Wigan Athletic Full Season Preview 2015/16 Part Two

So this post is following on from part one of my season preview which you can find on this site. That focused on the players we currently have in the squad and roles they have to play this season. Now let’s look at all the possible incomings, confirmed outgoings and summarise my thoughts on our prospects for the season ahead.

If you count all the players named in part one of my preview as our first team squad then we currently have a squad of 23 players. This is not including any other youth players that may feature in the squad this season. It’s vital we do not fall into the trap that Rosler did last season in having to many players in the squad. That was an absolute killer for us last season. It caused massive player unrest and was a key factor in being unable to gain any consistency during Uwe’s time at the club from August 2014 onwards. The last thing Gary Caldwell needs as a young manager still learning his trade, is a dressing room full of players angry they didn’t even make the bench simply because their was no room on it. Saying all that I’d be very worried by September if our squad exceeded 25 players.

My next port of call is to explain what I think we still need to bring in this summer, who the club have been linked with signing and how I feel about those who have left this summer.

Incomings

The only position I believe we currently lack bodies are on the wing. Odelusi is the only senior winger we have without counting youth team player and local boy Jordan Flores. One or two wingers are the only additions that I believe we need to make providing no one suffers any injuries or anyone leaves (very possible between now and deadline day). If Jennings can continue his promise in the center, then I’d be happy if we stuck with him rather than spend more money on another central attacking midfield player. Right now it looks like the 3-5-2 formation will be the way to go but a winger or two would enable to also play 4-3-3 or the currently very popular 4-2-3-1 that sides like Chelsea and Arsenal use to great effect.

So back on the topic of wingers, who can we sign? Well going off rumors from every man and his dog online I’ve narrowed it down to four players for now. Sam Clucas has been linked with Latics since the start of the window. Clucas appeals to me as a player who similar to Grigg is a proven League One top performer and would give us an edge that other League One clubs may not have. I’m surprised a Championship club has not come in for him yet, but the longer we wait the more chance it may happen (apparently Hull City have done just that at the time of me writing this).

The second player that has been linked is Matty Done from Sheffield United. Done appeals to me the most because not only is he a proven performer in League One and rated extremely highly by Blades fans. But his signing would boost our chances of promotion and at the same time significantly damage theirs. Whether United would sell to Wigan is another matter but if a deal is possible, it could be the difference between mid table and the top six (if not higher).

The third player linked very recently (as of today) is Michael Jacobs of Wolves. The word is that he is undergoing a medical and if so would be another coup for the club. Jacobs was a player that I initially hoped we would go for a month ago when the transfer window opened because I believed that he would be a realistic catch and a great signing for what the club need. He played a big role in Wolves’ title winning League One campaign and is currently not getting games at Molineux having been moved down the pecking order. He is sure to command a cheap fee and also provides some versatility, as I believe he can play both on the wing and in the middle. We’ve never been seriously linked with Jacobs up until now, in fact Coventry have been the team linked with him. But if we pull it off then like Clucas and Done above him, it gives us that bit of added class in midfield that other teams may not have.

Now for our final winger and a player that has caused a lot of debate over the past few days. Jermaine Pennant! I could write a whole article on this alone. When Pennant tweeted back in May that he was looking forward to playing for the club in League One next season, most Wigan fans were delighted and rightly so! But some fans (myself included) had a very strong suspicion that the ex Liverpool man wouldn’t be honoring his words should a Championship club offer him a deal. Now I didn’t hold anything against him, granted he was silly to tweet out his commitment to Wigan without knowing how much Wigan would offer him and what else was out there, but at the same time he needs to look after himself and if another club can offer him more money, then the smart move would obviously be to go there. However fast forward two months and that move hasn’t materialized, Pennant now finds himself back in a situation where rejoining Wigan is an option for him. But the way he is going about things is wrong and has come across very badly IMO.

