Seeking a balance in midfield

A more balanced midfield with Paul Cook in charge?

“So close to a famous win, absolutely devastated. Atmosphere was incredible.

So tweeted James McArthur after Harry Kane’s late equaliser had robbed them of victory in a game they did not really deserve to win.

He had come on as a substitute at the beginning of the second half in the cauldron that Hampden Park so often can be. In the eyes of an admittedly biased Wigan Athletic fan he should have been on from the start, but James Morrison and Scott Brown were chosen instead.

But seeing McArthur brought back memories of his partnership with James McCarthy. Both were signed from a modest club in Hamilton Academical, seemingly “players for the future”. But what a future it proved to be for them at Wigan as the pair became the engine room of the club’s greatest ever successes. Pitched up against the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes they held their own, famous victories over England’s richest and most powerful clubs resulting.

Roberto Martinez had developed what was loosely called a 3-4-3 system. McArthur and McCarthy supplied the energy and vision from the centre of midfield, with the excellent wing backs Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour providing the width. One of the front three, Shaun Maloney or Jordi Gomez, would drop back to reinforce midfield and add to the creativity. The end result was a balanced midfield, capable of challenging the best in the land.

It is more than three years now since McArthur left Wigan, McCarthy having gone a year earlier. Since then Latics have had a plethora of midfield players pass through the club. The Macs had played together for three years, developing a mutual understanding, covering for each other when it was needed.

But last season that kind of understanding was sadly lacking, players too often being unable to find their teammates with their passes. Midfield players who had been key in winning League 1 the previous season had clearly found the step up to the Championship a tough one. Perhaps Gary Caldwell had realised that the midfielders of the title winning team might struggle in the higher division. He brought in reinforcements in Shaun MacDonald, Alex Gilbey and Nick Powell, but the latter two were to be stricken by injury. MacDonald had been a box to box midfielder at Bournemouth, but Caldwell was to use him in a “Busquets role” in front of the back four. He had used Sam Morsy in that role in the previous season, but the player had been dispatched off to Barnsley on loan.

MacDonald went on to become a rock in front of the defence, also being favoured by Warren Joyce when he arrived in November. Although he would rarely show the range of passing that we had seen from Morsy, MacDonald was equally firm in the tackle and his reading of the game. Moreover he was strong in the air. Sadly his horrendous injury at Reading is likely to rule him out for the large part of the coming season.

As part of his return from Barnsley, Morsy had been offered an improved contract with Joyce being keen to get him back. With MacDonald anchoring at the back, Morsy was pushed forward into a more creative role where he initially seemed to thrive. However, Joyce’s obsession with 4-5-1 was to mean that any midfielder’s role was to be primarily defensive. Like the other midfielders, Morsy just did not look as effective as he had earlier. The midfield was to shoulder the bulk of the frustration of fans wanting to see them push further forward to support the lone centre forward. The lack of creativity was to be exacerbated as Joyce was to play four central midfielders in his starting line-up, a tactic that was also to be followed by Graham Barrow when he took over as caretaker manager.

Latics fans will be hoping for a more positive approach from new manager Paul Cook. Cook’s preferred formation appears to be 4-2-3-1, so it is unlikely he will use someone in the anchor role occupied by MacDonald. David Perkins has been given a new short term contract, although he is now 35. However, Perkins was the Player of the Year in League 1 in 2015-16 and his infectious enthusiasm was a key element in the team’s success. Max Power was the subject of an offer by Birmingham City in January. Although he had a disappointing season he remains a young player with good technique who might well benefit from a move. Morsy has already proved himself in League 1 and would surely be in contention for a place, but his increased salary might prove too much for Latics to swallow, given their much decreasing revenues. It would be no surprise if both Power and Morsy were sold over the summer.

