While Wolverhampton Wanderers very much appear to be a side on the up under the leadership of Bruno Lage, having picked up 13 points from a possible 18 over their last six Premier League fixtures, there are nevertheless a number of issues facing the 45-year-old manager that will be causing him something of a headache.
One such problem is at centre-back, with the Portuguese boss currently only having Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Romain Saiss and Max Kilman available for selection to fill out his three-man defence, with summer signing Yerson Mosquera ruled out until 2022 due to a hamstring injury.
And, with both Boly and Saiss looking likely to miss a number of Wolves’ fixtures in January as a result of their potential participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, Lage is facing the very real possibility of having only two centre-backs available during one of the busiest periods of the Premier League season.
However, in an apparent attempt to soften this blow, it was recently reported that the 45-year-old is considering the option of bringing one of the club’s brightest defensive talents back to Molineux in the winter market, in the shape of Dion Sanderson.
And, considering the sheer amount of potential the 21-year-old quite clearly possesses, this would indeed appear to be a very wise move for Lage to make.
Having highly impressed during a loan spell with League One side Sunderland last season, with the centre-back picking up the club’s Supporters Young Player of the Year award, Sanderson was subsequently awarded a new four-year contract at Wolves upon his return to the club this summer, before once again being sent out on loan for the 2021/22 campaign – this time to Birmingham City.
And, over his eight Championship appearances for Lee Bowyer’s side, predominantly playing on the right of a back-three, the £135k-rated man has once again turned heads, helping the Blues keep three clean sheets, as well as making an average of 1.5 interceptions, 1.3 tackles, 4.5 clearances and winning 4.1 duels per game.
Not only have these returns seen the youngster average a SofaScore match rating of 6.84, ranking him as Birmingham’s joint 10th-best performer in the league, they have also drawn the 21-year-old a considerable amount of praise, none less so than from his current manager.
Speaking about Sanderson’s potential, Bowyer said: “He is a young lad, and he will improve. He needs to improve on certain things which is why he is here. He is another good lad and wants to improve as a player. He will go as far as he wants to go.”
The centre-back has also been the recipient of kind words from former Sunderland centre-forward Stephen Elliot, who said: “Dion Sanderson has a huge future in the game. [He’s the] best on loan player I’ve seen at [Sunderland] since Johnny Evans. Wise beyond his years on the pitch.”
As such, considering his ability, his suitability to Wolves’ system and Lage’s chronic shortage of options at the back, to say it would be a no brainer for the 45-year-old to recall Sanderson this winter would be something of an understatement.
It is clear for all to see that the defender is more than ready to make the step up to Premier League football, as well as bringing the added bonus of saving Fosun millions of pounds in January transfer fees.