Latics fans comment on Blackburn game and Joyce’s tactics on social media

sharpetweet

A couple of years ago to the week Dave Whelan said his goodbyes to the crowd before a home game with Leeds United. The man whose investment of time, money and belief had lifted a struggling club from the fourth tier to unbelievable success was stepping down as chairman. His 23 year old grandson was taking over.

There had been quite a buoyant mood before the match had started as Latics had won their previous two league games. There was some degree of belief that Malky Mackay would be able to salvage the season and pull Latics out of the relegation zone. Sadly it was not to be, Latics lost 1-0 and were nine points adrift of safety at the end of the day. It took another month to sack the hapless Mackay, but by then the rot was truly set in and new manager, Gary Caldwell, was unable to turn things around sufficiently in the handfull of games that remained.

Two years on from those dark days Wigan Athletic find themselves in a similar predicament. Another 1-0 defeat, this time against a poor Blackburn side. Sadly the credibility of the current manager, Warren Joyce, is at rock bottom. His woeful tactics and lack of positivity have taken the standard of football down to levels we have not seen for decades. It is hard to have belief in the manager given his negative approach and his unwillingness to embrace good football. I watched yesterday’s game on a live feed from Germany, where even the German commentator referred to Wigan’s approach as “kick and rush”.

It was sad to see Joyce with his face patched up, present but not giving orders from the front line. The cynics had suggested that the manager’s illness was simply a ruse to avoid attending the fan forum during the week. It was clearly not and we all must wish him a speedy recovery.

David Sharpe will need to make decisions about the manager’s position over the coming week. Last time he left it late to bring in someone new. Latics have only won one game out of the last six and are heading for League 1 unless something drastic happens very soon. Significantly, reports suggest that Dave Whelan was at the game yesterday against his old club. Sharpe and Whelan will surely need to do something about a situation where a manager has not only been struggling with his job but has a seemingly major health problem to cope with too. Should they opt to put Joyce on medical leave until the end of the season they would be helping both the club and the manager himself. In the meantime a temporary appointment could be made within the club to provide the kind of positivity and belief that is lacking at the moment.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

 

joycestats

Stuart Alker @stuartalker tweeted:

Embarrassing day for us. The chairman will surely now be questioning the change of manager. Looks more ridiculous with every game.

Hindleylatic on Latics Speyk said:

He has to go before training on Monday.

Paul Tymon on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

We are set up basically not to lose at all costs which isn’t working and as soon as we go 1-0 we struggle.

He also added:

Everybody knows wat we need to do apart from the manager which is worrying

Adgjlzcbm on Latics Speyk commented:

Didn’t the Blackburn announcer said “Finally Wigan have made a substitution”? Who overruled the sub as we were clapping when we thought Tunnicliffe was coming off?

Paul Kendrick @PKendrickWIG tweeted:

Carnage here. Seemingly a double change for Latics as Jacobs and Bogle replaced by Obertan and Grigg. Boos from the away end as Bogle off…

Dan Thompson  @DanThompson_89  tweeted:

It’s that embarrassing we can’t even make a sub correctly!!!

Dean Chambers on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

I thought it was a well balanced game: both teams were sh.it. Never heard an away following turn on the management before. That substitution could have been in a Carry On film. They’ll get shut with 5 games to go and stick the plumber in charge for the rest of the season. Might as well do it now as were boll..xed. MoM: Burn and Buxton with special mentions to Crackers, Morsy and Bogle

Whittleblue on Latics Speyk commented on the atmosphere at the match:

For those not there it was genuinely that bad, both the performance, effort and the full time reaction from the fans, it went beyond discontent it was pure venom. Rational part of me says it went beyond what was acceptable- in fact it did but on this occasion I can understand why.

Regarding that sub Tunicliffe actually left the pitch – in a strop – before being pushed back on – I’m not sure he should have been allowed back as the sub had been made. Grigg looked bemused, Bogle was not happy when they tried to hook him, fans were going berserk, other players were looking round wondering what was going on, it was an absolute joke.

Rob Murphy on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams stated:

16 defeats out of 18 by a single goal must be some kind of record

Craig Aspey @AS_caspey tweeted:

We hammered Blackburn 3-0 earlier in the season. We’re a completely different team to then. Going down with a whimper. Embarrassing

Victor Moses ;)on Latics Speyk was far from happy:

Truly dreadful setup. I don’t think we could play any less effective without trying to lose games. Asking Bogle to run the channels and come back on defense is a complete waste of his ability.