Cook already has players who can form the trio behind the centre forward. He has those who can play wide in Michael Jacobs and Nathan Byrne, plus “number 10s” in Jack Byrne, Alex Gilbey, Josh Laurent and Nick Powell. Nathan Byrne has genuine pace, making Joyce’s decision to send him on loan to Charlton difficult to understand. With both Wildschut and Byrne leaving his side was distinctly short of pace. Rumour suggests that Byrne had a falling out with the manager and was dispatched as a result. It could be that the player has already burnt his bridges at Wigan and will be gone over summer, but he has a fine record in League 1 and could be an important player, if he were to stay. Salary could also be an issue.

For the moment Latics are short on holding midfielders and Cook will be looking at bringing in at least a couple more. He will also look for more wide players. Jordan Flores can play wide on the left of midfield, but there is still no news of him signing a new contract.

Finding the right balance in midfield will be of paramount importance to Paul Cook if he is to build a squad good enough to get the club back to the Championship division. Continuity is something that has been so lacking at Wigan over the past three seasons. Ideally Cook will put together a midfield not only to get the club out of League 1, but also one which can serve the club more long-term as did the “Macs” in the Martinez era.

 

 

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The financial side of keeping a nucleus for League 1

“Que sera sera…..whatever will be will be….we’re going to Shrewsbury….que sera sera

So sang a group of Wigan Athletic supporters. It certainly took the wind out of the sails of the “going down” taunts of home fans at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.

Shrewsbury is certainly a pleasant place to visit. Its football team has competed in each of the three EFL divisions. Their New Meadow stadium holds 9,375. Shrewsbury Town met Manchester United in the FA Cup in February 2016. They lost 3-0, which is not surprising given the fact that the Shrews had a wage bill of £2.5 m compared with £210 m of United.

In fact the Shrewsbury wage bill is typical of many clubs in League 1. According to an interesting article on the Daily Mail site, the average salary of a League 1 footballer in 2014-15 was £69,500. It compared with £324,200 in the Championship. The ratio of the average salaries is 1 to 4.7.

There are strong arguments to suggest that the league positions of clubs in the Championship division correlate to their wage bills. In their first season back in the Championship Wigan Athletic finished in a playoff place. The wage bill was around £30 m. Clubs in mid-table would typically have wage bills averaging £20 m.

Latics’ reputed wage bill for the current season is around £17 m. Assuming they were to trim next year’s wage bill according to, say, that previous ratio of average salaries between the two divisions, it would give a figure of around £3.6 m. In 2015-16, still buoyed by parachute payments, Latics had a wage bill of around £6 m in League 1, reportedly second highest after that of Sheffield United.

So at what level will David Sharpe pitch the wage bill for the coming season? As in the Championship there is some degree of correlation between wage bills and success on the playing field in League 1. If the club is to break even financially next season what kind of wage bill would be realistic? Moreover will the club be able to slash its wage bill as successfully as it did in the summer of 2015, when faced with a drop down to the third tier?

In 2015-16 Latics finished top of League 1 with an average attendance of 9,467. Shrewsbury Town finished in 14th place with an average of 5,407. The average attendance for the division was 7,163. Wigan’s cheapest adult season ticket cost  £250 while Shrewsbury’s was £285.

David Sharpe took a bold step in reducing season ticket prices for the club’s return to the Championship. Renewals were pitched at £179, with a price of £199 for new purchasers. The levels were uneconomic compared with those of competitor clubs, but Sharpe was clearly hoping to not only hold on to the core support, but to attract others. With just one match to go in the Championship season Wigan’s average home attendance is 11,560 up by more than 2,000 from the previous season in League 1. However, the bigger clubs in the Championship have brought sizeably larger away support than had those in League 1.

Rumour suggests that the club will maintain the levels of season tickets prices for the coming season. If this is so the £179 price would be almost 40% less than the figure of £295 to be offered by Shrewsbury Town for the coming  season. Moreover should Latics not be as successful as they were last time in League 1 attendances will surely fall. The match day revenue differentials between Wigan and Shrewsbury could merge closer.

