Wolverhampton Wanderers came into this season with as much hype as we have ever seen from a promoted side. They dominated the Championship last season, boasting both the best attack and defense in the league, and have already shown their class in the Premier League this season.
Many were impressed by their comeback against Everton in their opening match and again with a well-fought draw against reigning Premier League champions Manchester City. But Sunday's game against Burnley could be their best performance thus far.
It may be surprising to hear that a 1-0 win against a struggling Burnley side was a fantastic performance, but let's dive into some numbers, shall we?
In Matchweek 5, Wolves were in the league's top five in shots on target, assists, chances created, accurate crosses, passes, and goals conceded. Potentially most noteworthy were their 30 (yes, thirty) shots on the day. That mark was better than anyone else in the league -- including Bournemouth and Chelsea, both of whom scored three more goals.
Raul Jimenez was the main contributor in shots that week with six, putting half of them on target. One of those attempts was finished brilliantly, first time, into the bottom left corner for what ended up being the match-winner. His efforts on the day earned him an impressive 23.4 points, which is fantastic for a Tier 2 forward. The obvious question after a week like this is: Can he do it again?
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo typically sets his team up in a 3-4-3 or 3-4-2-1 formation, with Jimenez leading the line. These tactics allow the wide players to stretch out the defense which opens up space for the Mexican striker in the center of the pitch. This system really is perfectly setup for service to Jimenez since, as well as touchline crosses, there's also space through the middle for midfielders Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho to play the ball forward to his feet.
This style of attack is evident in the stats as Wolves rank top five both in chances created and accurate crosses so far this season, but who in the midfield is providing this service? Well, Moutinho has done a lot of it, but he isn't currently in the ESPN game, so let's focus on two players who are.
Coming into this season, votes seemed to be split between Neves and Diogo Jota. The latter came into this season with loads of buzz after racking up an impressive 17 goals and 5 assists in the Championship. That buzz has all but died down now as Neves has taken command of this midfield. Out of the scoring stats in the ESPN game, Jota only leads his teammate in clearances which, at .5 points per action, is not really a meaningful advantage.
At the back, the two most fantasy relevant defenders are Willy Boly and Matt Doherty. Boly currently leads Wolves in tackles and clearances which, paired with his controversial goal against Manchester City, gives him an average of 12.3 fantasy points per game. That number is also bolstered by the fact that he has made the third most passes at the club with 245 which gives him a fairly high floor, even against the toughest of opponents.
As for Doherty, his attacking intent was on display against Burnley as he picked up an assist and should have had a goal. He's not in our game at the moment but could be a worthwhile fantasy play if/when he shows up in one of our tiers.
Behind the defense sits Rui Patricio, the starting goalkeeper for the Portuguese national team and European champion. The fact that Wolves were able to sign him and have not yet paid a dime for him is one of the wildest transfers of the summer. That aside, the quality of his defense hurts his save potential a bit but two consecutive clean sheets and three straight matches without conceding multiple goals is very promising.
All in all, Wolves' defensive unit looks to be a fantastic, if not underrated, source of fantasy production this season.
Elsewhere, things are a little more complicated. As mentioned the midfield creates plenty of chances, but the club's shot accuracy currently sits at a woeful 29.9 percent, 18th in the league. This largely means that they are neither finishing their own chances, nor are other players finishing the ones they create, which severely hampers their value.
The obvious outlier to their shooting struggles is Raul Jimenez. He is converting his chances at a higher rate than anyone else at Wolves (41.1 percent) and even sits ahead of the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the league. With that in mind, he does look the most likely to end up scoring both goals and fantasy points regardless of matchup.
For example, this week, his chances may be better against Manchester United than you'd think. United have already conceded eight goals this season, more than a quarter of their total amount of goals allowed last season (27). Better yet from a Wolves' perspective, United have allowed a goal to the opposing side's striker in four of their first five matches this season.
As for Wolves' defensive options heading into week six, they could be in line for a solid day, as well. Manchester United are only eighth in chances created and goals scored thus far, so hardly the attacking juggernaut of years past. Due to ESPN's system, even if United did score, Boly would be unaffected as clean sheets are not a scoring metric for defenders, and goalkeepers can still earn plenty of points without one.
So, if the overarching question is, "Can Wolves keep performing this well?" whether it be this week or throughout the season, then the answer is "Yes."