Taco Corner - Breaking Down The Latics Squad
Welcome to the first in a series, of what will hopefully be many articles from Vital Wigan member taco, the series is to be appropriately named, 'Taco Corner', without further ado:
Anyone who has been following the latest transfer news surrounding the club should be well aware of the Two New Players that Roberto Martinez has promised the club's fans in order to fill out the squad. The manager has also admitted that he does not know which two players these will be, but any devoted fan will know that there are really only two positions that need filling on the squad: central midfield, and goalkeeper.
Just kidding! But it brings on the interesting fact that any other position on the pitch could reasonably see a new face - even left back is looking a little thin after the dependable Maynor Figueroa. So to identify where this is most likely to happen, I've constructed a full breakdown of the squad, in order to attempt to isolate what areas need the most help ahead of the transfer deadline.
Hugo Rodallega, Franco Di Santo, Conor Sammon, Callum McManaman, Nouha Dicko
To all the fans clamoring for a 'proven premiership striker,' I would like to delicately offer that if Hugo Rodallega played for West Brom, we would many of you would be hoping he'd be our primary transfer target. As is, he's still under contract for one more year, and he remains a serious goal threat when played up front.
I'm aware that he can also play on the wing, but I'll be honest in saying I don't like him there as much as up top. I think his primary asset with regard to this team is that he is the only player with a true nose for goal. When he is fit enough to start, I want him playing off the last man, driving into the box, and always trying to score. Besides, I believe Moses will be claiming the left wing position as his own shortly anyway.
Franco Di Santo I like, his size and hold-up play are well suited for the lone striker position, and he has decent speed and good control, but too often he ends up acting as a sixth midfielder and doesn't look a threat to score. He did look pretty good against Norwich and could regain his goalscorer's instincts with a consistent run in the first team but it's hard to argue his case over Rodallega's at this moment in time.
Conor Sammon it`s hard not to like, an energetic guy who causes problems with his pace and directness. Despite a generally weak showing his getting onto Ben Watson's long ball ahead of the Norwich defender and keeper might have been the play of the game, had Moses been able to score the resulting empty netter. Unfortunately I think his touch lets him down sometimes, he has the touch and control of an MLS player (not a good thing) and is more suited to his role of the energetic, high work rate super-sub who can cause problems for tired defenders.
Callum McManaman could be really intriguing, but I think he'll appear more as a sub and on the wing. Another guy who can cause problems with his energy, but I think he needs to grow into his body a little more before you make him battle Premier League centre backs on his own. Besides, he's not displacing Rodallega, not yet anyway.
Nouha Dicko looks an excellent prospect, but that's all he is right now. Certainly behind McManaman in the pecking order who is still waiting for his chance.
Victor Moses, Jordi Gómez, Ronnie Stam, Rodallega, McManaman, Dicko
My, my, we are looking mighty thin at the winger position. Two of the three new entries to the list should really never be playing wing or outside mid and hopefully they will no longer have to. The third, Victor Moses, looks to have grabbed the position as his own and is is already doing his best Charles N'Zogbia impression, albeit with a slightly different style of play.
He was electric in the game against Norwich City, slicing in from either wing and jinking past defenders in twos and threes like nothing. I think he is better suited to the left, and his penetrating runs in the second half would have been more threatening coming onto his stronger right foot. In addition, his weaker left footed crossing would be offset by the presence of left back Maynor Figueroa, whose overlap play is excellent and who at the moment looks to be our best crosser of the ball.
This of course leaves an opening on the right side of the pitch, which appears to be largely unfillable by the current players in the squad. Jordi Gómez is suited to a more central position and tends to drift inside; he looked poor at the position against Norwich City and was substituted. Ronnie Stam is a full back by nature and is unlikely to feature on the wing. Rodallega, as mentioned before, is unlikely to play on the right, and his talents would at any rate be better used at striker.
McManaman is actually a really intriguing possibility here, but only because the squad is so thin. I imagine him as more of an impact sub, if anything. Dicko seems unlikely to feature.
