THERE’S a gatecrashers’ ball at Molineux tonight — and the uninvited guests are in no hurry to leave English football’s elite.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo believes clubs like his own and tonight’s opponents Leicester have smashed up the elite ‘big six’ cartel with financial might and astute management.
Both Midlands clubs — funded by Far Eastern riches and led by enlightened, ambitious young managers — have shaken the status quo.
Brendan Rodgers and his Foxes are close to securing Champions League football for next season, while Wolves reached the Europa League in their first Premier League campaign and will move to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea with a victory.
Liverpool may be walking their way to the title but the intrigue lies beneath, where Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have slipped back and Chelsea are in transition.
Leicester, Wolves and even the shock troops of Sheffield United are threatening what had been a roped-off area at the top of the table — with the extraordinary exception of Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes claiming the title in 2016.
And Nuno said: “I think the Premier League is the most competitive league.
“I am reluctant to call them ‘the big six’, because it’s a very good league.
“Every team is very difficult and what happened (with Leicester) can happen again.
“The game is changing. There is not so much difference between teams now.
“All the squads are impressive, the managers too, the way they prepare teams and improve them. I see smaller gaps between clubs now.
The advent of Leicester and Wolves — if not the remarkable fifth-placed Blades — is no fairytale.
“It’s because of the quality of the players, the financial power of clubs to bring in quality players — before it was not so much like this.”
It is the result of cold cash and clear minds.
These are undoubtedly better-run clubs than either Arsenal or United.
Wolves have profited from Chinese investment and Portuguese manpower — Nuno and a swathe of his countrymen on the playing staff, with super-agent Jorge Mendes pulling strings in the transfer market.
Leicester’s Thai owners have backed Rodgers to mould a vibrant squad capable of sustained success rather than their glorious flash-in-the-pan of four seasons ago.
'FUTURE CAN BE BETTER'
And asked whether Leicester or other former also-rans could win the Premier League again, Nuno said: “I don’t know what happens in the future but I think it can happen again because there are less gaps between teams.
“All Premier League clubs have the ability and capacity.
“With the quality of managers and players throughout the league, things can happen because the gap is smaller.
“This is what motivates me, it’s my life now — and I see it’s possible that things can happen, if you keep working in the present.
“We have a very young squad and the future can be better if we keep to our philosophy.”
Nuno added Portuguese winger Daniel Podence — a £17million signing from Olympiakos — to his squad last month, joining Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Diogo Jota and keeper Rui Patricio.
And despite some patchy recent results, Nuno’s men gave Liverpool two of their toughest games of the season, as well as doing the double over champions Manchester City.
The Wolves boss does, though, expect a severe test from Leicester in a match his men must win to keep up realistic hopes of making the top four.
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