Wolverhampton Wanders are still probably thanking whatever gods they pray to that they didn't get relegated a year ago. They were one of the teams in the crazy battle for survival on the final day of the season and finished just one point clear of the drop zone despite a loss on the last day thanks to losses by every other team in the relegation battle. As a result, they get to stay up for this season, but they don't expect to be in a much different position than they were a year ago. They will have another relegation battle on their hands.
A relegation battle is exactly what Wolves don't need though. They are in the midst of a renovation to Molineux Stadium that will see the capacity jump to 31,700 when it is done at the end of the season. They have plans for a further expansion that will push capacity to 36,000 by the summer of 2014 and then one more expansion that raises the capacity to 38,000. If Wolves are relegated then the further expansions will be put on hold and they will have to pay for the current expansion without Premier League money. Not that they couldn't pay it back because they could, but Wolves would find it hard to compete for promotion back up to the top flight right away and it would derail years of planning.
So it is absolutely imperative that Wolves stay in the top flight, but that's true for most teams. Exactly how Wolves will stay in the top flight remains to be seen. Only three teams allowed more goals than them a year ago and two of those were relegated so the first thing Mick McCarthy has to do is sort out the defense. Roger Johnson has been brought in from Birmingham City and was handed the captain's armband so he can help along the back and Dorus de Vries in goal is a boost so McCarthy cannot be blamed for not recognizing the team's weakness. Even so, McCarthy hasn't found a decent partner for Johnson in the center of the defense, something that can doom the team if nobody can do an adequate job there.
One place where Wolves are sound is in the midfield. Stephen Hunt and Matt Jarvis are strong wingers, giving Wolves better wide play than any other relegation contender. If they can play through those two then Wolves can have some success. They've also bought Jamie O'Hara from Tottenham after having him on loan for the last half of last season and he gives the team a good central midfielder who can quickly turn defending into attacking with one pass.
The question is who can finish the chances created by O'Hara, Hunt and Jarvis. Kevin Doyle is a good striker who makes an impact even when he's not scoring goals by leading the line with good runs and making himself available for teammates to run off of him. He only scored five goals last year and while he is capable of scoring some incredible goals, he also misses too many chances. Of course, this is all when he is fit, something that isn't always the case. He was injured for a stretch last season with a knee injury and has also found himself hampered by small knocks even he plays.
If Doyle cannot go then Steve Fletcher will have to take the lead up top. He came on strong last season when Doyle was hurt and was key to their survival, but he misses too many easy chances too. With their wing play, Wolves get chances for their forwards, but finishing them is a whole other story.
Wolves opened up the checkbook some this summer, spending £4.5 million to bring Johnson in and another £3.5 million for O'Hara, while also outbidding some other challengers to bring de Vries in on a free. Nobody is going to confuse the money Wolves dolled out with Manchester City money, but it is something that has strengthened the side and could be what keeps them in the top flight for another season. Even if it does though, they're still in danger and it is unlikely that their survival is guaranteed before the final week or two of the season. It will be another nail-biting season at the Molineux.