Finding the right place for Thelo Aasgaard

Thelo Aasgaard has worked on the physical side of his game to complement his technical skills

The “Rabona” is probably the most difficult technique in football. When the ball is kicked the kicking leg is crossed behind the back of the standing leg. Eric Lamela made national headlines last season when he scored a Rabona for Tottenham against Arsenal. He made it look easy.

In February 2017 Wigan Athletic posted a video clip on YouTube. It showed a 14-year-old scoring a “Rabona” in a U15 game against Blackburn Rovers. It made Lamela’s effort look pale in comparison.

Thelonious Gerard Aasgaard had joined Latics not long before after having been with Liverpool’s youth system. Although born in Liverpool, his father is of Norwegian heritage and his mother of French. Aasgaard represented Norway at U16 level. During the past week he was called up to their U20 squad.

Aasgaard has dubbed by some as the “Wigan Grealish”, a compliment to a young player with a similarly high level of technical ability. Like Grealish his natural position is as a number 10, but he tends to get played in wide positions. Despite possessing sublime skills, it took Aasgaard some time for him to develop the physique to cope with the competitive side of the game.

Thelo Aasgaard made his senior debut for Latics against Peterborough in a League 1 game on October 20, 2020. He went on to make a major contribution in helping a club in administration to hold on to its place in the division in finishing one point above Rochdale in 20th place. Over the course of the season, he made 13 league starts with 20 appearances off the bench, scoring 3 goals.

In most of Aasgaard’s appearances last season he was played in wide positions. However, in recent months Latics signed wingers Gwion Edwards, Jordan Jones and James McClean. Moreover, both Callum Lang and Gavin Massey, who play wide, remain from last season’s squad. With such competition for places in wide positions what are Aasgaard’s chances of getting regular game time this season?

Aasgaard was a starter in the Carabao Cup match at Hull, then came on after 79 minutes in the draw against Wycombe. With Massey, Edwards and McClean chosen as the advanced midfield three for the Carabao Cup encounter with Bolton he once again found himself on the bench, being brought on after 70 minutes.

It has been acknowledged by management that the club being under administration last season gave opportunities for younger players that they would not normally have had. Over the course of the 2020-21 season ten players from the U23 squad went on to make their League 1 debuts. Ollie Crankshaw, Owen Evans, Charlie Jolley. Kyle Joseph, Chris Merrie, Emeka Obi and Alex Perry have since departed.

Aasgaard, Adam Long and Luke Robinson remain. Between the three of them they amassed 72 league appearances last season. However, with the arrival of so many senior pros their opportunities have been much diminished. Long started in the first game at Sunderland but was displaced by the loan signing of Kell Watts. Robinson started against Hull and in the Rotherham game when he was substituted after 56 minutes.

Latics will be looking at offering extended contracts to both Long and Robinson. Aasgaard signed a new contract in January. But other than appearing in the cup competitions are they likely to feature on the first team roster? Only Aasgaard was in the squad to face Portsmouth on Saturday, with Leam Richardson opting to choose an unbalanced bench without a recognised defender.

Like any other manager given expectations of a high position in the table, Richardson will rely on the experienced senior pros in his squad. Last season he had no choice but to include players from the U23 squad. The majority of them have gone, but what are his plans for the three that remain? Will they go back to being regarded as U23 players, being fielded in cup ties or having occasional appearances from the bench for the senior team? Or will they be sent off on loan to eventually return with more experience?

Callum Lang’s return from a loan spell at Motherwell in January was pivotal. His goals, so well-taken, made a massive contribution towards Latics staying in League 1. Prior to that, Lang had looked like the player Paul Cook just did not want. The player had the potential to follow on from his considerable successes with the club’s youth team. But he was still only 19 when he was sent on loan to Morecambe in 2017. He performed well there as he later did in subsequent loans at Oldham, Shrewsbury and Motherwell over those four years.

