Wigan Athletic Sensible Transfers – January Transfer Window Introduction

6 months ago I released a series of Sensible Transfers articles where I outlined key areas of the Latics squad that I felt required improvement. It was really well received by hundreds of you, and a huge thank you goes to everyone that read the articles, so with the January window fast approaching it felt right to do the same again!

This time around though I’m changing things up a little. Why only listen to me when you can hear from other Latics fans about what they’d like to see happen this January! I’ve called in the help of a few Tics who will all be sharing their thoughts on the current squad, the club’s recruitment policy, what kind of budget we’ll have to play with and most importantly a few players they’d like to see in the famous Blue and White!

Before that though allow me to remind you all of the concept of this sensible transfers series.

Sensible Transfers Explained

First things first these articles are nothing more than my own suggestions. I’m not saying Latics have to sign these players, I’m not saying if we don’t sign them that we’re doing things wrong and I’m certainly not suggesting that I know better than the club’s recruitment team. So yeah, I know I’m not an expert, simply opinionated!

A strong opinion I have, and I know for a fact its not one shared by a lot of people, is the profile of player we should be signing. Here is a look at the current Latics squad, their ages and the amount of minutes they’ve played this season in all competitions.

Concept inspired by @ForseeaBall

As the graph shows the majority of our squad is on the older side with not much game time being given to the younger players. For me this is a key thing that needs looking at. We have enough experienced professionals and I feel like all that’s missing is a few young, hungry players to come in and fight for their spot in the first team.

We have the oldest squad in the division by a considerable margin. The average age of our team is 29.1, and the second oldest team in the Championship is Reading with 27.5. The league average is 26.17 so its apparent that this group of players is very much approaching the end of its cycle.

With that in mind the players I’ll be suggesting will all be 25 and under. Given our league position its hugely important that the signings we make this window improve the squad immediately so I can certainly see the benefit to signing some older players that are better at this moment in time, but I also think signing younger, more coachable players will improve us just as much.

A lot of talk around the appointment of Kolo Touré as our new manager was the fact that we’re looking to introduce a more exciting, modern style of football to the club. To me it makes sense to back that up with progressive, exciting and ambitious recruitment where we take calculated risks on high potential players. Also, signing younger players that will develop at the club can be a good way of making us a sustainable club. Selling players for profit is the way to go in the EFL and we have to accept that.

An astonishing 13 of our players are out of contract this summer which is even more reason to recruit with the future in mind. Its tricky because we find ourselves in a relegation battle with a squad where more than half of them don’t know what club they’ll be at in 6 months time. This can make it tough from a recruitment point of view as we need to try and ensure survival first and foremost, but have to look further down the line as well.

Here is how the Latics squad currently looks:

A view from the stands

You’ve only heard my opinion so far though. I wanted to find out the thoughts of some fellow Latics fans and see what kind of business they’d like to see done in January. Here were their answers!

1. Before we talk about the January window let’s cast our minds back to the summer. Many people suggested we didn’t do enough business and it’s left us somewhat short of options at times this season. Is that a view you share?

“Definitely, summer recruitment missed one crucial element for me, pace, both at the top end and in defence. As a team we do look slow on the counter, also Whatmough, for all his attributes, isn’t the quickest and it leaves us vulnerable if we want to hold a high line.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“I agree with the view in a sense that we really needed to strengthen all over the pitch if we want to be competitive in this league. The step up from league one to the championship has always been huge, and we’re reaching the half way point of the season with a league one squad. That’s not a criticism by any means, it’s a big big ask to make that jump with largely the same squad we went through league one with.” [@emwafc_27]

“I don’t think the fact we didn’t do enough business is the factor of our lack of options. If I remember right, we 6 players left and 5 signed so I think number wise we are fine. I think the previous manager trusted his old players to step up in new league rather than those he signed this summer is the main factor of us seems to short of options. Beside Broadhead and Nyambe, hardly anyone else has got into the team. Also, we signed players that were from league one rather than someone that is championship proven.” [@GallenLeung]

“From a numbers perspective I think five new signings was about right. The squad does lack a degree of genuine, proven Championship quality but with contract lengths meaning the bulk of last year’s squad would stay, I don’t think we’re short from a numbers perspective. 60% of the arrivals being brought in on deadline day, suggested plan A, B and probably C for those roles had probably gone out the window which is probably why the three brought in late on have struggled to make any impact.” [@WeahsCousin]

