Wigan Athletic looked a different team on Saturday when they beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in what was a defensively solid performance. The Latics came back from a losing position, for the third time this season, this time winning. They rescued a point apiece in the 2-2 home draws against Doncaster and Middlesbrough, with both performances showing an alarming lack of creativity. The win against an unbeaten Forest side was worthy of a clean sheet only to be undone by a fantastic Andy Reid free-kick. He scored in the opening 10 minutes to put Forest in front, but first half goals from Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez secured all 3 points for Wigan. The game saw no less than 5 changes to the starting team. Jordi Gomez had impressed when coming on from the bench in the 2-2 draws, showcasing his playmaking abilities, whilst Roger Espinoza gave the central midfield trio some well needed energy and tenacity in place of the lacklustre McCann. Coyle looks set to make no changes to the back four that started against Forest, where Jean Beausejour replaced Stephen Crainey at left-back and Thomas Rogne, returning from injury, replaced James Perch at centre-back. Wigan looked solid in defence as Beausejour’s passing was a lot more accurate than Crainey’s, allowing Wigan to keep the ball better, and Rogne’s aerial dominance and overall strength helped Wigan look a lot more assured as compared to playing with lightweight Perch.
Do Wigan need to make additions?
Defence: The Latics have a host of centre-backs to choose from in the form of Leon Barnett, Thomas Rogne, James Perch, Ivan Ramis and Gary Caldwell. Only four centre-backs are needed to provide depth in the squad, so Wigan could do with offloading one. However, Caldwell and Ramis are out for long periods through injury, so Wigan are unlikely to sell. By the time January comes and (hopefully) all 5 centre-backs are fit, I think Caldwell will leave the club as he is too slow, too old and makes too many mistakes. Stephen Crainey has put in a string of poor performances since joining from Blackpool in the summer, but Jean Beausejour, who replaced Crainey in the last match, looks quality in the left-back role. Honduran left-back Juan Carlos Garcia is yet to make a first-team appearance and could impress if given a chance in the cup. Emmerson Boyce, the club captain, is currently the only natural right-back in the side. Despite being tagged as ‘Mr. Consistent’, he is ageing and has lost any pace he used to have. He had a poor pass accuracy rating last season and sometimes loses the ball in dangerous positions, only showing glimpses of quality going forward. He is strong in the air and is good defensively, but his lack of pace will delight opposition wingers. Wigan need to bring in a right-back, and would welcome the loan signing of Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom.
Midfield: Prior to the Forest match, have been crying out for some creativity in midfield. Gomez has been a revelation since coming back into the side, whilst Espinoza and McArthur are capable of playing in defensive roles, and McCarthy is the box-to-box player. With Ben Watson and Chris McCann also available, Wigan are fine for numbers in the midfield area. However, it is increasingly likely that McCarthy will leave the DW Stadium after being a key player for 3 seasons, meaning that a box-to-box player is needed. Espinoza and McArthur are capable of playing in this role too, but will have to step up their level of performances. Wigan would benefit from the rumoured loan signing of Nick Powell from Manchester United.
Attack: Marc-Antoine Fortune has been great for Wigan since signing from West Brom this summer. His physical presence, hold up play, off-the-ball runs and powerful shooting has been very pleasing for a number of weeks. He was handed his first league start against Forest, assisting both of Wigan’s goals. Grant Holt has scored 2 league goals for Wigan since joining from Norwich but his general play has been disappointing. Although both strikers can hold the ball up well, which suits Wigan’s system which utilises onrushing midfielders, Wigan are in dire need of an injection of pace up front. Wigan are not short of wingers, with Callum McManaman, Jean Beausejour, Shaun Maloney, James McClean and Nouha Dicko all capable of playing there. McManaman looks set to stay, so a replacement is not needed.
