The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Wigan Athletic
In the eleventh edition of the "Three Transfers" series, the club now under the spotlight is Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic.
Having enjoyed a consistent season, Wigan have lost Steve Bruce to Sunderland, and look set to endure further loses over the summer.
Paul Scharner has publicly stated that he would like a move in the summer. Antonio Valencia has not expressed interest in a move, but seems certain to depart as many bigger clubs are targetting him.
Assuming these two leave, there will be gaping holes in the Wigan team, which has already lost Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January.
The gaps within the team will definitely have to be filled with quality players, and the only positive that can come out of this is that they are likely to get good money for Scharner and Valencia, which can then be re-invested into the side.
Who should they sign though?
Here's my take...
A bit of a no-brainer.
If Antonio Valencia somehow ends up staying, then this will be an irrelevant suggestion.
However, I really do not see how the Ecuadorian will still be at the JJB Stadium come August and, for the purposes of this discussion, I will assume that he has been snapped up for a substantial amount of money.
Valencia is one of the best right-wingers in the English Premier League, and his successor will have some huge boots to fill. Looking internally, Wigan do have Daniel De Ridder.
However, it is unlikely that he will step up to Valencia's level, considering he was never a first-teamer at Birmingham or Wigan.
As such, Valencia's replacement will have to be an external recruitment. While I mentioned the club would have substantial funds, convincing a player of the suitable quality to come to Wigan will not an easy task.
For example, David Bentley would probably be an awesome signing for them, and Wigan would be able to afford the transfer with the funds generated from the sale of Valencia, but persuading the Londoner to move North will be a real difficulty.
I think Wigan will end up having to set their sights lower, and I would recommend they go for Gary O'Neil.
One of the better performers in Middlesbrough's terrible season, O'Neil is a hardworking player who always gives his all for the club. This would tie in well with the rest of the Wigan squad who work hard for each other and never stop running.
Also, as Mario Melchiot is getting older, O'Neil's work-rate would be useful in tracking back to help Melchiot with defensive duties.
With Middlesbrough getting relegated, Wigan will have no problems meeting any asking price, and I think O'Neil would have no problem joining Wigan.
If that deal doesn't materialise, Wigan could opt to sign Jermaine Pennant. Once a bright prospect, Pennant has lost his way somewhat, stumbling from one club to another.
Despite his misbehaviour and supposedly poor attitude, there is no doubting his quality.
A pacey right-winger who whips in delicious crosses for the strikers, his technical ability would be much appreciated in Wigan, and he is a more like-for-like replacement for Valencia than O'Neil is, and probably more in the ilk of player Martinez will be keen to sign.
Additionally, Pennant is a free agent, as his contract with Liverpool has expired, and Benitez has shown no interest in offering him a new deal, so the Latics could find themselves picking up a bargain. If they can get Pennant to concentrate on football, then they will not miss Valencia that much.
Hugo Rodallega, Henri Camara, and Marlon King are the only recognised forwards left at Wigan. Camara and King are not good enough currently to hold down a first-team spot, which is why they were allowed to go on loan in the first place.
With Rodallega impressing, Wigan still need to sign one more established striker, and I think that their first priority should be to tie Mido down on a permanent deal.
The Egyptian has impressed for Wigan and was particularly effective against Arsenal, proving to be a real bully in the air.
On the floor, his technique also serves him well, so he cannot be accused of being a one-dimensional footballer. Just like Jermaine Pennant, if Wigan could get him to concentrate on playing football, then they have themselves a good player.
He would also be another cheap signing as Middlesbrough will want to move him on to help alleviate the wage bill now that they have been relegated to the Championship.
Another possible signing who would fit in at Wigan is Bafetimbi Gomis.
Once the subject of much transfer speculation, linking Gomis to the top clubs in Europe, the goals have dried up a little in his last season, (a mere nine goals as opposed to 16 scored in 07/08) and his name hasn't been bandied around as frequently recently.
He is still a quality striker and his physical attributes should help him to adapt quickly to the Premier League. Wigan could stand to benefit if none of the top clubs show an interest, as the Lactics will have enough money to prise him away from his current club, AS Saint-Etienne.
Gomis has also publicly declared that he needs to be playing in a better league, seemingly opening the door to a move to England, where his idol, Didier Drogba, plies his trade.
Titus Bramble and Emmerson Boyce have forged a terrific partnership in the centre of the Wigan defence. In particular, Titus Bramble has been outstanding and his performances this season should have convinced anyone, who still isn't convinced, that he is a very good defender.
Deservedly, he was voted the club's player of the season by the fans and the media, and Wigan can look forward to another good season from him, assuming they manage to hold onto the former Magpie.
However, with Paul Scharner insisting on leaving, there is no cover beyond Bramble and Boyce and surely that will be unacceptable for any Premier League club.
There are two options that Wigan can take.
They can bring in a better defender to replace Boyce and then use Boyce as cover for both centre-back and right-back, or they could bring in someone of a lower quality to act as cover.
For the first option, I would suggest they buy Sebastien Bassong.
A quick and solid defender, Bassong would be an improvement to Boyce who is also solid, but is strongly supported by Bramble.
Bassong has expressed his desire to play for a Premier League club and certainly will not stay at Newcastle following their relegation.
Wigan has got a good chance of signing him, and they should.
If Wigan look to bring in cover, they could try signing Alexander Diamond from Aberdeen. A defender who plays with his heart on his sleeve, Diamond would be a good addition to Wigan.
He is strong in the air and, while not the fastest on the deck, his determination pushes him to make an extra effort to get to the ball before the strikers.
He is a good defender and is definitely near or at Premiership quality already, despite his young age.
However, it remains to be seen if he is good enough to displace Boyce from the side and, should he be signed, would remain as cover at first.
So, those are my suggestions for Wigan to sign in the summer.
Following Roberto Martinez's take over at Wigan, his first task will be to turn on the charm and persuade quality players to ply their trade at the JJB.
A few of the above players would certainly help!
This article and more can also be found at thetipsters, a website set up by my friend Roland and I.
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