Playing with wide players so deep, looks like 4 fullbacks on the pitch. Their not forward enough to be considered wingbacks. Never a pass available for the ball carrier. Cant describe how bad that is in words.

This is against sides with weaker squads(even at best), this would never work against stronger opposition. It doesn’t work against any opposition. Yet Joyce must think under 20% win ratio is enough. Feels like an amateur vs a professional system, week in week out. 5 defenders in midfield and 4 defensive defenders. Bogle trying to play as a complete solo attack unit. Never going to work over a period of time.

Without doubt Joyces tactics today. This system will relegate us from league 1 next season.

Bernard Ramsdale @BernardTNS said:

Here’s an idea WJ. Why not start every game thinking we are 1-0 down? You can then get rid of the defensive sh.te. #eyeswideshut

Zeb2 on the Cockney Latic Forum summed up the performance:

Can’t argue … “nil” again and no more than we deserved…yet another game where their keeper could have played, sat in a deck chair. A bit of late huff and puff (to no avail) when they finally decided to field the line up they ought to have started with. Simply not enough attacking intent. My first and last away of the season

Charlz54 on Latics Speyk added:

Well, it was the same old same old same today and let’s face it we look like we are going to be relegated now. We keep hearing the same old same excuses but NOtHING changes….the fact is we can’t win football matches and that means relegation and league one again next season…..embarrassing

 Bigroy on the Cockney Latic Forum summed up the season by saying:

With us only scoring a goal every other game this season its been a bloody awful season for supporters and most feel completely despondent I’m sure. Don’t think I’ve witnessed a latics team with such a lack of invention and it’s bloody pitiful to watch. Not one player can beat a player, create a killer pass, shoot well. It’s awful to watch and um surprised more haven’t boycotted what must be the worst Latics team in around 20 years.

Daryl Rogerson @darylrogerson tweeted:

Depending on other teams games in hand, we could be 6pts from safety which is twice the gap when Joyce took over.

Lazysid on Latics Speyk added:

I will take relegation now if it means I don’t have to put up with watching this sh.te every week in trying to survive in a league we don’t deserve to be in.

Truelatic4ever on Latics Speyk was not happy:

Time for Sharpe to admit he screwed up yet again. We are absolute garbage,negative sh.te,we are going down.

Paul Kendrick @PauKendrickWIG commented:

Graham Barrow: “Defence kept us in the game. I think the finger has to be pointed at those further up the pitch who have to do better”

MudhutsMedia @mudhutter responded:

@PKenrickWIG there wasn’t anyone further up the pitch apart from the Bogle, that’s the whole problem

Bickymon on the Cockney Latic Forum commented on the owners’ quietness:

 We started preparing for league one when we sold yanic and brought in those league one type players in January. The owners are very quiet about the whole sorry mess we are in._.But then again its their fault just dont think they are interested anymore

NorthernSoul on Latics Speyk commented on the Wildschut transfer:

 In the season was undoubtedly the sale of Wildschut, just after we’d won back to back league games, started creating chances and scoring and looking like climbing the table, we let our key attacking player leave.

4m upfront with over 1m going to Boro, with 3m in performance related installments, now Norwich have missed out on the play offs and are a total shambles and Yanic can’t get in the team and seems unsettled down in East Anglia, it’s unlikely to see us get anymore than 3m in the end.

Was losing 6/7m or so a season in revenue, with relegation worth this panic sale? Yanic may have been bang out of order but if we’d have kept him and and agreed to sell him in the Summer, it would probably have kept us up. Without his pace and power we have absolutely nothing at all creativity wise. Whoever sanctioned the deal should probably resign.

Donnyspage  on the Cockney Latic Forum urged Dave Whelan to stop the downward spiral:

I for one have such a lot of gratitude for Dave Whelan and the journey we have been on but at the moment the journey seems to be going back to the lower leagues. There are the cynical amongst us who will think Dave has had other reasons than football too, like raising his own personal and business profile and having this profile shown to the world along the way. Who can blame him, the two have gone together. It could have cost a fortune to raise the business profile so much with stadium and shirt sponsorship alone. A huge chunk of money invested. Remember for all the money that he has put in Latics, Dave still owns millions in assets with the stadium and land etc and still the company name is flashed on TV every week.

