Wigan Athletic 2022/23 Squad Review – Wing Backs and Centre Midfielders

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!

Wing Backs

James McClean

It was pretty heart breaking to see James McClean doing his lap of honour after the Rotherham game as it looked very much like he was saying goodbye. Having re-joined the club at the start of last season he’s shown exactly why we love him so much and he’s one of the few players who can genuinely say they’ve performed somewhere close to their full potential this season.

No player in the league has won more tackles than Jimmy Mac this season (129) and his eight assists is the most of any Latics player too. There are obviously limitations to his game but perhaps most importantly he gives absolutely everything for the badge in every game. He’s the exact type of character you’d want around the club when it’s going through a rebuild.

There’s something else that comes into play when talking about McClean’s situation though and that’s his and his family’s safety. It’s ridiculous that I even have to mention this but it’s the worst kept secret in football that he experiences vile abuse every week from opposition fans and his young family are beginning to be effected even more by it. With a move home to Derry being rumoured more and more it kind of feels like the right time to say goodbye.

It’s gutting because I absolutely love him and he’s a certified Latics legend. However, his reported £8k a week makes him one of the club’s highest earners and we could feasibly get two decent players for the price of a 34 year old James McClean. He deserves the choice of staying here or going home and I’ll be happy for him with whichever decision he makes.

Verdict – Release, with a heavy heart

Tendayi Darikwa

Club captain Tendayi Darikwa has seen this club at the highest and lowest points of our journey post administration. The Zimbabwean joined us during the 2020/21 season and was part of the team that kept us up, then captained us to the title last year and has featured 37 times this year. It’s probably more than he expected too, and more than he should’ve.

When Ryan Nyambe joined it felt like we’d identified Darikwa as a weak link in the side but as it happens he’s been the better of the two, especially at wing back. I maintain the opinion he’s not good enough for a Championship team but when called upon he performed as well as he can and that’s all we can really ask for.

I’ll say it a lot during the squad review, if the club is genuinely serious about becoming progressive it’s players like Darikwa we need to move on. He’s played his part in keeping this club alive and if he was a couple of years younger it might be a different story, but for me it’s time to part ways with him.

His wage is only reportedly a modest £2.5k a week which means he’s not burning a hole in the club’s coffers but it feels like a fresh start suits all parties. He missed the last game of the season as he wasn’t paid and chose not to play which is fair enough but it’s slightly sad he didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. A bottom half League One club would be very suitable for him I’d say, maybe link him back up with Gavin Massey at Port Vale…

Verdict – Release

Tom Pearce

When Shaun Maloney first took charge I made the slightly out there shout that Tom Pearce should be remodelled into an overlapping LCB in our back three, and for a few games I thought I’d nailed it! Unfortunately it didn’t stick and after being reduced to fleeting appearances off the bench I’m not sure where we stand with him. He’s played just 473 minutes this season…

He’s probably the best crosser we’ve got at the club and his athletic ability makes him a danger going forward. He’s deceptively tall and whilst his defensive game is unquestionably his weakness I do think he’d start for most League One sides at LWB. I’d like us to sign another this summer though and I genuinely believe converting Pearce to a hybrid LCB/LWB would be smart.

At 25 there’s still time for him to develop and if he stays injury free there could be a real player in there. He’s settled at the club having been here for 4 seasons and is seemingly good mates with a lot of his teammates so I wouldn’t imagine he’s too desperate to leave. However, there always seems to be interest in Pearce during every window.

With his contract expiring in June 2024 this is probably our last chance to get a good fee for him and I wouldn’t be surprised if some offers are made for him. Considering he’s only on around £3.5k a week I’d be more than happy to keep him and maybe look at renewing his contract should performances warrant it. Depending on the club’s financial situation though it might make sense to cash in.

Verdict – Keep, consider offers upwards of £400k

Joe Bennett

This signing never really made sense to me. He was 31 when he joined us and off the back of an injury ravaged time at Cardiff, on a relatively big wage AND we already had LBs in the squad. Ultimately that’s been proven right and his spell at the club has likely come to an end this season. 814 minutes on the pitch suggests his performances won’t be missed.

Considering he’s reportedly on over £6k a week we’d be daft to want to keep him. Even if his performances were better I’d be considering releasing him and as that isn’t the case it makes it a pretty easy decision. He’s played his part and has looked good on occasions but we need to move on from players like this and he probably doesn’t want to be here anymore either!

Verdict – Release

Centre Midfielders

Max Power

If Max Power’s time at Latics has come to an end it’s done so in a really sad and underwhelming way. He cemented himself as a Latics hero in his first spell at the club and upon returning in 2021 that was only furthered. However, after a frustrating season on and off the pitch for him it would appear that his time at the club is over.

His performances this season have divided the fanbase and it’s crazy to think the only reason he hasn’t played every minute of every game this season is because he was on strike for the final game against Rotherham. Whether he should’ve played all 45 games prior is up for debate but it’s an impressive stat regardless. I made my opinions on the matter clear a lot this season, but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t change somewhat upon Maloney’s arrival

Under Richardson and Toure he was pretty rubbish but his partnership with Christ Tiehi under the new manager has shown him in a better light. Nobody at the club has created more chances than him but we’re still often left wanting more from him, particularly from dead ball situations. I think this is another case of a separation being the best thing for both the club and the player.

