as great as we are, we tipsters gotta eat too

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Wigan Athletic

another article i wrote on bleacher report

In the eleventh edition of the "Three Transfers" series, the club under the spotlight is manager-less Wigan Athletic.

Having enjoyed a consistent season, Wigan has now lost Steve Bruce to Sunderland, and look like they might lose even more over the summer.

Paul Scharner has publicly stated that he would like a move in the summer. Antonio Valencia has not expressed interest in a move, but seems certain to go with many bigger clubs targetting him.

When the two of them leave there will be gaping holes in the Wigan team, which has already lost Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January.

The gaps within the team will definitely have to be filled with quality players, and the only positive that can come out of this is that they are likely to get good money for Scharner and Valencia, which can then be re-invested into the side.

Who should they sign though?

Here's my take...


A bit of a no-brainer.

If Antonio Valencia somehow ends up staying, then this will be an irrelevant suggestion.

However, I really do not see how the Ecuadorian will still be at the JJB Stadium come August and, for the purposes of this discussion, I will assume that he has been snapped up for a substantial amount of money.

Valencia is one of the best right-wingers in the English Premier League, and his successor will have some huge boots to fill. Looking internally, Wigan does have Daniel De Ridder.

However, it is unlikely that he will step up to Valencia's level, considering he was never a first-teamer in Birmingham or Wigan.

As such, the search for the right-winger must be taken out of the club. While I did mention that they would have substantial funds, convincing a player of a suitable quality to come to Wigan is not an easy task.

For example, David Bentley would probably be an awesome signing for them, and Wigan would be able to afford it with the funds from the sale of Valencia, but persuading him to come will be a real difficulty.

I think Wigan will end up having to set their sights lower, and I would recommend they go for Gary O'Neil.

One of the better performers in Middlesbrough's terrible season, O'Neil is a hardworking player who always gives his all for the club. This would tie in well with the rest of the Wigan squad who work hard for each other and never stop running.

Also, as Mario Melchiot is getting older, O'Neil's work-rate will also be useful in tracking back to help Melchiot with defensive duties.

With Middlesbrough getting relegated, Wigan will have no problems meeting any asking price, and I think O'Neil will have no problems joining Wigan.

If that deal doesn't materialise, Wigan could opt to sign Jermaine Pennant. Once a bright prospect, Pennant has lost his way somewhat, stumbling from one club to another.

Despite his misbehaviour and supposedly poor attitude, there is no doubting his quality.

A pacey right-winger who whips in delicious crosses for the strikers, his technical ability will be much appreciated in Wigan, and he is a more like-for-like replacement for Valencia than O'Neil is.

Liverpool does not need Pennant anymore and would be keen to release him, so the Latics could find themselves picking up a bargain. If they can get Pennant to concentrate on football, then they will not miss Valencia that much.


Hugo Rodallega, Henri Camara, and Marlon King are the only recognised forwards left in Wigan. Henri Camara and Marlon King are not good enough currently to hold down a first-team spot, which is why they were allowed to go on loan in the first place.

With Rodallega impressing, Wigan still needs to sign one more established striker, and I think that their first priority should be to tie Mido down to a permanent deal.

He has impressed for them and was particularly effective against Arsenal as he proved to be a real bully in the air.

On the floor, his technique also serves him well, so he cannot be accused of being a one-dimensional footballer. Just like Jermaine Pennant, if Wigan can make him concentrate on playing football, then they have themselves a good player.

He would also be another cheap signing as Middlesbrough will definitely let him go to reduce wage bills now that they are in the Championship.

Another possible signing who would fit at Wigan is Bafetimbi Gomis.

Once the subject of much transfer speculation regarding the top clubs of Europe, the goals have dried up a little in the previous season, (nine goals as opposed to 16 in 07/08) and his name hasn't been bandied around as frequently recently.

He is still a quality striker and his physical attributes should make him a good fit in the Premier League. Wigan could stand to benefit if none of the top clubs show an interest as they will have enough money to prise him away.

Gomis has also publicly declared that he needs to be playing in a better league, and he might be persuaded to come to England where his idol, Didier Drogba, plies his trade.


Titus Bramble and Emmerson Boyce have forged a terrific partnership in the centre of the Wigan defence. In particular, Titus Bramble has been outstanding and his performances this season should have convinced anyone, who still isn't convinced, that he is a very good defender.

Deservedly, he was voted the club's player of the season by the fans and the media, and Wigan can look forward to another good season from him.

However, with Paul Scharner insisting on leaving, there is no cover beyond Bramble and Boyce and surely that is unacceptable for any Premier League club.

There are two options that Wigan can take.

They can bring in a better defender to replace Boyce and then use Boyce as cover for both centre-back and right-back, or they could bring in someone of a lower quality to act as cover.

For the first option, I would suggest they buy Sebastien Bassong.

A quick and solid defender, Bassong would be an improvement over Boyce who is also solid, but is probably made to look good by Bramble.

Bassong has expressed his desire to play for a Premier League club and certainly will not stay at Newcastle following their relegation.

Wigan has got a good chance of signing him, and they should.

If Wigan looks to bring in cover, they could try signing Alexander Diamond from Aberdeen. A defender who plays with his heart on his sleeve, Diamond would be a good addition to Wigan.

He is strong in the air and, while not the fastest on the deck, his determination pushes him to make an extra effort to get to the ball before the strikers.

He is a good defender and is definitely near or at Premiership quality already, despite his young age.

However, it remains to be seen if he is good enough to displace Boyce from the side and, should he be signed, would remain as cover at first.

So, those are my suggestions for Wigan to sign in the summer.

Should Roberto Martinez really take over Wigan, he will have to turn on the charm to persuade quality players to ply their trade at the JJB.

A few of the above players would certainly help!

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