“I feel that looking back in hindsight will always allow us to pinpoint areas we could have done better, especially in the summer transfer window. When we announced Nyambe, Fletcher, Scully, Broadhead, and Edmonds-Green, I felt it was a fantastic bit of business from Wigan and I was looking forward to seeing them included in our matchday squads. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out as planned as of yet. To bring in another CB, RB, and three attacking players to add to the squad that we had already, I believed we had strengthened enough to be able to allow for competitive rotation in the push towards the January Transfer Window. Out of the five recent arrivals, it’s really only Broadhead who has become a regularly featured player on match days, with Fletcher, Scully, and Edmonds-Green struggling for minutes, and Nyambe out with a knee injury. This has meant that naturally we have been a little short on options in bringing players on to change the game, or even just allow for rotation from the start.” [@charliekeegan]

2. With that in mind, what positions do you think we need to strengthen in the window?

“We have options up front, we saw at Millwall how Broadhead can play up top supported by Lang and Keane and we can change it with Wyke, Magennis and Fletcher, so personally I don’t see this as an area that we are desperate for in January, but a genuine wide player with bags of pace would be a good edition. A right back I would have as a priority, I love Darikwa and think he is an excellent skipper on the pitch, never shuts up, but he is prone to errors defensively and at this level you get punished, if we are being brutal then we need to cut those out and a solid right back with a bit of pace would be my pick…Nyambe looks like he is struggling with injury and we can’t afford that.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“It’s hard to pick a particular area that needs strengthening. Defensively, we could definitely do with one or two more rotation players, and probably out wide on the wings as well. We’re asking an awful lot of some very young players to be and stay fit enough to play every single game that comes our way. Callum Lang, Thelo Aasgaard and Nathan Broadhead have all been exceptional in those positions when called upon, but it’s unfair to ask them to be available every minute, however much I’m sure they’d all like to be.” [@emwafc_27]

“I think we definitely have to strengthen at LB and CB with Kerr being out for the season. Also, depends on Kolo’s views on Scully, if he doesn’t rate him I think we need a least a pacey winger which is what we lack. I would also like to recall Humphrys who I think can offer something different than those tall strikers we currently have. He is not afraid of shooting which we don’t see from our strikers often.” [@GallenLeung]

“No area can be overlooked when looking to strengthen going forward, all areas could be improved but I expect the difference between survival and relegation will be goals. Burnley are the only side in the top seven to score more than once against us this season, so we can defend, but creating and taking chances is likely to be the difference and that would be my priority.” [@WeahsCousin]

“Looking to the winter window, I would hope we are looking at another CB, with Jason Kerr out for the rest of the season and this level of play a little too soon to promote Charlie Hughes up the ranks, a full back to play on the right or left, and a playmaking midfielder would be ideal. Our attacking line is strong, I believe, with Keane, Wyke, Lang, Broadhead, and McClean mainly, yet a creative player in behind them to keep the opposition defence on their toes would work wonders for us I feel.” [@charliekeegan]

3. We’re not sure how much money new manager Kolo Touré will be given to spend this winter, but you’d imagine there have been some funds made available to him. With most good free agents already snapped up you’d imagine the ‘budget method’ will be using the loan market. Are you confident we can use it to our advantage?

“I’d be very surprised if we didn’t get a couple of players in on loan from Leicester and Spurs.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“We’ve done very well in recent seasons with the loan market, we’ve been able to utilise that quite well, especially the last 2 seasons. The likes of Kell Watts and Nathan Broadhead have proved to be very very good for us. I’m fairly confident we’ll be able to continue that for the foreseeable. I’d like to think Leam Richardson’s philosophy of “good players but most importantly, good people” will continue under Kolo Touré when choosing who to bring in.” [@emwafc_27]

“I think this is one of the reasons we brought in Kolo as he has connections with the likes of Man City, Leicester, Liverpool and even Arsenal. We could benefit of signing some great young loans. Another Reece James won’t harm! Also, the new backroom staff have lots of experience with young players, hence I think we can use the loan market well.” [@GallenLeung]

