Wolves 2 Fulham 0

What a difference 11 months can make.

Last time Fulham pitched up at Molineux, the points were shared in an eight goal thriller which, although entertaining, said more for the quality of the opposition than it did the home side.

As Thomas rightly pointed out in his match preview, the Fulham of 2016/17 offered a blueprint for Wolves to aspire to.

Slaviša Jokanovic’s side oozed confidence when slaloming through last season’s ragtag equivalent, and few left the ground on that grisly December afternoon under any illusions about the gulf in class between the two.

When you consider tonight’s routine victory against the Cottagers in that context, it’s hard not to raise a wry smile.

If ever a game demonstrated the progress made by Wolves since the curtain fell on last season, this was it.

Nuno’s men were simply irrepressible in the first ten, claiming an early lead through Romain Saiss’ second goal of the season.

And though the visitors grew in stature after conceding, they were unable to prevent Barry Douglas and the increasingly prolific Leo Bonatini from combining for the second.

From that point on, proceedings were fairly routine in a bonfire weekend fixture low on sparkles.

Nonetheless, only the most hard nosed of supporter could fail to be impressed by the efficiency with which we kept our opponents at bay.

Whereas the Wolves side of years gone by looked flustered when put under the slightest amount of pressure, today’s group look capable of weathering almost all storms that come their way.

Even more impressive is the extraordinary confidence with which they move the ball, regardless of its position on the pitch.

For that we have to thank Ruben Neves, who is beginning to resemble more a gift from the heavens than he is a club record signing.

How such a supremely talented footballer has come to be plying his trade in England’s second division remains a mystery to me, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Tonight’s man of the match performance is arguably his best in old gold, especially given the technical dexterity of his counterparts in white.

Whether it was the ferocity with which he pressed when out of possession or the simple outrage of his passing range, there was plenty to laud the Portuguese for this evening.

Simply put, he makes us tick and keeping him fit has to be a priority for Nuno and his staff moving forward.

That being said, credit ought to be afforded to the performances of Barry Douglas, the provider of two sumptuous assists, and Willy Boly, who alongside Connor Coady looks by far and away the best of our current crop of centre halves.

However, as has been the case all season, this triumph was the result of a concerted team effort, one which leaves us sitting pretty at the top of the division irrespective of what our nearest contenders do tomorrow.

Only the boldest of match goer would have predicted that a year ago, a truth which leaves this writer brimming with optimism – albeit cautious optimism – about what’s still to come.

Wolves 3 Preston North End 2

If last week’s victory was a demonstration of Wolves’ ability to win beautifully, then this tempestuous fixture was the opposite.

Whether or not it had anything to do with the old adage of foreigners not liking wet and windy weather, many of our continental stars were off colour in the opening half.

Enough stray passes were played to make an untrained eye think that this was Paul Lambert’s Wolves side on display, and not the Nuno incarnation that has had us all purring of late.

Our own shortcomings aside, there’s no denying the credentials of our opposition.

Preston came with a gameplan and, much like Cardiff, executed it to perfection, though admittedly they were fortunate to have the mind bogglingly incompetent Stephen Martin on refereeing duties.

Questions were asked of Wolves, and for large parts of the game it was difficult to remain steadfast in the belief we would answer them.

Alas, this team appears to be capable of conjuring goals at will and did so at the death of a first half in which we had been second best.

The rejuvenated and oft celebrated Ivan Cavaleiro showed a striker’s instinct to tap over the line after the ball had ricocheted around the box, notching a goal which revitalised an otherwise sluggish home team.

One might argue that Leo Bonatini’s ensuing brace and the subsequent three goal advantage flattered Nuno’s side, but the majority of the 27,000 plus crowd cared little for justice at that point.

The Brazilian loanee is really starting to look the part and has proven the frivolous concerns of some regarding his ability to score goals to be just that. His nimble footwork, deceiving strength and excellent reading of the game makes him a key cog in our feverish front three and I’d like to see Fosun make his stay at Molineux permanent come the summer.

Our healthy cushion was not to last long, with the Lilywhites providing a perhaps timely reminder that, for all the resolve of the new look back three, we are still capable of conceding needless goals.

First, the impressive Jordan Hugill was given the freedom of Molineux and headed home a teasing cross before Roderick Miranda then conspired to miss a routine clearance and allow Preston to force home a sloppy own goal.

I’m a fan of Miranda, believing him to be one of the more underrated of our summer acquisitions, but he was our weakness for much of yesterday’s game. He’ll need to improve his concentration levels if he’s to fend off the returning Willy Boly’s claim for a place in the starting eleven.

What ensued after that carnage was an acid test of our resilience, with Preston dominating the ball and invoking some real backs to the wall defending. Connor Coady and Romain Saiss were particularly brilliant during this period, both using their gangly frames to help prevent disaster.

After we rode out a spell of seemingly endless pressure, the aforementioned Martin decided to allow the game to descend into farce by instigating a mass brawl between all sets of players. This culminated in the just sending off of Alan Browne and his hilarious ‘Where’s Wally?’ like efforts to find him after his quick trudge down the tunnel.

