Well, after a positive season in the Championship (for a change), it feels like our squad has been ripped apart and we have to start again this summer. I suppose it was expected considering three of our best players were on loan, and Powell was always unlikely to sign a new contract.
We still have the foundation of a decent squad, however, we still need a squad overhaul to ensure we have competition for places. I expect us to loan a few of Chelsea’s youth players, after the outstanding work we have done with Reece James. If this link with Benfica comes to fruition, they could provide us with a few top players also.
It’s a big summer for Wigan. How much ambition do the new owners have? Do they trust Cook to sign a number of young, talented players for decent money, or are we looking at signing frees and loans? A mix of both, I’d imagine.
Either way, we need to get our signings right. Powell and James were our two best players, we’ve already lost one and will likely lose the other. Furthermore, we’ve got squad players to buy after Darron Gibson and Callum McManaman were both released.
I look at three areas we need to strengthen ahead of next season…
Strength in midfield
It’s impossible for us to replace James. He’s worth more than our club, genuinely. But what did he offer us – pace, power, ability on the ball, so we need to look at replacing his attributes and signing a similar type of player. A powerhouse. Morsy is more of a ‘ball-winning’ midfielder, so offers that protection for a partner to have the freedom and break forward.
Lee Evans ended the season very well but is more suited as an attacking midfielder, opposed to a defensive one. Mohamed Diame has recently been released from Newcastle, it’s a shame his wages will be a stumbling block, he’s exactly what we need to replace James.
Cook likes to play with one up front, and that striker is predominantly a ‘target man’. I don’t have a problem with that as it allows our creative players to flourish, and enjoy plenty of the ball in the right areas. However, we need a plan B to improve our away form. We led by one goal in a number of games away from home last season, but couldn’t find that killer second goal because we didn’t have the pace to counter-attack.
Conor Washington is available for free. He’s a striker that can run in-behind and exploit a high defensive line. Fraizer Campbell another. Come on Cookie, I’m doing your job for you.
A new number one
We’ve had Christian Walton on loan from Brighton for the past two seasons, and he’s been brilliant. However, there are no suggestions that he’ll be joining us for a third spell. Jamie Jones didn’t take advantage of a run in the side, therefore Cook will be looking for a new commanding ‘keeper. Jamal Blackman is currently unused at Chelsea, he’s got a wealth of EFL experience and would be a good addition for us.