Wigan Athletic – 5 ways of ensuring Championship survival

Number 1 – Improve Key Positions

This was always going to be number 1 wasn’t it? The fact is our squad is probably around the 3rd – 6th in League One mark right now, maybe with a few players who could push for automatic promotion in that division. That simply doesn’t cut it in the Championship anymore as it’s essentially Premier League lite with so much talent and money flying around.

So the main thing we need to do in order to ensure survival is identify our weakest areas and improve them as best as possible. Unfortunately there’s now less than a week left of the window and several key targets look to be moving elsewhere so we’ve got to be slightly more flexible and adventurous with our recruitment. I can’t imagine there’s loads of money to spend so the loan market feels like the best bet.

For me there are 3 areas we need to look at. Goalkeeper is the main one because with all due respect to Amos and Jones they’ve been absolutely rubbish. Statistically they’re the two worst keepers in the league when it comes to xG conceded, both conceding 8.4 more goals than the model suggests they should have. I’m not going to try and sugar coat this, that’s genuinely awful. They’re very uncomfortable on the ball too which only adds to the need to get rid.

If either of them remain in goal for us I can’t see us staying up, it’s harsh but true.

Left Back is next because again we’ve got one of the worst performers in the league there currently. Joe Bennett is either injured or making defensive errors leading to opposition entries into our final third, and if several sources are to be believed he’s earning a cool £6k a week. Try and offload him and get a more athletic option in who can actually defend and attack. There a few options in my sensible transfers article if anyone at the club is reading this!

Oh and if anyone can locate Tom Pearce that’d be nice. He’s a handy player and would be an improvement on the side if signing a new LB is too much money.

Now I’m going to assume we’ve signed Tyler Blackett who should be our new LCB. He could be a left back too but in terms of athletic ability he’s better suited to playing at CB and that also means we don’t have to watch Curtis Tilt attempt defending anymore which will lower the heart rates and anger levels of our fans by about 75%.

So assuming LCB is no longer an issue I want us to go out and get a genuine creative attacking midfielder. Once upon a time we used to create chances but those days seem to be long gone which is a shame and its not going to be news to anyone when I say if we don’t start scoring goals we won’t stay up. So get in a quick, exciting forward who can create something from nothing would be my final purchase. There are too many players offering nothing in attacking areas and they need replacing with quality ASAP.

2 – Find a system and stick with it

Long term and short term this is vital. In terms of ensuring survival the best chance we have is to find a system, drill it every single day in training and get as much tactical familiarity into the players as possible. I’m not expecting a free flowing Arsenal type system but we’ll start to see patterns of play develop over time. As long as we stop changing things every 45 minutes.

Obviously there’s a reason for Kolo making changes. We’ve been rubbish. But as a manager who has been in charge for 9 games I’d be unbelievably concerned if he doesn’t have any idea of the sort of team he wants us to look like. The past few games we’ve started in a 5-3-2 but that’s not done anything for us, although I don’t think its far off what we should be playing.

There’s been enough time for Kolo to realise that playing 8 defensive minded players doesn’t work, or at least I hope so. We simply have to play an extra attacker to give us the best chance of creating opportunities in the final third, which believe it or not we’ve found pretty difficult when playing 5 defenders and 3 defensive midfielders!

It’s probably an unpopular opinion but I think we probably should stay with a back 5. If we can start keeping clean sheets that means we’ve started picking up points, even if that’s through 0-0 draws. We just need to get out of this awful run of form and you’d like to think that if we can find some defensive solidity we’d be able to secure scrappy 1-0s too. It doesn’t matter how we get the points, we just need to get them.

Football, now more than ever, is a tactical battle. We’ve already covered the fact that we don’t have a strong squad so we have to make small gains with our tactical innovations and ‘the little 1%’. Look at someone like Rotherham, their squad is probably comparable to ours but they make the fine margins count, be that set pieces, counter attacks or quality goalkeeping.

Find a system, drill it and stick with it. When that system starts feeling comfortable you can work on Plan Bs, Cs and Ds but before then we need to get these players playing in a way that suits them. Like I say, it doesn’t have to be overly flamboyant, we just need to make sure we’re playing in a way that creates more chances for ourselves and affords less chances to the opponents. again, it sounds so simple because it is so simple.

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