Wigan Athletic got their preseason match preparations underway with a 2-1 win Saturday over the MLS's Columbus Crew in Ohio. Latics looked in control from the start. After a pedestrian first half in which neither side looked like scoring, Wigan were 2-0 in front when a deflected goal got the home team back in the game after 73 minutes.
Columbus put forward its first-choice lineup with the intention of withdrawing them after the hour mark, which they eventually did.
Wigan brought in Academy product Adam Buxton to make his debut at right back. Emmerson Boyce and James Perch occupied the centre of defence with Stephen Crainey on the left. Ben Watson was employed in front of the back four, James McArthur in front of Buxton on the right. Jordi Gomez and Chris McCann played in central midfield with Grant Holt as target man and Jean Beausejour wide on the left.
Roger Espinoza and James McCarthy came on after half-time, and after a minute a fine cross from the Honduran allowed McCarthy the luxury of a headed goal. Two more substitutes combined for Latics' second goal after 63 minutes with Fraser Fyvie slipping through a fine pass which was clinically put away by Marc Antoine Fortune.
Following their goal, the Crew started to get back in the game and Scott Carson had to make a great save in the closing minutes to stop them scoring following a defensive error.
Wigan made good use of the ball and the midfield was in control for most of the match. It was revealing to see how the style of football resembled that of last season, give or take the occasional hoof upfield by one of the newcomers. The system had changed, with a flat back four.
In the first half they played with a crowded midfield with only Grant Holt and Beausejour pushed forwards. But after 63 minutes it reverted to 4-3-3, with Nouha Dicko moving to the right wing with Callum McManaman on the left.
Although protected by the midfield to a large degree the centre-back pairing of Boyce and Perch looked solid.
Latics had five newcomers in their starting lineup and it is going to take time for them to gel. Holt looked isolated up front and it will be a challenge for him to get used to the slower build-ups as Wigan had in this match.
The current squad is unbalanced. There is a surplus of quality midfield players, but a dearth of defenders and forwards. Owen Coyle has done a remarkable job in the transfer market, but there is still work to be done.
With Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis out if action for some time still, the centre of defence is in need of another experienced practioner. Although centre back is probably Perch's best position, Boyce is best employed at right back, where his attacking skill can make the difference.
With the surfeit of central midfield players, McArthur was pushed to right midfield in the first half then right back in the second. Maybe his fine performance as a wing-back in the FA Cup final was a factor in Coyle playing him out of position, but McArthur is a quality central midfield player likely to excel in the Championship.
Coyle has two centre forwards in Holt and Fortune, but there is a need for another wide player to compete with McManaman and Beausejour.
Scott Carson: Unemployed most of the match but saved the result in the closing minutes.
Adam Buxton: Did not look out of place; promising debut; taken off at half-time.
Emmerson Boyce: Looked comfortable throughout; key figure in the push for promotion.
James Perch: A very good debut; his anticipation and tackling were excellent.
Stephen Crainey: Solid and reliable.
Ben Watson: Looked good in familiar role in front of the back four; went off after 63 minutes.
Jordi Gomez: Put through some cultured passes; off after 63 minutes.
Chris McCann: Looks a cultured player, but needs time to gel with teammates.
James McArthur: Showed his versatility, but deserves a place in central midfield.
Grant Holt: A lone figure without support; Went off at half-time.
Jean Beausejour: Looked lively; off after 63 minutes.
James McCarthy: Came on after half-time and scored a minute later. Destined for a big money move.
Roger Espinoza: On after half-time. Well known in Columbus for his exploits at Ohio State; as lively and energetic as always and put in a good cross for the first goal.
Marc Antoine Fortune: On after half time for Holt. Looked comfortable in the lone centre forward role and took his goal well.
Fraser Fyvie: On after 63 minutes; looks class. Nice pass for second goal; why did he not play last season?
Callum McManaman: On after 63 minutes. Let’s hope Dave Whelan's reputed £15 million price tag on him will deter his former manager from taking him away to Everton.
Nouha Dicko: On after 63 minutes. Looked dangerous. Will this be his season?
Shaun Maloney: On after 75 minutes. Apparently had a slight injury that prevented him starting. Championship defences will have trouble with this fellow.