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After cup ticket shenanigans and transfer nonsense, it’s back to concentrating on the league. Billy Grant catches up with JJ from Wigan blog Los Three Amigos (@JJLos3Amigos) to get the low-down on Will Grigg, Ravel Morrison and their forthcoming trip to Old Trafford. 


Wigan haven’t had a great season so far. What’s gone wrong?

There are various views on why Wigan Athletic are in their current predicament. Some say that Gary Caldwell should have been given more time to get things right in the Championship. Others point to a woeful start by his replacement, Warren Joyce, with puzzling team selections and tactics.

But a view that has been gaining more and more ground on the social media is that it was the recruitment over the summer that is the principal reason. Put simply, some people say that the players just are not good enough.

Chairman David Sharpe could have given Caldwell more financial support in the summer market. The manager’s hands were tied, to some degree, in making the kinds of quality signings he would need to strengthen his team to compete in a higher division.

Latics are in relegation dog-fight partly because of mistakes made by both managers, Caldwell and Joyce, but the incomings and outgoings of summer transfer market may have had a more major effect.

If anyone or anything is primarily to blame for Wigan’s current position it has been a lack of ambition on the part of the club. Let’s hope Sharpe will back his latest manager in the January transfer window. That means not selling off his most saleable assets and bringing in more quality.

I’m confused. It’s not as if you’re skint. You still are receiving parachute money from the Premier League. You’re turnover is far higher than ours. You had the highest budget in Division 1 when you got promoted. Surely your current position is all down to mismanagement. 

Certainly, much of it is down to mismanagement. Choosing the wrong manager at the wrong time has had a major disruptive effect. Since the summer of 2013 we have had six managers – Roberto Martinez, Owen Coyle, Uwe Rosler, Malky Mackay, Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce.

There has also been an excessive turnover of players over the past two years. According to figures released by the club, for 2015-16, there were 31 incomings and 44 outgoings, loans being included. The stats for 2016-17 up until the summer transfer window show 14 coming in and 20 leaving.

The major financial factor facing the club is the prospect of the parachute payments running out at the end of the season. An immediate return to the Premier League would have been ideal, but to mount a promotion push would have involved a major financial outlay in terms of transfer fees. Moreover should the bid not be successful Latics would be left with players on big contracts without the financial support of parachute payments.

In fact the summer transfer activity suggested that Latics were looking for consolidation, both in terms of league position and in finances. Some of the players signed in summer have done well, others less impressive. Caldwell used the loan market to good effect last season, but the rules governing loan signings changed, stays of less than half a season not now possible. Summer’s loan signings have been largely disappointing.

On the (link above), Latics Speyk editor Worbo felt sacking Gary Caldwell so early was the wrong thing to do? What are your thoughts?

Caldwell was dismissed far too early. His dismissal followed a 1-0 home defeat by Brighton when Latics more than matched their opponents in their overall performance. In fact, Caldwell’s team had not lost any game in the Championship by more than a goal, with several defeats coming in the dying embers of matches.

Caldwell made mistakes this season. He broke up the solid central defensive partnership of Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce, the former being stripped of the captaincy, the latter offloaded to Charlton. He also sent key midfielder Sam Morsy off on loan to Barnsley. The pre-season was a mess and the players had not been fit enough.

The momentum of winning the League 1 title soon dissipated and Caldwell’s tactics were much more conservative than we saw last season and sometimes puzzling. However, it was Caldwell’s first experience as a Championship manager and things were slowly coming into place when he was sacked. Results had not matched performances.

Warren Joyce was reserve team manager at Man United. Does he have the credentials to lead your team out of the relegation zone?

Warren Joyce has a reputation as a top coach whose teams have played skilful, entertaining football. But at times it has seemed like he had told his players to rip up the coaching book they had learned under Gary Caldwell and go back to basics. The possession football that the Scot had instilled in the players has been largely thrown out of the window.

Joyce’s first game in charge was a 3-0 home defeat by Reading. He responded by playing ultra-defensive football, playing winger Yanic Wildschut as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Joyce decided that the players were not fit enough so increased the intensity and frequency of training. He was probably right about the players’ fitness levels but his methods led to injuries incurred in training.

