Is our squad good enough for League One yet?

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Sadly, my attempts to impart 1,500 words of wisdom around the aesthetic health of the Wigan Athletic squad last week was drowned out by the noise of the club releasing its retained list at the exact moment I pressed publish so no doubt this time when I hit the button 185 players will come sauntering through the revolving doors at the DW Stadium wearing massive headphones and chewing gum to drown out my musings.

Anyway, traditionally long winded opening sentence over with, where were we up to? Ah, the midfield. The performance of the midfield last season can be categorised into roughly two sections: The James McArthur era and the post-James McArthur era. Never has the removal of one player created such a void of nothingness since the day that James McArthur pulled a fast one on Leicester and headed for the Palace.

All the negative focus on last year’s demise seems to be the money Rosler spent and the subsequent axe taken to the team by Mackay. Yet regardless of the managerial changes, if there was one point where we went into a perpetual decline as a football club it was when we took the money for McArthur and left a gaping James McArthur sized hole in the midfield. Not that we had much choice.

Enough of the McArthur man love for now, it’s safe to say that if we are in the middle of any kind of squad rebuild, we desperately need a leader in the centre of the park. Think Graham Kavanagh in his pomp, Graham Barrow or another bloke called Graham. Suffice to say, you know where you are with a Graham in midfield.

We do not have the luxury of a Graham right now. We had a William, a Danish international captain no less but he seemed about as vocal as a French mime street artist. A quiet enforcer can sometimes do the grunt needed if everyone else is pulling their weight, but based on last season, the whole team needed a firm boot up the backside in most games which Kvist simply didn’t impose himself on enough to do.

Chris McCann also appeared to be sticking out a bottom lip somewhat following his return from injury which possibly hampered his hopes of a quick exit. However, if there is a slim chance his mindset can be adjusted there is no doubt that he could be a star man under Caldwell and run the show if he can somehow lower himself enough to play in League One.

He was great under Coyle, Rosler was denied of him for most of his tenure and by the time he returned and Mackay was in charge he hardly seemed enamoured to either the team or the manager. His two lengthy injury spells at Burnley then Wigan may make other clubs reticent to take him on and I would hope if that be the case he would knuckle down to the job of getting a full season under his belt (and a dozen or so goals as a more than capable attacking midfielder)

Had I written this two weeks ago I probably would have written something similar about Kim Bo Kyung: worth a contract but would he stay on. He would also probably be a star player at League One level but I’m not convinced about the goals element of his game. A great talent but perhaps a bit too superfluous at times and flattered to deceive. But anyway, he’s gone. Similarly, I’d disregard winger cum forward cum headless chicken cum non poppy wearer James McClean both because he seems to have more or less said he’s leaving plus it’s kind of a tradition by now to flog our player of the season anyway.

All has gone quiet on the Jermaine Pennant front which suspects he’s been the recipient of a “Boycey contract”, a term which over time will come to mean “a hollow gesture made by a club to show they’ve done their bit and offered the sort of contract nobody outside of a Siberian salt mine would accept” (“and if you shovel TWO TONS of salt today, you can have an extra potato Emmerson!”)

I jest of course but back to Pennant and I don’t mind if he stays or goes, though I suspect given he’s not signed this supposed contract, it’s probably lining his cat litter tray by now.

I think he’s been superb to have around (in contrast to his reputation) and takes a mean set piece and even though his pace and trickery has gone, he could even morph into a central midfielder a la Giggs as he matures into his thirties. But probably not here at the price he wants. And while everyone was fawning over him on Twitter because he was saying dead nice things about wanting to stay, I was fuming at my phone “OF COURSE HE’LL SAY THAT, HE’S ON THE DOLE ON MONDAY!!”

Have we got any more midfielders? Emyr Huws – a player we have seen too little of to form a conclusive opinion. We believe he’s quality but how will he shape up after returning from injury? Will we flog him if a decent offer comes in? Again, like McCann, footballing myopia means his injury might prevent his sale but a good start to the season and come 31st August, his funny oompah lumpah type face might be appearing on Sky Sports within another club’s shirt.

Tim Chow is another young prospect as yet unproven although ideally there will be no vultures circling around him as he’s only played three games so far, he would strike me from his foetal appearances as a similar player to Huws so if we get a speculative offer in for Huws then we will inevitably plonk Tim in his place and bank the money.

Oh, forgive me – I forgot all about Don Cowie, an easy thing to do unless you happen to be a manager of Wigan Athletic. There’s nothing I’d like better to be contrary and have a big argument over THE DON. I’ve been backing players other fans have rounded on for as long as I can remember from Paul Cook to Paul Rogers to Michael O’Neill to Damien Francis to Jordi Gomez. Because sometimes you have to try harder and see that some players just do the simple things well without gooning around the pitch like a Bullard or a Scharner getting noticed. Sadly, I’m not about to embark on a case for the defence here, Don Brennan would have more impact than Don Cowie, even after his leg got lopped off. Nevertheless I suspect we’re stuck with THE DON for another year so he slips into the squad relatively un-noticed, much like when he’s on the pitch.

So how far off are we? Using our tried and trusted ratio, what do we need? Say three defensive midfielders, three more attacking midfielders and two for each flank? Since I last blogged we can add David Perkins to the list, a less than inspiring signing if the sniggers coming from the Fylde Coast are anything to go by but as back up he may become useful.

One other name we can throw into the mix is young Jordan Flores, which I’m sure those of us who know the Flores family, will be absolutely delighted with. Plus for the sake of squad fattening and because he looked dead good in pre season, I’d say Ryan Jennings has a chance of making the squad too. Those two youngsters and the b**tard son of Alan McLoughlin aside, we look desperately short in wide midfield areas so it’s been no wonder we have been linked (unsuccessfully) with quite a few wingers recently.

So I would suspect an injection of pace on both wings is desperately needed since we never replaced McManaman, plus James McClean will be off before he can sing the first line of “The town I know so well”.

For me, we need: a proper midfield general (James McArthur on loan?) maybe even two. In terms of creative midfielders we seem to be covered so long as Chow / Huws / McCann don’t all jump ship and out wide we have the rookies Flores and Jennings and the elusive Don Cowie.

So with that in mind let’s have a look at our squad…..

GK O’Donnell
GK Nicholls
GK Evans

RB Perch / AN Other
RB The invisible man (Taylor-Sinclair)
FB Taylor / AN Other
FB AN Other

CB Pearce
CB Barnett
CB Kiernan / AN Other
CB Boyce / AN Other
CB AN Other
CB AN Other

DM Perkins
DM AN Other
DM If not James McArthur then somebody who bears a passing resemblance to James McArthur  i.e AN Other
CM Huws
CM Chow
CM McCann
WM The invisible man (2) / Cowie
WM Flores
WM Jennings / AN Other
WM AN other

So when David Sharpe talked about signing 15 players over the summer, I’m up to 14 without even looking at the front line (including the 2 we’ve signed)

And on the subject of the two we’ve signed, whereas Perkins might be a touch underwhelming, the O’Donnell signing is exactly what we need, building from the back by putting key personnel in there whilst looking out for cheap back up options. This might be how it goes all summer and I’m kind of happy with it.

We’re not going to be able to afford to buy the fifteen best players in the division. However, if we can assemble a good backbone of half a dozen: a good ‘keeper, decent centre half, midfield general plus an attacking midfielder/second forward and please, please, pretty please – a GOAL SCORER. Bolster it further with capable if not spectacular players then maybe that spine can drag the rest of the squad up by it’s bootstraps and get this football team winning matches again….a lot to do and a long way to go but we will see!

Next time: Forwards

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