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Talking Tactics

Wolves: Three players to watch

Adrian Clarke 9 Jun 2018
Ruben Neves, Conor Coady and Diogo Jota, of Wolves

Adrian Clarke picks out a trio from the Championship title-winners he thinks will shine in 2018/19

Adrian Clarke looks at three players who will be influential in Wolverhampton Wanderers' return to the Premier League.

Ruben Neves

At the age of 21, Ruben Neves’s sophisticated midfield play belies his tender years.

He constantly looks for the ball, is blessed with outstanding control, composure and vision and is the heartbeat of an excellent Wolves side.

Statistically, he did not stand out in a creative capacity during their promotion campaign, as he claimed only one assist.

However, his eye for a long-range forward pass, or a switch pass, was second to none in the Championship.

He set up a stream of attacks from relatively deep in central midfield, but he was also happy to work hard and win the ball back. He made 2.3 tackles per match in 2017/18 and collected 11 yellow cards.

Long-range goalscorer

The Portuguese playmaker is also a scorer of fine goals.

Eager to try his luck from distance, all six of his strikes came from outside the penalty area.

It will be a step up in 2018/19, but I am sure Neves will be a pleasure to watch in the Premier League.

Long-range maestros in Championship
Most shots from distance Most successful long passes
Ruben Neves 90 Ruben Neves 361
James Maddison 71 Conor Coady 290
Luke Freeman 63 Tom Huddlestone 265
Conor Coady

Conor Coady did not receive the same widespread acclaim that some of his team-mates enjoyed in 2017/18 but his consistently high levels of performance were instrumental in helping Wolves win the title.

The former Liverpool Academy graduate played as a sweeper, having spent the two previous campaigns at Molineux as a midfielder or auxiliary right-back.

Performing in the middle of Nuno Espirito Santo’s back three brought the best out of the 25-year-old.

With the play in front of him Coady’s reading of the game came to the fore.

He made numerous timely interceptions and blocks and proved reliable as the defender responsible for covering the middle of the pitch.

When Wolves did find themselves under pressure, he was often first on the scene to tidy up.

Ball-playing sweeper

However, it is on the ball where Coady exerted his greatest influence.

Collecting the ball from goalkeeper John Ruddy or his fellow central defenders, he has the confidence and ability to distribute it well.

He brought the ball out of defence with assurance and the numbers confirm that his passing was magnificent last season.

Despite making the second-highest number of long passes in the Championship, Coady’s overall passinng accuracy was an impressive 90.3 per cent.

The only player with a better record was Fulham’s Tom Cairney.

The Championship's top passers and blockers
Best passing accuracy Most blocks
1. Tom Cairney 91.5% 1. Liam Moore 48
2. Conor Coady 90.3% 2. James Chester 42
3. Alex Tettey 89.2% 8. Conor Coady 32
Diogo Jota

Operating primarily on the left side of a three-man attack, Diogo Jota could be a revelation next season.

The 21-year-old is blessed with flair and the ability to make sharp runs that opponents found difficult to mark in the Championship.

Jota made five assists and scored an impressive 17 goals.

The Portuguese forward often became a second striker, particularly when Wolves broke at speed.

Resilient performer

By making 43 starts, Jota also displayed durability throughout his first season in English football.

He was often the victim of fouls, but proved a resilient character.

Statistically, last season showed he has the full package.

Jota is an outstanding runner with the ball, a top-class creator, and a forward always looking to shoot on sight.

With scope for further development as a player, this player looks to be a seriously exciting prospect who can shine on the Premier League stage.

Also in this series

Part 1: The promoted: Fast Wolves can take their big chance
Part 3: The promoted: Cardiff can shake things up
Part 4: Cardiff: Three players to watch
Part 5: The promoted: Fulham set to return in style
Part 6: Fulham: Three players to watch

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