I just think it is a shame after taking us up there to be on the slide which could have been prevented with a fraction of investment again rather than perennial fire sales. Someone somewhere should be accountable for this ridiculous and downward spiraling of Latics and let us hope Mr Whelan can find them, stop them and do something about this slide. I hope he is patient because it is looking like he will have to start this process from league 1 and without a parachute payment which will need the right personnel and investment from the off. It will also require the ruthless side of his business life with a full clear out of most players, the chairman and board, the manager, all the coaching staff, all the hanger ons. Let the upward journey begin again Dave.

 liveseytweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

Latics fans react to Preston draw on social media

prestongilks

Is the glass half empty or half full? Some view the goalless draw with Preston North End as an opportunity to gain three points being lost. Others say it is another point gained in the fight against relegation.

The absence of a specialist winger in Warren Joyce’s starting lineup was a surprise to most of us, especially with Latics playing at home. However, he stuck with his Bogle-Grigg partnership, although the latter played behind the former, rather than them being utilised as twin strikers. In the absence of a genuine winger central midfielders Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe were played wide.

Joyce has certainly built a team that others don’t like to play against.  After the game Preston’s Irish midfielder Alan Browne commented: “We knew that they’d be at it from the start. They didn’t give us any time on the ball and it was a real battle.” But, however insistent the manager might be in saying that he is trying to win games, Latics continue to look like a team playing not to lose. We can only ponder on what might have happened had Matt Gilks not made that early penalty save.

After the game Joyce commented: “We have had games where we have played better than that and ended up with nothing. At the minute, we have to dust ourselves down and go again on Tuesday night because we’re trying to win every game that we play in. I don’t think that you can fault the players’ efforts to do that today; they tried their best but unfortunately that little bit of quality on the final shot or cross wasn’t quite there and that’s why we didn’t score the goals.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

 socialpreston

Stephen Warnock @StephenWarnock23 tweeted:

A real battle today. A clean sheet and a point on positive note. We recover & get ready for Tuesday. Another massive game.

Dean Chambers on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Shocking game. We were sh..te as a team, too many hoofs, passes not making their man and getting under each others feet. Need to win on Tuesday. MoM Shaun MacDonald.

Bigroy on the Cockney Latic Forum referred to the dearth of goals:

Given we haven’t scored a goal in almost half the games we’ve played it’s understandable fans feel frustrated. Amazing that we are still in with a chance of staying up.

Zakky on Latics Speyk thought a draw was a fair result:

 We really didn’t deserve to win today PNE seemed far more up for it than us and our play was very sluggish. It was a great double save from Gilks that kept us in it, I would say we edged it on chances but overall we didnt deserve to win. Bogel tried very hard but looks to be carrying an injury and will be far more effective when he is as fit as the rest Will Grigg was very poor today, in my opinion he just does not do enough. A draw was the right result.

Noel Wards Leg on Latics Speyk had another view:

I’d disagree Zakky. I thought we did deserve to win it – just. I thought we had the better of the chances, the possession and the territory. We faded in the second half but I thought Bogle caused them all kinds of problems.

Like a lot of people I was a little disappointed at us not going for it with the substitutions especially as their left back was limping and Obertan would have made mincemeat of him I felt, but we are a more attacking threat than we were earlier in the season and hey ho, it’s another point in the bag.

Runcornfan1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum questioned the manager’s approach:

Someone please ask joyce why is he so negative & doesn’t at least try to go for it.

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

A chance missed, made worse by Burton beating Norwich.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

It was a battle. No doubts about effort and discipline. A bit of flair and we’re laughing

Formbylatic on Latics Speyk was positive:

My other half, who is the biggest critic of Latics, said it was the best game she had seen this season. I really enjoyed the game and thought we were really unlucky not to win. Love the potential with Bogle. We should have had at least 2 penalties imo and there’s was never a penalty in a month of Sundays. Onwards and upwards. Few complaints about the performance today.

Piearmy on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Can somebody ask him how many points he believes will be enough to stay up, and see if they can get a straight answer.

LoudmouthBlue on Latics Speyk commented:

 I am ever so glad this new manager has got us so fit from when we had Caldwell in charge, my next hope is getting his team to string two passes together. Which was never a problem under Caldwell.