Unlike Caldwell, whose style of play was clearly defined, it has been hard to see any pattern in the football Latics have played under Joyce. It is based on dour defence with rapid counterattacks.

There are people who think Latics and Joyce have turned the corner. They have won the last two games, in the FA Cup at home to Nottingham Forest and in the league at Burton, so the mood is more positive than it has been for months. The defence has tightened up, with only one goals conceded in the last four games. Moreover Joyce has fielded better balanced line ups.

More than anything else the players are showing commitment and a willingness to scrap it out at difficult venues like Burton. It is that as much as anything that suggests that Joyce can get the club out of the relegation zone.

Ravel Morrison was in the Man United Youth side with Pogba. Alex Ferguson said he was one of the most exciting players he’s ever seen? He’s training with you. Excited?

Morrison could add the kind flair and creativity that has been sadly lacking over recent months. On the other hand, does Joyce really want a “problem” player who might have an adverse effect on the group dynamics.

Who else have you bought in or are looking at?

Goalkeeper Adam Bogdan’s season ended in December with a knee ligament injury. Jakob Haugaard was signed on loan from Stoke, saving a penalty against Stoke, looking good under pressure at Burton.

Right back has been a problematic position. Callum Connolly was signed on loan from Everton just prior to the Burton game and scored two well taken headed goals when playing in the right back position.

Ex-Reading favourite Jem Karacan is close to signing, having been released by Galatatasay. Karacan had major injury problems in his latter time at Reading, so would represent a gamble for the club. 

Ex Bee Will Grigg has scored 7 goals all season after his 29 goals last season. Is he struggling?

The experience in France was desperately disappointing for Grigg. He scored 27 goals last season, the third time in his career when he has exceeded the 20 mark. Given Kyle Lafferty’s goalscoring record at international level it was always going to be difficult to claim a place ahead of him. But Grigg’s fans seriously question why he was not favoured over Washington, who had a good goalscoring ratio at Peterborough, but failed to score for QPR last season after his January transfer.

But despite the knockbacks of France and critics wondering if Grigg was up to the level of the Championship, the player started the season with a flourish. Despite his team’s poor start to the season Grigg not only managed to score 4 goals in the first 5 games, but also to look comfortable playing in the second tier. It looked like Grigg could be on fire in the Championship as he had been in League 1.

But since early September Grigg has not so much been on fire, but more like smouldering. With his first child due to be born he opted out of the Northern Ireland squad at the end of August, the arrival of Adam Le Fondre near the end of the transfer window also complicating Grigg’s position. Grigg was to lose his regular place in the starting lineup under Caldwell.

Joyce’s initial treatment Grigg was baffling. The excuse that the player needed a rest because of being in the European Championship over summer was wearing thin. It appeared that Joyce wanted a central striker with more pace than Grigg (or Davies or Le Fondre), so he put Wildschut there. Rather than adjust the tactics to suit the squad he had, Joyce chose to leave out players who could win matches by scoring goals out of the blue. Joyce has since relented and Grigg is back in the lineup. He scored his first goal in 15 games at Forest.

Last season Grigg had only scored 6 league goals by Christmas, but went on to notch 25. He has already scored 6 goals in the Championship this season. He is an essential part of the lineup.

You looking forward to reclaiming the FA cup you won back in 2013 by first of all despatching Man United in a few weeks?

We can expect a return to the Joyce 4-5-1 formation, with massed defence. Latics did beat Man U once in the Premier League but we had better players then.

The standing phrase among Latics supporters when we went to play at Old Trafford was that we were going to be playing the 12 men. Referees certainly never did Latics any favours against the Reds.

Don’t forget that we not only won the Cup in 2013, but also reached the semi-final a year later. But Rosler’s team in 2014 had quality and the wage bill then was close to double what it is now.

So on Saturday … Brentford coming to town .. how do you think you will get on?

 It is an acid test for Joyce. A win could be the precursor for a major rise up the table in the coming weeks. A loss would put us back to square one.

Where should Bees fans drink before the match?

A new bar called Central Station has opened near the station which is pretty good. Plus The Anvil is a staple for home and away fans.

Score prediction?

My head tells me a draw, possibly 0-0. My heart wants a Wigan win.

Billy Grant