Wigan Athletic: A January transfer market overview

Wigan Athletic have tended to be at the ‘busy’ end of transfer markets over the years – and this January will be no different.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 11:40 am
Mal Brannigan and Leam Richardson

Despite signing FIFTEEN players last summer, boss Leam Richardson is still in the fledgling part of putting his squad together.

And by the Latics manager’s own admission, work on possible January incomings began the moment the window slammed shut in four months ago.

“It’s supposedly well documented that in some quarters we have a plethora of riches and players,” he said.

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“I think the more sane ones will know we haven’t spent millions of pounds, and we have been really stringent in going for experienced free agents.

“You look at our numbers and it is something we want to increase over the next few weeks, in order to be competitive in every game.

“That’s our sole focus, our sole aim and our sole direction. It’s for others to make things of make believe stuff.”

While Richardson would already have been looking across all areas of his squad, there are two huge holes in the team that require urgent action.

The loss of striker Charlie Wyke – for an undetermined length of time due to health reasons – has left Latics without an experienced, goalscoring spearhead for their attack.

Callum Lang has filled in there manfully in recent weeks, but Richardson will be reluctant to place too much long-term emphasis and pressure on his young forward.

Stephen Humphrys will hope for more action in the second half of the campaign, but Latics will have prioritised a huge presence up top - quite probably two - to keep them in the automatic promotion picture.

Equally as pressing is a dominant central midfield figure, with Jordan Cousins having been all-but ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a thigh injury.

His partnership with Tom Naylor in the engine room was as good as it gets in League One, and Richardson will want to bring in a like-for-like replacement to keep the side competitive.

Max Power is a proven performer – and double title winner – at this level, but he’d been utilised more at right-back before Cousins’ injury, to make the most of his magnificent delivery.

Latics also have Tom Bayliss in there, but the on-loan Preston midfielder hasn’t played anywhere near as much as he – or his club – would have liked.

It remains a possibility that arrangement may be looked at in January – especially with North End now being under new management – meaning two possible new arrivals in there.

Another loan being discussed is Curtis Tilt, with Rotherham boss Paul Warne admitting recently it has been a ‘weekly’ topic of debate in South Yorkshire.

Having joined Latics on loan in each of the last THREE windows, it seems clear his long-term future belongs not at the New York Stadium but at the DW.

It’s in the interests of both clubs as well as players to sort out a permanent deal, and surely that will be one of the first deals that gets done.

While Rotherham will be reluctant to strengthen their main promotion rivals, they also won’t want to keep hold of a player who clearly sees his future elsewhere.

Latics are in a relatively strong position, given the presence of on-loan Newcastle centre-back Kell Watts and Jason Kerr – a £600,000 arrival from St Johnstone in the summer – as back-up, so they won’t be held to ransom.

Richardson may also look for another full-back to support skipper Tenday Darikwa, who has also shown his versatility in playing much of the campaign at left-back.

The need for that has lessened in recent weeks with the return to fitness of Joe Bennett who, having played all of his career to date in the top two divisions, should make the position his own.

That would put a slight question mark over Tom Pearce, who was the subject of interest from Barnsley last summer, and who is entering the last six months of his contract.

Latics will be weighing up whether to offer him a new deal, seemingly as back-up to Bennett, or if the time has come to take the last chance to cash in on his services.

Goalkeeping is the position Latics least require reinforcements, but Richardson may try to bring in an extra supporting forward to his squad.

Many fans have voiced their surprise over the course of the campaign at the lack of game-time enjoyed by Jordan Jones since his summer signing from Rangers.

The Northern Ireland man perhaps hasn’t made the impact he’d have hoped on his run-outs – largely off the bench and in cup competitions.

And it could be a change of scenery works out for all parties.

It will be interesting to see how much money Richardson has to spend to bolster his squad.

Last summer’s recruitment was almost exclusively free agents and loan signings.

But with few players coming off contract midway through the campaign, it could be that we see the first real opening of the Phoenix 2021 Limited war chest.

“Once the window closes, we’ve got some very important games, in a number of competitions, and a number of extra ones to fit in,” Richardson acknowledged.

“January is renowned for being a tough window.

“Unlike the summer, there’s no free agents, you’re generally dealing with loans, with the odd purchase.

“At whatever football club you’re at, you’ll have in mind what you deem as success, and you have to recruit within that.

“Discussions have obviously been taking place within our football club for a number of weeks now.

“The goal is always to come out of every window stronger than when you went in.

"And if we’re going to get to the position in the football pyramid where we’re aiming – and that’s me, the chairman, the chief executive, the board – we need to strengthen accordingly.”

The clock is already ticking...

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