Some comic relief on an otherwise stressful, but no less gratifying, afternoon.

Though Nuno’s unlikely to have enjoyed this one quite as much as he did the Villa game, his team have nonetheless proven that they can win games one of two ways. History will tell you that’s an essential characteristic for any promotion chasing side to have, and whilst it remains early days it’s hard to contest the view that Wolves are looking ominously equipped to achieve their ambitions.

Burton Albion 0 Wolves 4

In the wake of this victory – our most convincing of the season by some distance – one can only assume that the Wolves players wiled away the hours of Friday night playing FIFA 18.

The football on display at the Pirelli Stadium was often befitting of a video game, such was the precision of our build up play and composure in front of goal.

The footwork of the diminutive pairing of Ivan Cavaleiro and Ruben Vinagre was often the stuff of pure fantasy, with poor Stephen Warnock ending up on his backside when attempting to prevent our fourth and final goal.

It was a performance to behold, one that erased the premature fear of a dip in form following our defeat to Sheffield United.

Given our response to the loss against Cardiff earlier in the season, that always seemed unlikely but those of a glass half empty persuasion can be forgiven for expecting the worst given there is the small matter of the derby with in-form Aston Villa looming.

As pointed out in previous blogs, Wolves finally seem to have found themselves a manager capable of instilling a winning mentality within the club and that was never more apparent than yesterday.

Say what you like about the Brewers, but they’re a formidable side at home that try and play football the right way.

Nonetheless, their efforts were fruitless yesterday as we surged into an early two goal lead.

Cavaleiro, in the sort of form that makes him worthy of the seemingly never ending song that has been dedicated to him, did well to tee up the clinical Diogo Jota for the first, whilst the less Stephen Bywater hears about the Roman Saiss’ tap in that followed shortly after the better.

If those goals were pleasing but somewhat underwhelming, the following two made for gleeful viewing.

Ruben Vinagre, arguably the best performer on the pitch, weaved his way into the opposition box in a manner befitting of the world’s very best full backs before dispatching the ball low and hard past the hapless Bywater.

Though he is far from the finished article, it is becoming clearer with every passing game that the Portuguese loanee is a frightful talent that has the potential to go far in his career.

It was hard to see that goal being topped for quality, but the fourth was the result of some simply outrageous skill.

After turning the aforementioned Warnock inside out, Cavaleiro squared the ball to the also excellent Matt Doherty who rolled it nto the path of a gleeful Leo Bonatini for an easy fourth goal of his Wolves career.

Liquid football is the most appropriate term to describe this performance, and we now head into the international break, dependent on today’s results, sitting pretty in second place.

We can only hope that the ensuing spate of international games does not throw us off kilter, as you’d suspect we’ll have to replicate these standards when facing the more challenging prospect of Steve Bruce’s promotion chasers.

One thing’s for certain though, in this sort of form, Nuno’s men are capable of putting anyone to the sword.

Nottingham Forest 1 Wolves 2

Nuno’s time under the tutelage of the current Manchester United manager may have been brief, but it could prove telling come the end of the season.

This game bore all the hallmarks of a Josè Mourinho side, with titillating football hard to come by for much of the game but no less crucial when it did occur.

Diogo Jota will deservedly get the plaudits for his match winning brace, but in truth it was a characterful team display that earned us the three points.

Wolves struggled to impose their usual style of play against a Forest side that more than played their part in this fixture, and yet found a way to claim the spoils come full time.

Early days it may be, but that is promotion winning form.

After the madcap outing against Bristol City, this game stood out as a real test of our credentials.

Forest have improved greatly under the shrewd management of Mark Warburton and were unsurprisngly in no mood to play for a point.

This culminated in a poor first half in which both sides were limited to half chances, with neither keeper overly exerted.

That soon changed after half time, with Jota converting a sumptuous cross from the otherwise ineffective Ivan Cavaleiro.

Much has been made of John Ruddy’s culpability for the Forest equaliser which followed, but I’m of the mind to excuse a player that has otherwise been in imperious form for us this campaign.

Not many keepers would expect Mustapha Carayol to hit it from where he did, let alone anticipate it being on target.

The home supporters stirred and as was the case on Tuesday, one couldn’t help but get flashbacks to the previous two seasons in which Wolves would so often crumble under such resistance.

But this team is a different beast altogether, and Leo Bonatini (who also endured a quiet game) took one hell of a bump to tee up the effervescent Jota for the winner.

On current form, the diminutive inside forward is set to write himself into club folklore. I certainly can’t recall seeing a player of his calibre don old gold in my decade of following the club, Helder Costa included.

Given the influx of wildly talented foreign imports, you can forgive opposition supporters for anointing us as the most reviled team in the league.

But in my eyes, and most likely those of the similarly delirious away support yesterday, that makes our success all the more fun.

Long may it continue.

Hull City 2 Wolves 3

Just a few weeks ago you’d be forgiven for earmarking this fixture as a battle between two of the division’s unknown quantities.

Embed from Getty Images

And though four points from a possible nine would suggest that moniker still applies to Leonid Slutsky’s team, our own is beginning to look a serious prospect.