Put simply potential match revenues for Wigan Athletic will in no way suffice to give them a competitive advantage over most of their rivals. Some would say that under Gary Caldwell Latics had bought their way out of League 1, having a wage bill twice that of most of their rivals. That was made possible by the parachute payments they were receiving at the time. However, now that the parachute era has come to an end, how can Latics get a financial advantage over most of their competitors in League 1?

One solution is to sell off assets. The second is for the ownership to provide the necessary funding.

The saleable assets Latics have are their players. The club’s main asset, Yanic Wildschut, was sold in January for a hefty premium. Early in the season Will Grigg would have been another major asset: he was scoring goals and looking comfortable in the higher division. It was sad to see how the player later found himself either warming the bench, playing as a lone centre forward with a derisory lack of support, or being played out of position. A player who could have probably drawn a transfer fee in excess of £5 m is now not such an attraction on the transfer market. Better to keep Grigg who has a superb record of goalscoring in League 1.

Nick Powell will surely be on his way. After months out through injury he roared back with spectacular performances as a super sub. In doing so, Powell put himself in the shop window. Dan Burn is another player who has caught the eye and will surely be of interest to Championship clubs. Burn was already an experienced Championship level player when arriving on a free transfer from Fulham. He has since developed a level of self-confidence  previously lacking. Between the two, Latics could possibly raise around £5 m on the market.

Omar Bogle was the most exciting of the January signings. Having scored a lot of goals for Grimsby he arrived brimming with confidence and style. But after a promising start Bogle was to wilt under  a horrible burden put on him by Joyce: that of being the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Injury too was to hold him back. Like Grigg, his potential transfer value has plummeted. But the likelihood is that either Grigg or Bogle will be sold, albeit at a discounted price.

Max Power was almost sold to Birmingham City in January. Although he did not have the season he would have liked, Power remains one of the more saleable assets. Sam Morsy too is a player who could be sought by Championship clubs.

Last weekend Jonathan Jackson stated that “There will be some changes in the squad, but we want to keep the core there.”

Goalkeeper Matt Gilks and ex-captain Craig Morgan will be two of those core members who continue. Gilks was only signed in January on an 18 month contract and Morgan recently signed a two year extension to his contract. The long-term injured players – Donervon Daniels, Reece James, Andy Kellett and Shaun MacDonald – will also be staying. Alex Gilbey is another who has not been able to play in recent games after coming back from long-term injury. Latics will be hoping at least some of those players will be available for the beginning of next season.

It is difficult to predict who else will stay to provide a core for the coming season. The club is going to have to slash its wage bill some 60-70% to be financially viable. Put simply more than half of the players currently under contract are likely to depart over summer, many on free transfers. Others will be sent off on loan.

The players currently under contract for the coming season are:

Goalkeepers: Matt Gilks, Dan Lavercombe

Full Backs – Luke Burke, Reece James.

Centre backs: Dan Burn, Jake Buxton, Donervon Daniels, Jack Hendry, Craig Morgan.

Midfielders: Jack Byrne, Alex Gilbey, Andy Kellett, Josh Laurent, Shaun MacDonald, Sam Morsy, Max Power, Danny Whitehead.

Forwards: Nathan Byrne, Omar Bogle, Ryan Colclough, Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs, Mikael Mandron, Sanmi Odelusi, Nick Powell, Kaiyne Woolery.

The amount of turnover at the end of the 2015 season was remarkable, with 31 incomings and 44 outgoings, including loan players.

Latics currently have seven whose contracts are due to expire – Jordan Flores, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Billy Mckay, Gabriel Obertan, David Perkins, Andrew Taylor and Stephen Warnock. There are another eight players whose loans are coming to an end.

In 2015 Gary Caldwell had already been installed as manager to oversee the massive turnover that took place over the summer.

At this stage we do not know who the next manager is going to be and there have been mutterings about taking the time to choose the right man for the job.

