By 90Min
July 14, 2019

As far as first seasons in the top flight go, Wolverhampton Wanderers really knocked it out of the park. Nuno Espírito Santo's men defied all expectations and delivered the most successful campaign by any Premier League newcomer. 

Upon their return to the top division, Wolves achieved a seventh-place finish, collecting a whopping 57 points along the way. Thanks to their strong domestic campaign, they earned European football for the first time since 1981, and even gave their supporters a trip to Wembley to compete in an FA Cup semi-final. 

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It appears that last season's achievements are only the beginning for this team, as Wolves' ownership moves into the next phase of their operation to establish the Midlands club as permanent qualifiers for European competition. 

But as Santo prepares his squad for the extraordinary demands of the Europa League, we have to ask the question - could Wolves suffer from the dreaded second season syndrome? 

It sounds impossible on the back of such a fantastic season. The sun is shining in Wolverhampton and the supporters have forgotten what dark rainclouds look like. 

As had Reading fans during the summer of 2007.

The Royals bagged a cool 55 points and an eighth-place finish in their debut top-flight season, only to fall through the relegation trap door the following year. The sun has rarely shone again over the Madejski Stadium. 

So now that we all accept that this wicked curse exists, how could Wolves fall foul of this evil entity? 

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Wolves' impressive consistency over the course of last season was rooted in their solid defence, and a no-rotation policy instilled by Santo. The Portuguese manager rarely strayed from his preferred XI and chosen system, in which his players thrived, performing the roles he demanded of them. 

The worry for Wolves fans from this perspective is two-fold. It's entirely possible that a side could come up from the Championship and surprise their opposition with a unique style of play. It's impossible that the rest of the division won't have caught on and found a solution to combat them by the time the next season comes around. Without the tag of 'newly-promoted Wolves', their style loses its surprise-impact and effectiveness. 

To add to their technical concerns, Santo should be wary of his players' dressing room harmony. It's all fun and games being part of a side that is competing in its first Premier League season since 2012. What happens when the gloss of being a Premier League squad player fades, and no matter how hard you train, you can't break into that starting Xi? 

Nuno must learn to rotate his side - to keep legs fresh and to satisfy squad players with more playing time. A dressing room divide is the last thing Santo wants with the demands of Premier League and European football ahead of the Midlands club. 

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Speaking of which, I wonder what Burnley fans would tell you about their Europa League adventures last season. Their campaign began on 26 July, their dreams and ambitions bigger than ever. Just over a month later, the Clarets found themselves out of Europe and staring down the barrel of a grueling season, scrapping against an unthinkable relegation after their seventh-place finish the season prior.  

Cutting your pre-season short by a few weeks to travel to unknown ends of the earth and play tough qualification games can derail any side's preparation, and Wolves will be no different. With a relatively lean squad suiting Santo's style of management, the Wanderers will have to reinforce their group with depth and quality, and Santo will have to use them. 

A main improvement upon last season will need to be their ability against the sides at the lower end of the table. Wolves' counter-attacking system helped the Wanderers to pull off some great upsets against the big teams, losing only three times against the top six all season. 

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They struggled worryingly against teams who sat deep and countered against them, demonstrated by their home and away defeats to Huddersfield, who themselves suffered a miserable season and inevitable relegation. 

As the top six continue to spend insane amounts of money and widen the gap between themselves and the rest, Wolves will need to learn to break down the lesser teams and not rely on big performances against the better sides. If they don't learn from their mistakes, they may find themselves in no-mans land, being turned over by the top six, and unable to beat the relegation scrappers. 

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The final issue is the natural buzz the Premier League provides. When it's new and sparkly, even a home game against Cardiff can get you skipping to Molineux. The supporters must play their part and embrace every opposition that comes their way, to keep that fresh and buoyant mood around the club. 

Santo was nominated for the prestigious Manager of the Year award last season. This year he's got even more to prove, and if he avoids the ghosts of Reading and Hull, he'll have achieved even more than in his debut top-flight performance. 

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