Wigan Athletic Sensible Transfers – Central Midfield

It’s the 5th edition of my sensible transfers series and I’m moving away from the Latics defence to focus on our current midfield situation. Its an area of the pitch that we have a good number of quality players in but they all pretty much do the same job.

Tom Naylor, Jordan Cousins and Graeme Shinnie are all what you’d class as ‘Ball Winning Midfielders’ who are excellent at screening our defence but don’t offer an awful lot going forward. They’re good enough on the ball to get by in League 1 but might need to be paired with a better ball player next season.

Max Power played a lot of games in midfield last season and is the closest we have to a creative number 8, but the majority of his creativity comes from dead ball situations. He also fills in at Right Back when needed which means he can’t be relied on as our only deep playmaker although ideally we’ll bring in another player to prevent Power from having to play in defence next season.

Players like Jamie McGrath and Thelo Aasgaard are both playmaking midfielders but prefer to play higher up the pitch as a number 10. They’ve also both struggled for consistent first team football so we don’t know if we can totally rely on them to be the sides’ prime creative outlet. This means we need to bring in a creative number 8 this summer.

A player I’ve not yet mentioned is Tom Bayliss who spent the season on loan at Latics from Preston but struggled to get into the side. He’s been made available for transfer by Ryan Lowe and despite his lack of game time last season bringing the 23 year old back could be an option.

As the graphic shows Bayliss isn’t too far off Power in terms of creativity and is a much more competent dribbler. He wouldn’t be a bad option but I won’t include him in the full list.

Target 1 – Panutche Camara. Plymouth Argyle.

The first name on my list is a player that has already been linked with Latics this summer, albeit we’re not the only club rumoured to have an interest. I’m of course talking about Plymouth Argyle’s star midfielder Panutche Camara.

The 25 year old Bissau-Guinean has expressed his desire to leave Argyle and with one year left on his contract he’s been made available for transfer by the club. They will only sell to Championship clubs so now is our time to swoop.

Last season Camara was the talisman in a Plymouth side that overachieved massively and his performances were a big reason for their success. He’s spent the majority of the season playing on the right of a midfield 3 in Argyle’s 5-3-2 system, and for those with experience of playing Football Manager you could describe him as a ‘Mezzala’

A brief summary of Camara’s role in Plymouth’s side.

This kind of player is something we don’t currently have which makes Camara even more appealing. His ball carrying skills are wonderful and he averaged 1.65 completed dribbles per 90 last season at a success rate of 59%, far higher than any of the current Latics midfielders. Having a midfielder capable of breaking defensive lines with his running is vital for a counter attacking side which is what I expect us to be a lot of the time next season.

He’s also an accomplished passer and registered 82% pass completion for Argyle last season as well as an average of 1.56 key passes and 0.17 assists per 90. Both of these put him in the top 20% for League 1 midfielders, as does his 1.8 shots per 90 which further highlights the attacking threat he’d add to our side.

Another really impressive thing with Camara is his defensive work too which will be extremely important in the Championship next season. He averaged 1.65 tackles won per 90 at a success rate of 69% last season in that inside right midfield position as well as 0.71 interceptions per 90 so the defensive side of his game isn’t a worry.

Camara would be the perfect addition to Latics midfield and definitely improves our first team. Alongside Naylor and Power he’d be given licence to push forward and show off his excellent attacking qualities whilst also being able to chip in defensively to a good standard. Another useful thing about him is that he wins 1.45 free kicks per 90 which we know Latics can be dangerous from.

Plymouth have made him available and with a year left on his deal the fee shouldn’t be too big. He’s a good age, a great player and adds a completely different dynamic to the Latics midfield. We’ll have competition but we should definitely do our upmost to secure the signing of Panutche Camara.

Target 2 – Lewis Fiorini. Manchester City.

When Manchester City loaned 19 year old midfielder Lewis Fiorini to Lincoln City last summer they might not have expected him to make as much of an impression as he did at Sincil Bank.

The Scotland Under 21 international has had a really impressive year in the Lincoln midfield and has probably outgrown League 1 now. When he returns to City you’d imagine they’ll look to loan him out to a Championship side and maybe Latics could be the one.

Fiorini is another ‘number 8’ that adds an attacking threat to the midfield and could probably operate as a more traditional number 10. However, the way we use our number 10s as essentially an extra striker means that if we were to sign Fiorini he’d be used in a deeper role which he’s something he’s definitely capable of.

For most of the season at Lincoln he was used on the left of a midfield 3 in a 4-3-3 system, but occasionally played as a wide attacker on either side. This versatility means he’d be a useful pick up for squad depth, but also means the soon to be 20 year old midfielder will be comfortable in our 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 systems.

He doesn’t have a stand out strength but is really solid across all areas. Defensively he averaged 0.94 tackles won and 1.12 interceptions per 90 which demonstrates good awareness and positioning for a youngster. Another trait that Latics fans will enjoy is the youthful fearlessness and aggression that Fiorini has which will serve him well as he rises up the divisions.

