A two sided view of Warren Joyce at Latics

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Wigan Athletic lost at Villa Park on Saturday due to a brilliant goal in the 89th minute. Up to that point we had seen them cancel out the attacking efforts of a team loaded with players who played in the Premier League last season.

Looking at the team lineup prior to the kickoff it was clear that Warren Joyce was going to utilize the same tactics as he did at Barnsley and Huddersfield, where Latics picked up a draw and a win. The plan was simple: play a massed defence, relying on the pace of Yanic Wildschut up front. It worked until the closing minutes. Latics went close to getting a hard earned point, although they never truly looked like coming back with three.

After the game Joyce expressed his satisfaction on the effort and commitment of his team, also adding that “That’s where we’re at, we’ve got to make sure we stop the opposition from playing in the best way that we can and limit their opportunities of scoring – which we did today – and then try and come up with ways that we can score goals to win games. We will approach the game no differently on Wednesday night, we will try and win the game in what we believe is the best way that we can go and do that.”

After just five matches in charge the new manager has already polarized the Latics support. Is he playing the right tactics? Is it the right way to get out of the relegation zone?

Any argument has two sides. Let’s take a look at a couple of opposing views:

 

It is far too early to judge Joyce after just five matches in charge, most of which have been against teams either in high positions or on strong runs of form. He inherited problems left behind by Gary Caldwell and it is going to take time to put it right. Joyce has been appointed for the long term, as evidenced by the three and a half year contract he was given. Previous managers were appointed on rolling contracts.

Joyce had a great reputation at Manchester United and has demonstated his ability to develop young players. In the long term this will be necessary for our club which does not have the available resources to compete on an even keel with the bigger clubs in the division. The reality is that David Sharpe’s Latics will be the kind of club that develops players and sells one or two off each year to balance the books. In his interviews with Sharpe prior to taking the job, Joyce surely gave the young chairman a vision of how he could do that. He must have known it would be a difficult task, given this scenario, but nevertheless gave up a relatively comfortable position at Old Trafford to take on the challenge.

Caldwell had made far too many mistakes this season and if he had stayed Latics would have been in a constant struggle against relegation. His summer signings were uninspiring, with the players brought in no better than those who were there already. Moreover he broke up the solid central defensive partnership of Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce, the former being stripped of the captaincy, the latter offloaded to Charlton. The pre-season was a mess and the players have not been fit enough. Joyce has increased the intensity of training and is getting real commitment from his players. It may not be pretty to watch at this stage, but these are early days. Joyce’s teams at Old Trafford had a reputation for playing entertaining football and this will surely come at Wigan, given time.

The first thing to put right in a team struggling against relegation is the defence. Joyce is on his way to making Latics a team that others do not want to play. Nottingham Forest had a team studded with Premier League players, with £20 million worth on the bench, but they did not look like getting past Wigan’s defence until that spectacular goal a minute from the end of normal time.

Joyce’s team selections have been criticised but he oversees training on a daily basis. If a player is not making the effort in training should he leapfrog over others into the starting lineup? Joyce is sending a clear message to his squad that their full commitment is required.

His immediate goal will to be to get towards the January transfer window, picking up enough points here and there to keep Latics within reach of the teams immediately above them in the table. He will keep things tight, not risking heavy defeats that can demoralize his players. He has inherited a weak squad and will need to bring in fresh blood in January. Much will depend on Sharpe’s willingness to back him in the transfer market. If the chairman does not provide the funds then Joyce will have to scour the loan market. His connections with Manchester United will surely help.

With time we can expect to see a team which effectively defends and attacks as a unit, with genuine pace up front and at the back. The days of the painfully slow build ups of Caldwell’s teams are gone and we can expect a more direct and high tempo approach from Joyce.

 

Since Joyce arrived Latics have gone backwards, rather than forwards. He started with a 3-0 home defeat and his only win was a steal at Huddersfield. The football has been horrible to watch. Even that served up by Owen Coyle was better. Players who were able to retain possession by stringing a series of passes together under Caldwell now seem unable to do so. Moreover if the defence or midfield wins the ball there is nobody to hold it up.

Joyce thinks a winger can be a centre forward, as did Malky Mackay with James McClean, which proved sadly misguided. Like McClean, Wildschut does not know how to hold up the ball or to head it. Moreover even as a winger he can be so inconsistent. I cannot recall a previous situation in English football when a manager has played a winger in the middle, with three centre forwards on the bench. Proven strikers are the most likely to win games for you.

