Latics are now hitting their best form as we approach the final third of the season. The performance at Sheffield United was their best so far as they dominated one of the play-off contenders, deserving the three points and moving up to third in the table.
Gary Caldwell got his tactics spot on as he changed to a flat back four with Chris McCann and Donervon Daniels occupying the full back slots.
Caldwell surprisingly made changes to a winning team by giving new signing Sam Morsy his full debut in front of the back four, while Conor McAleny went straight into the team after his loan signing from Everton, and it all worked a treat.
Latics controlled the game from the kick off, bossing possession in the first half and then upping the tempo in the second half to score two quick fire goals and thoroughly subdue the home team.
Caldwell’s team is getting better week-by-week and they showed great determination and professionalism at Bramall Lane.
They now have quality all over the pitch, and importantly they have a striker in Will Grigg who can score 20 plus goals in a season. Grigg has bagged 13 goals in all competitions and scored six in his last four games.
Latics also have plenty of other attacking options with Yanic Wildschut, Michael Jacobs, Haris Vuckic and new signings Conor McAleny and Ryan Colclough all providing a significant goal threat.
The defence is looking more solid with two recent clean sheets against Port Vale and Sheffield United and they are getting stronger as a unit.
Keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen has added much needed composure to the defence and it is no coincidence that the team’s rise commenced when the former Finnish international took over in goal.
The team spirit is high and the squad has been strengthened during the transfer window. Competition for places is now at its greatest since the Premier League days.
The flexibility of Caldwell’s formation is also proving an added bonus as Latics outwit as well as outplay their opponents. The manager has continued to adapt Roberto Martinez’s 3-4-3 formation.
Given different types of opponents or a change in personnel the system can adapt to 3-4-2-1. The formation can be a base 3-4-2-1 but looks like a 3-4-3 and at times like a 4-4-1-1. Few teams in League One are able to cope with such improvisation and flexibility of formation.
Caldwell and his team are on the verge of success. They are playing with confidence; the momentum is with them. An automatic promotion place is within their reach but they must be wary of any complacency and not take anything for granted, starting against Oldham Athletic tomorrow.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 12th February 2016.