Granted, Nuno’s side avoided plenty of scares in a second half dominated by the home side but few would bemoan a dip in standards after the two stellar league performances that preceded this fixture. Aside from Nuno himself, whose press conferences continue to give the impression he is quite the taskmaster.

Certainly, his methods have looked that of a genius in these opening weeks. Wolves are producing football that millennials such as myself have never had the pleasure of associating with old gold and black, and long may it continue.

Whilst the influence of our new Head Coach and his team cannot be underestimated, its important to acknowledge the work done by his paymasters who, let it not be forgotten, had become figures of derision in the eyes of many after a turbulent first season in English football.

Jeff Shi and Fosun have learnt from their mistakes and created an environment in which quality is favoured over quantity, recognising that the blood and thunder brand of football their first two managerial recruits favoured is unlikely to cut the mustard in an increasingly difficult division.

Much has been made by the national media of the way they have gone about doing this but the team already seems to have found a way of harbouring the animosity offered by opposition supporters into a winning incentive. I guess that’s not so difficult to do when you have players of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota’s ilk to call upon.

Both were on the score sheet tonight, with the former likely to win much of the plaudits for the sheer audacity of his 30 yard screamer. Football purists may, however, give greater credence to our second goal which was the result of some sumptuous build-up play that was once again centred by the prodigious and increasingly effective Bright Enobakahre. Either way, it’s nice to have the dilemma of picking a favourite winning goal given that they have been in such scant supply over the last two seasons.

Equally as important as our attacking play is the new defensive resolve that has been instilled within the team, which saw them withstand plenty of pressure in the second period. John Ruddy and Willy Boly were the names doing the rounds on social media come full time but all of our new look back five are doing their bit at present, as are the midfield duo of Neves and a rejuvenated Roman Saiss.

History will tell you that a water tight defence and clinical attack – terms which have been used to describe us in these opening round of fixtures – is a recipe for success in the Championship so its hard to temper this feverish early season enthusiasm with memories of previous false dawns, despite logic suggesting this as the best course of action.

Another win on Saturday against a Cardiff City team also riding the crest of a wave would surely see logic put on the back burner for the foreseeable, which would be a most welcome state of affairs for Wolves fan to find ourselves in after the mundanity of seasons gone by.

Wolves 0 Huddersfield Town 1

Since their jubilant arrival in sunny Wolverhampton last summer, our Chinese owners have often spoke about the size and potential of the club and the importance of returning it to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

And yet a glance up the Championship table sees Barnsley, Cardiff, Brentford, Reading, Huddersfield and Brighton sitting comfortably above us.

All due respect to these clubs – they’ve more than earned their respective standings – but none bare anything resembling our history.

This isn’t delusions of grandeur on my part, it’s fact.

But under the bumbling premiership of Fosun, Kevin Thelwell and to a lesser extent Laurie Dalrymple – because, contrary to popular opinion, we can’t blame Morgan and Moxey for everything – we’re now in a position where opposition as modest in stature as tonight’s can turn up at Molineux and claim three points without breaking sweat.

Paul Lambert made six tactical changes to his team but on recent evidence it’s apparent that there’s no winning formula to be found in the current side.

Truthfully, the blame for this can be afforded to every outfield department but having watched the ease with which two of this season’s success stories, Brighton and Huddersfield, passed circles around us it’s hard to argue against the notion that the midfield is our Achilles heel.

Sure, our strikers are laughably impotent but they might have mustered a few more goals if we had some vision in the middle of the park.

Be honest, who doesn’t see the sale of Kevin McDonald as anything other than scandalous?

God may love a trier but as professional as Dave Edwards may be I’d be thankful if I never had to endure another 90 minutes of him hiding behind opposition midfielders whilst we’re in possession.

No manager can legislate selecting any midfielder at this level that is not comfortable with the ball at his feet – the ever increasing standard of the league won’t allow it.

Though it’s a deficiency that is symptomatic of all our midfielders (except perhaps Saiss) the fact that Edwards is picked week in, week out regardless of form means he deservingly bears the brunt of most fans’ criticism.

Don’t let 10 goals fool you, we’ll never get promoted playing this guy every week.

Of course, ‘Deadly’ wasn’t alone when underperforming tonight. His bearded counterpart churned out one of his worst performances in a Wolves shirt and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson continued his excellent impression of Tomasz Frankowski with aplomb.

Crumbs of comfort could be found in Silvio’s solidity, Morgan Gibbs-White’s youthful endeavour and the long awaited return of Jordan Graham but, truth be told, this was a damp squib not dissimilar to the dross served up on Saturday.

I’m yet to be convinced that Lambert possesses the ruthless streak that is needed to arrest this malaise but the efficiency of Andi Weimann and Ben Marshall since their arrival in January, coupled with his feats at Norwich in years gone by, suggest he knows enough about the Championship to at least engineer some improvement on this term.

Whether that faith is misguided is a question that won’t be answered for some time so perhaps it’s wise that for the time being we relish the prospect of a Molineux free summer.