On Saturday Joyce started with Luke Garbutt in wide right midfield and Michael Jacobs on the left. Most of their efforts were taken up by defending, with Wildschut looking solitary up front. Joyce’s game plans seem to have been based more on damage limitation rather than actually trying to win the three points.

Latics squad is far from the best in the division, but neither is it the worst. The problem is that he is not getting the best out of the squad at his disposal. With the right tactics and the right team selections there is already enough talent there to get the club out of the relegation zone.

The treatment of Will Grigg is baffling. The excuse that the player needs a rest because of being in the European Championship over summer wears thin. It appears that Joyce wants a central striker with more pace than Grigg (or Davies or Le Fondre), so he puts Wildschut there. Rather than adjust the tactics to suit the squad he has, Joyce chooses to leave out players who can win matches by scoring goals out of the blue. Is he so inflexible that he cannot see this? Common sense needs to prevail.

The right full back position remains problematic. Joyce’s preference has been Reece Burke, a central defender who lacks finesse in attack. His next choice is Garbutt, who is left footed and who had been left out of the team by Caldwell. Despite Joyce’s reputation of developing young players, Luke Burke continues to languish in the development squad, despite promising performances early in the season. Moreover Joyce also has another specialist right back in Kyle Knoyle who has disappeared from view.

When Latics were struggling to maintain their place in the Premier League in 2011-12 “Believe” was the theme. It happened. But at the moment it is hard to believe and it is not surprising that support in recent home games has been muted.

How can people believe in a manager who writes off a defeat at Aston Villa by saying that “Single points add up over the course of a season, but the reality is it’s just one point. It’s not all doom and gloom, it’s one point, in a tough game, against a massive club.” Prior to Saturday Latics had lost in just one of their previous eight visits to Villa Park.

Playing ugly football with just one forward is not the way to pick up points.

 

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Getting it right against Burton – match preview

In late November, 2015, we saw a dull, scrappy game at the DW Stadium.

It offered little in the way of entertainment and seemed to be heading for a goalless draw until Abdenasser El Khayati scored for the visitors from a breakaway in the 74th minute. An ugly, but well organised Burton Albion side, who had looked like they had come for a draw, went on to inflict on Wigan their first league home defeat of the season.

Following a difficult start to the season, Latics had been on an unbeaten run of 11 matches, moving up to 4th place, Burton being just a point behind them in 5th. Burton’s victory helped them leapfrog over Latics and it was to be the case for four more months, with the Brewers looking like potential champions until Wigan overtook them late in the season.

Latics entertain Burton once again on Saturday, four points behind the Brewers in the Championship division. In the corresponding game last season Gary Caldwell was outmaneuvered by his opposite number, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. On a day when so many players were below par it was hard to come up with positives. Caldwell had clearly been preaching patience to his players, as they struggled to break down the Burton defence.

Sadly the patience was there, but the dynamism that was lacking.Yanic Wildschut was heavily marked. Michael Jacobs was ineffective on the right and Alex Revell, favoured ahead of Will Grigg, was a lonely figure up front. So can Caldwell get it right this time around?

Even though Hasselbaink left the Brewers for QPR last December, Nigel Clough was to gain promotion on his return to the club. Like his predecessor Clough is tactically astute and his Burton team will pose a challenge. He will have done his homework and will be ready to cancel out Wigan’s attacking players.

Following a home win against Wolves and a draw at Brentford after a dismal set of results, Caldwell will be keen to get a good result on Saturday.

Last season he played a modified 3-4-3, which Burton managed to stifle. Given the improvements in performances since aborting playing three at the back Caldwell can be expected to adopt a 4-3-3 formation.

However, the manager is never predictable. The return from injury of Reece Burke gives him the option of playing the talented West Ham loanee on the right of a back three, with Nathan Byrne in his natural position as right wing back. The alternative is to play Burke at right back, with Byrne as a winger.

Latics are certainly good enough to beat Burton, but a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion. The visitors will be a hard nut to crack. Caldwell’s approach to the game last year was cautious, but at the time Wigan had ground out previous results playing like that. It just did not work out against another team which played the same way.

But then again, can Latics surprise us and press Burton from the start, getting an early goal, setting up a comfortable victory?

Lifting the gloom and doom against Wolves

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

A win against Wolves can dispel the doom and gloom among Latics fans.