Stewart Hart @No1fan talked about a need for width:

Without Wildschut/Jacobs need an outright attacking winger. Obertan for Power made sense.

He added:

One things clear, cannot continue with Power in wide role. Obertan needs to come in. Tunnicliffe actually did OK, reminds me of Morsy

Whittleblue on Latics Speyk summed up:

 Draw was probably a fair result.

The game and performance just encapsulates what type of team we are at present. Plenty of endeavour, effort and organisation but not enough quality up front, which is what I feared when the window shut. Bogles efforts aside, the balls into the box be it from dead balls or open play are absolutely atrocious, really really poor. Power I’m afraid was the main culprit on this front today.

Looked like a stonewall penalty for me on Bogle, he went through the back of him to win the ball and cleaned him out. The last substitution for me was poor and showed a lack of attacking intent when we need the win, I felt Obertan or weir could have come on.

The lack of strikers at the club is beginning to tell, Bogle looked sha…ed out at the end and we were in desperate need of fresh legs but sadly there is no one else. Whilst I enjoyed the game I find our situation frustrating. If the season was to start now I’m pretty sure we’d be comfortable in lower mid table come the end of the season, but it doesn’t and we are still in the mire with games running out. Can’t fault the effort and application but the lack of goals I fear is what will cost us our league position.

 Samuel Bennett @benitlatics91 tweeted:

Hahahaha just had a #PNEFC fan tell me that our glory days are gone. Sorry pal, but your last major honour was in 1938. 79 years ago

PNE fan Beckford on Latics Speyk gave his view:

A truly awful game which just turned into a sluggish, scrappy battle between two sides that were incapable of producing any sort of attacking quality on the day. IMHO the game would’ve opened up if we’d converted the penalty but it wasn’t to be.

I think you’re capable of staying up. Joyce seems to have instilled some fight into your team and the new lad Bogle looked a real handful. Add that to Bristol City’s never ending slide down the table, and you might just be able to do it. I hope you do because I like local away games, just a shame our club turned it into some sort of daft family fun day by dishing out cringey, embarrassing masks and etc. That sort of nonsense should be saved for home games IMHO as it didn’t help the atmosphere in our end, nor did the missed pen.

nwlfinish

 

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

High turnover but what’s changed? A perspective on Wigan’s latest window

c3kuvlmwiaqxpzs

Management hates it, the media loves it, fans have little choice but to be glued to it in hope and trepidation. Transfer deadline day is bigger business every year that goes by. It’s one of the ways – the lack of a winter break being the other obvious one – in which the British game likes to make things that bit more complicated (and profitable) than the rest of the world.

For clubs that swapped managers during the first half of the season, the January transfer window has become an opportunity for the new regime to stamp its authority on the squad. Ship out players that don’t fit the tactical model; replace them with players that do; balance the books by shedding big earners and reinvesting in problem positions. It’s a pattern that has become all too familiar at Wigan, with last year’s success in League 1 the notable exception.

There are a couple problems with this approach. First, you have less time in January than in the summer, not only to recruit good players and find a home for high-earning misfits, but just as importantly to provide incomings the tactical and personal adaptation period they need to succeed. On top of that, you have to navigate an inflated market to negotiate fair prices for players, which can be particularly challenging if you appear desperate, as one does in a relegation fight, for example.

Another unpleasant feature of the January transfer window well known to Latics, particularly in the Premier League days, is the risk of losing your most successful players. It tends to be instigated by agents or players themselves, and to materialize in the dying hours of the window, preventing the club from finding an adequate replacement. Sometimes, these decisions become of huge financial importance to the club, and their approval is beyond the manager’s control.

Add to this Wigan’s very limited spending power compared to its Championship competitors – and you realize what a big ask we as fans are making of the manager. It’s worth pausing to put oneself in Warren Joyce’s shoes. There are plenty of arguments claiming the manager should only be judged after a window. I’d take them a step further to suggest that’s still nowhere near enough time. The new players haven’t had a pre-season with him; many will need to adjust to playing at a higher level; all will have to adapt to new surroundings and teammates; and Joyce himself will need to adapt his tactics, having lost his most valuable player.

