The Joe Edwards debrief – Aston Villa 0 Wolves 1
They have also won three from three since the restart, kept seven clean sheets from their last eight matches, and are now fifth in the Premier League.
It is safe to say that things are going pretty well for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
So, let’s get right into it and start with the main point – Leander Dendoncker was absolutely brilliant at Villa Park.
What a selfless player he is. One of the more unsung heroes of the past couple of years, you can play him in defence or midfield, or have him in from the start or come on as a substitute, and he will rarely disappoint.
The Belgian was given quite the task against Dean Smith’s struggling side – keep Jack Grealish quiet and then help out in the final third.
And, blimey, he accomplished that mission.
With Villa, if you stop Grealish, you stop the whole team, and Dendoncker, aside from a couple of moments in the first half, did not give the claret and blue skipper a sniff.
Then, he came up with a peach of a strike to win it for Wolves, finding the bottom corner in emphatic fashion.
It is worth pointing out that Dendoncker’s left foot is supposed to be his weaker one as well.
Picking up his fifth goal of the campaign, he put in what was probably his most complete performance in gold and black.
Sure, he was something of a man possessed in attack against Besiktas at Molineux earlier this season and pretty great at Everton last campaign, but his defensive work was sublime in this clash, too.
Ruben Neves put in another classy display and Joao Moutinho also kept things ticking over nicely as ever, but Dendoncker was the box-to-box man.
His exceptional running stats (his 13.2km against Brighton in March being the most in a single game of any top-flight player) have been well documented.
He is Wolves’ marathon man, no doubt, but he proved here that he is far more than just a runner.
Dendoncker is a top-drawer player and vital cog in Nuno’s well-oiled machine. Man of the match.
Jonny be extremely good
Another of Nuno’s stars who caught the eye on Saturday was super Spanish wing-back Jonny Castro Otto.
Similarly to Dendoncker, he has not quite been one of the poster boys of the Nuno era thus far but certainly displayed his importance to the team in this 1-0 win.
After sending John McGinn to another dimension with an exquisite turn, he raced up the pitch to get on the end of a Raul Jimenez cross and set up Dendoncker for the winner. It was truly magnificent play.
It spoke volumes of Otto’s improvement going forward as well.
When he was first brought in, he was not the most adventurous – but now he is dancing past players and proving ever so effective in the final third.
He is just so solid on the back foot, too – a pitbull that keeps on running.
You could not help but be happy for both Dendoncker and Otto after the game.
Two players who have quietly done a tremendous job firmly grabbed the spotlight
Having had a knack of starting seasons fairly slowly under Nuno, some wondered if the trend would continue upon the league’s resumption behind-closed-doors.
But there was never any need to worry. Wolves look like they have never been away.
Yes, the games are different now. Without supporters in the grounds, they are not as exciting and there are quiet periods in games, but Wolves have adjusted to the new setting seamlessly.
Game management is paramount, and there are few better at that than Nuno’s men.
They are able to find that little bit extra to punish teams in second halves and have been so organised.
Villa could have played for another three or four hours and still would not have scored.
That speaks to their woes in front of goal – Keinan Davis and Mbwana Samatta being very disappointing for them – but it is also because of how well-drilled Wolves are.
There are no obvious holes to exploit, any glaring weaknesses. They’re so robust.
What lies ahead
Now, Wolves have a full week of training ahead of hosting Arsenal, and you have to think that bodes well.
After all, the players always speak of the importance of having time on the training pitch – to learn from Nuno and improve even further.
In terms of how the side could look for the visit of the Gunners, perhaps we could see Diogo Jota drop out.
He really should have scored after an almighty gaffe from Orjan Nyland and has Pedro Neto breathing down his neck.
Dendoncker certainly made a case for Wolves to stick with the 3-5-2 and keep his starting spot, too.
Nuno has a lot of options. Again, things are looking good.