Who would have thought that Wigan Athletic would be bottom of the Championship table by the end of September? The League 1 title had given the club back the momentum it had lost in the dark days of Malky’s reign. But now, once again, that prevailing atmosphere of doom and gloom has returned. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

But then again, it isn’t yet the end of September. The home game against Wolves is only a couple of days away. A win would not only propel them off the bottom, but could conceivably lift them out of the relegation zone too. But more than anything else it would lift the doom and gloom that is once again rearing its head. Is a win over Wolves likely to happen?

Football is a game of fine margins. The average number of goals per game in English football hovers around the 2.6 mark. It means that whichever team scores the first goal has a statistically good chance of winning the match. Sadly the authorities who run football remain staunchly conservative. Too many fine margins are determined by erroneous refereeing decisions as the sport continues to bury its head in the sand and resist the kind of video technology that has been invaluable in cricket and rugby. Those who oppose the use of video will say that the law of averages means that by the end of the season the number of dodgy decisions for and against even out.

Gary Caldwell would not necessarily agree. Sometimes those decisions just don’t balance themselves out. He was entirely right about the refereeing decision that led to Preston’s goal on Friday. He was also right about the incident at Bristol where a player who had already been booked should have been sent off a minute before he scored the match-winning goal. But such complaints from a manager tend to be looked upon as sour grapes and Caldwell needs to desist in making them if he is not to open himself up for criticism.

It could be argued that referees have not done Latics any favours so far this season. Many of us hoped that we would see better officials in the second tier than we saw last year in League 1. But if there is a difference in quality, is it so great?

But refereeing has not been the main factor in the poor results so far this season. Fitness has proved to be the overriding issue, exacerbated by the sheer number of new faces coming in. Once again the pre-season did not provide an adequate basis for the kind of physical competitiveness needed at the start of an English league season. Before the warm-up games started Caldwell already had long term injured players in Reece James and Andy Kellett, but he was soon to lose Donervon Daniels and Kyle Knoyle for several months too. For the game at Preston Caldwell was denied the services of at least seven of his squad through injury.

Given the injury situation Caldwell rightly boosted his squad size. He now had 27 players in the senior team squad. However, circumstances were to dictate that so many of the new signings he had brought in were well short of match fitness. It had taken some weeks to get the backbone of his team to a competitive level of fitness, but now he had to ease in new signings, some of whom had not had much game time in pre-season with their previous clubs.

Latics went to Preston to face a physical battle against a team whose style of play is reminiscent of the worst times of Sam Allardyce at Bolton. It was always going to be a difficult game, but the controversial, fortunate goal scored by the home team after just seven  minutes was a hammer blow to Wigan. To their credit they withstood that early onslaught and dominated possession thereafter. But a goal was not to come. The front three of Jacobs, Grigg and Wildschut all had poor games. Grigg had become a father for the first time just a couple of days before. Whether that affected his play on the day is up to debate, but the reality is that Latics need a sharp central striker when playing at places like Preston. The current North End team will never win an award for an aesthetically pleasing style of play, but their manager Simon Grayson has made them into a mean defensive unit.

Norwich City went to the top of the Championship division yesterday and with the strength of their squad they will surely be challenging for an automatic promotion place as May approaches. Despite an awful opening ten minutes at Carrow Road, Latics had gone on to match their rivals, coming so close to a result. The quality of Wigan’s play in the second half more than matched that of the Canaries. It showed that there is sufficient quality in the squad to at least consolidate in the Championship division.

Individual errors such as Dan Burn’s bad back pass at Bristol and Adam Bogdan’s howler at Norwich have been particularly frustrating. But most of the goals conceded have come from slack marking from defence and midfield. Much of it can be put down from a lack of continuity in the starting lineup, the players not “gelling”. The right back/wing back position has been a big headache for Caldwell. With Knoyle and Daniels out long term he has used no less than six players there in his starting lineup. Moreover he has yet to establish the kind of consistent pairing in the centre of defence that we saw last season with Morgan and Pearce. Burn and Buxton has been his recent preference.

So can Latics get off the bottom by beating Wolves?

Well there is one factor that has been missing this season that all teams need to be successful. Most people would call it “luck”, maybe like that goal scored by Preston. It could be said that Preston were “lucky” that the referee ignored the linesman’s flagging for a foul on MacDonald. Moreover there was a strong element of “luck” involved as McGeady’s shot was going harmlessly wide before it hit his own player, changing its direction to beat Bogdan.

Given Caldwell’s luck up to this point he would quite happily settle for not having a controversial refereeing decision against his side. Going one behind in the first half against any Championship side makes things very difficult. Caldwell will recall the Birmingham game when Donaldson was at least a yard offside when he raced ahead to gain a penalty for his team that almost won the match for them.

