Are Wigan Athletic primed for a Premier League return in 2020?

Since our historical FA Cup success in 2013, Wigan Athletic have endured a topsy-turvy few seasons which has seen us lose our top flight status just days after beating Manchester City 1-0 in the Wembley showpiece.

Midfielder Ben Watson was the hero that day, but a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal meant The Latics waved goodbye to their eight-year tenure in the Premier League; the first ever club to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.

A play-off semi-final defeat to Queens Park Rangers in 2014 is the closest Wigan have come to making a return to the top flight, but after Dave Whelan sold the club earlier this month, the good times could be about to return to the DW Stadium.

Hong Kong-based company International Entertainment Corporation completed the purchase of the Championship side for around £22m, leaving supporters hopeful they can mount a potential promotion charge.

With that in mind, the current campaign has been tough on Wigan so far and they have lost their last four league games and shipped ten goals in the process. Although such form replicates a team struggling, Wigan have looked strong at home at least and have only lost once this season in front of their own fans.

Current squad

Manager Paul Cook can call upon a talented crop of players but the squad does need to be strengthened over the next couple of transfer windows, in particular at the back. The likes of Will Grigg, Joe Garner and Nick Powell will provide a great source of goals but Wigan’s leaky defence has proved their downfall this season.

Dan Burn has impressed at centre-half but with fellow loanees Reece James and Antonee Robinson occupying the full-back roles, Cook will need to establish a more settled backline if Wigan are to move forward in the long-run.

Currently, Wigan have five players in the first-team who are on loan which provides an inkling as to the challenges that lay ahead for Cook and the new owners. Granted, many teams can, and do, benefit from the inclusion of borrowed players but, in the grand scheme of things, The Latics will want a settled side of their own.

Defence is certainly an area that’ll need addressing sooner rather than later but Cook can rely upon a strong midfield which has been improved with the summer acquisition of Josh Windass. The attacking midfielder has slotted in well at the DW Stadium and with the likes of Kal Naismith and Nathan Byrne occupying the flanks, Windass can flourish in his No. 10 role.

Up top, Wigan have Garner, Grigg and James Vaughan as their three main strikers but with the trio only notching five goals between them, a competent striker at this level is a necessity. It’s certainly something Cook will want to preach to the new owners.

Top flight aspirations

Although a return to the Premier League seems way off at this stage, Wigan will want to ensure that they are playing Championship football next season after yo-yoing between England’s second and third tiers.

After lifting the League One crown in 2016 and 2018, stability is essential for Wigan and their current league position suggests they have enough about them to retain their place in the Championship but new players in January will help ensure this.

All areas of the team can and will need to be added to but something which is vital for The Latics is that they retain those whose contracts are up in the summer. Nick Powell and captain Samy Morsy are perhaps the two biggest names Wigan will want to retain.

In Cook, The Tics have a manager who is still learning his trade to some extent, but after leading Portsmouth to the League Two title, supporters can be assured that the former Wigan player is the right man to try and lead the club back to the promised land.

Promotion will be half the battle for Wigan and their supporters but then Premier League survival is key for the long-term success of the club. The North West side can certainly call upon their last experience for inspiration but nonetheless, the Premier League relegation odds will certainly have Cook’s side as favourites for an immediate return to the Championship.

With new owners in place, a manager who knows and understands the club’s philosophies and some new additions across all areas of the team, Wigan will be well-suited to launch a promotion bid in 2020 and ultimately, restoring their place amongst England’s elite.

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