Pyunik 0-4 Wolves
Goals: Matt Doherty (£6.0m), Raúl Jiménez x2 (£7.5m), Ruben Neves penalty (£5.5m)
Assists: Diogo Jota x3 (£6.5m), Patrick Cutrone (£6.0m)
Forwards in form
Diogo Jota (£6.5m) and Raúl Jiménez (£7.5m) sent an ominous message to the Fantasy Premier League managers not considering them on Thursday night.
The two forwards ran the show as Wolves emerged 4-0 victors from a Europa League third qualifying round first leg against Pyunik in Armenia.
Jiménez scored twice, taking his goal tally in the last eight days to four, while Jota provided three assists.
The latter has been Wolves’ standout player in pre-season, really picking up from where he left off at the end of 2018/19.
Across the five matches, three of which have been competitive, Jota has scored twice and provided a total of five assists.
If the Portuguese international can replicate his form from December to May of 2018/19, as well as his pre-season displays, then he could prove fantastic value as a £6.5m forward in 2019/20, especially given the dearth of choices in that price bracket.
Against Pyunik, Jota was at the heart of so much of Wolves’ attacking play and he already looks sharp, fit and ready for the new campaign.
For the first goal, he held the ball up well and slid a perfectly weighted through-pass to the overlapping Matt Doherty (£6.0m), who bore down on goal to slot home.
For the second, Jota was played through by Rúben Vinagre (£4.5m) and squared to Jiménez to finish.
It was a similar situation for the third goal. This time Jota gobbled up a loose ball in midfield and straight away played Jiménez in to fire home.
He probably could have scored himself, but he missed a first-half chance when played through into the box by Joao Moutinho (£5.5m).
Jota created plenty more chances in the game too, crossing for Leander Dendoncker (£4.5m) in the second half, who was denied by a strong tackle.
Patrick Cutrone (£6.0m) made his competitive debut for Wolves on Thursday night as we got the first clues as to his role in the side.
He featured as a substitute for Jota in the 63rd minute and won a penalty late in the game.
Nuno explained post-match that it will take time to integrate the Italian into the side, which probably bodes well for Jota and Jiménez’s minutes in the Premier League.
The fact that Wolves won 4-0 takes the pressure of the second leg as well which might see Cutrone start that to allow the first-choice forwards some rest for Gameweek 2.
“He’s integrating, but it takes time. Every new player who comes to our team needs time. We have to keep on going with him. His adaptation into the squad has been great, he has been received well into the group and it’s important that he continues to improve and get inside the dynamics of the team. But more important is the way he believes in the terms of discipline and ambitions; he’s going along with that so I’m happy.” – Patrick Cutrone
It is worth adding that Cutrone was going to take the penalty he won but Rúben Neves (£5.5m) pulled rank to assume responsibility for it.
By our calculations, that means Jiménez is due to take the next penalty if Wolves are continuing their rotating responsibility.
He took Wolves last penalty of 2018/19, scored in February, which meant Neves was next in line, although Jiménez had gone off by the time Cutrone won the spot kick.
Either way, the midfielder having taken his turn likely puts Jiménez top of the pecking order for the first penalty of Wolves’ Premier League campaign.
Put a Donck on it
Dendoncker has quickly become the people’s choice for the fifth midfielder ahead of the new season.
The Belgian is just one of a handful of £4.5m options in his position who look likely to start matches regularly.
Crucially, of those players, he is certainly the most likely to be involved in attacking returns.
Just as we saw last season, Dendoncker was handed something of a free role against Pyunik, making runs into the penalty box and popping up as an option there quite often.
That bodes well for those who will be relying on him as their midfield substitute in the early part of the 2019/20 season.
Those who had written off Doherty as a viable candidate for their squads might have felt a niggling feeling at the back of their minds as he put Wolves in front after half an hour.
In his first game back following an injury, he played an hour in his right wing-back berth, scoring after a trademark attacking run.
Adama Traoré (£5.0m) has been playing on the right side of Wolves five-man midfield during the summer in Doherty’s absence but was unable to travel to Armenia because he reportedly could not find his passport.
“Traore had a problem with his passport, so he couldn’t travel. He didn’t know and it was impossible for him to travel with his ID card outside the European Union, so he didn’t travel with us. He’ll join us for the next game.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
There were suggestions that Doherty only played in this match because of Traoré’s absence but that seems unlikely.
Had the Irish international not been ready to return, Nuno could have deployed Vinagre on the right and started Jonny (£5.5m).
Instead, it was Vinagre on the left, Doherty on the right and Jonny on the bench, until the latter two swapped over around the hour mark.
Nuno was probably hoping to give Doherty an hour of football to potentially prepare him for a start against Leicester on Sunday.
There has been some concern from Fantasy managers, this one included, about how Wolves would cope making a 6,000-mile round-trip between Thursday and Sunday.
This has caused many of us to expect points from Leicester players this weekend.
However, those connected with Wolves seem defiant that the long journey won’t knock them off their stride.
Conor Coady (£5.0m) confirmed after the game that the Wolves squad was straight on the plane as soon as they were finished at the stadium in Pyunik and were due back in England at 2 am local time.
Furthermore, the local press seem confident that Nuno’s pedigree for managing the recovery of his players over the last 12 months should put them in a good position to still give a good account of themselves at the King Power Stadium.
“I back them to be ready for Sunday and I back them to get over this journey because of the science behind it and the details and methods they implement to injury-prevention and recovery. It’s second to none, it’s got to be the best in the league, certainly judging on their injury record from last season.” – Tim Spiers, Express and Star
Defence in shape
In the early stage of the game, the Armenian side posed more of a threat than perhaps most would have expected. They attacked their visitors and were backed by an enthusiastic crowd.
Wolves kept a good shape in these moments and stood up to the hosts when they were on the front foot.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and they started the game very strong, created us a lot of problems, but it’s a good team with good players, and that was the time for us to be organised, be patient and stay in shape. After that, we managed well and started moving the ball and trying to create gaps and spaces, but it’s not over. We still have one game to go, but it’s a good team.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
However, whether that indicates they will give Leicester a tough time on Sunday remains to be seen.
The Foxes will be a massive step up in quality from Pyunik and will have the advantage of more preparation for the game than Wolves.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-5-2): Patrício; Bennett, Boly, Coady; Vinagre, Dendoncker, Saïss, Moutinho, Doherty (Jonny 63′); Jota (Cutrone 63′), Jiménez (Neves 71′).
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