Put simply, Latics are not bottom because of refereeing decisions or luck being against them. But a controversial decision going their way or a scrappy goal could be enough to see off Wolves. But then maybe their key players will sparkle at the same time bringing the best performance of the season to date?

A loss on Tuesday would not be the end of the world, but would be a further disappointment in a frustrating return to the Championship.

A turning point at Carrow Road

Will the display at Carrow Road be the turning point for the season?

Will the display at Carrow Road be the turning point for the season?

I was looking forward to a pleasant visit. Norwich is a delightful city, having a centre with beautiful old buildings, remains of its medieval times and an impressive modern riverside development. On late Tuesday afternoon it was awash with supporters wearing the yellow and green of its local football club.

The visit to the city, and the fen areas surrounding it, was clearly something to look forward to. But the trip to Carrow Road was cause for trepidation. The Norwich team was going to be laden with ex-Premier League players, backed by a big partisan crowd. It was a Wigan team in transition, with so many new faces taking time to adjust to Gary Caldwell’s way of playing, its displays being littered with defensive errors. The portents were ominous.

When the results don’t come a football manager will always get flak from fans.

Vitriol was already flowing from the keyboard warriors on the social media prior to this game. Opinions were voiced in no uncertain terms. Caldwell had brought in too many new players, many of whom were no better than those of the League 1 title winning team. His team selections had left much to be desired and he had been out thought by opposition managers, particularly in his use of substitutes. There had been little defensive continuity and it showed. The defence was porous, with a lack of protection from midfield making things worse. The midfield or attacking players Caldwell had used in the problematic right wing back position had looked ill at ease. The 18 year old Luke Burke had done well when given the chance, so why was he not chosen for the position? Moreover Nathan Byrne had been signed to play there, but had not even made the bench at Sheffield. Why was the manager sticking to a 3-5-2 system that was clearly not working? Would he continue to stubbornly stand by it?

After going two goals behind in the first ten minutes things were looking bleak. Another defensive error had led to the softest of goals after just two minutes. The defence looked very suspect. The locals were baying for a 5 or 6 goal haul. Was it going to be one of those low points, a Championship equivalent to that horrendous 9-1 defeat at Tottenham in the Premier League? Or did this new Latics team have the character to fight back?

But Caldwell had changed the team’s shape from the start, opting for 4-3-3. Young loan signing Reece Burke and Stephen Warnock had been moved over to orthodox full back positions, with Dan Burn and Jake Buxton at centre half. Jordi Gomez was back, forming a midfield trio with Shaun MacDonald and Max Power. Yanic Wildschut had been left on the bench, with Alex Gilbey and Michael Jacobs on the wings, Will Grigg at centre forward.  Seven out of the starting lineup were new this season.

Caldwell is nothing if not brave.  Despite poor results he has continued to insist that his team build up from the back, even when things have gone awry. Some will blame Adam Bogdan for his lack of concentration in not looking to his right when Jacob Murphy took the ball from his feet, catching him unawares. Others put more blame the manager for putting the goalkeeper into a role where quick footedness is as important an ability as it is to catch the ball. But despite being on a hammering to nothing Latics continued to build from the back.

As the game progressed they got better and better and could have snatched at least a point in the closing minutes. This time Caldwell got his substitutions right. Despite taking off midfield anchorman MacDonald and bringing on Wildschut the midfield became dominant as the back four pushed further forward. When Byrne came on for Burke most of us expected him to play at right back, but Gilbey was moved there with Byrne playing as a right winger. But the result was Byrne and Wildschut adding much needed pace to the Latics attack.

Whether the players brought in are better than those who were already at the club is up for debate. Would the presence of the departed Sam Morsy and Jason Pearce have provided more defensive security? Only time will tell if Caldwell made the right decision in bringing in 14 new players.

Last season showed us that new players at Wigan need time, not only to settle into the club and to get to know their teammates on and off the field, but also to learn to play the “Caldwell Way”. Moreover so many of the new signings, despite previous records of success in the Championship or above, arrived short of first team experience over the previous season. Nick Powell had not made a league start in two seasons, Shaun MacDonald made none last season for Bournemouth, Jake Buxton none for Derby. Adam Bogdan made just two  for Liverpool, Jordi Gomez only five for Sunderland. Both Adam Le Fondre and Nathan Byrne made ten league appearances for Wolves last season.

