The transfer window is now open, and Warren Joyce has the month of January to wheel-and-deal to ensure Wigan Athletic are better equipped to handle the second half of the campaign. Here are the areas that Joyce will need strengthen if Latics are to fight their way away from the foot of the Championship table.
Already been identified by Joyce as the No.1 priority for reinforcements – and not surprising.
The cruciate ligament injury that ended Adam Bogdan’s season-long loan deal left Jussi Jaaskelainen as the only senior goalkeeper on the books. Even 20-year-old Dan Lavercombe – picked up last January from non-league Torquay – has been in the wars, resulting in Owen Evans, also 20, being fast-tracked on to the bench for Monday’s clash with Huddersfield, just days after returning from a loan spell at non-league Rhyl.
Neither have played a single game in the Football League. Given Joyce’s previous ties with Manchester United, Latics were linked with a move for young Sam Johnstone, who has enjoyed two previous loan spells with Preston – although he has joined Steve Bruce at Aston Villa.
A solution to the lack of goals must be found – and fast
To be fair, Wigan’s troubles this season have not stemmed from the backline.
Despite shipping six goals in the space of a week over Christmas to fellow struggling Ipswich and Rotherham, their goals against tally is still only 31 – better even than third-placed Reading (32).
Skipper Stephen Warnock continues to lead by example at left-back, Jake Buxton has proved another very decent summer signing, while Dan Burn has recovered from a shaky start and his confidence looks to be growing by the week. With last year’s captain, Craig Morgan, still to come back after injury, centre-back does not look too much of a concern.
But Joyce will be desperate to find a solution to the problem at right-back, which has dogged the side all season – resulting in half the squad having been tried there with limited success – although the imminent return of Donervon Daniels should help the situation.
At the start of the season – and following the signings of Jordi Gomez, Nick Powell, Shaun MacDonald and Alex Gilbey – Latics looked heavily over-staffed in this department.
But again injuries have cut deep, and the decision to allow Sam Morsy to join Championship rivals Barnsley on a season-long loan was called into question before the ink was even dry on the contract. Joyce admitted soon after his arrival there were too many similar-type players and not enough variety in the engine room, and he’ll be looking to add creativity – and much-needed goals – to an area that has struggled to link up with the attack for much of the campaign.
Michael Jacobs has plugged away but found space harder to find than in League One, while defences have also fared better in keeping the shackles on Yanic Wildschut down the flanks.
Latics are the lowest-scoring side in the Championship, with only 20 from their 25 league games played - rock-bottom Rotherham, by contrast, have 25.
Will Grigg clearly knows where the goal is after notching 29 times on his way to the League One Golden Boot last term.
But he’s found the going considerably tougher this term, with the last of his six goals coming on September 27. That’s not been helped by his lack of a pre-season, injuries and illness, as well as becoming a new father – not to mention a chronic lack of service which has also limited his effectiveness.
Fellow strikers Craig Davies and Adam Le Fondre have added only one goal each themselves, while summer signing Kaiyne Woolery has hardly had a kick.
Joyce has even tried using Wildschut in an emergency centre-forward role, but a solution to the lack of goals must be found – and fast – if Latics are to shoot themselves to safety.