Wigan Athletic kicked off their January transfer business with the signing of experienced Centre Back Steven Caulker on a free transfer. The 31 year old joins on an initial 6 month contract following his exit from Turkish side Fatih Karagümrük and adds Premier League, Championship AND international experience to our side.
It seems fitting that he’s Kolo Touré’s first signing as Wigan manager given the fact the pair of them used to line up alongside each other at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. If Caulker can put in Premier League level performances for us in this second half of the season we’ll be loving life, I’m thinking a sort of Leon Balogun impact…
There’s a lot of positivity around this signing and its understandable. He’s a big name even after a few years away from England and after some troubling times on and off the pitch he’s got a point to prove. That’s exciting and exactly what we need in the current position we’re in.
What does he bring to the side?
Experience. He’s seen it all, on and off the pitch, and has come through trials and tribulations that have floored many people before. From his social media pages, his interviews and just his general character he looks like a real fighter and players like that are like gold dust in a relegation scrap.
Kolo has already spoken about players fighting, having the hearts of lions and putting everything on the line for the cause. Caulker embodies all of those traits. Considering how much our defence has struggled this season you’d like to think his addition to that unit will help us out. Foy younger lads like Charlie Hughes, REG and Jack Whatmough he’s a great player to learn from.
In terms of his on the pitch impact I’m expecting good things. At 31 he’s not declined much physically and would be capable of playing in a back 4 or 5 which is very important. Its not like the Jonas Olsson signing a few years ago who literally could not play unless there were 2 CBs next to him doing all his running. Caulker won’t have that problem, in fact he might actually be our quickest CB!
There’s also a lot to be said about his aerial ability, particularly in an attacking sense. Everyone will probably know about his iconic spell as Liverpool’s emergency striker but there was method behind the madness, he is really strong in the air and can give us a target from set pieces. Also, should we need to, I guess we could chuck him up top too. That’d be fun.
Here are Caulker and Tilt’s stats from the first half of this season. Tilt is the player I expect our new man to replace as he’s struggled to settle into Kolo’s new style of play and simply isn’t as good as Caulker is. Defensively he’s still a class act and in a ‘weaker’ league which you’d suggest the Championship may well be (not by much though) those numbers should increase.
As you can see he’s much better on the ball than Tilt is and despite being right footed I would have no worries about him playing on the left side of defence. He’s done it before and looks to be more than confident playing passes with the outside of his right foot should the angle require him too, as well as using his unnatural left foot.
An underrated quality he’ll bring is the ability to take the Captain’s armband. If we’re being honest Tendayi Darikwa and Max Power, our captain and vice captain, aren’t in our best XI anymore so having a genuine captain candidate who does make it into our best XI in my opinion is excellent. He captains Sierra Leone and could well be handed the armband at times by Kolo.
Where might he play?
As I’ve mentioned he can play either side of the defence and is capable of featuring as part of a 4 or 5 man defence. In a 4 I’d imagine he’d spend most of his time for us on the left and I’d like to see him partnered with Jack Whatmough in our best XI. The pair of them could form a really solid partnership and suit each other stylistically.
In a back 3 my guess is he’d play at the heart of that defence in the sort of ‘sweeper’ role. Whilst he might have the physical capability to play as a wide centre back I think his experience is best served centrally where he can organise the defence and spot danger much easier, a sort of Thiago Silva type.
I’d love to see him partner with Charlie Hughes a few times too. What a player he is for young Hughes to learn from, a former Premier League star and England international who’s seen it all and more. The commanding figure that Caulker is will elevate our defensive unit and could play as big a role off the pitch as he does on it.
This signing has filled me with hope I’m not going to lie. I’ve watched and read a few interviews with Caulker now and I’m confident he will bring some brilliant characteristics to the squad. Not only has he experienced big things on the pitch, he’s been to hell and back off it and has fought back to become the player and man he is today.
Its his first spell back in England since the story about his addiction came out and I can just tell there’s a fire lit inside of him ahead of the second half of this season. For some the name Steven Caulker will have to be retrieved from the dark depths of their memory and he seems keen to ensure its brought right back to the front.
I certainly hope it is. Welcome to Wigan Athletic Steven Caulker!