Well that’s that, the 2022/23 season is over and done with and the curtain has come down on one of the most disappointing and harrowing seasons in Wigan Athletic’s proud 91 year history. On the pitch it’s been very underwhelming, finishing 24th in the Championship and being eliminated from both cup competitions at the first hurdle, and off the pitch it’s somehow been even worse. Ownership failures, rash decision making and naïve planning have all contributed to what has been a dismal campaign.
The late payment of wages that has hovered over the club like a raincloud all season long has reached a new peak in recent weeks. 6 late payments since last June have made the club a toxic place to play, with several first team players going on strike for the last game of the season against Rotherham having been let down once again.
With relegation to League One confirmed and an obvious lack of funds in our owners bank accounts it is absolutely vital that we scale back the cost of running the club. With several first team players out of contract this summer there’ll be a huge turnover of players this summer, and that’s before considering the fact we may well sell some of our contracted players too.
Today I’m going to analyse the performances of all our first team players, discuss whether or not I believe their future is best served at Wigan or not and review their time at the club as a whole. I’ll be covering it all; wages, transfer value, ability and profile, suitability to Shaun Maloney’s system and more.
Strap in, and enjoy.
Disclaimer – Nobody outside of the club truly knows the wages of the players so don’t take what I say they are as gospel. I’m using a couple of trustworthy websites as sources but whether their figures have taken into account the hefty wage increases the players received after winning promotion I’m not sure, so it could easily be even more than what I say!
Only Max Power, James McClean and Will Keane have played more games than the mercurial Norwegian this season. It might be overstating it to call this a ‘breakout’ season for Thelo but he’s proven at times that he’s a player with Championship level ability, and the potential to go beyond that perhaps. As is to be expected with a 21 year old, consistency was the issue.
His long-range shooting is his best attribute and it’s something we lack massively. Thelo averaged just under two shots per 90 this season which is the highest in the squad, and his three goals in the league earnt us six points. He seems to be that kind of player that comes up clutch in key moments and whilst that’s not a quantifiable metric it’s a useful aura to have!
If you’re being critical you’d say he tries too hard to be fancy with the ball at his feet and if he’s having an off day there’s little use in him being there. However, in League One I expect him to shine and he’ll get more opportunities on the ball to show what he’s capable of. The physical side of his game has improved drastically this year and I think, similarly to Charlie Hughes, he’s ready for a season of ‘putting himself in the shop window’ so to speak.
He’s contracted to 2026 so any sale would command a hefty sum. I’m not sure his performances this season will have made too many clubs desperate for his services and I reckon a season of first team football in a lower division will do him the world of good. Maloney likes him, he fits the system well and is one of the players we should build the team around.
Verdict – Keep
I had such high hopes for Callum Lang coming into this season and I’d be lying if I said he lived up to anywhere near them. He started the season with an injury but played through the pain barrier as he always does, and unfortunately it looks like that niggle has hampered his progress all season. He’s looked bright in fleeting moments but one goal and three assists isn’t good enough for a Championship side’s main attacking outlet.
After his amazing season in League One he was linked with moves to more established Championship clubs but I think this campaign has shown he needs another season in League One to develop. As one of the two inside forwards behind the striker in Maloney’s 3-4-2-1 system, or out wide in a 4-2-3-1, he’s still one of the best in League One.
His 5.7 dribbles per 90 is far and away more than anyone else in the squad and he has a really good ability to get the team up the pitch with his runs. He needs to stop going down so easily as referees clearly don’t buy it anymore, and his end product definitely still has room for improvement. The main thing is there’s plenty of time for that to happen.
He’s got a couple of years left on his deal so the fee we can put on him is pretty high. I’d be surprised if anyone matches what we’d want for him but if they do I would consider selling him. He’d be brilliant in League One but I’m not sure he’s irreplaceable from a footballing point of view. If he’s in a Latics kit next season I’ll be delighted, but I’d also be happy for him if he got a decent money move back to the second tier.
Verdict – Keep, consider offers upwards of £1.5 million
Another player I had high hopes for when he arrived in January was Luxembourg international Danel Sinani. He’d played well for Norwich in the first half of the season and was a key part of Huddersfield’s play off final campaign last year, but unfortunately for us he took a while to kick into gear and when he did he got injured immediately!
Similarly to Thelo he was confident shooting from range and forcing the issue in different ways, giving us a different method of attack. He’s also left footed which added nice variation to the forward line, a profile that we haven’t had at the club in a long time. He didn’t make the impact we hoped he would but I think it was still a good signing in theory.
He’s been released by Norwich but I can’t see us signing him. He’ll probably stay in the Championship or get a move to the continent as I think his level is above League One, plus the fact that we’ve probably messed him around wage wise too. A left footed attacking midfielder is a must sign this summer to fill the void left by him.