However, fans of Cook would say that the manager knew exactly what he was doing in sending a talented young player off on loan for that period of time. The club had been careful to make sure the player’s contract had not lapsed during that era. Lang is a key player in the current squad, and it is so good to hear that his new extended contract is about to be announced.

With the reports suggesting Latics will be signing two more central defenders in the next 24 hours it looks likely that Long will once again be sent off on loan. He was at National League Notts County for a short loan term in the latter part of the 2019-20 season. Robinson is likely to stay as back-up to Tom Pearce, but the latter is in the last year of his contract and the club could cash in the final stages of the transfer window. Reports suggest that Latics are looking to sign another full back, but it could be someone accustomed to playing on either flank.

Aasgaard, Long and Robinson are excellent prospects for the future. Of the three it is Aasgaard who stands out. His high technical ability is backed up with a strong work ethic and a real “football brain”.

Thelo could well become a genuine “Wigan Grealish” if his career trajectory is correctly managed. To see him languishing in the U23 side, with occasional cameos from the bench for the senior team, would be a real waste. But is he is to be sent out on loan, let it be to a club where his talents can be properly utilised?

Let’s hope the club can find the right place for their prodigy.

Amigo and Social Media reaction to a hard-earned victory over Portsmouth

August 28, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Portsmouth 0

Table courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Portsmouth arrived at Wigan having won three and drawn one of the first four games, not having conceded a goal. They were going to provide stern opposition for Latics.

Wigan had started the game without Max Power, presumably injured, with Tom Pearce coming in at left back and Tendayi Darikwa reverting to his more habitual position on the right. Both clubs have had major changes in their playing staff over summer and it can only be expected that they will need time to gel.

However, the visitors immediately settled into their stride, their smooth running and passing movements depriving Wigan of possession. Fortunately, this Latics team is better set up defensively than most, with a solid goalkeeper and a cohesive back four and holding midfielders who do so much to shield the defence.  The downside for Latics was the return of that hoofball/hopeful long ball approach that remains dormant in the players’ mindsets. Going into half time one hoped that Latics could get the ball back on the ground and challenge a Pompey defence that had been underworked up to that point. The defence had held firm and the visitors had not scored.

Things did improve for Latics in the second half, gradually clawing back into the game against a tight Pompey rear-guard. It was not pretty, but they did get the ball down more and as the match went on they looked the more likely to score. Jordan Jones was substituted for James MacClean to come on after 54 minutes and the Irishman added life on the left, even if his final touch was somewhat lacking. Pearce had started to overlap on the left, where he can be so exciting to watch. But his crossing had been wayward until the 78th minute when his pass reached Callum Lang who rifled the ball home with aplomb.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

I thought the response in the second half was the most pleasing aspect. I thought in the first half – credit to Portsmouth – they imposed themselves quite quickly on us and the game. I thought our distances weren’t great, and I felt it looked like we played on Tuesday night in a derby, and they had a free week.

In the second half, I thought our lads responded well to the information, imposed themselves a lot better, and took the game 10-15 yards up the pitch. They were tough. They’ve got some good players, and they are a fantastic football club. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it down in Portsmouth, and they are carrying a healthy squad. They are expecting to get out of the league, and they’ve probably been in it too long, but today, I thought it was up to us to impose ourselves a little bit more.

I thought we were on our heels a little bit and our distances through the centre of the pitch weren’t what they should or could have been, and I felt that we didn’t really have contact around the pitch, so we spoke about that at half-time. The subs that came on gave us impetus in the game, and our energy and high-speed running was excellent again. Normally when you tick a few boxes, you normally land on the right side of the result.”

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

C_Latic commented:

That is an outstanding three points, it really is. I thought they were the best team we’ve played so far. Really is the sign of a good side when we can get three points from a game like that without really dominating. McClean changed the game. Also, whilst he made a mistake for Wycombe’s goal, Kell Watts is looking like a very good signing indeed and any centre-back we sign between now and Tuesday will not walk straight into this side.

