Wigan Athletic may have lost a few big players this summer. Joel Robles’ loan spell is over, Antonin Alcaraz, Maynor Figueroa, Franco di Santo have left on free transfers and Arouna Kone has followed Roberto Martinez to Everton. But the players they’ve brought in provide the experience to get them straight out the Championship.
Grant Holt is a fantastic signing and has a lot of experience in the Football League. Scott Carson is a goalkeeper that is more than good enough at this level, and added to Ali Al-Habsi means they have a brilliant choice of goalkeeper. They’ve brought in Celtic defender Thomas Rogne, who if he can stay fit will be a real coup. Blackpool defender Stephen Crainey and Chris McCann are players who have a lot of experience in this league as well.
They key for Wigan though, is it’s unlikely anyone will splash out on their star players. They’re likely to demand £10m+ for winger Callum McManaman and James McCarthy, and it’s yet to be seen if anyone will play close to those fees. The talk of Shaun Maloney leaving has died down, and if they can hang on to him he should excel. Added to this keeping James McArthur, captain Gary Caldwell, Emmerson Boyce, Jordi Gomez and FA Cup star Ben Watson means they will hold on to the basis of their Premier League team.
Compare this with QPR and the difference is huge. Although the basis of their squad from last season remains, the chances are there will be a huge clearout by the start of 2013-2014. Julio Cesar, Adel Taarabt, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand, Esteban Granero and Loic Remy are all expected to leave. Added to this there is likely to be interest in Armand Traore, Park Ji-Sung and Junior Hoilett. The problem for Harry Redknapp is he wants to clear the squad out, but other teams are unwilling to match the extortionate wages Tony Fernandes offered them to start with. This means other teams could wait until closer to the deadline to see if wages/fees will drop, leaving Redknapp with little time to replace them.
Reading have done well to hang on to the basis of their team, but their poor performance all round last season, bar a few such as Adam le Fondre, Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary, means that interest in their squad hasn’t generated that much. Their squad looks a decent one at this level, and Nigel Adkins is someone who can get them promoted again. But if they were to get there, some major investment would be needed to stay at the top level.
I expect Wigan to do well, and they should be in the top two places. That being said, Owen Coyle was favourites with Bolton last summer, but a poor start to the season saw him sacked early on. This time round he should fare a lot better. Reading should finish in the play-offs at least with the squad they have. QPR could struggle though, and I don’t know if Redknapp realises how tough his job will be next season. They need to focus on signing players who are used to this league and aren’t on ridiculous wages. Let’s hope they’ve learnt their lesson from Chris Samba.