This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.
Over the last couple of years, Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett have very much been Nuno Espirito Santo’s main men as the centre-back three for Wolves, with the trio playing in 40 or more games last season and making a combined 118 appearances in 2017/18.
However, with the club having additional commitments with the Europa League this season, starting their qualifying campaign on July 25th, the likelihood of squad depth being tested looked set to increase, with Wolves playing just 46 matches in all competitions last term – they are now halfway to that total this campaign after playing Slovan Bratislava on Thursday night.
Nuno may have felt that defensive reinforcements were needed to cope with the extra workload, with The Times reporting in mid-June that the club had approached Burnley about the possibility of signing centre-back James Tarkowski.
However, the odds seemed stacked against Wolves straight away, with The Times claiming that Leicester were also interested in the 26-year-old and that Burnley did not need to sell the defender urgently. The Clarets duly rejected the approach from Wolves, as reported by The Times and tweeted by journalist Matt Hughes (via @MattHughesDM).
— Matt Hughes (@MattHughesDM) June 13, 2019
Wolves were defensively quite strong in 2018/19. Only the top four in the Premier League conceded fewer than their 46 goals, while Boly and Bennett proved to be very strong in the air, winning 3.8 and 3.6 aerial duels per game respectively.
Impressive as those figures were, Tarkowski still left both players in his wake with a match average of 4.8 successful duels last season, while he also won two tackles per game, a better average than Bennett (1.7) and Coady (0.8).
The Burnley defender’s figures have diminished this term, with a match average of 3.9 successful aerial duels and 1.8 tackles. However, he still ranks higher than Bennett and Coady for both metrics – 2.7 aerial duels, 0.7 tackles and 1.3 aerial duels, 1.5 tackles respectively.
Also, any off-season worries about defensive depth are now coming to fruition, with Bennett having been out of action of late due to a groin injury and Boly set to be ruled out for some time after fracturing his fibula recently, as per Birmingham Live. Matt Doherty is also on the casualty list after he was forced off in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal with a knee injury, as per the Express & Star.
Jesus Vallejo, who Nuno ultimately brought in to add to his centre-back options, has not looked overly convincing so far, with just 0.5 successful tackles and one interception per game (as per WhoScored).
Also, that Nuno has chosen to pick right-back Doherty and defensive midfielder Romain Saiss at centre-back ahead of the Spaniard suggests that the manager isn’t wholly convinced by the Real Madrid loanee.
With the defensive injury problems mounting up for Wolves and more than half the season still to play, how Nuno must now wish the club had managed to entice Tarkowski to Molineux over the summer.
Wolves fans, does the inability to land Tarkowski now feel like an opportunity lost given the multitude of defensive injuries? Share your views in the comments section below!
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