Nuno Espirito Santo had reasons to be cheerful in his pre-match press conference on Friday, with Raul Jimenez returning to the training pitch and the return of supporters creeping closer.
Speaking ahead of Wolves’ trip to Newcastle United on Saturday, Nuno gave an update on the Mexican striker, who has stepped up his recovery from injury, and Jonny, who continues to gain vital minutes on the pitch. However, the head coach is also fully aware of the tough test ahead of his side at St James’ Park, where he insists it’s vital his team continue to be compact, to allow the attacking players to flourish.
On fans hopefully returning
“It’s fantastic. That’s the joy of football, so pleased with the news, and we wish it’s as fast as possible. We are so desperate to have fans back in stadiums, so it will be a joy for everybody for sure.
“Just having fans, and what football can be again, played in front of fans, it’s an advantage for everyone because all the players just want to play in full stadium, in a proper atmosphere, so I see only advantages in that.
“It’s been difficult, a difficult moment for society, I think everybody that is involved in football is making a big effort and we are privileged to play and give football to the people at home, it’s an honour.”
On form improving
“I don’t see a specific reason. What I think is we still have to improve. We’ve been able to compete better game by game, this is our aim, so you cannot point to a specific reason.
“We’ve been able to avoid some of the mistakes we’ve been doing, we’ve been able to be more compact in defence, and we have talented players that can create problems, so the dynamic of the team is improving in that aspect.
“Being compact in defence allows our offensive players to do their actions more often and produce more finishing situations, so we are on the way and tomorrow is a new one.”
On Jonny's recovery
“It’s all answers to the game situation – you don’t know the minutes it can happen. The risk for Jonny is he enters a stage of competitive fatigue, which can unbalance him in his actions and we have to be very cautious and aware, so the plan of Jonny is about him dealing with the competition, dealing with the recovering of the games, and we’ll decide for the best.”
On having Jimenez back involved
“We have to be very aware of the circumstances, avoiding any kind of contact, he’s been able to participate in the initial part of the training sessions. Just being with his teammates is a big help for him and for us, so we are following the right protocols, with no rush, but delighted that Raul is getting better and better day by day – it’s fantastic for us.”
On him playing again this season
“Totally confident. Totally confident.”
On coping without him
“All the teams that have lost important players have had problems, but it’s up to us to find solutions. Some of them take some time, because of all the routines of the team, and a special player like Raul, but I think we’ve been able to find the right way to improve our players, so the absence of Raul is not so important.
“The squad has reacted well, and we are playing good, trying to improve our game, this is what it’s all about. Since the moment that Raul was no longer with us, we’ve tried to find solutions and the players have been giving everything, not only in the previous four games, all season.
“It’s been a special season which has required a big challenge from us, but we are pleased with the answers of the players, realising that we still have to improve details in our game. You try to prepare yourself for the competition and deal with circumstances as the competition goes by.”
On taking on Newcastle
“Newcastle have a very good squad and you can see, even in the previous game, the result was not the best, but the performance of Newcastle was compact, with high intensities, and this is what we’re preparing for tomorrow, a very tough game for us.
“[We must] be compact, deal with the situations, press and avoid the good decisions of the Newcastle players. A game of football, anything can happen, so we have to prepare for everything.”