Verdict – Release
Sigh… It feels like I’m saying this too often, and don’t worry it won’t be the last time, but what a complete waste of a transfer. In fairness this actually made sense at the time, the right age, a player in form who performed well against us last season and something the squad was lacking. A genuine goal threat cutting in from the left wing.
For whatever reason he didn’t get a look in under Leam and then the second half of the season he’s been plagued by a hernia problem. He started the last game of the season against Rotherham and looked bright, definitely didn’t look like he deserved to spend the season in the stands that’s for sure!
It remains to be seen if Maloney wants him to stay. A sale back to Lincoln or another League One team wouldn’t surprise me but I think we might as well keep him. His £5k weekly wage isn’t much and he’s a proven threat in League One, fits the system well and deserves his chance.
Verdict – Keep
Another example of a player who has fallen victim to the club’s failed recruitment process in recent seasons. Signed last season as an exciting playmaker but was given no game time because we didn’t have any space in our system for an exciting playmaker. It was the right profile to bring in but at the wrong time, under the wrong manager and in the wrong team.
However, under Shaun Maloney I think there’s room for a McGrath type player and I reckon he’d thrive in League One in this system. It’s identical to the one that he’s played in this season at Dundee United, where he’s been one of the best attacking midfielders in the division. Six goals and two assists in the league has made him a sought after player in Scotland
I believe Shaun Maloney is keen on him staying but given the financial insecurity at the club he may be sold in order to raise funds. His £6k per week wage isn’t too bad and we could try and keep him around but there’s reportedly a lot of interest in him. Try and start a bidding war and get as much money for him as possible.
Verdict – Keep, consider offers upwards of £500k
Another weird transfer that has probably ended up costing the club more money that it’s been worth. A winger with pace and decent crossing ability but little else, Jones seemed to fall out with Leam Richardson last season and hasn’t had a look in since November 2021. He’s been on loan at Kilmarnock this season and Shaun Maloney is clearly keen as he looked to recall him in January, albeit unsuccessfully.
I’m not sure where he’d fit in at the minute. My initial thoughts are as a very attack focused RWB but his defensive game isn’t good enough to be a starter in that role I’d suggest. His crossing and pace means he’s best used out wide and I don’t think he’s got the game to be an inside forward in the way that Thelo / Lang / Scully do.
At £8k per week he’s one of the club’s highest earners and I think that’s something we need to change. Unfortunately for all parties things haven’t worked out at Latics and with the club looking to evolve into a more sustainable model we can’t have top earners who don’t play games. A sale or mutual contract termination makes sense to me.
Verdict – Sell for a fee in the region of 200k
Gwion Edwards did a job for us last season but is another example of the kind of player we need to stop signing. Joined us as a 28 year old on a two year deal, admittedly on a low wage which makes things slightly better, and offered little in terms of quality on the pitch and absolutely nothing in terms of financial gains down the line.
His contract expires this summer and I’ve got no doubt he’ll be off, probably to someone at the bottom end of League One. It’s not much but getting his £3k weekly wage off the payroll will help in these trying times too. He played his part in getting us promoted but these kind of signings aren’t going to help the club going forward.
Verdict – Release
Latics’ top scorer this season as he was in our title winning campaign last, Will Keane’s goals kept Latics afloat for longer than we maybe should’ve been. His 12 goals all came inside the penalty area and despite not playing as a 9 he’s adopted the role of poacher in the side. Whilst that’s good from a goals perspective it leaves us wanting more in the build up.
He’s different to the other forwards we have in the sense that he’s a sort of 10 / 9 hybrid. A shadow striker is probably the best way to describe him, lurking around the box but not leading the line. His link up play isn’t great which often causes us problems when trying to structure attacks as there’s a gaping hole where a number 10 should be.
However, he signed a new deal last summer and I can’t see him leaving so we’ve got to find a way of using him effectively. We know we can get goals from him but I maintain the belief we’d score more goals if he wasn’t used in the way he is being used as it would bring more attackers into the game. It’s something Shaun Maloney has mentioned too and the early signs are positive.
He’s not on much of a wage, around £2.5k per week reportedly, and at 30 years old I can’t imagine anyone will want to spend money on buying him. Keep him, see if he can replicate his 2021/22 exploits and go from there. But I wouldn’t expect him to be relied upon as much as he has been this season.
Verdict – Keep
Josh Magennis has had a strange season. He started the campaign as our first choice striker and bagged his first, and what would prove to be his only, goal of the season in August against West Brom. The problem his the goals dried up, his form went south and the frustration from the fanbase was directed towards him most weeks.
Despite his height and physicality he’s never looked particularly dominant in the air and considering his role in the side was the focal point from which our other forwards would fee off it didn’t work. He had a long spell out of the side and then returned in the last couple of months of the season under Shaun Maloney, when in fairness he performed pretty well.