“It’s very difficult to sign a difference maker at this level on our budget. I’d expect the loan market will be our best chance of improving the quality we have, as I don’t expect much if any money to be made available to spend. It’s an area we can exploit as we’ve seen in the past, but it’s certainly not easy to do it. Premier League loanees would likely have next to, or no experience in senior football at all and will take to get going, Liam Delap was coveted by 75% of the Championship, linked with a £15m move to Southampton and has managed to score just twice for Stoke. For every Reece James or Nick Powell there’s a Sheyi Ojo and a Jerome Sinclair.” [@WeahsCousin]

“When Wigan Athletic announced Kolo Touré as manager, along with Kevin Betsy and Ashvir Johal coming as coaches with their youth development experience and strong contacts to Premier League clubs, I immediately became excited at the prospect that we could be operating in the loan market again. Touré and Betsy have strong links to Arsenal, the latter also being heavily involved in the England Youth setup, and Johal bringing 8 years of experience in Leicester City’s academy where again Touré also worked. There are definitely gems to be found within the loan market, especially from the Premier League clubs, and we have seen that recently with Reece James who left Wigan and straight into an elite level of domestic and international football. Now, I’m not saying we are going to find another James in January, however, I have no doubt that youth loans can definitely be up to the level of football the Championship operates at, and with the staff we have at our club now I do feel we can definitely use the loan market to our advantage.”[@charliekeegan]

4. Latics have a good history of developing loanees from clubs such as Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle. New manager Kolo Touré also has key links to Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Leicester. From those clubs are there any young players who you’d like us to try and loan in?

“Tottenham have already said they want Alfie Devine to go out on loan to a Championship club and with Kolo’s brother, Yaya Toure being head of the u23s at Spurs the connection is there to make that happen, I thought we’d be in the running for Devine before Kolo’s appointment, so it looks even more likely now. With our reputation with developing and bringing on young players I think we would be a great choice for Premier League clubs to send their youngsters to.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“I’d maybe say Marquinhos from Arsenal could be a potential target? He’s only 19, might do him and us some good to have him on board for a few months.” [@emwafc_27]

“With his brother working at Spurs and rumours saying they want Devine to be loaned out, I would absolutely love him to back. For an ambitious shout, I would like to see Gelhardt back on loan as rumours say he is available. I know people might not want old players returning but I think it’s different in this case when these young players need a platform to prove themselves.” [@GallenLeung]

“I won’t profess to watch an awful lot of u23 football but I do think it’s an incredibly risky strategy. I’m personally not convinced Kolo’s time at Liverpool/Arsenal/City will have much bearing on his pull with it being a number of years since he played for those clubs, although Kevin Betsy’s time at Arsenal could help. Looking at Leicester’s U23s, they currently have 5 players out on loan. Only one is at Championship level in George Hirst at Blackburn, and he’s yet to make an impact despite a decent season at Portsmouth last year. With the impact of a condensed season due to the World Cup, clubs will be hesitant to loan out their better youngsters, with the rest possibly not Championship ready. Away from those clubs, Mateo Joseph at Leeds is one who would interest me. He’s unlikely to get too much game time at Leeds with the likes of Gelhardt and Greenwood ahead of him and he has a great record in the PL2 this season.” [@WeahsCousin]

“One player that I have read is likely to be available for a loan deal to the Championship, is Tottenham and former-Latics midfielder, Alfie Devine. Born in Warrington, Devine knows the area and our club very well, and his development has been looking strong after playing within the Premier League 2 and UEFA Youth League since his time at Spurs. It is also worth remembering that Yaya Touré, Kolo’s brother, is an academy coach at the London side and so the loan deal could be a very possible move, and one that I feel would be popular amongst our fans. Aside from Devine, I don’t really have any other plays in mind, however, whoever the club decide to pursue I will feel confident and excited at the prospect of seeing these additions to our side.” [@charliekeegan]

5. Should we look to make any permanent signings what kind of player profile would you favour us targeting? Young, high potential players impressing in the lower leagues, experienced Championship players with 1 or 2 years left of their ‘peak’, or a mixture of the two?