FrancosLoveChild opined:

Tell you what, that was a poor performance, especially the first half, but last season we would have lot that 4-0 and I always see teams that eventually go up to pick up wins in those types of games and we did, do think we felt a little leggy with the number of games in quick succession and the team looking to gel.

Can give chance to more of the youth and Fringe lads for wolves u21 Tuesday and the. Have a well deserve rest.

Considering we only played really strong sides for our first 5 games, the team exceeded expectations

Up the tics!


Well done Leam as well, good substitutions. Lang had a stinker, but again that’s why you have to keep him on for 90 mins, because he always has a goal or a big moment in him.

Exiled Tic stated:

Not our best today but the defence stood up to everything they tried and Amos had his easiest game yet! Agree McClean changed the game Their defence fell apart when he came on! What an astute signing he’s proving already!!

Jeffs right summarised:

Fabulous win. Well done Latics.
Fourth from top and with an un-gelled and incomplete squad with a difficult fixture list to start.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to an entertaining draw against Wycombe

August 17, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

“Results don’t always match performances” is an old adage in football, but it could certainly be used in the context of this match. Wigan Athletic played some scintillating football and would have won the game with a canter had they put their chances away. But they did not and tired legs in the last quarter invited Wycombe pressure, resulting in a 91st minute equaliser as Kell Watts was outjumped at the far post from a corner kick.

The game was so different to that we saw on Saturday against Rotherham. That dour encounter was won by a late, late header from Will Keane. This was an entertaining affair.

Leam Richardson had retained the back four that completed the previous game, with Tendayi Darikwa  at left back and two specialists for that position on the bench. It proved to be a successful move as Darikwa had one of his better games. Jordan Jones was brought in on the left wing and his running and accurate crossing promised much for the future. Latics had gone ahead after 47 minutes from a thunderbolt finish from Callum Lang. The goal rattled the visitors and Latics were looking dangerous but were unable to add to their lead.

Keane’s header had hit the crossbar in the 69th minute with Jones taken off soon after, being replaced by Gavin Massey. Massey had looked more like his old self coming off the bench against Rotherham, playing on the right. However, this time he was placed on the left where, time after time, he has failed to deliver. Richardson is a wonderful motivator of his players, but his substitutions can be unimaginative and ill-timed. Gareth Ainsworth had made two substitutions for Wycombe in the 59th minute, the third being the huge Akinfenwa after 73 minutes. It signalled an aerial bombardment from the visitors who looked full of running at that stage compared with Latics.

After the game Richardson commented:

“I thought in the first-half we were excellent, and we were worthy of going in at half-time in-front. With the quality and the energy levels that we show, and the entries into their final third, we’ve got to be pleased.

Wycombe are a fantastic, well-drilled football team, and they are a threat from any dead-ball and set-piece, as well as from open play. If you do not put the game to bed, you obviously succumb to what we did.

I thought we were worthy to go in front and we started the second half where we left off. If we were going to be disappointed, it would be for the result, and possibly the last 15-20 minutes where we came off the page a little bit and started trading blows with Wycombe which is what they want.”

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

Zeb2 commented:

Football eh ?…..probably got two more points than we deserved on Saturday ….and got two less than we deserved tonight.
not conceded from open play in 3 matches but two direct from corners.

Went way too deep last few minutes (a long standing trait with us) and invited waves of attack which caused us to crack in the end, but we should have been out of sight by HT….maybe we ran out of gas in that last ten/fifteen minutes ….unfortunately they didn’t.

C_Latic stated:

The positive is that we’ll play a hell of a lot worse than that this season and win. That Wycombe side are a very good team who like Rotherham will be right in the top six equation and we’ve absolutely pummelled them.

I’d say if we can get one more win from our next two, we’ll be a good spot heading into the international break. Then the fixtures will ease up and we can look at putting together a run.