In possession Fiorini is a handy player, as you’d expect for a player on the books at Manchester City. He wasn’t really given the chance to show his full repertoire of skills in this department whilst playing in a struggling Lincoln side but he still managed to average 1.21 key passes and 0.12 assists per 90 which is pretty decent.

He’s a high volume shooter which can sometimes lead to him making poor decisions in front of goal. His 2.58 shots per 90 is one of the highest for midfielders in League 1 but with just over 30% of those shots hitting the target it might be a part of his game that needs altering. That being said it’s good to see a confidence in his game despite his young age.

It would almost certainly have to be a loan move to bring Lewis Fiorini to the club but that could certainly be a sensible move. He wouldn’t command first team football but would be of use to our squad and adds something new to our midfield. It would also be good to build a positive relationship with Man City that could see us trusted with more talented loans in the future.

Target 3 – Tom Lowery. Crewe.

It might be pretty tough for Crewe fans to find anything positive to say about last season, but I’m certain if they had to pick one thing it would be the performances of 24 year old academy graduate Tom Lowery.

Considering he spent the season playing in one of the worst teams League 1 has ever seen Lowery stood out as a player capable of playing at a far higher level and considering he turned down a new deal at Crewe it looks like he’ll be doing so.

He’s only 5’6 which might be slightly off putting for Latics as it seems like we favour a tall midfielder, but he’s by no means a weak player. He’s an energetic and tenacious midfielder that gets around the pitch well and is always looking to get on the ball and progress it forward with passes and runs.

Defensively as I’ve said he’s a hard working player who shows tenacity and grit whenever he plays. It’s often easy for a shorter player to shirk challenges but that’s not the case with Lowery and he won 1.15 tackles per 90 at a success rate of 60% last season. With 1.06 interceptions per 90 as well he definitely offers some solidity in the middle of the park.

Lowery is also tidy in possession and averaged 38.6 completed passes per 90 last season and a completion of 78%. He’s a creative midfielder too who averaged 1.51 key passes and 0.1 assists per 90 last season, and again its worth noting that he’s putting up these numbers in a team that to put it nicely were rubbish.

It isn’t just his passing that offers good progression for the side, Lowery’s dribbling ability is also really impressive. He averages 1.09 dribbles completed per 90 at a success rate of 72% which are really good numbers and like I mentioned with Camara is something we don’t have much of with our current midfield options.

He possesses decent shooting ability and has a really nice ball striking technique that means almost half of his shots hit the target. Latics deeper lying midfielders don’t often find themselves with shooting opportunities so having a player that hits the target regularly when he does get the chance could be useful. His quick feet and ball skills could afford him more shooting opportunities too.

Following his release from Crewe, Tom Lowery is free to move on from his boyhood club. His skillset would improve the majority of Championship midfield units and as a rotational option that offers things we currently don’t have I really think signing Lowery would be a sensible transfer.

Target 4 – Anthony Hartigan. AFC Wimbledon.

Another central midfielder that impressed despite playing in a poor side relegated from League 1 is AFC Wimbledon’s Anthony Hartigan, who like Lowery has been a one club man in his short career.

It looks like Hartigan will be moving on this summer and the 22 year old has already been linked with moves to the Championship and top end of League 1. He definitely has the ability to play at that level.

Hartigan is what you’d probably describe as a ‘Box to Box Midfielder’ who is capable of doing all parts of the game to a solid level. He doesn’t really stand out at anything in particular apart from his set piece delivery which is really good. He averages 1.99 key passes and 0.18 assists per 90 and the majority of those have come from dead ball situations similarly to Max Power.

Defensively he’s pretty reliable and certainly wouldn’t weaken what we have at the moment. At 5’10 he’s a decent physical presence and puts himself about a bit although he’s not as tough tackling as the players we currently have. That being said the 22 year old averaged 1.14 tackles won per 90 last season which is higher than Max Power, although his success rate of 52% isn’t great.

As I’ve mentioned the majority of his creativity comes from set piece situations but he is also tidy in open play possession. Hartigan averaged 40 completed passes per 90 and an accuracy of 76% which are really quite high, especially for a player playing in a poor side. He’s a reliable option and would definitely keep things ticking over in our midfield.

He’s not the most mobile of midfielders and doesn’t tend to attempt any dribbles. With 0.14 dribbles completed and a success rate of 29% it’s fair to say we shouldn’t expect much dynamic running from the 22 year old should he join. Considering that’s the main thing our midfield is lacking it could make Hartigan a slightly less attractive signing.

It looks as though Anthony Hartigan will be leaving the Wombles this summer and he’s already been linked with moves elsewhere by various news outlets. He could be available on a free transfer but if AFC Wimbledon activate an extension clause in his contract he’d probably cost a relatively small fee.