The counter argument, of course, is that Joyce brought some of these challenges upon himself. Too much turnover is bad for any organization, specially in a short period of time, and the high number of ins and outs will breed instability. Was it really necessary to bring in so many people, so many loanees in particular? Right when the team was gaining some consistency and producing results on the pitch? Plenty to debate. In the meantime, here are some ups and down on another busy window:

Good News: The whopping fee received for Yanic Wildschut (£7.5 million according to Sky,£7 million elsewhere.) It’s hard to take, given his status as Latics’ best attacking threat, with pace and strength to burn, and room to improve. But his finishing was often frustrating, he was inconsistent, and very much rough around the edges. If he had to go, credit is due the club for gaining such a huge profit on their investment.

Bad News: Yanic again. Being gone so late in the window. It’s hard to ignore that Wigan have scored three goals fewer than Rotherham, and yet just sold their most effective attacker.

Good News: In Gabriel Obertan, the club have found as close to a direct replacement as could be expected. We’ll be left to imagine what Joyce’s team might have looked like with two pacey wingers on the pitch. But at least Obertan’s defining attributes are similar to Wildschut’s: pace and strength, some trickery, abundant potential yet inconsistent finishing. He should be entering his peak years, has something to prove, and lots of experience at a higher level. Joyce knows him, he’s apparently a good professional, and they have said encouraging things about each other. The term of contract is short, therefore financial risk is too. All in all, a gamble worth taking.

Bad news: The squad feels unbalanced and bloated. There are a lot of midfielders, but few wingers or attacking playmakers given Nick Powell’s absence. With Obertan almost certain to start, it’s likely Michael Jacobs (in desperate need of a goal) on the other wing, with Colclough, Weir and Browne all unproven backups. Meanwhile, in the centre of midfield, Joyce has Power, Morsy, Perkins, MacDonald, Gilbey, Tunnicliffe, Hanson, Byrne, and Laurent to keep happy. Perhaps some of these players will be used in different positions (Hanson as defensive cover, etc.), but it’s a bloated, uneven squad that Joyce may have a hard time keeping happy.

Good News: Welcome Omar Bogle! He may need time to adapt. But the club beat out competitors to get him, and on paper, he has everything he needs to succeed at Championship level. A lot of hope is resting on his inexperienced shoulders, but if his teammates can provide him service, there is reason to believe. The option of a little-and-large Grigg and Bogle parternship is also intriguing. He’s left-footed, too.

Bad News: Banking on lower division signings is playing with fire. If Grigg is to become injured, Latics are left with Bogle, and Mikael Mandron to lead the line. Both have potential, but their success has come in League 2 and the Conference, respectively. They are completely unproven at this level, and playing with new teammates.

Good News: Alex Bruce appears an astute short-term signing, with potential for a longer stay. Dan Burn and Jake Buxton have developed a useful partnership in recent games, but Bruce is a dependable and experienced head to provide backup, who should also be good to have around the place.

Bad News: He hasn’t played all season due to an Achilles injury.

Good News: Keeping Sam Morsy and Max Power. Much of the attention has been on keeping Morsy, who has performed very well since his return. Power may not have started strongly, but has been steadily improving and remains a player of undoubted potential. Had rumours of his departure materialised, Latics would have lost an opportunity to reap the rewards of blooding him at this level. Good things should come of establishing Power and Morsy as a partnership.

Bad News: Too many loanees. In order to secure loan signings, managers often have to pledge a certain number of game time to the players’ parent clubs. Given the maximum of five loan signings per match-day squad, it looks an impossibility Latics’ recent loan signings will all get their wish to show what they can do. Jakob Haugaard may find himself sacrificed given the arrival of Matt Gilks. Callum Connolly is certain to play. That leaves Jamie Hanson, Marcus Browne, James Weir, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Bruce and Haugaard to vie for the other berths. Presumably, borrowing players and not giving them a game reduces the chances of players being borrowed from the same clubs in the future. Given many of these players are expected to be fringe players anyway, might Latics have been better off without a few of them?

Good News: Joyce appears to have both a short-term, and long-term plan. Signings like Gilks, Bruce and Obertan point to survival needs, while the signings of Jack Byrne, Mandron, and Josh Laurent show a continued desire to invest in youth and capitalize on Joyce’s wealth of experience in the area of player development. Byrne, in particular, was highly rated at City and appears a good long-term signing.

