Latics’ January business is well under way and we’ve called upon divine intervention to get us out of the Championship relegation zone! Wigan Athletic are delighted to welcome Christ Tiehi on an initial loan deal from Czech Fortuna Liga side Slovan Liberec. The 24 year old Ivorian is Kolo Touré’s second signing as Latics boss and its nice that its a compatriot of the Latics boss who arrives early on in the window for us!
He arrives on loan but the move will become permanent if Latics remain in the Championship, with the fee believed to be just under the £1,000,000 mark. It brings the number of loanees in our squad to 3 after Nathan Broadhead was recalled last week so there’s still space for a couple more temporary additions to the squad too.
Tiehi spent the first half of the season at Slavia Prague and has featured in the Europa Conference League 12 times, a really good level of experience to have at just 24. Its a really interesting signing and fills me with a lot of optimism that we’ll start looking more out of the box with our recruitment from now on. Dare I say it, it seems like a ‘Sensible Transfer’!
What does he bring to the side?
He’s a different kind of midfielder to what we currently have and that’s probably the most important thing to note. What we’ve been crying out for is a ball carrying, line breaking, play making all action midfielder and Tiehi brings bits of all those things to the side. I think he could be the perfect partner for someone like Jordan Cousins or Tom Naylor.
Having watched a fair amount of clips of Tiehi playing there are a couple of former Latics players you could compare him too stylistically.
Firstly the most obvious one is Mo Diame, a hero from our Premier League days. Visually he’s not quite the same, Diame used to glide with the ball whereas Tiehi relies more on his physicality when dribbling. However, their ball carrying is still similar as is the quick footwork and impressive technical ability.
The second player who I see in his game is James McArthur. This is much more his off the ball work such as his aggression in the tackle and tireless work rate. He’s also a similar height to the Scotsman and has a very distinct bustling, harrying type running style that really reminded me of McArthur when I first watched him.
I’m not trying to big him up too much but they’re two pretty impressive names to be compared with! Its worth pointing out that we shouldn’t expect him to come straight into the team and flourish immediately. The Czech top flight is probably around a similar level to the Championship and his experience in Europe will stand him in good stead too. He’s also played in England before, one match for Woking in 2019, so the culture change shouldn’t be too troubling.
Here are his numbers from the first half of the season in the Czech republic compared to Max Power’s numbers from this season of Championship football. Its not a completely fair comparison to make but it at least shows the general level at which Tiehi competes.
His all round game is pretty solid and you’d probably label him a true ‘box to box midfielder’. With 68.29% success in his defensive duels we’d be able to play Christ as the ball winner in place of someone like Naylor or Cousins, and he’s probably better on the ball than the pair of them. His playmaking numbers are closer to, some even better than, Power’s too.
The most important thing is he brings a new option. At 24 years old you’d expect him to continue to develop and under the tutelage of one of his nations greatest footballers I reckon he’s well up for it. On the pitch Tiehi adds excellent passing ability, strong physical presence and shooting ability to a midfield crying out for all of those things. Very exciting.
Where might he play?
Tiehi can operate as part of a three man and two man midfield and has done both this season. He’s a right footed player but has done a lot of work on the left of a 2 man midfield which is good news since the departure of Graeme Shinnie left us without a natural on that side.
I’d say he’s best as a number 8 with licence to drive forward with the ball as well as putting in a shift defensively. He can play the 6 role at the base of a three man midfield but I’d want us to sign a better play making number 8 before we employed a system like that.
Having read a few comments about him from Czech football followers they’ve suggested he could become a CB at some point. From what I’ve seen of him I’m not convinced as it limits his attacking qualities too much, unless we played him as a wide CB in a back 3 where he can break forward and provide an underlap option for the wing back on his side.
More than likely it’ll be the midfield role that he plays in. He has the attributes to be a quality Championship player and will certainly improve our first team in a key area of the pitch. I’m not pinning my survival hopes on him but he makes our starting 11 better and that’s very important with January signings.
There’s a lot of excitement around this signing, especially as its an unknown name for pretty much all of us and it shows that we may well be casting the net further afield with our recruitment focus nowadays. This is great news for Latics fans.
It might take him a few weeks to settle in but we’ve signed him pretty early on in the window which is good. I’m sure it’ll be tough for him at times but if we get behind him and he shows us what he can do I’ve no doubt we’ve got a real player on our hands here. I’m excited to see what he has to offer!