Time is marching on and the January transfer window is creeping up on us.
Owen Coyle has worked wonders so far in the transfer market, his dealings having placed Latics balance sheet firmly in the black.
Coyle will go into the January market with ample funds available for transfers, but will be constrained by the club’s salary policy. That would rule out signings like Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes. Once again Coyle will be looking out for bargain buys whose salary demands are realistic.
With the win at Yeovil, Latics have moved up to 10th place in the Championship, only two points short of the playoff zone with a game in hand. If they can continue in this vein they will be in a good position to mount a realistic promotion challenge. Moreover Coyle has the chance to bring in new blood to cover the squad’s weaker areas through the transfer window.
By January the futures of short-term loanees Marc Albrighton and Ryan Shotton will have been determined.
If Albrighton does not stay at Wigan then Coyle will need to look elsewhere for a wide player who can make a difference. Ivan Ramis is approaching full fitness after a ten month absence through injury. If Shotton is recalled by Stoke, Coyle has a more than adequate replacement for him at centre back.
So what are the areas that need strengthening?
Latics have scored a paltry 17 goals in the 14 league matches they have played. Coyle’s two mainline central strikers are both 32 years old and past their best.
Both Marc-Antoine Fortune and Grant Holt have had injury problems. They have mustered only three league goals between them. This is not to suggest the two players cannot play a major role in a promotion push, but Coyle needs another option given their record up to this point.
At least one more central striker is a necessity for that promotion push.
Two new full backs would also make a difference.
The left back position has been problematic. Stephen Crainey has had a hard time adjusting following his move from Blackpool. He is also 32 years old and might not have the pace he used to have.
Jean Beausejour has stepped in at left back several times, but it is not his natural position and he is better employed further forward. James Perch has provided defensive stability over recent matches in that position, but his attacking skills on his ‘wrong side’ are limited.
Specialist left back Juan Carlos Garcia remains untried. The Honduran has been given just one start – away at Manchester City in the League Cup, where he was played out of position in left midfield. Coyle seems reluctant to put him in at this stage.
The evergreen Emmerson Boyce is 34 years old now, but remains a fine right back. He might have lost a little bit of pace over the years, but what he might lack he makes up for it in experience. Boyce’s passing skills are sorely missed when he is not in the team. Ryan Shotton is a promising young central defender but his miserable 57% pass completion rate in the Rubin game in Russia shows how Latics need a specialist right back when Boyce is not available.
Wigan Athletic have the third best defensive record in the Championship, with only 12 goals conceded. It provides a solid base on which to build a promotion challenge. It is scoring goals that is the problem.
Coyle’s main aim in the transfer window will therefore be to bring in at least one quality striker. A quality attacking left back would also help in the creation of goals. Moreover there is a need for a specialist right back in case of an injury to Boyce.
Perhaps Coyle will also look for a playmaker in the long-term absence of Shaun Maloney, although he already has Nick Powell and Jordi Gomez .
Providing Latics can maintain their defensive strength and cover the weak areas of the squad through the transfer window they will surely be challenging for a Premier League place over the coming months.