With star striker Raul Jimenez reportedly close to making his loan spell from Benfica permanent, manager Nuno Espirito Santo will already be planning on how to improve his impressive Wolves side for the 2019/20 season. 

Having topped the Championship with a group with no shortage of quality - including Ruben Neves, the youngest player ever to captain a Champions League side, when he did so for Porto at just 18 - many predicted that Wolves would manage survive in England's top division. With a tactically astute manager and investment to complement the talent already in the squad, the expectation for Wolves was a mid-table finish. 


It is fair to say, however, that ​Wolves have surpassed those expectations. Positioned seventh in the league and through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, only ​Watford could otherwise have a legitimate claim of being 'the best of the rest'. The Wembley semi-final between the two sides will prove decisive regarding who has had the more successful season. 

Nonetheless, Wolves have caught the eye of the neutral more impressively, helped by the number of upsets they have caused to the 'top six' this season - in all competitions, they have beaten ​Chelsea, ​Tottenham, ​Liverpool and ​Manchester United, as well as drawing four times against the elite of the Premier League. Over the season, the Wanderers have proven they can go head to head against anybody and, not just compete, but better their opposition. 

Furthermore, a delve into the underlying statistics suggests Wolves are unlucky not to be higher up the table. Expected goals (xG) - which measures the quality of opportunities created - measures them as the fourth best team in the Premier League this season, based on the xG difference between a team's attack and defence. Wolves are extremely well organised defensively, working hard to not allow the opponent a clear sight of goal. They soak up pressure before launching lethal counter-attacks. 

Matt Doherty

In theory then, there should be no reason why Wolves cannot compete for a top six position in the 2019/20 season. Of course, the likes of ​Arsenal and Chelsea can improve further with more time spent under their new managers Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri. In every given season, however, one or two of the bigger sides fall some way below their projections. With more experience in the league, additional investment and - most importantly - no significant player or manager departures, Wolves can surpass expectations once more. 

Europa League football may prove however to be a hindrance, particularly because Wolves have the quality to go far into the competition, but Espirito Santo will surely be backed in the transfer market to ensure his squad is large enough to allow for rotation. 

Ruben Neves

Rui Patricio has endured a difficult first season in English football, but he and John Ruddy should be adequate enough going into the next campaign. Matt Doherty has been one of the best attacking fullbacks in the division, contributing to ten goals in all competitions. Jonny and Ruben Vinagre are also of sufficient quality, while Adama Traore - given his lack of end product - could adapt his talents to the wing-back role, providing depth in that area. 

At centre back, Willy Bolly has been a colossus, while Connor Coady has been widely praised for his distribution - even if shouts for an England call-up do seem quite premature. Ryan Bennett has been played regularly as the third centre-back, and he is someone who could be upgraded upon. Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker - who Wolves will be hopeful of signing on a permanent basis - provide cover. 

Conor Coady

In the centre of the park, Neves and Portuguese compatriot Joao Moutinho are certainties to start. While they can be joined by the aforementioned Saiss or Dendoncker - or even promising English youngster Morgan Gibbs-White - Wolves should target an attack minded central midfielder who can provide the forwards with support. Neves and Moutinho like to dictate the play, and would be well complemented by somebody who makes late runs into the box, chipping in with goals and assists.

Up front, Jimenez has been one of the standout centre forwards in the Premier League, while Jota has continued to improve after a struggling start. They form a good relationship, but the likes of Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa are too big of a decline in quality on the bench. Wolves should therefore target at least one if not two attackers - a target man in the mould of Jimenez, and a pacy second striker/winger with proven end product. 

Joao Moutinho

So, while it may seem premature to suggest that Wolves can break into the top six next season, under the current manager they have a track record of not only delivering the requirement, but surpassing all expectations. Having proven they can compete against the big boys, it is the games against teams they are expected to break down that will be the difference.