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Wolves back to their best after a shaky start to the season

After Wolverhampton Wanderers’ excellent first season back in the Premier League, the current campaign did not get off to a great start. Their first five league matches yielded just 3 points as the team struggled to hit the same form as last term. In the early weeks of the season, the West Midlands outfit were hovering around the relegation zone and seemed to be lacking confidence.

But that has all changed in recent weeks. Wolves have improved in all competitions and are proving to be as formidable as they were last season. They are unbeaten in the Premier League since late September, and recently secured qualification for the Europa League knockout stages with a game to spare. After an indifferent start to the season, the team are showing the same form that impressed us all last campaign.

Europa League adventure

Wolves’ presence in this season’s Europa League represents the club’s first participation in European competition since the 1980-81 season. Having finished seventh in the Premier League, Wolves entered the competition in the second qualifying round and negotiated ties against Crusaders, Pyunik and Torino to reach the group stage.

They have flourished in a tricky group which contains SC Braga, Beşiktaş and Slovan Bratislava. The highlight of the campaign so far was Willy Boly’s last-gasp winner in Istanbul to beat Besiktas 1-0 – a fine result against a side with plenty of European pedigree.

The recent 3-3 draw with Braga sealed Wolves’ passage to the knockout stages, and they can now look forward to some big European nights in the New Year.

Striking the balance

One key issue for Wolves this season has been balancing their Europa League commitments with their Premier League campaign. Last season Wolves fielded largely the same 11 in every match and had a small but committed group of players pulling in the same direction. This was one of the reasons for their success, but the extra pressure of European football was sure to put a strain on the players.

This was one of the reasons for Wolves’ early struggles this season, as they came to terms with Thursday night Europa League football followed by a Premier League match that weekend. But now that they have found their feet, they are performing well on all fronts and have found the balance to give strong showings in every match. This was evidenced by the impressive 2-0 away win against Premier League champions Manchester City. Despite being underdogs in Premiership betting ahead of the game, Wolves gave a fine display at the Etihad just three days after beating Beşiktaş in Istanbul.

Moving forward

There is a sense that this season offers Wolves an opportunity to do even better than the last. With Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all struggling to hit the heights of previous campaigns, Wolves might fancy their chances of breaking into the top four. Leicester City have proved so far that those top sides are not immoveable objects in the upper reaches of the table, and if Wolves can continue their unbeaten run through the busy festive period then supporters may start dreaming of Champions League football for next season.

The Europa League knockout stages will be a chance for Wolves to make a name for themselves on the European stage, and this is important in terms of marketing the club and attracting players in the future. A good run in Europe will be crucial in building experience within the playing squad, especially among those who remain from Wolves’ time in the Championship.

There is a long way still to go this season, and nothing can be taken for granted in the Premier League or the Europa League, but Wolves are riding the crest of a wave and it could prove that this is just the beginning of a long period of success in the club’s history.