5 tackles, 2 dribbles: Surprise Wolves package has come to fore at just the right time for Santo

Wolverhampton Wanderers continued to cement their status as one of the best sides outside of the top-six on Saturday afternoon with a dominant 3-1 victory over Everton – a game which saw Leander Dendoncker open his account for the club.

Nuno Espirito Santo should be regarded as a strong contender for the manager of the season award after effectively securing survival with 13 games left to spare.

In the context of the metaphorical best of the rest award in the Premier League, Wolves are firm front runners after recording emphatic victories over West Ham and Everton – two sides who, pertinently, are widely regarded as the two most likely candidates to challenge the supremacy of the top-six.

Wolves’ journey into 7th place, though, has not been without a natural bump in the road. Much was made of Santo’s tactical approach early in the season and his refusal to tinker with his starting eleven eventually forced his hand after losing six times in 11 fixtures prior to the trip to Tottenham last December.

Santo gave Dendocker his full debut against the potential title-challenger at Joao Moutinho’s expense, and the dynamic Belgium international hasn’t looked back ever since.

After establishing himself in the starting eleven and winning over large sections of the Wolves supporters in the process, Dendoncker’s reputation culminated on Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park.

The 23-year-old was a defensive machine in front of the back-four, breaking up play with five tackles and four clearances before forcing his side forward with attacking dynamism, leaving the Wolves fans wondering why it took Santo so long to give him a genuine opportunity to showcase his obvious talent.

Leander Dendoncker - 5 tackles, 2 dribbles: Surprise Wolves package has come to fore at just the right time for Santo

The performance was considered complete when he embodied the spirit of Frank Lampard and ghosted into the area to slam home a technically perfect volley which left Jordan Pickford clawing hopelessly at fresh air.

Another win on the road took Wolves’ record to four wins from the five fixtures in which Dendoncker has started this season, with the beginning of his inclusion in the side clearly representing a watershed moment in the club’s season.

His presence has relieved the manacles which have limited Ruben Neves and Moutinho at times this season, but to place him in a bracket comprising of midfield destroyers would do him a notable disservice.

Dendoncker was cute in possession against Everton, picking his moments to dribble forward with the ball at his feet and delivering passes into his attacking teammates at every available opportunity.

Wolves’ 3-1 victory was symptomatic of how Dendoncker’s fresh injection of midfield prowess arrived at just the right time for Santo and a team that had started to become stale and predictable.

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