Martin Kelly – Welcome to Wigan Athletic

Shaun Maloney has made his first signing of his time in chare of Latics in the form of experienced defender Martin Kelly. The 32 year old arrives at Latics on a loan deal until the end of the season and adds much needed quality and versatility to a backline that has really struggled lately.

He’s spent the first half of the season at West Brom but has struggled to break into their strong starting eleven, so a loan move to Latics makes sense for all parties. With experience at Premier League and Championship level its another strong character added to the side and you can never have too many of those at a club, particularly in a relegation fight.

Kelly adds depth to the Centre Back and Full Back spots and should provide good competition to the players currently in those areas. he’s right footed but has played at Left Back on several occasions so that could be an option, particularly if we lose Joe Bennett which has been suggested today…

What does he bring to the side?

First things first he adds a wealth of experience to the dressing room and is a real leader on and off the pitch. Any player with over 150 appearances in the Premier League commands respect and hopefully Kelly will be able to have a positive impact on his new teammates. He’s been part of relegation battles with Crystal Palace too so he knows what to do in this scenario.

In terms of his on the pitch attributes he’s just a really solid defender. Positionally strong, good in the air and has a nice set of physical attributes that mean he’s capable defending ground and air attacks. He’s more mobile than someone like Tilt but is slightly less aggressive off the ball, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

He’s kind of similar to Steven Caulker in that sense. He’s more than capable of being that aggressive defender when needed but tends to try and defend disengaged rather than engaged using positional awareness and anticipation. He’s not played too much football recently but I don’t think his pace has taken much of a hit which is positive as that’s what our defence needs. He’s by no means rapid but he’s not too slow either.

I think he’s best suited to playing as the wide CB in a back 3 where he can utilise his on the ball abilities for us. He’s spent a lot of his career at Full Back so has the confidence to get into forward areas, deliver crosses into the box and make line splitting passes. As I’ve spoken about countless times we need confident ball players in defence and he’s certainly that.

He’s only played 454 minutes this season but has looked solid enough. I think with a run of games he’ll find his form and could be a really useful asset in the defence. He averages 4 defensive duels per 90 and 3 defensive duels won so that’s solid enough, as is 4/7 aerial duels won per 90. Like I say he’s not your out and out aggressive CB, hence why I think a back 3 suits him.

On the ball he’s stronger than most of what we have. I don’t think we’ll be that focused on playing a possession heavy system but its important to have players capable of doing all different kinds of roles and styles. Having played at the highest level he’s obviously technically sound and should suit whatever style Maloney tries to implement. Its worth noting that this is a signing sourced by Maloney himself, Kelly is HIS player.

I think its vital having more Championship quality players in the side than we currently do. State the obvious yes but it feels like if we are to stay in the division we have to be very short term with our thinking and getting someone still just about in the peak years of their career is great for the club.

So to summarise, Kelly arrives as a genuine, proven quality player. He’s undoubtedly a Championship quality player and sounds desperate to get a good run of games under his belt. He’s never experienced the feeling of relegation and I’m sure he doesn’t fancy doing so now.

Where might he play?

This is Martin Kelly’s career heat map, and as you can see he’s very much a right sided player. However, as the very light blue shading shows he has spent some time playing as a Left Back / Left Centre Back so we could see him fill in there at times. However, I think he’s arrived as RCB/RB cover.

This does feel slightly strange as we’re well stacked in those positions, especially with the recent emergence of academy starlet Charlie Hughes. However, its never a bad thing to have quality options and if Maloney isn’t too fussed about right footers playing on the left Curtis Tilt may finally be dropped out of the side.

He would be comfortable playing on the left and I’m really hoping that’s where he plays. We need to start playing our best players regardless of what foot they prefer using and Kelly would make me infinitely more confident than Tilt would to be honest. In a back 4 he could play anywhere and be solid. but I’d probably say CB would be his best position.

The main thing is he’s versatile and offers quality in several spots. It does feel like there might be a departure in these positions though so watch this space I suppose…

Final Thoughts

Its a really solid signing and hopefully is a sign of things to come for Shaun Maloney. I haven’t included too many statistics of Kelly’s in this article because he’s barely played recently but I think its important to say there is a quality player arriving at the club here. With a run of games and some competent coaching he could be a wonderful addition.

I just hope we give him a good run of games quickly and don’t leave him out of the side in favour of worse players. Yes, its difficult to throw a defender in and expect him to be completely familiar with the tactics but when it comes to pure defending he’s comfortably one of our best.

Be it LCB, RCB or RB I’m happy with this signing. Hopefully, there’s more to come…

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