Wigan laughed off a Crystal Palace bid for 22 year-old Callum McManaman late last night, Latics chairman Dave Whelan describing the attempt to sign the young winger as “insulting“. Newly-promoted Palace secured a 3-1 win over Sunderland at Selhurst Park on the weekend, but are still looking to fill the void left by the departure of Wilfried Zaha. It is unclear whether Palace look set to increase their bid or if they will look to other targets, but Wigan will desperately want to keep the English starlet to boost promotion hopes. McManaman had been the subject of interest from Everton and Liverpool earlier in the summer but speculation gradually died down.
Speaking of Everton, the Merseyside club had a bid rejected for midfielder James McCarthy last night. Wigan reportedly want in excess of £14 million for the 22 year-old Irish international. Roberto Martinez, who left Wigan for Everton in the summer, has already signed three players who featured for last season’s FA Cup winning Wigan team. Striker Arouna Kone was bought for a reported £6 million fee, whilst defender Antolin Alcaraz signed on a free transfer and goalkeeper Joel Robles, who was on loan at Wigan, signed from Atletico Madrid.
A Premier League return for James McCarthy is tempting, and if Everton match his valuation, Wigan will allow the player to have talks with his former boss. One question is where would McCarthy fit in at Everton? Martinez lines Everton up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, changing from his usual 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 variants at Wigan. The Toffees already boast a strong midfield; exciting prospect Ross Barkley plays at the top of the midfield triangle, whilst Leon Osman and Marouane Fellaini play behind him. McCarthy would more than likely replace Leon Osman, who is arguably the weakest in the midfield three. However, McCarthy’s move could trigger Fellaini’s departure to Manchester United, so he could replace the big Belgian, a task that wouldn’t be easy.
It is likely that if McCarthy makes the switch to Everton, Fellaini will be on his way out, which could also trigger a loan move for Nick Powell to Wigan. It is well documented that Everton aren’t the richest of clubs and more often than not need to sell in order to buy. The question on everybody’s lips, though, is if McCarthy is worth £14 million. Currently, no. Potentially, yes. McCarthy’s work rate is unquestionable, covering the most distance of any Wigan player this season. He is an accomplished passer of the ball and has a surprisingly quick burst of pace in his locker. He can both defend and attack, not being afraid to get stuck into challenges. This is all well and good, but does it merit such a large price tag? He lacks the physical presence Fellaini brings to Everton and this would be sorely missed. In his 127 starts in 4 and-a-bit seasons for Wigan he has scored 8 goals and has only assisted 7 times. This is a poor record for a central midfielder, only assisting 2 goals last season. Despite this, he would be around higher quality players at Everton, so potentially he could improve this record. He is a player who can make the quick transition from defence into attack and would be able to leave the goal-scoring and assisting duties to players such as Mirallas, Deulofeu, Jelavic and Barkley.
Manchester United’s young midfielder, who signed from Crewe Alexandra in 2012, has represented England from U16 level through to the U21s. He scored against Wigan on his Old Trafford debut in a 4-0 defeat in the league last season. Powell’s best performances come when he is playing in an advanced midfield position when given a free role. He could provide great levels of creativity with his excellent vision and passing ability. Speculation is rife that he is set to join Wigan on a season-long loan.
The 20 year-old Liverpool defender has been linked with a loan move to Wigan for the majority of the summer. He is just what Wigan need at right-back, to provide depth and pace. Like Powell, he has represented England from U16 level through to the U21s. He has made just 13 appearances for Liverpool’s first team, and would benefit from the experience of regularly playing in The Championship. However, the reported move could break down due to Glen Johnson picking up an injury in the 1-0 win over Manchester United yesterday.
Rhodes is the name every Wigan fan is talking about as the transfer window comes to a close. The 23 year-old Blackburn striker has scored 31 goals in 48 appearances for them since joining in 2012. This is a great record considering Blackburn haven’t got standout quality to provide him with chances. Before joining Blackburn, he scored 73 goals in 124 appearances for Huddersfield. He is quite pacey and has a real eye for goal, just what Wigan require. Blackburn rejected a club record bid of £6 million plus add-ons for the Scotland international this morning, which is strange considering he cost Blackburn £8 million last year, so Wigan will need to either increase their offer or look to other options.