Wolves and Fulham have wasted no time in strengthening their squads and Ben McAleer is tipping the newly promoted pair to exceed expectations this season...
"They have made huge strides in the market to improve the squad, and so for Wolves to finish in the top half of the Premier League is well worth backing"
After the dust had settled on the Championship season, it was only fair that Wolves and Fulham were two of the three teams promoted to the Premier League. The pair played the best football in the league at times and were rewarded with a top-flight spot, even if the latter were forced to earn their spot via the medium of the playoffs.
With their respective Premier League hiatus' over, the duo have wasted no time in bringing in new faces to help consolidate a place among England's best. Wolves' connections with super agent Jorge Mendes is well documented and it helped the Midlands outfit saunter to the Championship title on 99 points, though the nine-point gap between themselves and second placed Cardiff could, and perhaps should, have been larger after they failed to win their final two games of the campaign.
Wolves maximising their Mendes links again
Nevertheless, Wolves will feel confident of staving off relegation at the first time of asking with their Mendes links once again reaping the rewards. Rui Patricio, Raul Jimenez and Joao Moutinho have all made the moves to Molineux this summer with the trio all boosting Nuno Espirito Santo's options in the three key thirds of the pitch. With Willy Boly and Diogo Jota's loan moves both made permanent, supporters are confident of not only beating the drop, but really making a stab top half finish and perhaps more.
With Santo expected to line up with his preferred three-man backline, he'll hope Wolves can transfer their brand of free-flowing attacking style of play to the Premier League with supporters hopeful the new additions can adjust seamlessly to the physical rigours of English football.
The fact that expected defensive trio Boly, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss all ranked highly for passes per game in the Championship last season suggests it's likely that Santo will implement another patient attacking approach that requires building through the midfield before spreading wide to the wing-backs and the wide forwards.
Championship winners adding crucial experience
Indeed, Ruben Neves was top for passes per game (63.8) of all Wolves players and the addition of Moutinho provides an experienced ball playing midfielder alongside the 21-year-old in the middle of the park. It's this top-flight experience that Wolves required, with Patricio affording a similar quality. The Portugal number one kept more clean sheets (17) than any other goalkeeper in Liga NOS last term, with the 30-year-old expected to displace last season's number one John Ruddy between the sticks.
Jota, Ivan Cavaliero, Helper Costa and Leo Bonatini were all impressive performers in the final third last term and the addition of Jimenez, not to mention the impending arrival of wing wizard Adama Traore, not only improves Santo's forward options, but sends out a huge statement of intent to Wolves' Premier League rivals coming into the campaign.
While the lack of another centre-back could leave the Midlands giants a little short-handed in defence this season - Wolves have been linked with a move for the brazenly assured Pepe, which would be a significant coup - they have made huge strides in the market to improve the squad, and so for Wolves [2.06] to finish in the top half of the Premier League is well worth backing.
It's a similar case for Fulham, too, who have wasted no time in adding to the squad. Like Wolves, they are a defender short coming into the season, with the Cottagers in need of a left-back before the transfer window closes on Thursday. Theo Hernandez, Matt Targett and Kieran Tierney have all been linked with a move to Craven Cottage, but even still; Fulham have excelled in the market.
The signing of Jean Michael Seri sent shockwaves across Europe, with the Ivorian previously linked with moves to Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea, while defender Maxime Le Marchand followed the pass master from Nice to London.
Familiar faces making Premier League returns with Fulham
Aleksandar Mitrovic returns on a permanent deal following a successful loan stint that saw the Serb bag 21 goals in 20 appearances to boost Slavisa Jokanovic's attack line, one that is improved by the loan capture of Andre Schurrle.
Fabri comes into the side on the back of a commendable season with Besiktas and Alfie Mawson bolsters the backline immeasurably. A loan move for Calum Chambers now a done deal sees himself and Mawson link up once more having impressed for England at the U21 Euros last year.
In Jokanovic's expected 4-3-3 setup, with a front three of Schurrle, Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon as good as any compared to the teams around them, we'll likely see Fulham use the same approach they have honed over the last two years, with a possession-based style of play very much on the cards.
Mawson and Chambers are both adept passers of the ball and the aim will likely be to get Seri and Tom Cairney in possession as readily as possible to allow them to dictate the play. By spreading the ball to the right or left flanks, it'll allow the wingers to make late runs in at the back post, a trait Sessegnon mastered in the second half of the season.
Fulham [5.0] to secure a top-10 finish may have longer odds than Wolves to achieve the feat, yet if they can hit the ground running when they face Crystal Palace this weekend, it's not impossible to suggest that both may finish in the top half.
Last season's three promoted teams all successfully staved off relegation, yet Wolves and Fulham may both trump Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield's exploits and not only nail down a top-flight spot, but do more than enough to finish in the top-10 this season. Given their summer movements so far, it's not so far-fetched to suggest a top half finish is the aim for the campaign in Wolverhampton and West London.