“January is not the best time to make permanent signings, looking back its much easier to pick out the fails rather than the successes off the top of my head Graham Kavanagh, Paul Scharner and Jean Beausejour are the three that stand out whilst there are many that have been a complete waste, I’d much prefer loans at this stage and let Touré do his squad building during the summer.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“If we’re looking to make permanent signings, I’d like to see a mix of the two. I always get excited about young players, the potential they have and the quality they have to offer, but for us to realistically stay in this league and continue to be competitive going into the next campaign and beyond, we really do need a few with experience that can guide those youngsters at this level.” [@emwafc_27]

“I don’t think he should sign anyone permanently for this window until we are sure what league we are in next season. It would be difficult to sell those players who are signed to play in the Championship if we are relegated next season. Also, there are lots of players who are out of contract at the end of season. I think that will be a good time for Kolo to bring in his own permanent players. If signing anyone permanently in this window, I would say experienced Championship players. Look at the example of Shinnie of how good he is, it shows how important Championship experience is.” [@GallenLeung]

“When you look at the spend under Paul Cook on the likes of Moore, Robinson and Lowe, had administration not occurred all three would’ve moved on for healthy profits. They were all a good age and had a re-sale value, we’d begun to get the recruitment right and that’s the way we need to go again. Unfortunately I don’t think we have the money, or pull to buy from the top end L1 whilst in the relegation zone in January (if we are). That strategy would be something we’d need to implement long term. I’d also like to see us look abroad more with that definitely a place to find a gem or two. For now a couple of experienced Championship players short on game time at their current clubs, possibly even in this league, could be the way forward.” [@WeahsCousin]

“I’d like to see us sign a younger player – not necessarily late teenage years – but somebody in their early 20s with a bit of experience in competitive football and ready to take on a challenge. Like I mentioned above, Betsy and Johal have experience in working with youth development, and so they will know the ideal levels of ability needed to elevate our existing side up to new levels of play. In truth, I feel a player that we could really benefit from and could be a fantastic addition into our midfield, is a player who is already on the books but out on loan. Jamie McGrath. Many Dundee United fans have stated he is a gem in their struggling side, and from the performances I have watched this season from him, I do feel that he would be a solid player for Wigan Athletic now. Our existing squad already has some experienced players, and so I feel adding more players around the age of 30 wouldn’t be ideal unless it was somebody we couldn’t turn down because of solid performances at this level recently.” [@charliekeegan]

6. Finally, can you give me your ideal ‘sensible transfer’ target for this window!

“My ideal sensible targets would be Alfie Devine and possibly a sneaky bid to bring Joffy Glehardt back from Leeds…both on loan.” [@WorthingtonBaz]

“Again, going with Kolo’s links to Leicester, I’d maybe suggest Vestergaard who seems to be out of favour atm and maybe even Marc Albrighton for another spell. They’re the only semi-realistic ones I could see at the minute.” [@emwafc_27]

“Some youth players from Leicester on loan!” [@GallenLeung]

“Elliot Anderson from Newcastle is one youngster I think could suit us, he has had game time this season off the bench so may prove unlikely. We do lack a creative spark and we do lack pace, a player who’d interest me would be Aaron Connelly. He burst onto the scene at Brighton and looked a talent. A loan spell with Middlesborough didn’t work out and neither is his current spell in Italy with Venezia. He strikes me as a player who needs to be loved and we could be the ideal place for him should he return to Brighton. We’ve resurrected several careers and players with a point to prove could be just what we need.” [@WeahsCousin]

“I’m going to stick with Alfie Devine. There are many other players who I am sure I would like to see Wigan make a move for in January, but Devine to me seems the most sensible one. Conte is prepared to let him leave on loan, Yaya Touré will be working with him, Kolo Touré just needs to make one call, and Devine can be back at the DW for the remainder of the season after performing well in Spurs Youth setup. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the Latics operate in this window. The run to the end of the season could be very entertaining should we get recruitments and developments right within the squad.” [@charliekeegan]

Final Thoughts

So you’ve heard my thoughts, you’ve heard the thoughts of your fellow Latics fans thoughts, now I’d like to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the poll below what positions you’re hoping to see strengthened in the upcoming window, and be sure to share your answers with me on social media.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to have a read of this article, I hope you enjoyed. In the next week or so I’ll be releasing 4 articles covering the positions mentioned in the poll above and putting my thoughts forward on who we should bring in, so keep an eye out for those!

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