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Wolves would be wise to jettison European dreams this season

Propelled by a shrewd summer in the transfer market and led by a coach in Nuno Santo who impresses more and more, Wolves were unquestionably the surprise hit of the Premier League last term.

They enjoyed victories over Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United and did so by playing expansive football that was easy on the eye.

A defence marshalled by Conor Coady, meanwhile, conceded 35 fewer goals than Fulham, a team they came up with the previous May. Eventually, they finished a highly commendable seventh.

That rarefied position, however, now brings with it the eternal dilemma after Wolves secured European football by virtue of qualifying for the Europa League.

Do they fully commit to the competition, thereby jeopardising their league standing as the fixtures condense and the subsequent fatigue inevitably impacts on a smallish squad?

Or does Nuno persistently play a weakened side, thus rendering their participation pointless as an early exit would surely follow?

To make this decision sentiment must be discarded as tempting as it is to include it as a pertinent factor.

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That sentiment, in a nutshell, is that Wolves last featured in European competition all the way back in 1981 so understandably their involvement will be very meaningful for both players and fans alike.

Furthermore, as proven last season, Wolves have the aptitude to take on and beat more ‘prestigious’ sides, taking 16 points from the top six. With Roma, Lazio and Sevilla et al lurking in the group stages some famous and unforgettable nights under the Molineux lights potentially await.

The flip-side to that argument though contains the same ingredients.

The competition includes the aforementioned teams along with many other dangerous foes and the odds on Wolves going all the way is so slight as to be far-fetched.

The chances of them going deep, however, is fair but with that comes an unavoidable detrimental effect on their domestic progress that they have fought hard and incrementally for.

Examples of which can be illustrated most recently by Arsenal in 2017/18. They threw all their eggs into the Europa League basket, only to sacrifice their place in the top four.

Determined to go out on a high Wenger fully invested in the Gunners’ Europa journey, often selecting his strongest available talent. Ultimately though they went out at the semi-final stage – so near but no cigar.

In the league, their form suffered, dropping points in seven matches from late January onwards and they finished a disappointing sixth.

A six-week injury to their arch-poacher Alexandre Lacazette certainly didn’t help, sustained during a routine win over Ostersunds.

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In 2010 Fulham raised the continent’s eyebrows by making it to the Europa League final. Yet the effort in doing so resulted in a team that was on the verge of breaking into the top six slipping down to mid-table that year and not since have they worried the higher echelon of the Premier League.

That season Fulham played an extra 19 games to make it to Hamburg: for Wolves, due to an expanded format, it will take 20 matches before they can dream of a final.

And it is this that presents the major problem. Nuno has shown that he thrives best when working with a tight-knit coterie of players – last season he utilised 17 players for ten or more league games.

By comparison, Jurgen Klopp, another advocate of small squads used 19 – and should he keep to that remit when fighting on four different fronts surely injuries and fatigue will prevail.

Additionally, Wolves are also thrown into competitive action against Crusaders a full 17 days before their league season even begins.

The Europa League is so often a memorable night here, a half-glory there, but at what price?

It is a cost that a club very much on the up cannot afford at this juncture.

Article title: Wolves would be wise to jettison European dreams this season

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