Pennant has been using twitter as a tool to put pressure on David Sharpe (also on twitter) to offer him the terms he wants whether that be higher wages, an extra year or whatever. Pennant has said that the fans don’t know the full story, now that is true and I don’t know what exactly is going on. What I do know is that using gullible teenage Wigan fans that for some reason see you as a Wigan hero due to waving a flare around and banging a few (all be it very good) free kicks in the top corner as a way to get the contract you want doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. If Pennant is willing to accept a contract that suits us and our wage bill then great, his set pieces and crosses for players like Grigg and Davies along with his experience would be an asset this coming season. But if he is asking for anything that is beyond the club’s capabilities as a League One club and refusing a compromise then Sharpe should tell him to go and find another club.

Outgoings

Overall I’ve been happy with our business this summer. Especially at the amount of players we’ve managed to ship out the club. Out of all the players that have gone, only one of them has disappointed me in the slightest and that was James Tavernier. Not because he was a first team regular, he would have probably been on the bench again this season with Perch still at the club. Because the signing and subsequent treatment of James Tavernier has represented everything that has gone so horribly wrong with Wigan Athletic this past year. Tavernier arrived as a very promising 22 year old on the back of a fantastic season on loan at promoted Rotherham United, who we beat to his signature from Newcastle. Since then, he was to put it quite simply not given a chance by Uwe Rosler.

Despite the poor form and performances of the side, Tavernier was not given any opportunity by Rosler. His subsequent sacking and the appointment of Malky Mackay did nothing to help his chances and he found himself out of loan at Bristol City where he once again showed his talents by helping them to the League One crown. If anything sums up his time at the club, it’s the fact that he was said to have phoned Rotherham manager Steve Evans nearly every day for three weeks, begging to come back to the Millers. Now if any player has been driven to try and force a move to play for Steve Evans of all people, then you know he’s been treated badly by his parent club. The fact that Tavernier didn’t even thank Wigan Athletic on social media when his move to Rangers was confirmed, to me spoke volumes on his experience at the club.

I’d also like to mention Ali Al Habsi and Emmerson Boyce. It was the right time for both players to leave the club but it didn’t mean I wasn’t sad to see them go. Al Habsi has been my favorite player since he joined the side and in my opinion the best goalkeeper ever to play for Wigan Athletic. If not for Ali Al Habsi, our exit from the Premier League would have been a lot sooner than it was. As for Emmerson Boyce well, what can I say? Legend is a word very much overused this days but this man really is a modern day Wigan Athletic legend. Thanks for everything Boycey!

So finally to sum everything up I’m going to predict the season ahead. I’ve always been a massive pessimist. I remember refusing to believe we’d won the FA Cup even after full time when Paul Scharner was down on his knees bowing to all the Wigan fans at Wembley, (although I probably wasn’t alone in not believing what was happening in front of my eyes that day).

In order to keep our very impatient fans onside, a good start is going to be crucial. Unfortunately the fixture list has been rude enough to hand us three extremely tough opening fixtures. Coventry City away at the Ricoh speaks for itself but while two home games against Doncaster Rovers and Scunthorpe United look good on paper, the reality is they are most certainly not. Rovers proved nightmare opposition for Latics in the Championship, and no doubt Paul Dickov’s men will fancy their chances of going one better than the point they gained at the DW last time out. Scunthorpe under Mark Robins are blessed with one of the best budgets in the league and have bought very strongly so far. They look good for a serious playoff push.

Anyone that took the 10/1 offer SkyBet have of Wigan winning their first three league matches are set to be disappointed in my honest opinion. It may take up to a month for the side to gel with so many new additions and patience will be key. But after last season, patience is very thin on the ground with most fans and a poor start could see a lot of boos, meltdowns and ultimately a very empty DW stadium by September.

Saying that I’ll finish on a positive! The signing of Grigg was the game changer for me. That was the signing that made me sit up and say: “hang on maybe we can bounce back this season after all”. One or two more signings like that (Clucas/Done/Jacobs cough cough) along with keeping hold of players like Perch and Huws, then maybe we can achieve our goals this season. I apologize for not having the optimism of David Sharpe just yet, but it won’t stop me from looking forward to the long season ahead. Surely it can’t be as bad as last season can it? Can it???

