AFC Bournemouth make the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend which will be the first time the two teams have met in the Premier League.
Ahead of the game, afcb.co.uk caught up with the Express & Star’s Wolves correspondent, Tim Spiers, to preview the weekend’s match with the side who have drawn plaudits as they sit 10th in the Premier League table.
afcb.co.uk: With Wolves in the top ten prior to this game, what’s your assessment of their season so far?
TS: From inside the club, the expectations are very high. For those outside it, they might be surprised at how well they’ve done. Wolves are satisfied with their start, but they’re not shouting from the rooftops about what they’ve achieved so far.
They had a run of one defeat in eight games at the start of the season which was fantastic, but then they went on a horrendous run of five defeats in six matches which dampened everybody’s expectations. In the past week, that’s completely transformed again with wins over Chelsea and Newcastle.
Overall, it’s been a very good start and they’ve adapted to the league quickly but there’s still room for improvement so it’s exciting times.
afcb.co.uk: Following such an impressive start, what is the target for the club this season?
TS: To finish in the top ten. They ran away with the Championship title on 99 points last season. A lot of people said then that they were a Premier League team in the style of football they played.
They added a lot of international quality and experience to the side in the summer, so with all that in mind top ten is very much the aim. This is a club moving quickly which has made no secret of its ambitions to reach Manchester City’s level in the long-term.
In the short-term, they’re looking for rapid growth year on year, maybe looking to push towards European qualification in the next few seasons. Realistically, many fans will just want safety this season, but within the club the ambition is to finish in the top half.
afcb.co.uk: The media and fans all seem to be onside with what Nuno Espirito Santo is doing at the club. Why is that?
TS: He’s a bit of a god lately! Before the spell of defeats that they had, the guy could do no wrong. He’s completely revolutionised the whole club in terms of playing style, in bringing through young, talented players from overseas and improving them.
He’s very passionate on the touchline which fans appreciate and he speaks very well to the media. Wolves got a bit lucky with getting him in, but he’s the kind of head coach who can take them to the next level. The idea is that he and the young players grow together so they don’t need too many additions in the future.
I’ve never known such a positive relationship at Wolves between the fans and the manager. You never hear any grumbling about what he does and he’s extremely popular.
afcb.co.uk: As for the players, who should Bournemouth be looking out for this weekend?
TS: Diogo Jota was the top scorer last season with 18 goals. He’s excellent on the ball, a brilliant dribbler and very creative. He’s strong as well, considering his size, as well as a very good finisher.
He was taken out of the team this season but that’s benefitted him as he’s come back in and scored against Chelsea and Newcastle in the last two games. He’s absolutely flying at the moment, but there are some other explosive forwards who can also win a game on their own.
Adama Traore, Helder Costa, and Ivan Cavaleiro are all capable of that, meanwhile Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in midfield have made a big difference this season too.
afcb.co.uk: Finally, what are your thoughts on Bournemouth this season and the game this weekend?
TS: They’ve done exceptionally. They’re one of the major success stories in English football over the last ten years. I really like the football they play. They’ve been on a bad run lately but have played a lot of big teams in that time.
Wolves know that they’ve got to be on their guard and at their best. They haven’t been as good at home recently, but the key concern for Wolves is whether Callum Wilson will be fit. If he is, he’s a big danger man for Bournemouth.
The first goal is going to be crucial as Wolves are usually a better team when they’re winning.
You can follow Tim on Twitter at @tim_spiers_Star.