It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde start to life back in the Championship as we approach the turn of the year. Latics exceeded many people’s expectations by making an excellent opening to the campaign producing some impressive performances including a superb 3-0 away win at Stoke City.
In September they moved up to seventh place in the Championship table after a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Hull City. But an unfortunate spate of injuries to attacking players and some poor away performances meant they have slipped down the table.
One of the most dispiriting displays was away at Millwall against a team who were struggling in the relegation zone. Latics had performed superbly winning 1-0 against title favourites West Bromwich Albion at home on the previous Saturday but this performance was the antithesis.
They were completely out of sorts, but in spite of Millwall’s overall dominance, they went ahead with an own goal just before half time.
Latics were then gifted the chance to double their lead when James Vaughan was brought down in the box, but Josh Windass wasted the golden opportunity blazing the penalty high over the crossbar.
Probably their worst performance of the season was against local rivals Preston North End were they were defeated 4-0. It was a chastening defeat for Latics who had made such a bright start to their Championship campaign against a team who had been bottom of the table before kick off.
However, the home form continued to impress with a convincing 3-1 win against Blackburn Rovers.
Man of the Season so far, Reece James scored a superb free kick against Leeds United in November but the unbeaten home run came to an end with an unfortunate mistake by Christian Walton.
The takeover of the club by the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) was completed at the beginning of November.
The change in ownership from Dave Whelan to IEC meant the end of an era for the club. Whelan’s time in charge had been a golden period and it will be a hard for the club to ever reach those heights again.
To climb through the divisions and to establish themselves in the Premier League for eight years, reach a League Cup Final, win an FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement.
Whelan and his grandson David Sharpe have steered the club for the last 23 years and now another family duo with the backing of IEC will have a big say in the future of Latics.
Former England international footballer Joe Royle has become a Director of the club and son Darren will be Executive Chairman.
The January transfer window will provide a strong indication of IEC’s intentions and whether they are prepared to invest in the team.
The contract of captain Samy Morsy has now been secured by IEC but it will be interesting to see if Nick Powell and Nathan Byrne are also offered improved deals.
Latics may not have the resources of some of the big championship clubs but investment in the team is now required just to maintain their Championship status.
The squad has been badly hit by injuries this season and is in need of reinforcements. Michael Jacobs has been unavailable for a considerable time, Nick Powell is out until January, Dan Burn will move to Brighton in the new year and full back Antonee Robinson is out until February.
Latics will certainly need a left back, centre half and probably another attacking player in the January window.
Joe Royle still has close links with Everton and this could prove beneficial in the loan market. Latics already have Callum Connolly and Antonee Robinson at the club but with Lee Evans loan from Sheffield United becoming permanent and Dan Burn joining Brighton they will have more loan spots available.
Latics away form, only one win all season, is very poor and the performance at Portman Road was deeply worrying.
The team produced one of their worst performances of the season to succumb 1-0 to the Championship’s bottom club Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
The Tractor Boys had been without a win at home all season but Latics allowed a team which was low on form and confidence to grab all three points.
Unfortunately as we approach the new year the good home form now seems to have deserted them as well.
Paul Cook said after the recent Birmingham City home defeat that it was the lowest point in his 18 month tenure. His team are currently out of sorts and out of ideas.
There has been little creativity from the centre of the park and they are sorely missing the injured Nick Powell.
The manager must take responsibility for the ineffective long ball tactics used in the last few games and he must get the team back to the passing football that was so integral to their success at the beginning of the season.
The players need to step up to the challenge and the manager must return to his winning formula or they will become embroiled in a relegation fight.
Callum McManaman was a shining light at West Bromwich Albion with a Man of the Match display and if he can link up with Will Grigg and Gavin Massey it does give us some optimism for the forthcoming games.
Cook is very capable of turning around the team’s fortunes but the pressure is growing on the manager to quickly halt the slide down the table.