Hartigan’s not exactly what we need and there are more suitable players on this list in my opinion, but if Latics are looking for a steady midfielder in a similar mould to Max Power he could be our man. He’s got great set piece delivery and has a good all round skill set so would certainly be a solid option.

Target 5 – Archie Collins. Exeter City.

Exeter City’s promotion from League 2 was built on the success of their academy. In my article covering Left Centre Backs I spoke about Alex Hartridge who has performed well for the Grecians this season, and Archie Collins has been equally impressive.

The 22 year old has been the heartbeat of Exeter’s midfield this season and looks ready to make the step up to League 1 at the very least. However, I think he’d be an excellent addition to Latics’ midfield in the Championship.

He’s an energetic young midfielder who loves to get forward and dictate play in the opposition half. Last season he averaged 38 completed passes per 90 and a passing accuracy of 77% which shows what a wonderful playmaker he is. He’s comfortable with both feet which makes him more press resistant than most players of a similar age, that’ll be really handy in the Championship.

He spent the season alongside Timothee Dieng who is a similar type of midfielder to Tom Naylor. Despite being partnered with a tall ball winning midfielder Collins still gets involved with the defensive side of the game and registered 0.92 tackles won and 1.24 interceptions per 90 in League 2 last season.

Exeter played a 3-4-1-2 for the majority of the season which means Collins would find the transition to Latics slightly easier, assuming we continue with that system next season. He’d be well suited to playing in a midfield 2 as well and could be the most advanced midfielder capable of supporting the front 2.

He averaged 1.65 key passes and 0.16 assists per 90 last season, all of which came from open play unlike Max Power so he’d add some much needed creativity to the side. He doesn’t dribble often, just 0.43 per 90 but at a success rate of 70% Collins is good confident when the opportunity arises.

He needs to add goals to his game but that’s not a huge issue as our midfielders don’t get many shooting opportunities anyway. What he would add to Latics side is energy, technical ability and dynamism and although he’s untested at a level above League 2 I still think he’d be a really smart pick up for Latics this summer.

I’m not sure Exeter will be too keen to lose Collins but his contract is up in 2023 so they might be tempted to cash in to avoid losing him on a free. Unless the Grecians secure themselves in League 1 next season I can’t see Collins staying so maybe this is a signing to hold off on just for now.

Target 6 – Dylan Levitt. Manchester United.

The final name on my list is a lad that has really made a name for himself in the Scottish Premiership this season on loan at Dundee United from Manchester United, 21 year old Dylan Levitt.

He’s been a star for The Tangerines and their supporters seem desperate to bring him back after he won the Fans Player of the Year Award at the clubs recent awards dinner, but he could have offers from elsewhere this summer.

He’d make a wonderful signing for Latics because he offers something in all areas of the pitch. Last season he played mostly as the right side of a double pivot, but also spent a lot of time at the heart of a 3 man midfield. In both roles he was tasked with dictating the tempo, screening the defence behind him and occasionally striding forward to support the attack.

This requires Levitt to have a complete skillset and I’d say he does for a player of just 21. His tackling wasn’t the best last season, 0.63 won at a success rate of 40%, but he’s probably say he’s better than those stats suggest. He makes some wonderful recovery tackles and his 1.31 interceptions are some of the best in the league.

Defensively he’s solid and in possession he’s a really reliable player too. Levitt averaged 41.9 completed passes per 90 and an average completion of 80% in the Dundee United midfield last season. As I mentioned he was the main playmaker in the side which is a lot of responsibility for a young loan player but he took it all in his stride and really impressed.

He’s comfortable receiving the ball in tight spaces and demonstrated a lot of composure to take his markers on when closed down. The 21 year old has really good balance and agility which allowed him to complete 71% of his dribbles last season and he’d definitely add the dynamic running to our midfield should we bring him in.

His end product is decent too, he averaged 1.46 key passes per 90 last season which came from both open play and from corners that he was trusted to take for his side. He’s not the most accomplished shooter but has a wonderful technique when striking the ball and his 0.19 goals per 90 is actually quite impressive for a deep midfielder.

Manchester United are yet to decide if they’ll extend his contract and if they don’t Levitt will be free to move on this summer. You’d imagine Dundee United will be keen to bring him back but the lure of Championship football and the fact he wouldn’t have to move away from home could swing things in Latics’ favour should we want to bring him in.

Final Thoughts

Wigan Athletic are already blessed with a good amount of Championship quality midfielders but they all pretty much do the same job. The players on this list offer us far more going forward than the players we currently have and are still accomplished enough in defence to ensure we remain solid.

They could all play alongside Naylor/Cousins/Shinnie/Power and play as the more advanced midfielder, and the ones available permanently offer a long term fix to the position. They might not have the Championship experience some fans would like to see but alongside our other experienced midfielders this shouldn’t be an issue.

Most importantly what do you think? Let me know your thoughts on which of these players you think would be the most sensible transfer, and if you have any other players you’d like us to sign let me know on my Twitter below.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you’ll be back soon!

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