Talking football: '˜Finally... a Christmas No.1 we like'

So whatever happens this weekend at Oxford, Wigan Athletic are guaranteed the Christmas No.1 spot for 2017.

Thursday, 21st December 2017, 1:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st December 2017, 2:45 pm
Ivan Toney wrapped up Latics' 4-0 win at AFC Wimbledon

And given the way things have gone so far, you wouldn’t back against them staying top of the pops until May.

The Boxing Day visit of Shrewsbury marks the halfway point of the campaign.

A campaign that has, to date, surely exceeded all expectation.

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Okay, the squad assembled at the start of the season looked to be a cut above the rest of the division.

Especially once the transfer window closed and the likes of Sam Morsy, Dan Burn, Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs and Nick Powell remained at the DW Stadium.

But there was inevitably going to be some kind of bedding in process, to allow all the new players – as well as boss Paul Cook and his management team – to find their feet. Right?

That seemed to take all of about four pre-season matches, since when the season started and Latics quickly set about their task.

Only three times so far have Latics had their colours lowered in the league.

At Shrewsbury – in a tight game that could have gone either way.

At Peterborough – when Latics should have been out of sight well before half-time.

And at home to Bradford – when a stoppage-time winner handed Latics their first home defeat in eight months.

Each time, Cook’s men have shown their mettle and bounced back with a win streak of several matches.

Some onlookers may be waiting for Latics to have their ‘dodgy spell’, where things start to come off the rails.

Blackburn have already come through theirs early, while Shrewsbury are having theirs at the moment.

Maybe Latics have already had theirs – and we barely noticed!

Because I don’t see a side playing at their full capacity, with all the breaks going their way.

I see a side that has shown patches of their potential in certain games, but with one or even two gears still to utlise should the need arise.

Incredible, then, to consider this team is FOURTEEN points ahead of where Gary Caldwell’s team were two years ago, which went on to win the title. And VERY scary indeed for the rest of League One.

It’s that time of the year where every man and his dog seems to be putting forward their Premier League ‘Team of the Season So Far’.

So here’s my, erm, Premier League ‘Team of the Season’ so far.

In goal, there can’t be any doubt Manchester United’s David de Gea deserves to be first on the team sheet.

He’s been the best in England for quite some time, but now he’s arguable taken over that mantle on a global level.

At right-back, Antonio Valencia. Not just because he’s a genuine Latics legend, but he’s also proved himself a world-class defender, as well as winger, in the last few years.

At centre-back, it’s across to the blue half of Manchester, and a combo of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

Stones has always threatened to become a top, top player, but Otamendi seems to have cut out the mistakes – and also chipped in with some vital goals.

At left-back, Ashley Young, Partly because there’s not many top No.3s around. But also because he’s been excellent, both going forward and defending, and fully deserves an England recall.

The two lads in central midfield pick themselves – David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne. No further words necessary. Apart from one: class.

Not too much explanation needed either for the three attackers further upfield – Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling and Eden Hazard.

I’d like to get Marcus Rashford in there, and Philippe Coutinho is obviously top-drawere, but I can’t drop any of the three I’ve selected.

And Harry Kane gets the nod up top, where surely he’d have a field day latching on the service provided!

Manager? No question, Sean Dyche.

Pep Guardiola should have Manchester City at the top of the league. Burnley have no right to be in the European spots. Phenomenal going.