Verdict

Despite the high turnover, it doesn’t appear likely there will be immediate, dramatic changes to the starting lineup – Obertan in for Wildschut, perhaps the goalkeeper, and a new striking option in Bogle off the bench. This should prove a blessing, given the progress made in recent weeks. But it also calls into question the need for such a high number of incomings and outgoings. Joyce would do well to resist the urge of upsetting the players who have recently given him good commitment and results.

As supporters, patience is going to be important. Demanding instant impact from players adapting to a higher level is unfair, as is demanding instant adjustment from a team that became dependent on Wildschut to create for it. But if the new signings can add to the promising form shown of late and provide cover for injuries, we can be cautiously optimistic that, with a new crew of Joyce-loyal players and relative stability in the starting XI, we’re better off than before the window.

Full squad can be seen here

Is it Caldwell’s fault?

blame

There are various views on why Wigan Athletic are in their current predicament. Some say that Gary Caldwell should have been given more time to get things right in the Championship. Others point to a woeful start by his replacement, Warren Joyce, with puzzling team selections and tactics.

But a view that has been gaining more and more ground on the social media is that it was the recruitment over the summer that is the principal reason. Put simply, some people say that the players just are not good enough.

In May 2015 Wigan Athletic chairman, David Sharpe, announced a change in the club’s player recruitment structure. He considered it “crucial for long-term benefit of Wigan Athletic”. We were told that the new recruitment team was to be led by the Head of Football Operations, Matt Jackson, who together with Chief Executive, Jonathan Jackson, and Academy Head, Gregor Rioch, had been involved in reshaping the club’s Academy.

As stated in an article we published last week “A mental amount of movement”, in the  2015-16 season, Latics had 31 incomings and 44 outgoings of players, loans being included. The figures for the first half of the 2016-17 season were 14 coming in and 20 leaving. Since the article was published there have been two more outgoings, with Craig Davies having joined Scunthorpe and Nathan Byrne sent off on loan to Charlton. There has been one coming in, goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard.

The figures alone provide food for thought and debate. Is the huge turnover in players over the past couple of seasons an indicator of recruitment strategies that just have not worked or is it an indication of a chasm between recruitment and coaching? More crucially, why is the club that won the League 1 title struggling in a position below the other two clubs that were promoted? Is the recruitment team capable of making the right kinds of decisions? But crucially, how does the manager fit into the scheme of things?

It has been said that at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s influence is total. According to an article in the Guardian, Wenger “… is the lord of the kingdom he has built over the past 19 years. His influence extends into every pore of the club and where transfers are concerned, the manager’s authority is total. Wenger always has the final say. The board have attempted to put support systems in place around him, such as their purchase of StatDNA, the football data analytics company, which can help to identify potential signings. But Wenger continues to rely on his own eyes, together with those of his scouts.”

A comparison of Liverpool in the Brendan Rodgers era makes interesting reading. The Guardian tells us that Rodgers, the head of recruitment Dave Fallows, the chief scout Barry Hunter, the head of performance and analysis Michael Edwards, the chief executive Ian Eyre and FSG’s president Mike Gordon comprised the group that decided Liverpool’s entire transfer strategy.

There is clearly no blueprint for successful recruitment at any club. The top clubs in England have recruitment teams, whose composition tends to vary, using an increasingly data-driven approach. Some managers have more autonomy than others in determining the players they want, although the chairman tends to have the final word on the financial side.

At the end of May 2016, Gary Caldwell told us Latics were looking at bringing in four or five new players. That did not happen. By the end of the transfer window 14 new players had been brought in. However, 20 had gone.  The inference is that Caldwell had realised between May and the end of August that many of the players he had were not up to Championship standard. But was this solely Caldwell’s call? What say did the recruitment team have in that higher than expected turnover of players in summer?

Caldwell surely had a say in the players who left. His decisions to break up the successful central defensive partnership of Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce and send midfielder Sam Morsy off on loan were certainly controversial. But the overriding criticism has been that the players who were brought in were no better than those the club already had. Whether that is down to Caldwell, the recruitment team or financial matters is something that as onlookers we cannot say. However, we can take a look at the players who were brought in over summer to make assessments.

Nathan Byrne was signed from Wolves near the end of the summer transfer window for a fee reputed to be around £400,000. Caldwell signed Byrne essentially a right wing back, although he can play on the wing. Although he has only been at the club for around 4 months he has been sent off on loan to Charlton. Byrne made 6 starts with 8 substitute appearances. Joyce has not yet shown any inclination to use a back three with wing backs.

Goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan, was brought in on a one year loan from Liverpool, after a tough time at the Merseyside club. Being an ex-Bolton player hardly endeared him to the Wigan public. Neither did taking the place of fan favourite Jussi Jaaskelainen, as he had done before at the Macron. Bogdan had been a fine keeper at Bolton, but despite often making excellent saves and keeping his side in games when the defence was under pressure, his high profile error at Brighton and a hesitancy to leave his area  were problematic. When injury curtailed his season many fans were not unhappy to see him go. Jaaskelainen regained his place after Bogdan’s injury but he too made an error which led to a home defeat by Huddersfield. The Finn was replaced by Jakob Haugaard last Saturday. In the meantime rumours suggest that Joyce is also trying to sign Rangers keeper, Matt Gilks.

Luke Garbutt was signed on a half season loan to provide cover for the left back position, with Reece James being unavailable due to long term injury. Garbutt had had a reputation as a player for the future at Everton, but had come to Wigan after an indifferent spell on loan at Fulham in 2015-16. Playing as a wing back, Garbutt started against Nottingham Forest and QPR in late August. However, he was substituted after 59 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday on September 10 and did not appear again until Joyce took over as manager. Garbutt was used in midfield or at right back before returning to Everton at the end of his loan period in early January. Although he showed considerable expertise in taking set pieces, Garbutt’s all round play often failed to convince.

Reece Burke was signed on a season-long loan from West Ham, following an outstanding stint at Bradford City last season. Given the departure of Jason Pearce and the marginalisation of Craig Morgan by Caldwell, it appeared that Burke would be a strong contender for a position in the centre of defence. However, Burke was used in the right back position and made 8 appearances before returning to his parent club due to a hip injury in December. We surely did not see the best of the 20 year old playing out of his best position.

Dan Burn and Jake Buxton were signed from Fulham and Derby County respectively. They have become the regular central defensive partnership. Burn had a difficult start riddled with hesitancy and occasional major errors, but has shown much more consistency in recent games. Buxton’s start to the season was punctuated by a suspension following a red card in the League Cup tie at Oldham. But since then he has shown himself to be a consistent, reliable performer. Neither Burn not Buxton is at his best passing the ball out of defence, a key aspect of play under Caldwell. However, under Joyce it is not so crucial.

Whether their partnership is better than that of Morgan/Pearce is open to conjecture. The question that remains is why the latter partnership was not given a chance at Championship level, allowing a more gradual transition as needed. But the way that Pearce was hastily dispatched to Charlton and Morgan stripped of the captaincy suggests that there were more than footballing issues involved.

Sam Morsy’s recent return to Wigan has opened up the debate as to why he was sent off on loan. Under Caldwell, Morsy played the holding midfield role in front of the back four, but on Saturday he was pushed further forward with Shaun MacDonald behind. MacDonald arrived without  a big fanfare. He had been instrumental in Bournemouth’s rise up the divisions, but his career had been stifled by limited first team appearances in the Premier League. Moreover he was taking over the Morsy role, inevitably inviting comparisons.

Like Morsy, MacDonald is strong in the tackle, and although he does not reveal the range of passing that Morsy possesses, he rarely wastes the ball. However, at 6 ft 1 in, MacDonald is strong in the air and has the ability to step back and become a third central defender. Like Buxton, MacDonald has become the kind of unsung hero whose name will be among the first on any team list. Should Joyce be able to persuade Morsy to stay, the two together would provide a ring of steel in midfield.

The 22 year old Alex Gilbey was signed after impressing for Colchester United and has shown himself to be a technically skilled player, willing to work hard. Gilbey was making a successful transition between League 1 and the Championship until an injury against Fulham in mid-September. A recent tweet from the player suggests he could be back in action by the end of this month.

When Jordi Gomez was signed on loan from Sunderland, hopes were high that he could repeat the kind of form that made him Latics’ Player of the Season in 2013-14. Although we have seen flashes of the true Gomez on occasions we have not seen him play with the same kind of consistency that we saw in his time under Uwe Rosler. Joyce will be hoping that the play-maker’s form will improve, his ability to keep hold of the ball in midfield being so important when the defence is under pressure. Moreover the Catalan has the ability to drift in from midfield to score goals.