But given a mountain of a task ahead we might well see an appointment made sooner rather than later.
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Latics fans react to QPR defeat on social media

The 2-1 defeat at QPR was indeed a bitter pill for Wigan Athletic fans to swallow. The loss puts them even deeper into the relegation mire. Latics were in a similar position just two years ago under Malky Mackay, when they were unable to raise their level sufficiently to avoid the drop. Can Warren Joyce stop history repeating?

In fact the stats show a startling similarity. After 33 games Latics have just 26 points, just one more than they had in 2014-15 at the same stage. Moreover the stats for the last 6 matches – W1 D1 L4 – are identical.

Once again Joyce fielded a cautious lineup, with central midfielders Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe in wide midfield. But this this time he was lacking Shaun MacDonald, who plays a key role in front of the back four. Jamie Hanson took his place.

After the match Joyce commented: “Every game is a cup final and that’s the way we have got to approach it; we have put little runs together with wins and draws but not built on it and enjoyed a good run for a more sustained period. It’s a long journey back now, and we have to make sure we look after the players tomorrow because it’s been a busy period of games and then we’ll prepare for the next cup final against Forest on Saturday. It’s disappointing, we dust ourselves down and go again, there were a lot of good aspects of the performance and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

Of the 14 players signed in January, three made the starting lineup. Wide players Andy Kellett,  Gabriel Obertan and James Weir were on the bench, although Obertan came on for Will Grigg after 72 minutes. Striker Mikael Mandron, plucked from non-league Eastleigh Town, came on for his debut after 80 minutes. However, having three strikers on the field does not necessarily provide more goal threat with a dearth of creativity from the midfield.

Blackburn Rovers have parted ways with Owen Coyle in an attempt to stave off relegation. They are one point behind Wigan with two games in hand. In hindsight one of the mistakes David Sharpe made in his early days as chairman was to prolong the reign of the hapless Mackay until it was virtually too late to avoid a place in the bottom three. However, given that Joyce has a three and a half year contract, which would be costly to pay off, it is unlikely that he will be dismissed.

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 and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

qprvital

Vancouverlatic on Latics Speyk commented:

We’ve been in worse positions than this under the con man Martinez and scraped through. No reason we can’t do it again. The vitriolic rubbish on here about Joyce is mind boggling, We were always going to struggle this Season with no money, why the surprise ? We’re not relegated yet, not even close, so start being a fan, stop moaning and start supporting.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

Loan players and narrow defeats. So like last relegation season. Almost inclined to give up all hope now. Very early but…#wafc

Loudmouth Blue on Latics Speyk commented:

Can the person monitoring the fans websites on behalf of the club take a flaming look at that and please pass it on to Sharp / Whelan / Jackson, and please, please tell us how you came to the decision to employ Joyce, how did he come onto your Radar and what redeeming qualities do you see in him.

What the above doesn’t show is the scabby wins where we were outplayed, or the negative non possession crap we endure most games.

qprplayerpositioosm DonnysPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

The signings we made in January certainly look like signings for league one. Quite a few young promising players and unfit loan players who won’t be here anyway. Sam Morsy and Power will be sold and Grigg will be back to twenty goals a season.

 Jeffs right on Latics Speyk envisages a return to League 1:

Hopefully we can bounce back and win league one next season and Whelan/ Sharpe and co learn from the mistakes from 14/15 and 16/17 we may make a go of the Championship in 18/19.
Austerity austerity austerity and go sideways and backwards. I wouldn’t bank on it though and if it comes down to investing again we may find ourselves down for a number of years.  Get shut of Wildshut and replace him with nothing. Suicide!!!! Especially when we were so shit anyway.

