Assessing The Newcomers - Wigan Athletic
Second in a series of articles by Vital Latics members, Jonathan Moffatt, aka J_Mo, looks back at last seasons incomings down at the DW Stadium and assesses their success or failings, over to you Jonathan:
Well now that the dust has settled, I felt this would be a good time to assess the transfers that Roberto Martinez has made over the last 12 months, as one of the big criticisms of Roberto from some quarters this season has been his supposedly poor record in the transfer window (centred mainly around Argentine flop Mauro Boselli). This was also debated during Martinez`s first season in charge, but it was more difficult to judge as various signings were being credited to the late John Benson.
Benson of course left the club last summer, leaving Martinez in full control of the club`s transfer policy and making him fully accountable for the successes (and failures) of the players signed by the club this season. The following is a list of all the players that have joined the club over the course of the last year, accompanied by a few of my brief thoughts about each of them.
Mauro Boselli: Might as well get this one out the way! Signed from Estudiantes for a fee in the region of £6 million, to say Boselli has been a let down would be an understatement. Scored five goals in pre-season, but could only manage one goal in all competitions before quickly being shipped out to Genoa on loan in January. His goal scoring record at past clubs is unquestionable, but can he adapt to the Premier League, or more importantly, can we afford to find out? If Genoa`s reported £3 million offer is true, Martinez has a tough decision to make. Boselli may still come good, but this may also be the only chance we get to significantly cut our losses if he doesn`t.
Antolin Alcaraz: The club secured this signing before the World Cup, and it was a good job they did! Alcaraz starred in the heart of the defence for Paraguay in South Africa last summer, and proved he could do the same here in the Premier League. He`s shown himself not only to be solid defensively, but is also very composed and assured on the ball as well. Doesn`t always get the recognition he deserves, so I was quite pleased to see him win the Player`s Player of the Year award earlier this month. A massive improvement on the outgoing Titus Bramble, and definitely the best of our permanent signings this season.
James McArthur: The ex-Hamilton Academicals man joined us for a fee of £400,000 and for several years was part of a formidable midfield partnership at his former club with James McCarthy, who of course had signed for Wigan two seasons ago. Sadly we rarely got to see both of them on the same pitch, as most of McArthur`s game time came during McCarthy`s injury period. I was a bit sceptical about this signing, as I had my doubts whether McArthur was good enough for the Premier League, but to be fair he didn`t do too much wrong when given the opportunity. Hopefully there`s more to come from him next season.
Ronnie Stam: Signed from FC Twente for £2 million, Stam was initially seen as the ideal replacement for Mario Melchiot. However, a few shaky performances at the right back, as well as the excellent form of Emmerson Boyce, saw him often used in a more advanced role on the wing. He was a virtual ever present in the first half of the season, but then disappeared in the run in. Not quite been the hit we`d hoped just yet, but his versatility has proved useful as a squad player this season.
Steven Caldwell: Even on a free transfer, I think more than a few eyebrows were raised when we signed Gary`s brother Steven last summer. He`s played for several clubs at Premier League level, but he`s never really excelled anywhere. He formed a solid partnership with Alcaraz early in the season though to shore things up at the back after our humiliating defeats in August. He featured less once his younger brother Gary returned from injury, but overall, he did a decent job for us as a backup. Having said that, I don`t think we`ll renew his contract, as he now seems to have fallen behind Adrián López in the pecking order.
Franco Di Santo: Signed on deadline day, Di Santo impressed at the start of the season with his high work rate, and was playing a key role to the build up in several of our goals. He couldn`t get that first goal for himself though, which clearly affected his confidence and his performances started to dip. He puts in a shift on the pitch, and is still young and can improve, but his goal scoring record (just one goal in 25 league games at Wigan) does not make for good reading.
Adrián López: It`s difficult to judge the signing of Adrián López. We attempted to sign him last summer, but a contract dispute with his former club Deportivo prevented us from doing so until Fifa gave us the green light to sign him in January. Unfortunately, his lack of match fitness has meant he`s barely featured. However, from what little we`ve seen of him, he definitely looks like he`s good enough for the Premier League, and he gave an excellent performance away at Manchester City before running out of steam in the second half. I`d like to see him sign a new deal with the club, as I think he has a good chance of breaking into the first team.
Conor Sammon: Signed at the deadline of the January transfer window. The former Kilmarnock striker has become an instant hit with the fans. Had to be patient before he was given the chance to shine in the run in. From what we`ve seen so far, he clearly has parts of his game he can work on, but you could argue every penny of his £600,000 transfer fee has been worth it after he scored that crucial equaliser against West Ham. I`m sure you`re all looking forward to seeing the impact he can make next season as much as I am.
Ali Al-Habsi: Come on, you don`t need me to tell you what an amazing season this guy has had! Replaced Kirkland between the sticks early in the season and never looked like losing his place. He was almost faultless all season, and as a result won the Player of the Year award by a landslide. Bolton`s asking price may yet be a stumbling block, but there`s no doubt that Martinez will make the permanent signing of Ali a top priority.
Tom Cleverley: His impact on the side was somewhat limited due to a couple of injuries he suffered during the season, and the fact that his loan deal did not allow him to play for us in the cups, but when he did play he always posed a threat, and chipped in with a few important goals just before Christmas. He faded a little towards the end of the season, but overall I would say he`s been a very useful loan signing for us. We`d love to have you back if things don`t work out at Man United for you, Tom.
So a bit of a mixed bag, as you would expect. The cynics amongst you will probably argue that our more expensive signings (Boselli, Stam, and Di Santo) have all flopped to varying extents, but I think we have to accept that realistically every manager makes mistakes in the transfer market (Bebe for £7m, anyone?), and it`s a case of whether they hit more than they miss.
In this case I think Martinez has had a good season in the transfer market. Alcaraz is probably the best defender we have at the club, the likes of McArthur and Sammon have added much needed depth and competition to the squad, and I doubt you`ll find any other side in the Premier League this season whose loan signings have made such a great impact. Additionally, I don`t think any of Roberto signings have been completely disastrous. As I`ve already pointed out Stam has been a useful member of the first-team, and Di Santo, although a disappointment, has still grafted and made a contribution when he does play. Even Boselli, despite struggling over here, managed to make a name for himself in Italy, so he obviously has something about him. Compare this to Steve Bruce, who managed to sign dead-weights such as Marlon King, Daniel De Ridder and Olivier Kapo (at great expense to the club) all in the space of six months.
Not all of you will share my opinion, but I`m sure we can all appreciate that the additions to the squad over the past two seasons has built up into a solid core of young players that has finally started to show some great promise, and we are now at the point where keeping our existing players is just as important as signing new ones.
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