James McCarthy, Ben Watson, Mohamed Diamé, David Jones, James McArthur, Hendry Thomas, Gómez
No need to discuss this in any detail, this is a squad's worth of centre mids. McCarthy, Watson, and Diamé are the top three with Jones and McArthur close behind. Thomas can fill in in a pinch and Gómez is not a first choice Premier League midfielder but I'll certainly give him 7th choice.
Even if we are forced to sell McCarthy this summer (highly unlikely, though the seeds are being planted), Dave Jones looks quality enough to take over his starting spot. We are solid here.
Maynor Figueroa, Steve Gohouri
Though he is prone to occasionally getting caught out defensively (it was down his sideline that the Norwich City goal was created, with Adrián López forced outside to cover the wing), Maynor Figueroa is a stalwart in this team and is under no threat of surrendering his position, not to anyone in or outside of the current squad. His runs down the left were excellent to watch - most notably the one with the 25 yard knock on a-la-Gareth Bale. His crossing was also superb and Franco Di Santo really should have converted his pinpoint cross into that all-important second goal. When he is not caught out on offense his defence is always on point and he may well have his spot locked down for years to come.
After Figs, however, we begin to look a little thin at the position. Steve Gohouri has filled in admirably in the past and is a capable number two, but we could use perhaps an extra body in the squad. I do not expect one of our two higher-profile signings to play here but perhaps a younger player to learn the trade and fill in in emergencies. Jessua Cruyff, a Barcelona youngster with a famous last name who we've been linked with, might be a possibility for this role.
Adrián López, Gary Caldwell, Antolín Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce, Gohouri
A perceived poor performance from starters López and Caldwell plagued the Wigan defence in the Norwich City game, but Roberto Martinez has a deep set of players to choose from at the position and any of the five players here is capable of starting in the Premier League. In addition, Martinez tends to favour acquiring his central defenders on frees (López, Alcaraz, Gohouri) or at value (Caldwell), so I doubt we'll see him splashing the cash on one anytime this window.
Caldwell plays a vital role as the captain and seems likely to keep his starting spot. Alcaraz is a good player and will likely assume the role next to Caldwell once he returns to fitness. Boyce is the first choice right back but he has proven himself over the years to be equally capable in the middle. Gohouri and López can also start. No holes here.
Emmerson Boyce, Ronnie Stam
Another position that looks set for the upcoming season. Boyce is not much of an attacker but as consistent as they come. Stam hasn't been favored by Martinez but is a good second choice. I'm not sure who the third right back is but I'm sure there are one or two in the squad should the need arise. López comes to mind as someone who may be able to deputize there if need be.
Ali Al-Habsi, Chris Kirkland, Mike Pollitt, Lee Nicholls
With the cash already splashed on Al-Habsi, no further improvement is needed here. Kirkland is injury-prone but a more than capable backup. Pollitt is good enough for 3rd. Nicholls is promising but has no reason to expect to play and will probably go out on loan.
So the question is... who do we sign?
Having analyzed the full squad, the obvious first answer is the wing. Moses could end up on either side but I anticipate him on the left, leaving the right side open. We could sign another lefty to cut inside like Charles N'Zogbia once did, but I envision a more traditional (and more common) right-footed winger, who can beat his man to put in a cross, and who will stretch the field further wide when we attack. Shawn Wright-Phillips, who we have been tentatively linked with, fits this mould, but there are a host of other capable players like this operating in and outside of the Premier League, and I wouldn't doubt it if manager Martinez had his eye on more than one of them.
The second player could go one of several ways - a big, powerful defender to anchor the middle, for example - but Martinez has shown us with his transfer bids so far that he favours a striker. Though he has signed various frontmen over the years, Martinez is still seeking that one prolific scorer to fire him on to success. In addition, there is no certainty at this point that Hugo Rodallega will not be sold, so the gaffer needs another player with a nose for goal in case he's forced to part with his best goalscorer. Given how light the team is on the wing, it would also make sense if this player can deputize on the wing as well as up front. Recent target Peter Odemwingie fits all these criteria, though it looks unlikely at this point that he will join the club.
To summarise, if the squad's needs and the past behaviour of the manager are any indication, the Wigan Athletic squad will be seeing a new winger and striker enter its ranks before too many more games are played. However, as these things tend to go, only the next couple weeks will tell us for sure.
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