Filmoss on the Cockney Latic Forum is not hopeful:

I might be more positive if the manager is! Too cautious and I honestly can’t really see any run of results coming our way anytime soon! The stat of just 1 home win in nigh on 5 months doesn’t bode too well either! The signings reek of League One preparation as well !

livesesy TH10 on Latics Speyk mentioned a lack of quality and ambition:

Just not good enough, we have one player who carries an attacking threat. The rest work hard but lack quality and ambition. I don’t think playing with 4 central midfielders is helping, we have absolutely no width at all. Grigg is completely ineffective and I’m not sure he even knows what position he’s actually playing in.

It’s up there with the least entertaining Latics team I’ve ever seen, not enjoyable to watch at all. I think it’ll be a miracle if we stay up.

Grim Reaper on Latics Speyk added:

This Clown needs to stop packing the midfield with full of defensive minded central midfielders, tonight yet again there was no width or attack minded players in there. The only times we see a positive attack minded team is when we are behind and chasing games.

Jimmyc  on the Cockney Latic Forum advocated a need for stability:

I’m not so sure changing the manager will turn things around Mr B. The buck stops with the manager of course but for me we are a very naive club.You need stability, and that is something we haven’t had for 3 or 4 years now. Look at the last two transfer windows both seem to have unsettled us. We had a mini good run early Jan winning 3 on the spin, and beginning to look like a good team. then came transfer deadline day, and we’ve been poor since, and now look like a relegation side! Stick with him, and hope the club be more prudent in future transfer windows.

Adgjlzcbm on Latics Speyk gave his impressions of the game:

Was at the game. Our players clearly showed they do not know each other at the end. Tunniclife had some bad turns but he was generally good. Power & Conolly were both skinned by Lualua who was MOM. Lots of head tennis from us. Burn our MOM again. Grigg seemed to be tasked to win balls for Bogle. MacDonald thoroughly missed. Morsy most creative midfielder early on but looked tired at the end. Their keeper made more saves than Gilks. Our manager should have done more homework on our opposition.

NuneatonLatic on the Cockney Latic Forum looked at mistakes made this season:

The way I see it is the whole season has been a catalogue of needless errors. Too many changes made close season and Caldwell rightly paid the price. Joyce has a job to steady it and indeed has done to the fact that nobody gives us a beating. We always lose by the odd goal and that is the managers fault. His sole emphasis seems to be on flooding midfield to stifle the opposition. He is totally unable to get the balance between midfield and attack. If we had scored just 6 more goals losses would have been draws and draws victories. Grigg is coming in for some terrible criticism but the lad has seen countless changes behind him and its understandable why he is struggling. The way Joyce sets up I doubt that it matters how many strikers we use until he finds the right mix. Frustrating thing is we are not far off at all we just need to be more adventurous.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Whatever happens @David Sharpe91 has to ensure we don’t have another summer of change. Have to give Joyce a chance with his own squad.

The Egg on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

Obviously I think most of us on here would support the club regardless of the division we are in and in most cases have done just that. What is infuriating me at the moment is that we seem to be accepting that relegation is going to happen.

Of course in January we had to look at both the possibility of surviving and also going down which is why Yanic had to go for the price he did as we wouldn’t get anywhere near that if we went down and HAD to sell, but the signings we made all seemed to me to be in preperation for League One. Young lads with an exciting future. I’m sorry but that isn’t going to get us out the mire. We needed to sign someone who has battled before and knows what it takes to survive a relegation battle. I think we needed that in the Manager’s chair as well.

The substitutions on Saturday were the final straw for me, obviously I hope we get out this mess but I just cannot see it and it looks like another re-building phase only this time we won’t have parachute payments to rely on.

King_dezeeuw06 on Latics Speyk gave his overview:

What u want me to say about Joyce? Be super negative and procliam we are going down even though we have a quarter of the season left? Say we have a team full of creativity and goals that is just being mismanaged when we dont? Pretend we haven’t deserved more points than we have got lately? Pretend he wasnt kicked in the balls by our best player f—ing off on deadline day and having a lack of budget to recruit quality? Shout we should sack a manager who clearly isn’t going anywhere and replace him with Rowett, Pearson, Redknapp or any other unrealistic and unaffordable option? Pretend the players missing clear cut chances to win games isn’t our biggesr failing right now?