If you’ve managed to sit through and read all 3200 words of this tripe then thank you, it means a lot! If you want to let me know what you think or just abuse me for spouting negative rubbish then please do so! My twitter handle is @AlexSarwar20

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Wigan Athletic Full Season Preview 2015/16 Part One

So we’ve got 14 days to go before Wigan kick off their League One campaign away at Coventry. With the start of another long season getting ever closer I thought I’d write up a preview of the squad, potential incomings/outgoings and how I think we’ll fare this coming season. This is purely my opinion so if you disagree or feel I’m talking rubbish then feel free to click off or even better let me know why I’m talking rubbish. Warning it’s very long but was surprisingly very fast to type up, probably because I’ve not been thinking of much else this summer. Bloody football eh?

I’ll start with our current squad and my opinion on what we have so far in each position.

GKs

Richie O’Donnell

Lee Nicholls

Not much to talk about here, we signed one of the best goalkeepers in L1 last season on a free transfer. Shrewd business and we have two reliable keepers for next season. Feel a little sorry for Nicholls, as he must have thought this year would finally be his chance. But I can’t blame Caldwell for taking the opportunity to bring in O’Donnell on a free transfer. He could be the best signing we make this summer to be honest.

Centre Backs

Craig Morgan

Jason Pearce

Donovan Daniels

Leon Barnett

Again I feel like we’ve done some good business here. The signing of Morgan sticks out for me. Out of the two games I’ve seen in pre season, Morgan has impressed. He looks calm in possession, solid and a leader. The fact that we pinched him over Bolton makes me like him even more. He’s another one who I feel will be a big factor as to whether we are successful next season. Daniels on the other hand has looked less than assured, miss placing passes and looking uncomfortable on the ball. What he has in his favour though is his youth. At only 21 years old, I’m hoping he’ll be one that improves every game with experience. It’s vital he does fast though as I’m expecting Caldwell to throw him straight in to a three man central defense against Coventry.

I expect Barnett to warm the bench until we can get rid of him and as for Pearce, hopefully he’ll recover fast from having his pants pulled down by Altrincham’s unit of a striker in time to play a big part for us with Morgan this season.

Full/Wing Backs

James Perch (C)

Andrew Taylor

Reece James

JonJoe Kenny (LOAN)

Whether James Perch is here in September is up for debate. Him and Huws are the two players I worry about losing the most. Especially considering we let a competent player in Tavernier go (hopefully under the presumption that Perch is staying). If he stays brilliant, he’s one of the players we have that are a level above League One. As highly rated as Kenny is by his parent club (U21s captain etc.) I can’t see him getting any game time at Wigan whilst Perch is there.

James looks a very good signing. He comes with positive reviews from his time at Huddersfield last season and can also take a mean set piece, which is a welcome bonus. I’m also going to go out on a limb here and defend Andrew Taylor. Trust me I am far from his biggest fan but surely he’ll be at least competent at League One level. I can’t believe he was playing in the Premier League less than two years ago. Either way I hope it’s James lining up against Coventry but I have a feeling Caldwell will go with the experienced Taylor. Can’t wait to read twitter on that Saturday night if he starts and we end up losing that’s for sure.

Midfielders

Tim Chow

Emyr Huws

David Perkins

Max Power

Chris McCann

Don Cowie

Sanmi Odelusi

Ryan Jennings

Francisco Junior (LOAN)

This for me is the weakest area of the squad. Apart from Emyr Huws there is no one here that I look at and think their ability should be the difference between us and rival League One teams. Although I think Tim Chow is certainly on the right track. Caldwell’s best decision so far as a manager was to give him a new contract and I expect him to be a regular in central midfield next season. Hopefully his partner in crime will be Huws but I just cannot see us hanging on to him until September. If he does go, we better get value for money. At 21 years old with three years left on his contract we hold a strong bargaining position with no pressure to sell. He’s been very unlucky with injuries though and it would frustrate me to see him bail on the club after we’ve worked hard to help him recover from his injuries.

