Striking problems for Caldwell ahead of Shrewsbury match

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Will Gary Caldwell lose sleep over choosing his attacking players for the Shrewsbury game tomorrow?

Question – which club in cash-strapped League 1 can afford to leave a £1 million striker on the bench?

The response is that Wigan Athletic can. Moreover they did it last Saturday when Will Grigg was not only on the bench, but was not called on to the field of play as the game at Rochdale progressed.

Wigan Athletic’s affluence is clearly the envy of so many clubs in their division. According to Rochdale manager Keith Hill, Latics are the Manchester United of League 1. Indeed the squad that Gary Caldwell has put together is formidable compared those of their rivals. There is a minimum of two players fighting for each position, a healthy state of affairs as far as the manager is concerned.

Of course, Latics are in a lower division now, but it could be argued that Caldwell’s squad is superior to that of Malky Mackay in the Championship. The biggest weakness in Mackay’s squad was in the area of strikers. The hapless Scot not only persisted with a centre forward who went on to score one league goal in 34 appearances, but also played  winger James McClean as a central striker, where he looked like a fish out of water.

In contrast Caldwell has a wealth of striking options available to him. At Rochdale he employed a 4-2-3-1 system, meaning that he had four specialist attackers in his starting lineup. Typically this season he has lined up with three attackers in a 3-4-3 formation, but with wing backs pushed far forward. But even though he played with four attackers he was still able to leave Grigg on the bench, with Jordy Hiwula, Sanmi Odelusi and Haris Vuckic not even making the match day squad.

Caldwell has been talking to the media recently about his sleepless nights, as he mulls around in his head the different permutations and combinations available to him. One wonders if his sleep will be any better tonight given the Shrewsbury match coming up tomorrow. It is not only the personnel he chooses for the match to be considered, but also the “shape”. According to Caldwell he had decided on a new formation early in the week because of the way Rochdale attack. Then his headache was to choose the players to lineup in that different “shape”.

In previous eras there have been managers who have had a set way of playing, with the players having to fit into the system. There have been other managers who have adapted the style and shape of the team in order to get the best out of the players at their disposal. This was certainly the case for Wigan Athletic in the 2011-12 season. Latics were bottom of the Premier League in November 201l. Following yet another defeat, this time by Wolves, Roberto Martinez switched from a flat back four to having three central defenders and two wing backs. The change in shape was to catalyse a revival in performances, enabling Latics to finish in 15th place, 7 points clear of relegation. The 3-4-3 system had become the norm under Martinez as he used it to get the best out of the players at his disposal.

Having played in Martinez’s 3-4-3 and seeing its results Gary Caldwell is clearly a fan. Like Martinez, Caldwell too looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the upcoming opposition. Martinez would sometimes change his team’s shape during a game if things were not working out, although he would typically stand by his 3-4-3 set up. In contrast, already in his brief reign, Caldwell has adopted a variety of tactical formations and is not afraid to radically change his team’s shape within the ninety minutes.

What kind of tactical formation will Caldwell employ tomorrow against Shrewsbury? Will he persist with his four attackers in the 4-2-3-1 formation or will he revert to 3-4-3? Will Caldwell consider the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition before figuring out his formation?

Part of the reason for Grigg’s benching at Rochdale will surely be down to his late arrival, following his early release from the Northern Ireland squad. Another factor must be the presence of Craig Davies. The 29 year old is a superb centre forward at League 1 level. Were it not for a succession of injuries the big man would surely have played at higher levels throughout his career. Following a hamstring problem he was absent for more than five weeks. He came back on October 20th at Peterborough as a 76th minute substitute. He made a similar late entrance in the next two matches before starting in the FA Cup match at Bury. Davies started in the next two matches against Blackpool and Rochdale, being substituted around the two thirds mark in each. Caldwell is using Davies wisely in the hope that he can have a sustained run in the team without injury. Davies’ ability to turn a defender makes him a nightmare for opposition defences, but he also has pace and no mean levels of skill and tactical awareness.

Caldwell will be seeking the right blend among his attackers. Yanic Wildschut’s emergence has provided a whole new dynamic to the forward line and his is one of the first names to go on Caldwell’s team sheet. Michael Jacobs has been one of Caldwell’s leading players this season and will surely challenge for a place tomorrow. But what of the players who did not make the squad last week?

After scoring two goals against Blackpool, Hiwula could count himself unlucky not to have been included last week. In fact in terms of goals per start and goals per appearance in his career he is statistically Latics’ best goal threat:

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Hiwula is not a “target man” type of striker, but he clearly has an eye for goal and will remain in Caldwell’s thinking.

Caldwell might not sleep well tonight, as he decides on tomorrow’s lineup. Moreover he will surely also be thinking ahead of the visit of high flying Burton Albion on Tuesday. Will he stick with that same four-pronged attack that did so well at Rochdale or will he bring back Grigg to partner Davies up front?

However, many managers in League 1 will not feel even one ounce of sorrow for Caldwell, who currently has an abundance of options at his disposal. His team selection headaches are those which so many other managers in the division would love to have.