If this was early season or we hadn’t already changed manager or we had the budget to get someone much better in id probably be more critical. But we were up s— creek with no money to attract top bosses or players before Joyce arrived and we are still in that position. The reason we hired him out of left field and took a gamble was due to lack of affordable decent alternatives – Steve Evans was then and prob still id one of the better realistic managers we could get if we wanted a new boss and that appointment would’ve gone down worse than Joyce’s.

Has Joyce got it all right or do i agree with everything he does? Nope. Its a results business and although our form is better since the turn of the year we aren’t getting the results we hoped overall. I’ve already said it like everyone else has i think Joyce needs to be braver with his selectlins, tactics and subs – we are too negative and he deserves critasism for being too cautious. Id have loved us to be aggressive and ambitious in our last few games and hope we are moving forward. But despite us dropping points we aren’t adrift and we arent doomed yet, its a horrible result tonight, we are all hurting but we are still only 2 points behind 4th bottom so im not going to write us off yet.

Teams (including us) in years gone by have survived facing much worse odds than we face now. People had us dead and buried a few times this season after bad results and we clawed our way back into the pack so why cant we do it again? I’m not kidding myself I’m as worried as anyone else that we won’t do it, but the day Joyce walked in we all knew it was going to be tough and i bet we’d all have said keep us up, even if its by the skin of our teeth and we’ll be happy this year. That is still possible even if it’s looking like it will be at best a close call but he hasn’t failed yet.

We know Joyce is here until summer at the very least, an alternative boss isn’t going to happen, new players arent able to come – what we have now may not be enough but it’s all we’re getting. So as frustrated as we all are we’ve got 2 choices now moan, give up and call for a sacking that isn’t coming or try and keep positive, support and hope for the best.

 Tremendous on Latics Speyk thought that:

 I’d like someone to justify how they think there has been some sort of improvement since the managerial change. There seems to be several who thinks that there has been.

On top of these stats quoted here, is anyone aware that the ‘much improved’ defensive organisation has changed the defensive record from conceding 16 in 14 games to conceding 24 in 18. We have only kept 5 clean sheets in those 18 games having kept 4 in the first 14 (with a rubbish goalkeeper in those first 14, apparently).  It kind of looks worse now to me. At the other end of the pitch, the major problem would appear to be worse now as well.  We failed to score in 6 of the first 14 games and have failed to score 9 times from the last 18 games, 6 (SIX) of those at home! So it seems we are scoring less frequently and conceding more often. Why did all 5 of Griggs league goals come in the first 14 games, and he has failed to score since?

On top of all this we have become hardly worth watching, this brand of football, promised to be the Wigan way by the Chairman at the time of the managerial change. I have never seen football like this in all my time watching Wigan.

Please someone explain why they think it has improved.

He also added:

Whichever way you dress it up it does appear that the appointment of Joyce is proving to be a failure thus far! He has had enough games to turn it around yet we are still in the bottom 3 and a few points adrift at that! Too late to sack him and so he will more than likely stay and hopefully navigate us out of League One! He’ll have to be a bit more positive with his tactics mind!
qprlast

 

 

 

 

 

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A busy week ahead for Caldwell in the transfer market

Will Jordi Gomez be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin Latics?

Will Jordi Gomez be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin Latics?

 “We tried to sign players last year who would not only do well in League One, but who were really Championship quality and I’ve got real confidence that they’ll be able to do a job at this level.”

So said Gary Caldwell, giving a public show of support to the players he signed. But the question is: how many of them will be a success in the Championship?

One player who has been a success in that division is Jordi Gomez. He was voted Player of the Season for Latics in 2013-14 after scoring 11 goals in 43 appearances. Gomez had received a similar award at Swansea in 2008-09, when the Welsh club was in the Championship division.