He got injured against Reading in the penultimate game of the season and that looks like it’ll keep him out until August. That means it’ll be hard to move him on which is what I probably would’ve tried to do. In fairness though he’s on £5k a week and having his experience around the squad might be beneficial, so unless an agreement can be reached in regards to paying him off his contract we may as well keep him.
Verdict – Keep
As loan moves go this must be up there as one of the worst we’ve made. It’s nothing against Ashley Fletcher as a bloke because he comes across as a top pro and we can’t question his commitment as he played 10 minutes with a broken arm against Millwall! That being said, the money spent and the return received is just tragic.
I don’t know specifically but it would appear we’ve been paying him somewhere between £15k and £18k a week during his loan spell, making him our highest earner by a considerable distance. Considering he netted twice in 1346 minutes I’d suggest it’s been a complete waste of time and more importantly money.
Getting him off the wage bill will save the club just short of £1million and considering the financial problems we find ourselves in that’s huge. I wouldn’t want us to sign him permanently for 1/3 of that wage to be honest, he’s the type of forward we don’t need more of and at 27 his best years are coming to an end. Wish him all the best.
Verdict – Release
It goes without saying that what has happened to Charlie Wyke in the last 18 months is heart breaking. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly for Latics’ number 9 he hasn’t managed to return to full fitness following his cardiac arrest in November 2021 and despite the fact that has been sorted somewhat, other injuries have crept in.
His return against Birmingham was probably my highlight of the season, especially as he got the assist for Nathan Broadhead’s winner. His first goal back against Cardiff and his wonderful finish against Sunderland were also nice moments, but unfortunately that’s about it. He’s missed so much of the season and doesn’t seem to be able to maintain fitness.
The problem is when he is fit and firing he’s one of the better strikers in League One. It’s just a matter of making sure he is fit, because if he isn’t his £10k weekly wage looks obscene and a total waste. He’s contracted till 2024 so unless a sale / contract termination is agreed he’ll be at the club next season. A fit and confident Charlie Wyke is a huge asset, but if that isn’t the case it’s a huge problem for us financially.
Verdict – Try to manufacture a sale / contract termination
Another example of Latics making a good signing in theory yet in practice it turning out to be a bit of a waste of time. Like McGrath and Scully, Stephen Humphrys arrived with a lot of promise and for whatever reason wasn’t given a proper run in the team. He played second fiddle to Charlie Wyke and Josh Magennis in the first and second half of last season, and was shipped out to Hearts on loan last summer.
To begin with his move north of the border was perfect and it looked as though he’d found his home. However, a long goal drought has left him unsure of where his future lies and he’ll return to Wigan this summer where he’ll link up with Shaun Maloney for the first time. I think it could be his time to shine at Latics.
He’s a different type of #9 to what we have in the sense that he’s quick, powerful and can score all different types of goals. He could lead the line for us but would also work well as one of the inside forwards behind the focal point and if given the chance I genuinely believe he can have a good career here. The question is does he want to stay.
He might have a few offers for him this summer and we’d be silly not to listen to them. That being said his wage isn’t much, just £4k per week, and with a year left on his deal I’d suggest we should still ask for a decent fee for him. He’ll have his own opinions on where he wants to play next season but ultimately we hold the cards.
Verdict – Keep, consider offers upwards of £750k
Thelo Aasgaard – Attacking Midfielder – £2k per week
Callum Lang – Attacking Midfielder – £4k per week
Anthony Scully – Attacking Midfielder – £4k per week
Jamie McGrath – Attacking Midfielder – £6k per week
Will Keane – Attacking Midfielder / Striker – £2.5k per week
Josh Magennis – Striker – £5k per week
Stephen Humphrys – Striker – £4k per week
Estimated Total Spend – £27.5k per week (£1,430,000 per annum)
Danel Sinani – Attacking Midfielder – £4k per week
Gwion Edwards – Attacking Midfielder – £3k per week
Ashley Fletcher – Striker – £18k per week
Estimated Total Saved – £25k per week (£1,300,000 per annum)
Jordan Jones – Attacking Midfielder – £8k per week – £200k sale
Charlie Wyke – Striker – £10k per week – Pay £400k compensation
Estimated Total Saved – £14k per week (£736,000 per annum)
Left Footed Attacking Midfielder (Permanent or Loan)
Quick / Direct Impact Sub Attacking Midfielder (Permanent)
First Choice Striker (Permanent or Loan)
Dependent on circumstance
Replacement for Lang / Scully if sold (Permanent)
Replacement for McGrath if sold (Permanent or Loan)
Replacement for Humphrys if sold (Permanent or Loan)
Funds Available – £1,300,000 + £736,000 – £1,430,000 = £606,000 per annum (£11.5k per week)
Sensible Transfers Articles coming soon – June 2023