For those players it is not only a matter of adapting to new teammates and a demanding style of play, but also for them to gain the match fitness and the sharpness that cannot have been aided by their lack of playing time.

The display at Norwich might well prove to be the turning point in a season of transition. There were signs in that second half that Latics are enjoying the style of play the manager demands. Moreover they showed real fighting spirit with their backs against the wall.

Caldwell has had a difficult time back in the Championship division.  Injuries have deprived him of important players and errors of individual players have punished him. However, the Scot is not easily deterred and has that same kind of belief that Roberto Martinez possessed in the abilities of his players and in his style of play.

So often things get worse before they get better. That was the case at Carrow Road. But although the performance there might ultimately prove to be a turning point there are going to be lots of ups and downs over the coming months.

It has been a frustrating time for us as fans up to this point. Even those most who are the most supportive of Caldwell are likely to admit that he has made mistakes this season. However, he must learn from them.

Players need to be played in their most suited positions and the manager needs to show the level of tactical awareness we saw last season. The right back/wing back position is likely to be resolved by playing either Reece Burke or Luke Burke in an orthodox back four, with Byrne being used as a wing back or winger.

Alex Gilbey was a central midfielder at Colchester, but has been pushed further forward by Caldwell. At times he has looked comfortable in a wide attacking midfield role. But to play him on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation and to leave Yanic Wildschut on the bench was not a successful ploy. Gilbey is neither winger nor full back. He is a talented young central midfielder with a lot to offer.

Caldwell has some difficult decisions to make regarding the centre of defence. Craig Morgan has been out of contention due to injury, but was close to leaving the club during the transfer window. It remains to be seen how much he is in the manager’s plans. Dan Burn was dropped after his gaffe at Bristol and played quite well at Norwich. At his best, Burn forms a solid physical presence in the back four, but is the manager going to keep faith in a player who has a tendency to switch off at times?

Jake Buxton has been brought in on a three year contract at the age of 31, a clear indication that Caldwell sees him as a key defender. Stephen Warnock has often been pushed into a back line of three, although lacking height and physique for such a role. Caldwell will have high hopes for Reece Burke in the centre of defence. Despite his tender age is Burke going to be a key player this season?

A settled defence, with a midfield that provides due protection, is something that Caldwell will surely be looking to put in place. In the meantime, despite the poor results, his players have shown the resilience to fight back under adverse conditions.

Such qualities will be needed to rise out of the relegation zone over the coming months.

 

 

 

The Season Starts Now

 

“In my head this season only starts from tonight onwards”.

So said David Sharpe at the end of the transfer deadline day. The chairman went on to say that the transfer window should finish on the 31st of July, rather than the 31st of August.

Much has been said by many people about the date of closure of the summer transfer window. Sharpe is one of many club chairmen unhappy with the current arrangement. The  Championship season started on August 6th and the clubs had played five league games before the transfer window closed. Sadly for Sharpe, Wigan Athletic only gathered four points from those matches, three less than last season’s League 1 runners-up Burton Albion and five less than playoff winners Barnsley.

Latics have once again made a poor start to a season, not only in terms of results, but also in terms of performances. Granted, the defeats at both Bristol and Nottingham came in time added on, but in neither match did Latics truly merit a point. The home games against Birmingham and QPR saw Latics play against teams with well organised and uncompromising defences, something they will have to get used to this season. There are few easy games in the Championship.

Some fans will attribute the disappointing start to the season to bringing in too many new players into a team that had won the League 1 title just three months before. The starting lineup for the first game of the season at Bristol contained just six players who started in last season’s finale against Barnsley. Moreover with the transfer window still open for another 25 days there were surely going to be more new players coming in. The slow start of last season’s team in the league was put down largely to the sheer number of new players brought in. It was bound to take time for them to cohere into a unit in which the whole at least approached the sum of its parts. It looks like it will be happening again.

In fact Caldwell had already brought in seven new players to his squad by the end of July. Since then he has added another seven. Fans are now wondering how long it is going to take for a squad with fourteen new players to gel into a cohesive unit. Is there such a gulf between League 1 and the Championship that Caldwell had to bring in so much new blood? Did the other promoted clubs feel the same need?

In fact, Barnsley, like Latics, fielded six players in their starting lineup on August 6th who had started in the last game of the 2015-16 season. Burton started with only five. Barnsley brought in nine new players during the month of August, Burton acquiring six during that same period.

The managers at all three clubs clearly felt a need to seriously strengthen their squads in moving to a higher division.