JockLatic added:

Best I’ve seen us play in some time….shuda been 2/3 nil up at half time & thoroughly deserved our goal, such a shame we couldn’t have got a second as that would have seen out the game. Unfortunately we sat back & had little possession the last 10 mins or so n it just seemed like they were gonna equalise….didn’t think it was a corner n possibly a free kick to us beforehand. If we play like that for a good chunk of the season we won’t be far off so long as we convert the chances. Disappointed coming away from the ground tonight but only because we should have been out of sight in 1st half…..

Made in Wigan opined:

Disappointing ending but will look at the bigger picture. It’s a brand new team and we have some decent players. We can only improve as the season progresses if McLean doesn’t upset the apple cart.

We really do need to start taking our chances. Miss of the season contenders in consecutive games and today its cost us two points. Whilst Wycombe were okay I thought Rotherham looked a tougher opponent. That said I don’t think we’ve much to fear in this league though the time it will take the team to gel and for LR to find his best team and tactics means we’ll have to come from behind to make any impact of the league table.

Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com

Can Latics get the best out of Charlie Wyke?

In the summer of 2019 Wigan Athletic signed big centre forward, Kieffer Moore, from Barnsley. Despite having a decent strike record at Barnsley and Rotherham before that, Moore had a lean time in front of goal for months. His first goal came in early November after not being able to find the net in his previous 12 appearances. By Christmas he had only added one more to his total.

Moore was playing in the Championship for the first time, against better defenders. There were serious questions about whether this player with successful experience in the lower divisions could reach the standards required in the second tier of English football.

Moore had become a struggling player in a team unable to consistently maintain a standard of football that would keep them out of the lower reaches of the division. Even though there were flashes of quality their performances were riddled with “soft” goals due to defensive errors and an inability to hold on to a lead. Too often defenders under pressure would apply the hoof to clear their lines. The lone centre forward had to feed on morsels, so often chasing wayward long balls with big defenders closely marshalling him.

Moore eventually went on to score 12 goals that season, several of which were of very high quality. It could be argued that he had got used to playing in the Championship and had looked more self-assured. But more than that it was the improvement in the football played by the team as a unit that enabled Moore to showcase his skills. As the season had progressed the hoofball had lessened. Midfielders were dropping back to receive the ball, even if space was tight. Moves were being built up from the back and the defenders were taking more responsibility in retaining the ball. With better ball retention the opposition were less able to constantly pressurise the Wigan defence. Put simply, Moore began to flourish as the team began to play football that had more of an emphasis on possession.

Since the Phoenix 2021 takeover in March the mood at the club and among its supporters has had a major lift. The positivity of the chairman, Talal Al Hammad, has been a major factor. He is relatively young and is adept with the social media, which he regularly employs to communicate with fans. The escape from relegation was a major achievement for a club that was on its knees during the period of administration. With the backing of new owner Abdulrahman Al-Jasmi and the direction provided by new Chief Executive Malachy Brannigan the club has new direction.

On his arrival Brannigan stated:

“The past 12 months have been extremely unfortunate for everybody. Our role and my job is to make sure this football club becomes a stable Championship club. From a business perspective, the assets that are here and the value we are getting for it. Then there is the medium to long-term vision of how we can rebuild the club, put it back on solid foundations and look to grow thereafter. We are not an ownership group that is going to be in and out”.

Since the end of last season there has been a lot of flux in playing staff. Most of those who helped the club avoid relegation have departed and the club has brought in players of proven ability at League 1 level. Most had been out of contract at their previous clubs, but it was uplifting for the supporters to see Latics enticing players from supposedly bigger clubs like Ipswich, Portsmouth, and Sunderland to Wigan.

The signing of Charlie Wyke in early July went down particularly well with the fans. Here was a centre forward who scored 31 goals in 51 appearances last season deciding to move to Wigan at the end of his contract rather than stay at Sunderland, where had recently been voted “Player of the Year”.

