Wolverhampton Wanderers' Secret Weapon
No one can deny the phenomenal start that Wolverhampton Wanderers have had to the season. Having only conceded 6 goals after 8 matches, they are currently sitting at 7th place on the league table. Furthermore, they earned hard-fought draws against Manchester United and defending champions Manchester City, and have only lost one game. This is even more impressive considering that they are a newly-promoted side, having won the EFL Championship last season.
Such success came as a result of a variety of factors. Firstly, as the result of a large-scale financial takeover in 2016, Wolves have benefited from an array of juicy transfer signings and loan deals, ranging from playmakers such as Joao Moutinho to first-choice goalkeeper Rui Patricio, not to mention club record signing Adama Traore from Middlesbrough.
Secondly, the appointment of current manager Nuno Espirito Santo saw a change in attitude and tactics, with a defensively-impenetrable 3-4-3 formation being adopted where Jonathan Castro and Matt Doherty are regularly utilized as hard-working wingbacks.
Furthermore, Wolves have disposed of the "small club mentality"; whilst still a defensive-minded squad, they are not afraid to initiate counter attacks and overwhelm opponents with an array of goal attempts. This point is emphasized by the colossal 30 shots taken against Burnley during their 1-0 win in September.
Whilst the above factors are important to the success of any club, Wolves have an additional asset that is unique to the Molineux. It is something I like to call the "Portuguese Connection".
Of the regular starting 11, 5 players are Portuguese nationals, namely wingers Helder Costa and Diogo Jota, center-mids Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, and goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Coincidentally, Santo, the club manager, is a former Portuguese goalkeeper. This means that there is a large portion of the squad who speak a common tongue and share a similar mentality.
Furthermore, Neves, Moutinho, Costa and Patricio are all either past or present members of the Portuguese national team, meaning that they receive additional playtime together during the international break, further enhancing their chemistry whilst other clubs' teammates become enemies for the matchday.
Also necessary to consider is the wider pool of opponents they face together as a unit; instead of the typical Premier League rivals, Wolves' Portuguese stars play together against opponents hailing from all over Europe and indeed the world.
Such assets should enhance Wolves' team chemistry and performances without a doubt, and it clearly has already done so thus far in the season. Whatever transpires next, one thing is clear; there are new Premier League contenders in town, and they show no intention of slowing down.