Talking football - another eventful week for Wigan Athletic!

It's been an interesting first fortnight of the campaign for Wigan Athletic and their boss Paul Cook.

Thursday, 16th August 2018, 5:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th August 2018, 5:55 pm
Leonardo Da Silva Lopes in action at Rotherham

The opening-day 3-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday was well-deserved, the only downside being the three points hadn’t been wrapped up well before the nervy climax.

On to Aston Villa last weekend, and this time Latics found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline, again being left to rue some missed opportunities for not closing the game out when they had the chance.

I suspect the midweek Carabao Cup defeat at Rotherham meant as little to most fans as it did to Cook, who made no secret of where the trophy lay in his priorities.

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But the manner Latics conceded another three goals at the New York Stadium will have given cause for concern.

Of course, it was a new-look backline, with only Cedric Kipre retaining his place from the league line-up. And the fledgling back four that’s been on Championship duty has featured only one survivor – Chey Dunkley – from the unit that broke EFL records last term.

But as Cook readily admitted after the game at Rotherham, the defensive solidity that underpinned the League One title success appears to have disappeared in a flash. Latics have now conceded ELEVEN goals in the three-and-a-half games since Dan Burn limped off at the interval during the final pre-season warm-up at Rangers.

It would be all too easy to draw a direct line between the absence of Burn and the sudden carnage at the back.

That would suggest last season’s success was down to Latics being a one-man team – at least at the back – which would be grossly unfair on the others around him.

But let’s not forget Nathan Byrne has also yet to kick a ball in anger this term, while left-backs Callum Elder and Reece James have also departed.

In an ideal world, you’d be looking for youngsters such as Reece James and Antonee Robinson, and Kipre, to be coming in to an established unit, and settling in with the minimum of fuss.

Not being thrown in at the deep end and expected to learn the hard way.

The effect on Christian Walton has also been noticeable, with the big goalkeeper suddenly not looking as assured when it comes to crossing into the box.

Cook, and Latics, will be targeting the first international break next month as a chance to take stock, while it would be no surprise to see further reinforcements coming in before the loan window closes.

Jamie Walker certainly made the most of his run-out at Rotherham.

One of the questions I get asked on social media most is why the Scot – a January signing from Hearts – is not involved more often.

Clearly the intense competition in his position – Powell, Jacobs, Massey, McManaman, Roberts, Naismith, Da Silva Lopes – is a huge factor.

And obviously Paul Cook sees these players in training every day, and is better placed than us to judge who’s worthy of matchday inclusion.

All Walker can do is make the most of his chances when they come around.

And the spark he provided in a free role at the New York Stadium will certainly have given his manager food for thought ahead of the weekend.

Leonardo Da Silva Lopes was another who did his cause no harm at Rotherham in midweek.

The summer signing from Peterborough filled in at right-back with Reece James being given the night off.

And he showed plenty of promise as he looked to bomb on at every opportunity.

Speaking to Leo earlier this summer, he made it clear his preferred position was No.10.

But with the ability to do a job in several positions including midfield and full-back, the 19-year-old may have to serve his apprenticeship elsewhere before staking a claim for that

coveted spot – currently occupied by a certain Nick Powell.

And how good was it to see Shaun MacDonald back in a Latics shirt at Rotherham?

Almost 16 months since the Wales international midfielder suffered a badly-broken leg at Reading, he made his competitive return in the centre of midfield.

The way Paul Cook’s Latics are set up looks made for MacDonald, who dictated play throughout and was spraying passes left and right to the overlapping full-backs.

Of course, a starting spot in the league will be easier said than done, with Sam Morsy the first name on the team sheet, and the likes of Callum Connolly, Darron Gibson and new signing Lee Evans also fighting for a place.

It may be that MacDonald needs to go out on loan to get a run of games under his belt, to be in a position to fully compete for a place in the Latics engine room.

But at the age of just 30 – and having signed a new deal only last term – surely MacDonald has plenty still to bring to the table.

It will not have escaped your attention that the visit of Nottingham Forest this weekend will see Ben Watson returning to Wigan.

The scorer of the winning goal in the 2013 FA Cup final will never have to buy a drink in this parish again after writing himself into Latics folklore.

And the ovation that awaits him will allow us all the chance to take a trip down Memory Lane to a day most of us are probably still pinching ourselves to believe happened in the first place...