The 28-year-old, 6ft 2in striker was born in Middlesbrough and came through the town’s football club’s academy. After signing a 3-year professional contract as an 18-year-old in May 2011 he was sent off on loan spells at Kettering, Hartlepool, and Wimbledon. He left for Carlisle United in January 2015 without making an appearance for Middlesbrough. Wyke went on to score 32 goals in 64 starts and 13 substitute appearances for Carlisle in League 2. In January 2017 he signed for Bradford City for an undisclosed fee. During a season and a half with the Bantams, Wyke scored 22 goals in League 1 from 54 starts and two appearances off the bench.

Wyke signed for Sunderland for a fee around £400,000 in the summer of 2018. In his first two seasons he struggled, scoring only 9 goals in a total of 51 appearances. However, in the 2020-21 season he notched a total of 31 goals including 5 in 6 games in the EFL Trophy.

Wyke made his league debut for Latics last Saturday, at Sunderland of all places. He did not have a particularly good game, but neither did the rest of his teammates. Wigan had started off the game in style. Despite having only three players who were starters in the last game of the previous season the newly assembled team had appeared to gel remarkably quickly. When Gwion Edwards put Wigan ahead after 17 minutes following a flowing move they looked well in control of the game. But it was not to continue.

Just two minutes later Sunderland had scored through a soft penalty conceded by Tendayi Darikwa. They went on to win the game through another “soft” goal from their centre forward who had risen to head home without sufficient challenge from the Wigan defence. The smooth, fast-flowing football of the first quarter of the game had dissipated, with the long ball rearing its head.

Watching Charlie Wyke in the second half of the game brought back images to the mind of Kieffer Moore struggling in the first part of the 2019-20 season. He was receiving poor service as the midfield was being by-passed with hopeful long balls from defenders.  The pattern of the game provided parallels with what we saw happen too frequently in the first half of the 2019-20 season.

Unlike Moore who was playing in the second tier for the first time Wyke has ample prior experience at the level he is playing at. Given the right service from the wings he will score goals. But, like Moore, he will struggle if the ball is simply “lumped” to him from the back. But who will provide the kinds of crosses he needs?

This season’s team can pose a major threat to opposition defences with crosses from set-pieces. There is a potential threat from the aerial abilities of not only the central defenders and centre forward, but also the likes of Callum Lang, Tom Naylor, and Will Keane. However, much depends on the quality of the delivery from the player taking the free kick or corner.

To provide dangerous crosses from the flanks the full backs and wingers must build up a mutual understanding of each other’s play. If the full back advances deeply into opposition territory, there must be midfield coverage behind them to stifle counterattacks if possession is lost. Richardson has a choice as to which left full back he plays. Tom Pearce excelled in the first part of last season in a struggling side, creating chances through his runs and crosses. Luke Robinson is more conservative in attack, but stronger in defence than Pearce. On the right Tendayi Darikwa has shown that he can provide quality crosses but Latics have not yet signed another player who can challenge him in that position. The modern full back role is physically demanding and expecting Darikwa to play most of the 46 league games is a big ask.

Darikwa is well known to Richardson through their time together at Wigan and Chesterfield. The manager clearly has confidence in him through making him captain.

It was pleasing to note the captain’s post-match comment on Saturday evening: “I think we could have probably got the ball down a bit more today but we will look at it as a squad with the manager and come back next week.”

Wyke has made a quiet start at Wigan up to this point. The squad will take time to truly gel, but when it does will Wyke receive the kind of service he needs to be as successful as he was last season?

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Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a difficult contest at Sunderland

August 7, 2021: Sunderland 2 Wigan Athletic 1

It has been an uplifting summer with Wigan Athletic putting together a squad that might compete with any in the division. That rebuild is not yet complete, with more players due to arrive shortly.

But despite the upbeat mood it was always going to be difficult facing a crowd of more than 30,000 at the Stadium of Light. Moreover Bobby Madley had been assigned the match: a referee hardly known for giving favourable decisions to Latics.

