Ryan Bennett has warned his Wolves team-mates every player should be concerned for their place because the club is looking to strengthen every position.
The 29-year-old was replaced by on-loan Real Madrid defender Jesus Vallejo for the last two Europa League games – the 4-0 win against FC Pyunik and Thursday’s 3-2 victory away to Torino. Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo made nine changes for the Pyunik tie with it coming four days before the 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United, then four changes for the trip to Italy.
Nuno has retained his small squad but there is plenty of competition for places, with Vallejo, Romain Saiss and Academy graduate Dion Sanderson seen as quality competition for regular defensive trio Bennett, captain Conor Coady and Willy Boly.
There is competition throughout the team, with Adama Traore and Ruben Vinagre vying with Matt Doherty and Jonny Castro Otto for the wing back slots, Saiss and Bruno Jordao able to come in for any of the three central midfielders, and Patrick Cutrone and Pedro Neto competing with Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota up front.
Bennett has made 78 appearances in little over two years since joining from Norwich. And the Essex-born centre back has adopted the approach of one of his predecessors, captain Jody Craddock, who expected the club to strengthen his position every summer and was happy to fight for his place. “It’s nothing to do with me – if they’re going to bring players in they’re going to bring players in,” said Bennett. “The club is going in an upward direction, it’s not going to be just me, it’s in every position. I’m 29, I’ve been around since teams were doing that in League Two, it’s what they look to do.”
Wolves have conceded just four goals in seven games so far this season – and one was an own goal scored by Bennett, in the 4-1 Europa League win away to Belfast outfit Crusaders. Another was from the spot against Torino, after Rui Patricio saved Paul Pogba’s penalty against United. Bennett is happy with their defensive record so far. “It is good, looking at it since we came back we haven’t conceded against opposition teams,” he said. “It’s a good start, we know we’re going to come up against different challenges.”
Wolves are in the middle of a hectic run of six games in 17 days before the first international break of the season next month. From the FC Pyunik game, they hosted United on Monday night, faced Torino away in the Europa League play-off in Turin on Thursday, entertain Burnley on Sunday, play Torino in the return next Thursday before travelling to Everton on Sunday, September 1.
Bennett has saluted the positive approach of the squad as they face such a tough examination of their fitness at an early stage of the campaign. “We’ve been doing it since we’ve been back, there’s not been much time at all,” he said. “That’s what we have to deal with as a club, but the professionalism throughout the squad is brilliant.”
And with so many big games coming together, Bennett admits there is no chance to think about getting starstruck with the profile of some of their opponents. “Not really, I don’t have time,” he said. “They just roll in and roll out. There’s so much to think about. You don’t have time to think about how big the teams are.”