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Fan views – Part 1: Yanic Wildschut and Jordy Hiwula

Given that we now have a wider readership than in our earlier days we will occasionally republish articles from our archives, that some may not have seen. We ask our long-established readers will bear with us on this. We will continue to put out our stream of current articles.

Our site stats have shown that our readership has been particularly interested in perspectives of Latics players from fans of their previous clubs. Thanks to contributions made by bloggers on the fan sites of those clubs for these articles from our archives.

Yanic Wildschut – a Middlesbrough fan’s view

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Written by: Robert Nichols, Fly Me To The Moon fanzine fmttm.com.

Date: October 2, 2105.

 

 

Yanic Wildschut is the kind of player that draws the fans to games. He is fast, strong, powerful and direct. 

 When I say he is fast, let me qualify that by saying Yanic wears athletes compression socks under his football socks. He can give defenders ten yards start and tear past them. A good span of games at Wigan will help him sort out his weak spot, the finished product. Although get him running into the box and it doesn’t matter what he does with his final delivery he will cause mayhem and bag free kicks and penalties by the bucket load.

 If defenders can knock him off the ball. He is, as they used to say in Mark Lawrenson circles, a very big unit.

 Wildcshut has been desperately unlucky at Boro. He helped destroy Oldham away in the 1st round of the League cup. He scored a superb break away goal and was generally far too hot for the other Latics to handle. His promotion to first team action was only a matter of time and indeed we saw more of the same from him at home to Bristol City. Every time he got the ball and went on the run Bristol City were running scared. Yanic was subbed at half time in a tactical switch to allow Stewy Downing to go wide. It didn’t work but we have such a surplus of good wide players, wingers and overlapping full backs that no less than three are out on loan at present. 

 It was expected that Albert Adomah would be leaving but he settled his differences with the manager yet in the meantime we had brought in a talented Uruguayan called De Pena. Thus Carayol, Adam Reach and Wildschut have been allowed on loan. They need first team football rather than Development side starts.

 Wildschut’s debut was as sub at Anfield in the League Cup last season. He was thrown on as a centre forward. And he caused Liverpool threats running through the centre. He scored in League action in a win away at Rotherham. But needs more starts to get consistency.

I would be very excited right now if I was a Wigan fan. Wildschut will destroy defences with pace. He might need a few games to find a level of consistency to impact through 90 minutes. But he is worth the wait because he can split and sprint through a defence in a minute.

Watch him go. And watch Yanic grow.

 

 

Jordy’s arrival at Banks’s Stadium was greeted with something of a whimper, he’d had an nine game, almost goal-less loan spell with Yeovil Town which gave the impression of a player that wasn’t about to turn our campaign around.

However just three minutes into his debut Jordy proved all the doubters wrong as he slotted home, helping the Saddlers to a 2-0 win over Doncaster Rovers.

Following several solid displays Jordy went on to have his initial one-month loan deal extended to the end of the campaign and finished with nine goals in twenty appearances, including netting twice against Crawley Town and Bristol City.

Jordy is a very capable player, with bags of pace and, given the right formation will surely be a good acquisition for the Latics.

Click here to get a Manchester City view on Hiwula via the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much depends on Grigg

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I guarantee we will have a 20 goal a season striker this season

So said David Sharpe in June. Was the young chairman suggesting Latics would have a striker who would score 20 goals in the season ahead? Or was he saying that they would be signing a player who had already scored 20 goals in a season?

Less than two weeks after Sharpe had made his statement free agent Craig Davies was signed from Bolton on a two year contract. A week after that Latics paid Brentford around £1m for Will Grigg, who penned a three year deal.

Both had been 20 goal strikers. The 29 year old Davies scored 23 goals for Chesterfield in their promotion season from League 2 in 2010-11. Despite still only being 24 years old Grigg had done it twice. In the 2012-13 season he scored 20 for Walsall, then last season he scored 23 for the MK Dons in their promotion from League 1 to the Championship.

Davies remains a formidable force and has already impressed Latics fans with his all-action performances. Sadly the hamstring problems that haunted him at Bolton have returned, this time in his left leg. The big striker is now back in training, but even the most optimistic of fans will need to cross their fingers that he can stay away from further such problems. Given the likelihood of him receiving further injuries few would bet on Davies being a 20 goal striker this season. Up to this point he has made five starts, with one appearance as a substitute, scoring two goals.

In Davies and Grigg, Latics had signed players with proven goalscoring records in the lower divisions of the Football League. However, they already had another on their books. Grant Holt is now 34 years old and has recently recovered from a serious injury, but will nevertheless be feared by League 1 defences because of his superb goalscoring record in the lower divisions. Holt has reached the 20 goal mark on four occasions, once for Rochdale, once for Shrewsbury and twice for Norwich. Holt is being gradually eased back into playing a full 90 minutes and Latics will surely not rush him. The big man from Carlisle could have a big part to play in the remainder of the season, providing he can stay fit.