Caldwell’s biggest gamble over summer was in signing the injury-riddled Nick Powell on a three year contract. It is a gamble that has not yet paid off. Powell has been unable to get any consistency to his game, being constantly niggled by injury. The hamstring tear received on Saturday looks set to keep him out for the rest of the season. Powell’s career continues to hang over the abyss, a sad situation for such a talented player.

Rumours suggest that Cardiff are to cut short Adam Le Fondre’s loan period at Wigan in order to sell him. Given that Bolton are one of the clubs who apparently want “ALF” it seems unlikely that Cardiff will gain much in transfer revenue. But Le Fondre has been given few opportunities during his time at Wigan and the player himself might well want to move on. The 30 year old has made just 3 starts, with 8 appearances off the bench, scoring 1 goal.

20 year old right back Kyle Knoyle was signed on loan from West Ham but suffered an injury in pre-season that kept him out for months. His only appearance so far has been as an 89th minute substitute at Cardiff at the end of October.

Kaiyne Woolery, 22, was signed from Bolton Wanderers for a small fee. His sole appearance has been as an 87th substitute at home to Derby in early December.

The summer signings involved a relatively small financial outlay. Five players were brought in on loan, four on free transfers (Burn, Gomez, Powell, Warnock), Byrne for around £400,000, MacDonald for reputedly £125,000, Gilbey for a compensation fee, Buxton and Woolery for small fees.

Wigan Athletic may have even made a profit on their summer transfer dealings, having recouped around £1m for the sale of Emyr Huws to Cardiff plus small fees for Tim Chow and Jason Pearce.

In hindsight should David Sharpe have given Caldwell more financial support in the summer market? Were Caldwell’s hands tied, to some degree, in making the kinds of quality signings he would need to strengthen his team to compete in a higher division?

The well-publicised signing that did not come off over summer was that of Hearts right back, Calum Patterson. Wigan’s bids fell well below the Scottish club’s evaluation. Latics went on to pay a significant amount to sign Nathan Byrne, but the player did not have the defensive qualities to play as an orthodox full back. In retrospect, would the extra money that would have been needed to secure Patterson have been well spent, given that the right back position has been so problematic this season?

However, another factor facing the club was the prospect of the parachute payments running out at the end of the season. An immediate return to the Premier League would be ideal, but to mount a promotion push would have involved a major financial outlay in terms of transfer fees. Moreover should the bid not be successful Latics would be left with players on big contracts without the financial support of parachute payments.

In fact the summer transfer activity suggested that Latics were looking for consolidation, both in terms of league position and in finances. In order to compete for players, free agents included, the club has had to offer salaries commensurate to the division. However, other than the case of Nick Powell, the highest earners are largely on loans or contracts that expire at the end of the season. They include Adam Bogdan, Jordi Gomez, Adam Le Fondre and Stephen Warnock. Should the unspeakable occur once again – relegation – the club would sell off its prime assets and drastically reduce its wage bill.

So, is it Caldwell’s fault that Wigan Athletic are in relegation mire?

Many would fault Caldwell for the premature departures of Morsy and Pearce at the beginning of the season. Some would say he should have preferred Jaaskelainen to Bogdan, although the Finn is now 42 years old and well past his best. Perhaps he should have kept the backbone of his League 1 title winning team in place, phasing in the newcomers. Momentum was probably lost as a result.

However, in terms of recruitment Caldwell was at the mercy of both his chairman and the recruitment team. Burn, Buxton, Gilbey and MacDonald are by no means bad signings. Gomez has struggled to impose himself, but he has enough quality to do so in the second half of the season. Whether Woolery will ever achieve his potential remains to be seen. The management will be praying that Powell can rid himself of the hamstring problems that have dogged his career in recent years. At his best he is one of the top players in the division.

Caldwell used the loan market to good effect last season, but the rules governing loan signings changed, stays of less than half a season not now possible. Summer’s loan signings have been largely disappointing.

Latics are in relegation dog-fight partly because of mistakes made by both managers, Caldwell and Joyce, but the incomings and outgoings of summer transfer market may have had a more major effect.

If anyone or anything is primarily to blame for Wigan’s current position it has been a lack of ambition on the part of the club. Let’s hope Sharpe will back his latest manager in the January transfer window. That means not selling off his most saleable assets and bringing in more quality.

 

 

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.