Latics had opened the game in style, pushing players forward, causing headaches to the Sunderland defence. Their football was a revelation and it came as no surprise when Gwion Edwards opened the scoring following a flowing move in the 15th minute. But the clock seemed to be turned back a couple of minutes later when the home team launched a rapid counterattack, with centre forward Ross Stewart going down from a challenge by Tendayi Darikwa. The large crowd bayed and Madley obliged with a penalty decision in their favour. Aidan McGeady scored with ease.

The penalty knocked the stuffing out of an away team that had been buoyant up to that point. Sunderland went from strength to strength and the gangly Stewart scored the winner after 52 minutes, outjumping the Latics defence. Wigan’s football transformed into pumping long balls, a tactic that could raise its ugly head in the Cook/Richardson era when the team was under pressure. A disappointing end to a game that started with so much promise.

Darikwa made reference to the style of play in a post-match interview saying “It’s a new squad, we’re still working on new relationships and building on that. There is a lot more to come from us; I think we could have probably got the ball down a bit more today but we will look at it as a squad with the manager and come back next week.”

Let’s hope the captain and coaching staff can work on that with effect.

Leam Richardson commented:

 “I thought we battled well. I thought we started the game good. I thought we imposed ourselves quite quickly. We were worthy in front and then I think the penalty turns the game. I don’t think really we recovered.

Whether it’s a penalty or not, I’ve been told it’s not but I’ve not seen it, so it’s disappointing again. But it gave them momentum. I thought they built on that momentum so I thought the were worthy winners in the end. It was eight or nine debutants and I think it showed in some parts but you can see they come together quickly.

In other parts as well, they’ve been in a matter of weeks. Everybody knows that we’re a football club we’re building slowly and I think you could see that little bit today.”

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

FrancosLoveChild commented:

Problem with Cook and Leam we always end up playing hoofball to suit the striker. We have always been better actually playing football and we have the players for it.

True Believer opined:

First game of the season for players brought together in the last 6 weeks and people expect them to play like they have been together for a couple of seasons.

Whatever happened to “give them time to gel”.

We have just lost by one goal in three to a side that have played together for the past two seasons and made the play offs in both those seasons. Get real.

Definitely need to see some action in the transfer market though as this is a reality check.

Jocklatic replied:

So no criticism allowed then TB, posters will def be driven off if not allowed to have their say be it against your point of view or a certain moan of a player. Went today & imo for first 10 min we seemed like a side that knew each other & how to go down field….cue the certainly unnecessary penalty by Darikwa n we seem to fall apart not helped through the game with some bizarre refereeing decisions in favour of Sunderland. Think we …well me anyway had expectations of a decent game against Sunderland but we seemed to lose our way after the penalty n made a very mediocre Sunderland side look good, again not helped by dire ref decisions. Coming away from the ground it was easy to hear that Darikwa is already a possible whipping boy….imo shouldn’t be captain as he certainly didn’t seem to command anything on the field today…..upwards and onwards to our first home game.
On a side note didn’t rate Amos, thot Power / Lang were our best players with motm….the ref

Power was the only player that performed.


Victor Moses 🙂 added:

Darikwa cost us the game, might of went that way anyway. But you cannot foul a player that is near the byline going nowhere, at best he gets a shot off at worse a cross. We we’re getting shredded down our right all game.

Wasn’t expecting an optimal performance, but thought we would have had better composure. Lots of players bottled it, Naylor was shocking on the ball. Played great against Preston, but I wouldn’t trust him to take care of the ball after today he was panicking. Cousins looked much calmer.

Edwards did nothing apart from scoring an open goal, doesn’t deserve to start next game. Jones was very wasteful when he came on.

Long ball, after long ball from the back. Too much time and space for them when they had the ball wide.

Lots of work to do, much further away then I was hoping we would be. But we do have an excellent team that will get better game by game.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com