His £4k a week wage is pretty modest but probably better spent elsewhere. It’s a shame things have ended on a sour note for him at the club and I wish him all the best for the future which looks increasingly like it won’t be at the DW. I wouldn’t be surprised if we come up against him in League One though, it’s definitely his level.

Verdict – Release

Tom Naylor

Last season’s star man in the middle of the park found the step up to Championship football pretty difficult this season and found game time hard to come by, especially in the second half of the season. His role became ‘lead protector’, subbed on with 15 minutes left to see out games and provide security in front of the defence. He does that job well.

Where he falls down is his on the ball skills, especially his passing range which is limited. He was really suited to Leam Richardson football but as Shaun Maloney is keen for his midfielders to get on the ball more often and be the side’s primary playmakers it leaves Naylor without a genuinely suitable role. His role off the bench suits him though and as he’s under contract next year he may well be tasked with it once again.

His ball skills will be tested less in League One but I still wouldn’t expect him to be a starter. At 31 he’s an experienced head in the dressing room and his £5k per week contract is probably just about justified. I can’t see anyone offering a fee for him so I imagine he’ll see out the season playing a bit-part role and we’ll go from there.

Verdict – Keep

Christ Tiehi

The best player I’ve seen in a Wigan kit since Reece James. The fact we had the chance to sign Christ for just £800k had we stayed up makes our relegation even more gutting as he’s definitely a multi-million pound player in the making. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the Championship come in for him this summer.

It’s a profile we desperately need to recruit this summer to replace him. A technically gifted ball carrying midfielder who contributes defensively and starts attacks in a number of ways, Tiehi is a perfect example of a box to box CM and we’d have been relegated by a lot more points without him.

We won’t be able to get anyone exactly like him but it’s arguably the most important position for us to recruit this summer. Getting it right could be the difference between a couple of league positions, and in a tough looking League One that’ll mean a lot. Everyone at the club wishes Christ the best of luck in the future, and thanks for the memories!

Verdict – Release

Jordan Cousins

This is another sad tale to be honest. Jordan Cousins looked like an absolute star at the start of last season but an injury picked up in our 4-0 drubbing of Bolton has pretty much ruined his spell at the club. He seems to get back from injury, lasts a couple of weeks and then finds himself side-lined for a few more months with another injury.

There aren’t really enough performances to analyse him on and we can’t afford to have injury prone players earning £4k a week at the club. His contract is up this summer and despite the fact there’s definitely a good player in there somewhere his injury record means we’d be stupid to renew his contract.

Verdict – Release

Miguel Azeez

Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. What a waste of everyone’s time.

Verdict – Bin

Scott Smith

Local lad Scott Smith has made two first team appearances this season and is a regular for the U23s. He signed a one year contract extension a couple of months ago so he’ll be around next season and I sort of expect him to play a similar role to the one he did this year. Captain the youth team and challenge the senior CMs every day in training.

He doesn’t look up to much technically but is clearly highly though of by Maloney for his off the ball work. There’s no harm in keeping him around but if he doesn’t make serious improvements this season I can’t see him staying around any longer.

Verdict – Keep

Graeme Shinnie

Perhaps a forgotten man for some, Graeme Shinnie is still a Latics player following the end of his loan spell at Aberdeen. The 31 year old Scot featured 19 times in the first half of the season but was loaned out in January as he didn’t feature in Kolo Touré’s plans. His spell at the club has been baffling from start to finish to be honest.

Many people would agree Shinnie was our best CM in the first half of the season but was always third choice behind Naylor and Power. He offers great tenacity, defensive ability and a left footed option in the middle of the park, and whilst he’s not the most productive player in possession it seems weird that he hasn’t got more of a go.

I get the impression he never really wanted to be here and that’s fair enough, we poached him from a hapless Derby County where he would’ve stayed had they not needed the money. Despite the fact I think he has something to offer us in League One I’d be very happy to see someone take his £10k per week wage off the payroll as it could be spent better elsewhere!

Verdict – Sell for a fee in the region of £500k



Tom Pearce – Left Wing Back – £3.5k per week

Tom Naylor – Centre Midfield – £5k per week

Scott Smith – Centre Midfield – £1k per week

Estimated Total Spend – £9.5k per week (£494,000 per annum)


James McClean – Left Wing Back – £8k per week

Tendayi Darikwa – Right Wing Back – £2.5k per week

Joe Bennett – Left Wing Back – £6k per week

Max Power – Centre Midfield – £4k per week

Christ Tiehi – Centre Midfield – £1k per week

Jordan Cousins – Centre Midfield – £4k per week

Miguel Azeez – Centre Midfield – £2.5k per week

Estimated Total Saved – £28k per week (£1,456,000 per annum)


Graeme Shinnie – Centre Midfield – £10k per week – £500k sale

Estimated Total Saved – £23k per week (£1,200,000 per annum)

Recruitment Plan


First Choice Right Wing Back (Permanent or Loan)

Rotation Right Wing Back (Permanent)

Rotation Left Wing Back (Permanent)

Two First Choice Centre Midfielders (Permanent or Loan)

Rotation Centre Midfielder (Permanent)

Funds Available – £1,456,000 + £1,200,000 – £494,000 = £2,162,000 per annum (£41.5k per week)

Sensible Transfers Articles coming soon – June 2023

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