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.
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.
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