his debut in a 2-0 win over Watford at Vicarage Road in September and added a brace in October’s 2-1 victory over Newcastle United.

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Wolves had tremendous balance during their opening two seasons in the Premier League but lost their way slightly last season.

Lage has made them much stronger at the back with Wolves conceding less goals on average per game (0.92) than in any of the previous three seasons.

Wolves have scored exactly the same amount as they’ve conceded (12) and have registered back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since April.

With just three points separating them from the top four, Wolves have become European contenders under the radar this season. They face stern competition in the shape of West Ham, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, but with less expectation, Wolves can continue to quietly go about their business in their quest for European qualification.

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