However, if Latics were to have a 20 goal striker this season, the odds would surely be on Grigg. On signing him Gary Caldwell said “Will is the one we were after. He’s a goalscorer, that’s what he does and why we’ve signed him. There were other clubs in the chase, including from the Championship, but he’s chosen to come to us and we are very happy about it.

But with the season at its first quarter Grigg has struggled to reach the goalscoring form that Caldwell would have hoped for. He has scored three goals up to this point, two of which were penalties. After starting in the first six games he missed the Chesterfield match through being on international duty for Northern Ireland. He came back as a 66th minute substitute at Port Vale, but was to pick up an elbow injury which kept him out of the next two games. He made his return as a 77th minute substitute, scoring the equalizer during added-on time against Millwall. Grigg returned to the starting lineup for the next game against Walsall, but was substituted after 70 minutes. However, international call up knocked on the door again and Grigg has missed the last two matches at Crewe and Bury.

Grigg’s season at Wigan has therefore been stop-start up to this point. Caldwell has experienced the frustration of the player being unavailable for three matches without getting on the field of play for Northern Ireland on top of his elbow injury.

At this point last season at MK Dons, Grigg was playing as a lone centre forward in Karl Robinson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system, alternating with Benik Afobe in that position. He had made six starts, with four appearances as a substitute, scoring six goals including two in the Don’s League Cup victory over Manchester United.

Up to this point Grigg has played in the lone striker role and as a twin striker at Wigan. Caldwell has talked with enthusiasm about the Grigg-Davies partnership. They have started together three times, the most memorable being in the 3-0 destruction of Scunthorpe. The physical presence of Davies creates more space for Grigg and they are Caldwell’s optimal striking duo. The manager also has Holt at hand to play a similar kind of role to Davies and it will be interesting to see if he links the two together at some point in tomorrow’s game against Colchester.

Caldwell also has the option of linklng Grigg together with the physically less imposing, but pacy, Jordy Hiwula. The enigmatic Sanmi Odelusi remains another possibility in a partnership with Grigg.

Up to this point Latics have scored 17 goals in 13 games. Grigg ties with Hiwula and Michael Jacobs in being leading goalscorer with three goals. Recent loan signing Yanic Wildschut has really caught the fans’ attention with two exciting performances, including a blockbuster that will be a contender for goal of the season at Crewe. Hopes are high that the Dutch winger can terrify League 1 defences and score goals. However, the player’s career record reads 16 goals in 132 appearances, a goalscoring ratio similar to that of Jacobs who has also played a s winger during most of his career.

If any Wigan Athletic player is to reach the 20 goal mark this season, it will most likely to be Grigg. He has done it before on two occasions at League 1 level. But Grigg is much more than a goalscorer, his intelligent play and passing enabling him to create chances for others.

Caldwell will surely be counting on Will Grigg as being a cornerstone of his bid for promotion back to the Championship.

 

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Jordy Hiwula – a Walsall fan’s view

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Wigan Athletic have announced the arrival of 20 year old striker Jordy Hiwula from Huddersfield Town on a season-long loan.

Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila is a Mancunian who came through the Manchester City youth system. In 2013-14 he scored 20 goals in 31 appearances for City’s development squad, leading to him signing a two year contract at the end of the season.

In October 2014 he joined Yeovil Town on a three month loan, but he returned to City at the end of November having scored one goal in nine appearances for the Somerset club. Hiwula was to comment “I enjoyed my first spell with Yeovil and even though I don’t think I did that well. I learned a lot because it was the first time I’d been away from home and also played senior football, all of which made the second spell that much better.”

In February 2015 Hiwula joined Walsall on a one month loan. He scored after just three minutes in his first appearance, a 2-0 win at Doncaster. Hiwula’s loan was extended for another month after he had scored a couple more goals. He scored again in a 1-0 win over Yeovil in early March, later to come on as a substitute for Tom Bradshaw in the Football League Trophy final, which saw Walsall defeated 2-0 by Bristol City. Hiwula’s loan had been extended until the end of the season. He had scored 9 goals in 17 starts and two appearances off the bench for the Saddlers.

In July 2015 Hiwula signed a three year contract for Huddersfield Town for an undisclosed fee. He made his debut for the Terriers as a 65th minute substitute in a League Cup game against Notts County.

Hiwula has represented England at both under 18 and under 19 levels.

In order to find out more about Hiwula’s time at Walsall we reached out to the BescotBanter.net fan site (@BescotBanter). Our thanks to them for the fan’s view that follows:

Jordy’s arrival at Banks’s Stadium was greeted with something of a whimper, he’d had an nine game, almost goal-less loan spell with Yeovil Town which gave the impression of a player that wasn’t about to turn our campaign around.

However just three minutes into his debut Jordy proved all the doubters wrong as he slotted home, helping the Saddlers to a 2-0 win over Doncaster Rovers.

Following several solid displays Jordy went on to have his initial one-month loan deal extended to the end of the campaign and finished with nine goals in twenty appearances, including netting twice against Crawley Town and Bristol City.

Jordy is a very capable player, with bags of pace and, given the right formation will surely be a good acquisition for the Latics.

 

 

Click here to get a Manchester City view on Hiwula via the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.