Rumours of a return for Gomez surfaced several weeks ago, but Gary Caldwell has now confirmed it as a possibility. However, whilst being keen on a return for the Catalan the manager stated through Wigan Today that “If it doesn’t make sense financially, then we’re not going to do it. We have to work within certain budgets, and we have done that.”

Should Gomez return he will have to take a sizeable pay cut. He is on Premier League wages at Sunderland and any offer from Latics is likely to fall short even of the figure he had been on when he left Wigan in the summer of 2014. However, it could be that Sunderland are willing to continue to pay Gomez a fraction of his wages for the coming season in a bid to move him on.

In his heart of hearts Caldwell surely knows that some of his current squad will fall short in the higher division. With the players due back for training in just over a week he will be keen to finalise deals for new players who he believes can be successful in the Championship. But his problem is doing so within a tight budget for a wage bill that will not be supported by parachute payments a year from now.

One year contracts for experienced players in their thirties is a viable option, providing Caldwell can beat off opposition from other clubs willing to offer contracts of longer duration or of more money. The latest rumour is that Latics are looking at the 35 year old Leon Osman, released by Everton.

Transfer rumours abound at this time of year and it is never easy to sift through them to ascertain which are realistic. However, given Latics’ recruitment policy it is unlikely that they will look at signing two other Sunderland players whose names have been mentioned through the social media. Caldwell will be searching for another centre forward but is unlikely to be able offer the right kind of terms for Danny Graham (30) or Steven Fletcher (29).

Last season’s recruitment process involved largely focusing on players out of contract or available at knock-down prices. Indeed the Player of the Season, David Perkins, was recruited when his contract with Blackpool terminated. Moreover Max Power, who finished in second place in the voting, was also a free agent although Latics had to pay compensation to Tranmere Rovers because of his age. Rumours suggest that Latics are currently interested in free agents John McGinn (23, right back, Dundee), Curtis Nelson (25, central defender, Plymouth Argyle) and Alex Gilbey (21, midfielder, Colchester United).

However, David Sharpe has backed Caldwell in paying serious money when a player has become available who could serve the club for years to come. Around £900,000 was spent on Will Grigg and £600,000 for Yanic Wildschut, both in their early to mid-twenties. Latics have reputedly made bids over £500,000 for 25 year old Barnsley midfielder Conor Hourihane and 28 year old Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes. The latter would be a surprise, given the player’s age.

Last summer Caldwell had a budget advantage over rival managers in League 1. The reverse is the case this summer, with so many Championship clubs having parachute payments exceeding those of Latics in terms of size and longevity. Moreover the budget that Caldwell has is not sustainable beyond one more year.

Caldwell and his recruitment team will continue to focus on picking up younger players who are out of contract or available at bargain prices. But funds will be available for signing young players who represent good value for the future and can add value in the coming season. Caldwell will also ensure that an age balance is maintained by bringing in quality players in the latter stages of their careers on shorter contracts.

We can expect Caldwell to be increasingly active in the transfer market over the coming week as the pre-season training date comes closer and closer.

 

Latics fire off a warning to Burton – form ratings for Swindon 1 Wigan Athletic 4

Will Grigg scores the first goal. Photo courtesy of the Swindon Advertiser.

Will Grigg scores the first goal.
Photo courtesy of the Swindon Advertiser.

If the scoreline was impressive, the performance was even more so. Wigan Athletic have sent warning shots across the bows of their close challengers Burton and Walsall.

It was possibly Wigan’s best performance of the season. They were well organised in defence, tenacious in midfield and dangerous in attack. More than anything else it was the style of football that impressed most. Latics played a brand of football way beyond that one can expect in League 1.

Gary Caldwell springing a surprise is really no surprise at all. But playing with twin strikers would hardly be expected from a manager who prefers a lone centre forward setup. Rather than use his typical 3-4-3, Caldwell opted for a 3-5-2 with Will Grigg and Yanic Wildschut up front. The presence of three central midfielders in front of a back line of three was to give the wing backs the licence to attack with vigour.

