Premier League Season Preview | Wolves Betting Breakdown
Tony Marshall/Getty. Pictured: Mario Lemina.
Welcome to Action Network's Premier League team previews, where our soccer experts will break down each and every Premier League team ahead of the season, which starts on August 11. In this piece, we examine Wolves.
Premier League Season Preview – Wolves
Wolves enter the 2023-24 season with as much turmoil as any team in the Premier League and it's hard to find three teams worse on paper. Wolves' ultimate saving grace could be that all three promoted teams from last season stayed up, thus making the pack of weaker teams at the bottom of the PL food chain even larger. Wolves finished last season with the third-worst xG difference and the fewest xG created.
They've now lost their best all-around player in Ruben Neves, who led Wolves in progressive passes, goals, shots, tackles and interceptions. Neves' six goals may not seem like a lot, but he and Daniel Podence accounted for 12 of Wolves' 28 goals (plus three own goals) scored in the last campaign.
The team's results improved under Julen Lopategui, but the underlying performances were just as dire as the Bruno Lage era. Lopategui went public with his criticism and dismay about the lack of activity in the summer transfer window. They've parted him just days before the season and former Bournemouth manager Gary O'Neill is set to take over. O'Neill did improve Bournemouth's attack, but even the Cherries had a considerably better level of attacking quality to work with.
Podence is expected to depart the club, which means that Wolves could lose 16 of their 40 goal involvements without a real striker replacement to make up for it. Wolves finished last year with the longest average shot distance in the league and I'm not too sure they can send more numbers forward without seriously exposing themselves defensively.
The attacking onus is likely to fall on Matheus Cunha, but his production has not at all translated from La Liga. He had 10 goal involvements in 11 90s for Atletico Madrid in 2021-22, but he had just two goals in 10.7 90s for Wolves last year and didn't add much in terms of xG or shots that suggest he's going to score more than 5-10 goals in a full season.
The defense was below average in 2022-23 and now will lose both Nathan Collins to Brentford and Connor Coady to Leicester City. Collins had solid ball-playing and progression numbers from the back line last year which will further leave Wolves without the ability to consistently play the ball forward on the ground.
Wolves had worse underlying numbers than two of the relegated teams last season — Leeds and Leicester. My power ratings have them as the third-worst team entering the 2023-24 season and the turmoil surrounding the club is a major red flag.
Scoring goals is going to be a real problem for Wolves and they're likely to be in the mix to go down. Wolves to be relegated at +350 or better is one of my favorite bets in all of Europe this season. The early season schedule is especially difficult — Wolves will play Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in the first seven match weeks. Given that a new manager is coming in days before the season, road trips to Luton Town and Crystal Palace won't be easy either.
It would be a shock if Wolves gets to 40 goals this season, and a shock if they're not in the relegation picture as a result.
Pick: Wolves to be relegated (+350 or better)