With three wins, two losses and a draw, a largely mixed start to the new season for Wigan Athletic is certainly the best that fans could have hoped for after their last spell in the Championship culminated in immediate relegation back to League 1.
Nonetheless, in tenth place and only four points from the top of the table, fans could be forgiven for looking upwards rather than down in the early stages of the season.
A busy summer of transfers that saw Wigan sign players in all positions, and has given Paul Cook a level of squad depth that he could have only dreamed of last season. His biggest challenge this season might be keeping them all happy.
Once again, it’s Christian Walton taking the number one jersey and Jamie Jones understudying. Not really a new signing but the Tics will be pleased to have secured Walton for another season-long-loan after his solid displays last season.
The position that has seen the most changes so far this season. After last campaign’s back line conceded the least goals in the football league, Paul Cook would have been keen not to change too much at the back. Alas, injuries to Dan Burn and Nathan Byrne, and the departure of last season’s loanee left-back Callum Elder, have forced Cook to field three new faces at the back.
Two loan signings have taken the full-back positions; Reece James from Chelsea at right-back and Antonee Robinson from Everton on the left – both look highly talented acquisitions. Both are young and have shown some naivety in defence, but they have strength and pace on the wings. Clearly the youngsters have been trained in the arts of the modern, attacking full-back at their respective parent clubs and are becoming more and more attuned to Cook’s defensive tactics as the games go on.
At, centre-half, alongside fan favourite Chey Dunkley who came on leaps and bounds at the back last season, is Cedric Kipre. Signed for a fee of around £1m from Motherwell, it’s safe to say Kipre looks an absolute beast, and at only 21 he has all the attributes to be a top defender at this level. Similarly to the young full-backs, however, Kipre made mistakes early on as the defence leaked goals, but has looked ever stronger as the games have gone on and looks a good back up for Dan Burn, who even upon his return from injury, will be departing for Brighton come January.
There was a little confusion on deadline day when Max Power, who, great name aside, took everything for Latics last season in terms of set-pieces, left for Sunderland.
All was settled a few hours later though, when the signature of Lee Evans was secured. Fans were glad to see the return of the Welshman who impressed at the beginning of last season on loan, before signing for Sheffield United.
According to those within the club, Wigan wanted to make the deal permanent last January but lost out due to the ongoing takeover saga. A complete midfielder though, Evans brings strength, passing and a tendency for 25-yard screamers to Wigan’s midfield.
Another returning face is Callum Connolly who can play both in defence or midfield, when in the middle though he is more than confident on the ball and will get forward into the box to make his presence known in the air, something he has already shown this season with a header at Villa Park.
Also worth a mention is Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, the highly rated Portugal under 21 international is clearly one for the future, however, as he is yet to make a league appearance.
Here lies a real Selection headache for Cook and his management team, Nick Powell and Will Grigg are considered star performers for Wigan and are unlikely to lose their places. Not forgetting wide-men Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey who have both put in match winning displays against Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke respectively. Couple that with the ever-ready James Vaughan; who came off the bench to win it against Rotherham last time out, and new signings Callum McManaman, Joe Garner and Josh Windass, it’s fair to say that there are plenty of attacking options in the side.
McManaman was a fan favourite in his last spell at the club and still looks exciting, despite having had little joy in the five years since leaving. Restricted mostly to substitute appearances thus far, McManaman’s fitness has always looked to hold him back as he often struggles to play 90 minutes.
Also working on his fitness is Joe Garner, having not had the best pre-season, Garner made the squad for the first time in the last game against Rotherham and came on for a few minutes towards the end.
Son of Yorkshire tough man Dean Windass, Josh looks to be a quality addition. Arriving from Rangers having scored 18 for them last season, Windass was in the thick of the action against Rotherham and looks to have the ability to create and score goals.