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Preparing for life back in the Premier League (part 8)

A pre-season analysis of Wigan’s return to the top flight of English football, looking at season targets, squad management, transfers, and a shift in tactics.

In part 1 of this series I laid out my long term goals, I’ve ticked off two of these by leading Wigan back to the Premier League with two successive promotions. The remaining goals are to establish the club in the Premier League (i.e. avoid relegation and look towards a mid-table finish or higher) and to re-lift the FA Cup.

Having mobilised a successful return to the Premiership with back to back titles we’ve managed to sufficiently increase the desirability of the club. The obvious procession from this is an improved calibre of player in the catchment pool, which we’re going to need to take advantage of. This is an important transfer window for us, I don’t want to unhinge the current squad but I do need to increase its quality. With sensible additions we need to meet the current ethos and retain the squad’s determined mentality, all without breaking the bank.

In order to realistically challenge for the FA Cup and avoid relegation we’ll need to increase the squad size. I’m weary of making too many additions and upsetting the dressing room but ultimately if we want to have a successful cup run (which we do) we’ll need some depth in the squad. Two players for every position should be sufficient, so a squad size of around 22 first team players (excluding players out on loan) is the aim.

Additions to the squad

I touched on this in my last post when we moved early to secure some of our long term targets. My first forays in to the transfer market were to secure on-loan duo Robbie Brady and Jack Calback. Two highly determined players with Premiership experience who were an integral part of our latest promotion. I also announced our long term successor to the aging Jermaine Pennant. Since then I’ve made seven further deals:

  1. Cheikhou Kouyaté was snapped up and replaces Sam Morsy, who was shipped out to Bournrmouth in a 3.1 million deal after an ultimatum regarding wages
  2. Libor Kozak claims the vacated target man role previously filled by on-loan Jelavic
  3. Man Utd wonderkid James Wilson (loan deal) fills the vacated poacher role previously filled by on-loan Mason Bennett
  4. Chidiebere Nwakali, a promising Nigerian youngster, comes in on loan from Man City to cover at right back
  5. Turkish international Hasan Ali Kaldirim was brought in to add some quality to the left back slot
  6. Tyrone Mings’ loan move was made permanent
  7. Canadian international Calum Ferguson, a future player of a similar mould to Jason Cummings, is signed and sent out on loan to gain first team experience and continue his development

The key thing here is that we did our business early, allowing time for our new players to settle in and familiarise themselves with the formations and tactics.

James Wilson

Tactical approach

The Premier League offers an obvious gulf in quality compared to last season’s opposition. Our possession based approach is going to be difficult to replicate against opposition who are used to dominating the ball themselves, and who have the players to out pass us. I’ll be looking to modify and tweak our style in a separate and more in-depth tactic-orientated post, which our now finalised squad can familiarise with throughout pre-season.