With another injury to Huws, the door has opened for David Perkins who I believe we signed as cover for him. The reason being having watched Perkins for both Barnsley and Blackpool against Latics, he strikes me as a very similar player. Whether he’s good enough to start every week for a promotion chasing League One side, I’m not so sure but with Huws facing an uncertain future, we’ll probably find out sooner rather than later. He’s looked very dependable in pre season so far though so early signs are good. Chris McCann has been featuring as a centre half more often than centre midfielder this pre season, but he’s a player I suspect may be moved out the door by September due to his wages and a shocking turn of form last season. He’s not been the same player since that horrible injury he suffered away at Man City in the FA Cup.

As for Don Cowie the less said about him the better! Him and Taylor are two of the three players signed by Uwe Rosler still at the club, and two of the three players that will probably continue to draw the ire of Latics fans until they are no longer here. Francisco Junior’s one-month loan signing looks like a trial to try and earn a contract with the club. Port Vale fans were not impressed with his contribution to their team last season. Maybe he can turn it around with Wigan, but he doesn’t strike me as a player that will feature heavily for a side expected to “smash it and get 100 points” this season (David Sharpe’s words not mine).

Odelusi quietly impressed me against Alty and as our only natural winger must be high in the manager’s thoughts. This leads me to attacking central midfield. I’ve included Jennings in my midfield list as I think he has a part to play this season. His direct play and pace could see him thrive as an attacking central midfielder where he gets to run at centre backs, instead of being wasted out on the wing. If Caldwell persists with playing him central just behind the striker rather than on the wing, I see him having a huge part of play this season and the thought of him battling with impressive new signing Max Power for that spot is very exciting. It may also save us money as I’ve always thought we’ve needed a new signing to play central attacking midfield. Jennings breaking through would solve a lot of time and money.

Strikers

Billy McKay

Grant Holt

Craig Davies

Will Grigg

I thought Billy McKay would be on his way out this summer, but an impressive pre season may see him keep his place in the squad after all. I’m not to fussed either way about whether he stays or goes both would suit me fine. Now onto the third player that draws the anger of Wigan fans. With the money Grant Holt is on, he certainly isn’t going anywhere this season. Now again I’m certainly not his biggest fan but he’s a player that surely will be able to make an impact at League One level. He’s got the experience and as much as he’s struggled at Wigan the man knows where the goal is. The combination of injuries, Owen Coyle’s lax training regimes and Uwe Rosler’s dictatorship has ruined Holt’s time at the club. But he would go a long way towards repairing his relationship with Wigan fans, if he brought home a high return of goals this season to steer the club back to the Championship at the first attempt. I honestly think he can do it as well. His experience will also be very helpful towards our fairly young squad. Players like himself, Perch and Morgan will be required to step up and guide our young players in the right direction.

Craig Davies is another smart signing for this division. He has a good record in League One and providing those hamstrings hold up should not only find the net, but also provide a fantastic foil for our 1 million pound man Will Grigg. The chairman expects 20 goals from this man and for him to be the player to fire us straight back to the Championship after a 22-goal season at MK Dons last year. No pressure then Will! Seriously though it was a real coup to get him, I’m shocked a Championship club didn’t sign him up and hopefully he can keep up his form from last season. He’s already shown he can get into the right positions to score goals; it’s now down to the rest of the team to get him the service that he needs. He’s got one of the toughest jobs in English football, being the main man up top in the striker’s graveyard that is Wigan Athletic. Let’s hope him or any of the others can finally be the one to banish the curse.

To avoid burning out the brains of anyone reading this (if I haven’t already), I’ll leave it there for now. Part two will focus on future additions to the squad along with players that have left the club. I will also do a final summary and prediction of how I think the season will pan out.