It’s been an exciting opening to the Championship season with Latics involved in two five-goal thrillers. An opening day 3-2 victory against Sheffield Wednesday has been followed up by a 3-2 defeat against Aston Villa.
Then on Tuesday night it was disappointing to lose 3-1 in the Carabao Cup at Rotherham but this competition is not a priority for Latics and Paul Cook will have learned much about which of his squad players are ready for the Championship.
It was also great to see 16-year olds Josh Geldhardt and Jensen Weir get a run out at the New York Stadium.
Cook’s entertaining style of play has been the main feature of the opening games but Latics’ vulnerability to crosses is proving to be a concern.
Because of injuries to Nathan Byrne and Dan Burn, Cook has had to experiment with different defensive combinations and this has inevitably led to some teething problems.
Cedric Cipre’s transition from Scottish football will obviously take time and any team would miss Burn’s commanding presence in the centre of defence.
Latics have also lost Gavin Massey and Darron Gibson to injury and new signing Joe Garner is still not match fit after signing from Ipswich Town in the transfer window.
It was only understandable that Cook rested players in midweek as fine margins have decided the results in the last two Championship games and the manager will be aware that he will need his best players fully ready for the difficult upcoming games against promotion candidates Nottingham Forest and Stoke City.
Nottingham Forest made 11 changes to their starting line-up in the Carabao Cup in midweek and survived a sending off and a penalty shoot-out against League Two Bury to progress into the second round.
Forest started their Championship campaign with draws against Bristol City and West Brom before a 1-0 home win against Reading.
The Forest manager Aitor Karanka has spent heavily in pre season and added 13 new players including £13m midfielder Joao Carvalho, striker Lewis Grabban £6m, striker Hillal Soudani £3m and central defender Tobias Figueiredo £3m.
Wednesday night’s opponents Stoke City have also spent significantly in the transfer window splashing the cash on striker Benik Afobe £12m, winger Tom Ince £10m, midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo £6.5m, midfielder Sam Clucas £6m and winger James McClean £5m.
These high levels of expenditure demonstrate the magnitude of the challenge Latics are now facing in the Championship this season.
They will have to come up against many former Premier League giants who are desperate to return to the top table and have spent massively to try to achieve their aim.
Just as in Latics’ Premier League days, it may seem an impossible task at times but Latics will have to accept the disparity in resources and embrace the big challenges ahead.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 17th August 2018.