Since the Football League decided to rebrand to the EFL, they have made a noticeable amount of changes to the world’s oldest football league pyramid. One of those changes that has been a bitter blow to its members, the scrapping of the 92-day loan window/the emergency loan window. This window was designed to help cash-stricken clubs with already small squads, who may have needed extra depth to help with the increasingly busy festive period, however, from this season onwards, this is no more, throughout the entire EFL.
Wigan Athletic used this loan window to their advantage greatly during last season’s League 1 title-winning campaign. Additions varied from Alex Revell, now skipper Stephen Warnock and in-form man Yanic Wildschut, who two weeks ago was compared to Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo by gaffer Warren Joyce.
This, despite being a significant blow to Latics, who are going through a difficult time and a transition period, is the same for all 92 clubs within the professional game in English football.
The Tics have been plagued with injury worries up and down the pitch, starting off with the man in between the sticks, veteran Jussi Jaaskelainen is now currently first choice keeper at the age of 41, following Adam Bogdan’s season-ending ACL injury suffered at Barnsley on the 19th November. Jaaskelainen, despite not making any glaring errors so far this season, is nearing retirement and in my opinion, can be improved upon in January. There have also been murmurs that Joyce may bring Manchester United youth player Sam Johnstone to the club on a loan deal, although, promotion-chasing Aston Villa are also said to be interested in the stopper.
At the back, injuries have seen Wigan in recent weeks play without a recognised right back. Injuries to Nathan Byrne, Donervon Daniels and Kyle Knoyle have seen the Latics struggle in the right back position. Whilst stand-ins such as Alex Gilbey, Reece Burke and Luke Garbutt have also spent time out injured, after playing in that position. Warren Joyce has been forced to play players out of position in that role, such as experienced captain Stephen Warnock, who has consistently been used as a full back on the left side throughout his career, and the returning Andy Kellett, who is also more accustomed to playing out on the left rather that right. Former Captain Craig Morgan has also been injured twice this season, making it hard for the back 4 to settle completely, potentially resulting in the individual errors that occur on a weekly basis for Latics.
The middle of the park is where The Tics are truly down to the bare bones, with injuries to four central midfielders. This may leave Joyce no option but to make the central midfield the priority in January with the small budget available. Injuries to the previously mentioned Alex Gilbey are followed by injuries to David Perkins, Nick Powell and Shaun MacDonald. This again forces Joyce to chop and change his starting 11 and play players out of position, which doesn’t give a true reflection on Joyce as a manager, the squad or even the players themselves.
Wigan may be forced to sell one of their prized assets in order to pave the way for a bit of depth in the squad. They are struggling due to parachute payments running out, inflation rapidly rising in the Championship, following the new TV deal in the Premier League and the spending power of clubs such as Newcastle, Aston Villa, Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich. In-form Yanic Wildschut is attracting the attention of many in the Championship following his recent excellent form topped off with a brace against Ipswich, meanwhile, despite Will Grigg failing to adapt to Warren Joyce’s style of play, he could be one who could bring in some funds, if Joyce finds him to be surplus to requirements.
Regardless of who the outgoings are, one thing is for sure, the current crop aren’t good enough, the table doesn’t lie. Wigan Athletic sit second bottom of the Championship, this indicates the squad needs to be improved, however, I feel that as Warren Joyce has brought a whole different style of play to The Tics to replace the possession football of Gary Caldwell, he mustn’t be judged just yet. As has been said many times on social media, the squad isn’t his and the players may not directly suit his style of play, this must be addressed in the January window.
Despite the depleted squad, I do feel that performances are improving under Joyce, even if results are hard to come by at the moment. Any calls for his head just yet I feel are knee-jerk and I do think as long as we get to January without being cut significantly adrift, we’ll be fine, given he gets the opportunity to rectify and bring in his own squad. There’s plenty of games left and plenty of points to play for in this long 46-game Championship season and I think The Tics faithful should keep the faith in the club.
Feature Image Credit: Bill Boaden