David Sharpe is not afraid to make bold statements. Not only did he prophesy that Latics will smash the league with 100 points, but he also promised a 20 goal a year striker.
Given a tally of 10 points from the first 6 league matches, it leaves another 90 points in the next 40 to reach Sharpe’s target. A tall order, if by no means impossible. Up to this point Craig Davies and Will Grigg have each scored two goals, Jordy Hiwula has one. Attacking midfielder Michael Jacobs also has one.
For Wigan Athletic to reach that 100 point target it will need a major contribution from the strike force. Are the strikers that Latics currently have capable of delivering in a way that those of the past years were unable to?
Last season James McClean was the leading scorer with 6 goals from 37 appearances in all competitions, a sad indictment of the team’s performances. In the previous season under Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler, Nick Powell led the goalscoring with 12 goals from 38 appearances, closely followed by Jordi Gomez with 11 from 43.
With the arrival of Haris Vuckic and Hiwula, Gary Caldwell has lots of striking options. At this moment in time his preferred choice would seem to be in having Davies and Grigg as twin strikers, with Jacobs behind them in an attacking midfield role. However, Grant Holt is progressing towards full fitness following an anterior cruciate injury and if all goes well he can be expected to return during October. Holt can add a kind of physicality to the attack akin to that of Davies,while Hiwula can threaten with his searing pace.
The signing of Vuckic might well complete the attacking jigsaw puzzle for Caldwell. The versatile Slovenian can play the twin striker role, or coming in from wide. Moreover he will surely compete for an attacking midfield role. At Chesterfield both he and Jacobs played attacking midfield roles behind the central striker.
Davies’ recent performances have certainly won over most of the skeptics among the fans. Up to this point he has stayed injury-free and he and Caldwell will be praying that he can stay that way. Grigg too has impressed with his intelligent play and ball skills. Together they form a formidable striking partnership against League 1 opposition.
Shaq Coulthirst is recovering from a muscle injury, but is likely to return at some point. He too can play wide or in a twin striker role. Media reports suggest that Sanmi Odelusi might go on a short term loan to Portsmouth, seemingly pushed down the striker pecking order by the competition he faces. For Odelusi getting a regular game is important at this stage in his career.
Caldwell will be faced with some difficult choices in choosing his attacking options for Saturday’s visit to Port Vale. Will he play with twin strikers or will he opt for a lone centre forward with two attacking midfielders in support?
Caldwell has been adventurous in his recent formations – with three attacking players and the wing backs pushed far forward, the holding midfield and defence will have to be on its guard. Francisco Junior is due to return from injury and he is the natural option for holding midfield together with David Perkins.
The wins against Chesterfield and Scunthorpe have shown us what Caldwell’s new era team are potentially capable of. There have been moments to cherish. However, the players are still continuing to gel and mixed results are likely to come in over the coming weeks.
However, we have already seen enough to suggest that, in the long run, this “new era” team will prove to be a force to be reckoned with. Sharpe’s promise of a 20 goal striker might even come into fruition.