The League 1 winners of 2014-15, Bristol City struggled to come to grips with the Championship last season. They lost their first three games, but drew the next at home to Leeds and won the following one at Middlesbrough. They therefore had four points from their first five games, as Latics have right now.

But things got worse for City before they got better. After losing 4-0 at Burnley at the end of December they finished the calendar year in 22nd place. In the end City managed 18th place. City had not brought in a swathe of new players over summer, but made use of the loan system through the course of the season to effect. Of the other promoted teams, MK Dons were relegated and Preston NE finished 11th.

So, given the poor start what can we expect from Caldwell’s Wigan Athletic this season? Moreover what are the expectations of the chairman and can Caldwell meet them?

Last season Caldwell built a quality squad with strength in depth compared with other clubs in League 1. His bench was the envy of the division and he employed it to effect. When things were not going to the game plan Caldwell was able to bring players off the bench who would have a significant impact on the proceedings.

However, the bench that Caldwell had for the game at Bristol was less impressive. Not only had the stakes been raised by moving up to a higher division, but injuries in the pre-season had further reduced his options. When a partially fit Will Grigg finally left the pitch after 70 minutes there was no central striker available to replace him.

A month later there are still injuries but the squad is so much stronger. Adam le Fondre has come in, ready to challenge Grigg for a starting position, with Craig Davies now fit again and Nick Powell capable of playing a central striking role too. Nathan Byrne has been signed for the troublesome right wing back position, with Luke Burke as an alternative. Apart from Yanic Wildschut the squad was lacking players of genuine pace. Byrne can provide that as can Kaiyne Woolery, a rough diamond that Caldwell will seek to polish.

Reece Burke will add quality to the centre of defence, with the ability to play in the orthodox right back position if Caldwell opts for a back four. Jordi Gomez is a fine player at Championship level when played in a central midfield role.

The squad currently consists of:

Goalkeepers  – Adam Bogdan (28), Jussi Jaaskelainen (41), Dan Lavercombe (21).

Full backs/wing backs – Nathan Byrne (24), Kyle Knoyle (19), Luke Burke (18), Reece James (22), Stephen Warnock (34), Luke Garbutt (23).

Centre backs – Reece Burke (20), Dan Burn (24), Donervon Daniels (22), Craig Morgan (31), Jake Buxton (31).

Midfielders – Alex Gilbey (21), Max Power (23), David Perkins (34), Andy Kellett (22), Nick Powell (22), Jordan Flores (20), Michael Jacobs (24), Shaun MacDonald (28), Jordi Gomez (31).

Forwards – Will Grigg (25), Craig Davies (30), Yanic Wildschut (24), Kaiyne Woolery (21), Adam le Fondre (29).

The squad is now well balanced, although Daniels, James and Knoyle remain on the long term injured list. It appears to have sufficient quality to ensure a mid-table position, although results over the coming weeks might not show much improvement as new players “bed in” with their teammates and Caldwell’s preferred style of play. Put simply, results are likely to get worse before they get better.

Only Preston of last season’s promoted teams could reach a mid-table position last season. Should Caldwell’s team manage that it will be seen as a success by most supporters, consolidation in the first season back in the Championship providing a base upon which to build.

However, the ambitions within the club could well be higher. This is the last season of parachute payments and the Whelan family’s policy running of the club over the past few years has seen money invested, but at least as much recouped. It remains to be seen if they would be willing to front the cash needed to mount a promotion push a year from now without the parachute subsidy.

It is not publicly known what Sharpe’s aspirations are for the current season. He will certainly have learned from his “smash the league with 100 points” comment just over a year ago, but would he be happy with consolidation this season? Or does he see this as the season that Latics can conceivably regain their Premier League status? It would be a tall order, unlikely, but by no means impossible.

In the meantime Caldwell will be hoping that his new players can ‘gel’ in as soon as possible. It inevitably took time for the process to happen last season but the depth and quality of the squad ultimately proved to be the determining factor for success. His current squad is much stronger than it was a month ago, but is it good enough to challenge the best teams in the championship?

Last season taught us to be patient. We knew that the new squad was going to take time to gel into a cohesive unit. Patience will also be required this season, although the going is much tougher in a highly competitive Championship division with so many clubs having spent serious money on new players over the summer.

Given the situation a mid-table position would be an achievement:  anything higher an added bonus. The bottom line is to avoid relegation, but Caldwell’s squad is so much stronger than that of the hapless Malky Mackay a couple of seasons ago.

For the moment patience would seem to be the order of the day.