Caldwell got his tactics spot-on. The twin strikers were able to harry Swindon’s back line of three, forcing them into launching long passes which more often than not were gobbled up by the Wigan defence. Moreover Wigan’s midfield trio could swarm forward and swamp an overrun Swindon midfield. Wigan’s movement off the ball was a joy to behold.

Grigg took his 15th minute goal with aplomb, evading two close markers to hit home Chris McCann’s superb cross. The Wigan wingbacks, McCann in particular, continued to look lively. Swindon’s attack was largely innocuous.

Latics could have possibly killed the game off in the first 45 minutes, given the chances they squandered, but their opening to the second half was stunning. Their high pressing reduced Swindon’s defence to jelly. Max Power’s stunning right foot shot from the left hand side after 47 minutes will rank as one of the goals of the season. Three minutes later Grigg’s deflected shot gave the Swindon goalkeeper no chance, then Sam Morsy hit home a fine drive from the edge of the box after 51 minutes.

Wigan could have had more goals in the 39 minutes of normal time still remaining, but their finishing was to let them down. As the game progressed they eased their foot on the accelerator, with a home match against Rochdale weighing on their minds. It resulted in a well taken goal for the division’s top goalscorer, Nicky Ajose, after 79 minutes.

The Good

Latics worked liked a well-oiled machine, for once the whole equaling the sum of its parts. They made Swindon look poor in comparison, remarkable in that the home side had lost only one of its previous eight games.

So often teams have tried to stifle Wigan’s playing out from the back by high pressing. This time Latics used it to their own advantage, Swindon being stymied by that tactic.

David Sharpe promised the fans a 20 goal per season striker before the start of the season. Will Grigg reached that mark yesterday, with 17 in the league and 3 in cup matches.

The Bad

With better finishing from Grigg and Wildschut, the scoreline would have been even more emphatic.

It is the norm in modern football for teams to take their foot off the gas when they have a comfortable lead, with another game looming closer. In particular Grigg looked less than delighted to be taken off in the 75th minute with a hat trick a distinct possibility.

It could be argued that a third goal for the centre forward could have been a big confidence boost for him. But Caldwell would surely counter that by saying that he needed a fully fit Grigg for the game on Monday. Such debates occur in all levels of today’s football.

Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen: 8 – solid and dependable, sound in distribution. Made an excellent save from an Ajose free kick  in the second half.

Reece Wabara: 7 – getting better. Worked hard running up and down the right flank.

Donervon Daniels: 7.5 – his physical presence proved important in keeping the home side at bay.

Craig Morgan: 7.5 – solid in defence and pragmatic with his passing.

Stephen Warnock: 7.5 – another very professional performance from a full back playing in a back line of three.

Chris McCann: 8 – excellent. A constant threat to the right hand side of the Swindon defence.

Sam Morsy: 8.5 – not only adds steel to the midfield, but intelligent in his passing and movement.

Max Power: 7.5 – an all-round player with the class to play at a level well above League 1. Showed superb technique in his goal. Taken off after 64 minutes.

David Perkins: 8.5 – a complete performance, tenacious in his covering. His performance made a mockery of criticisms that he cannot pass the ball.

Will Grigg: 8 – a danger throughout. He has scored 12 goals in his last 13 games. Once again squandered opportunities, but the good news is that he is getting into the right positions to score.

Yanic Wildschut: 7 – worked hard and was a headache for the home defence with his speed and physical presence. But finishing is not always his strong point. Substituted after 71 minutes.

Substitutes:

Tim Chow –  came on for Power after 64 minutes. Worked hard.

Craig Davies – came on for Wildschut after 71 minutes. A physical presence as always.

Haris Vuckic – on for Grigg after 75 minutes. Showed some nice touches.