Opinion; Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss are proving critical for Wolves's push for a top six finish
Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker celebrate a Wolves goal against West ham in the Premier League / getty images / Photo by: Clive Mason

Wolves’ 29th game of the season saw them earn a two all draw away to Brighton on Sunday, but despite the overload of games Nuno's men sit sixth in the Premier league table. 

What makes this feat even more remarkable is the size of the Wolves squad which is one of the smaller ones in the league. They are also without first choice defensive pair Willy Boly and Ryan Bennett who were pivotal to Wolves’ success last season. 

The aforementioned Dendoncker and Saiss, both midfielders by trade, have seen their game time come mostly in a back three alongside captain Conor Coady. 

. Versatility 

Former Anderlecht man Dendoncker, who joined the Wanderers permanently in July after a successful loan spell, spent most of last season as part of a midfield three alongside Portuguese duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho. Injuries to Bennett has seen the Belgian international fill in as a left sided center back a role he has occupied on a couple of occasions for the national side. 

Meanwhile Saiss who has been at the club since 2016 has always been on the fringes of the first 11 struggling to tie down regular minutes. However, the change in formation to a 3-4-3 and a fractured ankle to first choice center back Boly has seen Saiss be a valuable asset in both the League and the Europa League this season. 

. Composure

Throughout the 18/19 season Dendoncker acted as the pivot man breaking up play behind Neves and Moutinho allowing the more creative players do their thing. Since dropping back the Belgian has seen a lot more of the ball at his feet and combines well down the left-hand side with Matt Doherty, and speed merchant Adama Traore.  Despite being tied to defending Dendoncker proves a valuable threat from set piece routines, a feature of Wolves’ play this season, contributing a goal against West Ham last Wednesday.

Playing as a center back is really second nature to Romain Saiss who played the role for Morocco in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  This has certainly translated to his involvement at Molineux as he has started 11 games so far this season starting only 12 in the entire of last season. The 29-year-old has been able to call on his midfield qualities also completing 80% of his passes in the league so far and made 14 key interceptions. Both men therefore proving vital to Nuno with the heavy workload this season. 

. Big game experience

As mentioned, the pair have both played on the biggest stage at last summer’s World cup Finals in Russia. Dendoncker reached the semifinals with Belgium picking a third-place medal and giving a strong performance in the group stages against England. In his Anderlecht days the versatile midfielder also played in the Champions League including an away game at Old Trafford. 

Romain Saiss on the other hand did not make it past the group stages with Morocco despite this he started all three group games, picking up some valuable experience that will hold him in good stead with Wolves progressing to the round of 32 in the Europa League.

. Competition for places

There is no doubt that Bennett and Boly are first choice options in that back three but what makes the form of Saiss and Dendoncker more impressive is on the bench Nuno has two out and out center backs in Max Kilman and Jesus Vallejo.

It is fair to say that Vallejo has struggled to adapt to the Premier League since his loan move to the Molineux from Real Madrid in the summer. The Spaniard, who has been limited to just one start in the league which saw Nuno suffer his biggest defeat as manger to Chelsea 5-2 at home, has looked less than impressive. In contrast former Futsal star Max Kilman continues to push for a first team place impressing in his starts in the Europa League in particular.  This competition for places is no doubt forcing the best out of Dendoncker and Saiss, this therefore can only be a positive for a Wolves team that's fixture list continues to grow. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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