Five pre-season matches have passed and Latics have failed to score a single goal, conceding four (two against both Manchester United and Liverpool). If it wasn’t for the heroics of Adam Bogdan – his first piece of action in a Wigan shirt being a penalty save last night at Macclesfield – we would have been looking at a 0-5 aggregate score. (Not the first time you will have seen ‘Wigan’ ‘0-5’ ‘Manchester United’ in the same paragraph).
Latics have not only been unable to score, but chances have also been few and far between. Rather than worrying us, it should be a reminder that we need to make room for several new additions to the first team before the season starts.
Our squad is roughly of the same ability as the one that ended last season as champions of arguably the worst League One – in terms of quality of teams – we have seen in years.
And whilst the third tier is now noted for its ‘poverty’, the Championship is anything but that. Teams in the second tier are now spending the sort of money that Premier League sides did only a few years ago. The stakes have increased with the new Premier League TV deal and thus Championship teams will fight tooth and nail to win promotion to the top flight. Just one season at the top is all they need to make years of big spending worthwhile.
Latics don’t have the luxury of being able to spend more money than average Championship clubs. Our matchday income in the 2014-15 Championship season was the lowest of any other team in the division and in the upcoming campaign revenue on matchdays is likely to trump only one team, Burton Albion.
We have gone from giants to underdogs in a matter of months; the gap between the two leagues is greater than ever before. Whatever money we do have available in Sharpe’s war chest [formerly Whelan’s war chest], in order for us to compete this season, it needs using.
Up front we look painfully thin, with the strength in depth of a single glazed window at our disposal. That is the most glaring observation from this month’s games. Once Will Grigg is taken out of the line-up and replaced with either Craig Davies or Sanmi Odelusi, one half of a fixture’s scoreline is already known. Both have been given chances and the result is what everyone already suspected; not only can’t either of them score, but neither can even compete with the attacking threat of Marcelo Moreno. Their appearance on the pitch is in spirit more than anything else.
The only squad member who has proven he can score goals up front in the Championship (or higher) is the same man whose poor relationship with Uwe Rosler meant we rocked up at QPR in the play-off second leg with Callum McManaman and James McClean as our strikers. Nick Powell scored 12 goals in 42 appearances in the 2013-14 season, so he was still hardly prolific.
We need two new strikers bringing in; that in itself is glaringly obvious. However, the only name being spoken about on the rumour mill is Ishmael Miller. If anyone wants to take a look at his goalscoring record then be my guest (hint: it’s very poor).
Looking further into the squad and you find a distinct lack of proper Championship experience in midland. The way our midfielders – with the notable exception of Alex Gilbey – have struggled to gain a foothold so far in these friendly matches should signal to Gary Caldwell that it may take the likes of Sam Morsy and Max Power some time getting to grips with playing against a higher class of opposition. In Power’s case, he was relegated from League Two with Tranmere Rovers last May and is now preparing for life in the Championship – that’s some step up!
It was reported today that Cameron Brannagan’s loan move from Liverpool to Wigan is off because Latics cannot guarantee the Manchester born youngster will play in 75% of our matches this season. As an attacking midfielder, his place in the starting 11 was surely compromised by the signing of Powell earlier this month.
Continuing to throw Tim Chow on at right back is now being done in vain rather than belief that Chow can become a successful full back. For a manager who thinks so highly of Tim – so much that he saved his career in April 2015 – to continue to hang the 22-year-old out to dry at right back is nothing but shabby. We can only hope that our primary right backs stay fit throughout the upcoming season, avoiding any threat of Chow playing in defence rather than in his natural midfield position.
Ryan Taylor (trialist) has looked average at right back: nothing more, nothing less. Good enough to earn him a contract if he still has the same set-piece taking ability as the last time he was at Wigan. Dan Burn is already dividing opinion as predicted (I’m unsure which side I agree with just yet) whilst Adam Bogdan’s start to his Latics career has been much more clear-cut after saving a penalty at Moss Road.
With Craig Davies having hobbled off with an injury at Chorley on Wednesday (surprise, surprise) and Will Grigg looking likely to again warrant international call-ups, as it stands we look set to see more of Odelusi this season – a man with an uncanny resemblance to Julius Aghahowa. But it’s still pre-season, thankfully, meaning there is plenty of time to change that.