The recent transfer window saw Wolverhampton Wanderers move on several previously crucial figures, with manager Bruno Lage seemingly clearing house as he attempts to put his stamp on a squad that still bears the hallmarks of his predecessor, Nuno Espirito Santo.
The defensive ranks, in particular, were somewhat decimated as the former Benfica boss plotted his move away from a back five system, with the likes of Willy Boly, Roman Saiss and captain Conor Coady all moving on to pastures new.
The latter man’s departure came as a notable surprise due to the impressive service that the Englishman had given to the club over the past seven years, having been integral in the rise from Championship outfit to European contenders since his arrival from Huddersfield Town back in 2015.
A bargain addition at just £2m, the former Liverpool youth product went on to rack up 317 appearances in all competitions for the Midlands outfit, proving himself a hugely influential presence at the base of a defensive trio.
The shift to a back four – and the arrival of former Burnley man Nathan Collins – seemingly culminated in an exit for the ten-cap colossus, as he was subsequently snapped up by Everton on a season-long loan deal.
It has left something of a void at Molineux such was the centre-back’s presence in the dressing room and on the pitch, with it a perhaps brave call from Lage to move on a player who racked up 3363 minutes in the Premier League last term – the second most in the division.
One potential positive to come from Coady’s departure could be the chance for a young, academy asset to take his place in the years to come, with 19-year-old Nigel Lonwijk one promising talent who is currently showcasing his quality.
The highly-rated teen has flourished since joining League One side Plymouth Argyle over the summer, racking up 11 appearances in all competitions so far this term for the table-topping outfit, including starting the last six league games.
That form has seen him lauded by manager Steven Schumacher earlier this week, with the 38-year-old stating: “How good has he been since he came in the team? He hasn’t really put a foot wrong. He’s so calm for someone so young. He’s 19-years-old and nothing fazes him. You tell him ‘Nigel you are going to play left-side centre-back this week’ and he says ‘Okay, no problem.’
“You tell him ‘Nigel, you need to step in there with (Conor) Chaplin’ and he says ‘Yeah, no problem, got it.’ He just takes on information brilliantly. He’s a real quality player and has got a bright future.”
That glowing assessment is a sign of just what a talent Wolves have on their books at present, with the Dutchman having also caught the eye while on loan at Eredivisie side Fortuna Sittard last term, recording 25 appearances in all competitions to help aid his development.
An imposing figure at 6 foot 5, the youngster could well be someone who can marshall the backline at Molineux as impressively as Coady had previously, with Lage potentially needing to unleash the emerging ace once he returns from his temporary stint.