Nuno Espírito Santo´s Wolves have been known for a specific tactical display and system since he became their coach in 2017. The outcomes endorse his methods, as he went up in his first season and then he has finished in the 7th position for two consecutive years. Moreover, they have qualified for the Europa League, where they fell against Sevilla (current champions) in the quarter finals. However, Daniel Podence ´s arise (25 years old) seems to be boosting a game development on the team. Nuno´s pressing and fast transitions football is not always efficient, and their biggest weakness is the ball dominance. We introduce you to the player that can be the key for the Wolves´tactical switch.
Podence made his debut with the first team of the Sporting CP on November 21st, 2014. He was only 19 years old. After two seasons where he played for the second team, he was called up for the first time for a Portugal Cup game. In that same season, 2014-2015, he also started for a few matches. Specific, he was part of the initial XI for four Allianz Cup meets (the league cup). However, he would still play for the Sporting CP B for the most part during that season and the next one.
It was on the 2018-2019 season when he joined Moreirense FC, from the first division, on a loan. He played 17 games at this club, scored four goals and gave three assists. His high performance level was enough for him to return to Sporting in January, where he played for the rest of the season. However, his development with the team from Lisboa was stopped in the 2017-2018 campaign: an injury on his hand and a foot fracture prevented him from playing for the most part of that year.
In the end, the incident he had with the club´s extremists forced him to cut his contract. This way, he signed for Olympiakós Peiraiós on the 9th of July, 2018. He only played for them for a season, where he disputed 41 matches, scored eight goals and assisted nine times. He also played the Europa League during that season, but he started to being known in the next one (2019-2020), as he played in the Champions League, where he scored a goal against Tottenham in the group stage.
His outstanding performance did not go unnoticed and Wolverhampton Wanderers acquired him on the winter transfer market. He did not have too many minutes during his first months and he was only a starter at the end of the campaign. However, he always showed quality details. In fact, the last few games showed the level he currently displays, and now he is a key player for Nuno.
Daniel Podence stands out for his physical at a first look. He is short (165cm) but has a well-developed lower body. This allows him to be explosive, fast and agile on his movements both with and without the ball. In fact, there are more and more people on the social media that compare him to Eden Hazard. Indeed, Podence has excellent abilities with the ball on his feet and is also good at dribbling.
He tends to cut to his dominant foot, the right one, but he does not refuse to use his left as well when the play requires it. This adds unpredictability to his actions. Just as Hazard, the Portuguese bases his game on connecting with his teammates and on making the most out of the gaps on the opponent´s lines. This way, his good game vision allows him to make accurate and deep passes. He also gives his team runs from the second line or in counterattacks, but finishing is the area where he needs to improve on.
For the most part of his career, Podence has developed his game on the sides, as a winger. However, for the start of this season, Nuno has given him freedom of movements. Even though he has started from the left wing on most games, his ball dominance and vision advantage him for to lead Wolves´attacks from anywhere on the pitch. This way, his influence on the actions has been increasing game after game.
In the meet against Southampton (November 23rd), Nuno bet on a new system with a four man defensive line. That was not sporadic and he displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 against Arsenal in the next game: Neto and Adama in the wings and Podence as a playmaker. This draw allowed him to line up his best attackers all together and upgrade the ’10’ performance at the same time. Furthermore, in their last match against Liverpool, he changed the lineup due to Raúl Jiménez´s injury but kept the four defenders line and Podence forward.
This data seems to indicate that Nuno´s plans consist on developing the system used against Arsenal. It has been proved that, this way, he can strengthen what it was a weakness until now: the ball possession against fallen-back teams. Thanks to Podence, the team is able to keep the ball and build more elaborated attacks. Therefore, it would not be strange to how his heat map evolves into another one with more action in the interior gaps at the end of the 2020-21 season.
After Diogo Jota´s exit, who was a key man on Wolves´counterattacks, it was necessary to adapt the elements of the squad. Moreover, this new addition on their game will allow them to compete on a more proper way against strong teams. No doubt that Daniel Ponce has ended up being the best sign of the year for the English club, and fans who enjoy seeing him play keep increasing. There is still improvement margin for a footballer that can become a star in the next few years if he keeps growing.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.