“What a cracker – Michael Jacobs joins Latics ” said one headline.
Had Wigan Athletic really signed a cracker, fans wondered?
The name of Michael Jacobs was largely unknown to Latics supporters until he signed from Wolves some four weeks ago. However, his performances up to this point have clearly stirred the interest of Latics fans.
Indeed the most clicked-on post on in the newsnow news aggregator site for Wigan Athletic yesterday was “Everything Is Happening by Michael Jacobs, review: ‘tantalising”. Unfortunately for Latics fans it was turned out to be a Daily Telegraph review of a book written by a writer of the same name who passed away last year.
One might think that Jacobs might be getting fed up of the cracker comments after almost a month at Wigan Athletic. But Jacobs is lively on Twitter, with 15,585 followers and yesterday’s tweet got lots of interest, including a quip from teammate Max Power and a response from @jacobsofficial.
On signing Jacobs, Gary Caldwell had said “I’m really pleased we’ve got this one over the line. Michael knows this league well, and knows what it takes to be successful at this level having played at Wolves when they were promoted in 2014. He is a potential match winner on his day and will add terrific competition to the squad, which is now starting to take shape.”
Michael Jacobs made his debut for Wigan Athletic in the final pre-season game at Blackburn, being replaced by Craig Davies after 62 minutes. He was to make his first competitive appearance a week later in the 2-0 defeat to Coventry, playing behind the central striker, Will Grigg. Jacobs was one of the more impressive performers in a team that could not get its act together that day.
In the next match against Bury in the League Cup, Jacobs started on the left wing as Caldwell switched from 3-5-1-1 to 4-3-3. He had looked lively in the first half, linking up well with left back Reece James, marauding inside to threaten the visitors’ defence. It was Jacobs’ run from the second half kick off that caused Bury defender Peter Clarke to foul him and concede a penalty put away by Grigg. Once again Jacobs had caught the eye in what was a rather disappointing team performance.
Jacobs was again played on the left wing in the next game, a goalless draw with Doncaster. There were moments when he threatened the Yorkshire team’s defence and he had scraped the crossbar with a free kick early on. But it was hard for Jacobs to shine in a team that just did not seem to gel together.
However, we had already seen enough glimpses of skill from Jacobs to see that he would be a key player for Latics this season. But in what position? When he had joined the club he had been labeled as a winger who gets into the box and scores goals. Up to that point he had been played either behind a lone centre forward or on the wing. But against Scunthorpe we were to see him in a new position
.For the game against the Lincolnshire team, Caldwell was to send Latics out in a 3-5-2 formation, with Grigg and Davies up front. Jacobs was to play in attacking midfield role behind that front two. With the security of having Francisco Junior and David Perkins behind him, Jacobs was to have the freedom to link up with the twin strikers and wing backs in attacking positions. Moreover in the absence of Max Power he was to take most of the set pieces. However, Jacobs was not to forget his defensive duties, frequently dropping back to help out.
Caldwell played an attacking game against Scunthorpe and it paid off. With the wing backs pushed far up the field, with twin strikers and Jacobs behind them they had a lot of attacking options. If Caldwell continues to opt for such a formation more goals will surely come. The question is whether the back three are going to be exposed, even with the shield of Junior and Perkins in front of them.
Michael Jacobs, the footballer, is still a work in progress. He is still only 23 but has all the pre-requisites to become a top player. He has pace and technique, not being afraid to take on defenders and shoot. His skill on set pieces could well prove decisive in tight matches. Above all Jacobs has commitment, something that has been sadly lacking over the past year at Wigan.
Jacobs could well turn out to be that “cracker” that the headline was referring to.