Defensive Profile – Filling Bramble and Melchiot’s ShoesBy: Nick | July 30th, 2010
For the last few years, the Wigan back line has been effectively marshaled by the hard working Mario Melchiot and the tough tackling Titus Bramble, but in the upcoming season this pairing will no longer be an option. It was always known that Melchiot would eventually move to a lower club as his lack of pace has been a concern, especially last season. I wish him the best of luck in Qatar with his new club Umm Salal. However, the loss of Bramble is a major blow. Whilst playing for the latics, Bramble had revitalized his career and has arguably been in the form of his life, working tremendously hard to make the starting centre back position his own. With Bramble gone, an obvious hole has appeared in the side’s defence… but all is not lost. If anything this is an opportunity for one our reserve/ younger players to step up and claim that spot. So who is in contention?
Having looked at the team sheet there is a definite lack of quality defenders, which is definitely an area that Martinez needs to look at. So I have compiled a list of possible players that could form our new centre back combinations.
Gary Caldwell appears to be the front runner in claiming one of the centre back spots because of his solid display in the majority of matches in the second half of last season. Unlike most tranferred players, Caldwell took barely any time to adjust to a bigger league and was a strong presence against other sides. He also has the ability to pop and score the occasional goal and his record stands at 2 goals in 16 matches. However, discipline is a major issue for Caldwell because along with his two goals he has also collected 2 red cards, which came at costly occasions last season.
Although centre back isn’t Antolin Alcaraz’s preferred position, given our current thin squad he may be thrust into the heart of defence. Alcaraz is still very much a question mark and has never played a game in the World’s toughest league. It may take time for him to settle and begin to feel comfortable. What is promising is the fact that he had a stellar world cup for Paraguay, where he managed to score one of his country’s only goals. If he can cut it on the world stage, then hopefully the Premier League wont be too much of a problem.
Finally, this may be the season that Emmerson Boyce is able to step up and make that starting position his own. Boyce is virtually a veteran in Wigan colours and has been at the club since their inception into the Premier League. During his time with the latics he has been a very consistent performer, but hopefully this will be the season that he really proves himself and begins to marshall the defence. Unlike Alcaraz or indeed Caldwell, Boyce has great playing experience at the top level having played 110 matches since 2006. Having conceded the most goals for a non relegated club Wigan will need an experienced campaigner like Boyce to step up and lead the side’s more inexperienced players. A lot of weight lies on the 30 year old Barbaydon’s shoulders.
At the moment it is a worrying sign that there are only three potential players that can fill the void left by Titus Bramble. This must be a key concern for Roberto Martinez who has claimed that more signings will come. For me, we need a defender of considerable Premier League experience, which would make it far more comfortable for the team and the fans.