Wigan Athletic – Match Report vs Wrexham AFC (08/08/23)

The EFL is back! And with that comes the first round of the Carabao Cup. Wigan recently relegated from the Championship, traveled to ambitious Welsh side Wrexham who climbed out of the National League last season, and are expected to do well in League two this year. Both sides lined up with formations in a back 3, but their styles couldn’t be more different. Wigan aimed to dominate possession, whilst Wrexham had strength in the sheer physicality in their side, looking to win the ball back, play more directly and overall had the best chances of the match. They couldn’t take these chances as the 90 minutes finished 0-0, but the North Wales side sent the home fans home happy as they won the shoot out to go through to the next round.


  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Matt Smith

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 05/10/200
  • Club: Wigan (L)
  • Career: Arsenal (Y), Swindon Town (L), Charlton Athletic (L), Doncaster (L), Wigan (L)
  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Other Positions: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Central Midfielder Matt Smith showed all the signs of being a former Arsenal Academy player, showing great technique and constantly wanting the ball. Acting as the deeper of the midfield 2, he had great scanning ability and constantly looked for areas of the pitch he could receive the ball, using his short but sharp acceleration to get ahead of his marker.

He kept the ball moving more often than not, at times could be a little safe in his distribution but showed a good passing ability particularly ground passes through the lines, he could also clip the ball into feet as well as play longer diagonal passes too.

He had great composure, still trying to play when under pressure and had the vision to pick out players in space too. Of the players on the pitch he was the most capable of playing of one and two touches, as well as showing a strong first touch more often than not. Although still a young footballer, he was naïve defensively, often giving away fouls after mistiming tackles. His positional play could also do with some work, he was caught out when being too far to one side of the pitch almost as if he was so used to playing in a midfield 3 and having somebody else to cover. He would also follow his marker too far or mistime his press and leave space behind, which fortunately wasn’t taken advantage of in this game.

Physically he was a smaller player at 1.76m according to Transfermarkt and did struggle in most duels both ground and in the air, which could be an issue if he continues to play as the deepest midfielder especially.

Rating- A2

Whilst physically and defensively Smith has some improvements to make, his levels of composure and technical ability particularly shone in a very young Wigan side. The more runners and movers he has ahead of him, the more dangerous he will become in picking passes through the lines and keeping play ticking over in sides that want to dominate possession.

Liam Morrison

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 07/04/2003
  • Club: Wigan Athletic (L)
  • Career: Rangers (Y), Celtic (Y), FC Bayern II, Wigan (L)
  • Position: Central Defender
  • Other Positions:
  • Preferred foot: Right

Scottish Defender Liam Morrison, on loan at Wigan started as the middle central defender in a back 3 system and looked the most mature defensively throughout. Standing tall at 1.83m according to Transfermarkt, he looked strong in the air and had the composure to head the ball to teammates to keep possession rather than just try to clear the ball.

This composure and confidence continued throughout, not trying overly difficult passes he still tried to play forward even when under pressure and kept things ticking over for the away side. He tracked runners well, took up good defensive positions, made good decisions of when to play the ball and when to clear the danger, and wasn’t afraid to get physical with his marker. I especially liked the timing of his tackles, and his pure defensive instinct to get in the way to block shots or into places to clear the ball just ahead of the striker.

Throughout the match he didn’t look like a 20-year-old up against some really physical players, and the only weakness he seemed to have was his agility when in 1v1’s, especially when he covered in wider positions he was fairly easily passed and found it difficult to mirror more agile attackers.

Rating- A2

Plenty to like about Liam Morrison, a very strong defender that has the defensive reading, composure levels and decision-making skills way beyond somebody of his age. He’ll only improve with the more game time he has, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t playing at a higher level than League 1 football in the future.

Charlie Hughes

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 19
  • Date of birth: 16/10/2003
  • Club: Wigan Athletic
  • Career: Manchester City (Y), Liverpool FC (Y), Wigan Athletic
  • Position: Central Defender
  • Other Positions:
  • Preferred foot: Right

Central Defender Charlie Hughes played as the right central defender in a back three for Wigan, and looked comfortable moving into wider areas, often supporting play wide in the final third getting into positions to cross.

Throughout Hughes showed confidence in his passing ability, picking out some longer diagonal passes, clipped passes into runners over the top and crosses from the right side that got Wigan into some dangerous situations. Although there was some inconsistency with the execution of his passes and was guilty of overplaying at times, trying to force the pass as well as over hitting some of his crosses and passes too.

He showed great composure when he was pressed and showed he could turn away from the pressure and play forward. He possessed a tall frame, was strong in the air and had decent speed over short and long distances. Although defensively he didn’t look very strong in how he tracked runners, Losing his man in open play and at corners causing his defence a few problems.

Rating- A2

Charlie Hughes showed he had a lot of the attributes needed for a modern-day centre back, comfortable on the ball, executing some brilliant long diagonal passes and wanting to try and play from the back, whilst still being physically capable. Although he needs to improve on his decisions of when to try a more adventurous pass, rather than force the play. How he tracks runners also needs some improvement, especially if he was to move into a back 4 system where there’s less players to cover. But still he’s young and has plenty of room to grow into a more complete defender, and I could definitely see him doing just that.

Kell Watts

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 03/11/1999
  • Club: Wigan Athletic (L)
  • Career: Cramlington Juniors (Y) Newcastle, Stevenage (L), Mansfield Town (L), Plymouth Argyle (L), Wigan (L), Peterborough (L), Wigan
  • Position: Central Defender
  • Other Positions:
  • Preferred foot: Left

Kell Watts played as the left sided centre back in Wigan’s back 3 formation and looked comfortable playing their possession style, showing he had the ability to execute some long diagonal passes as well as clipped passes into midfield. He showed real composure to try and play, choosing to head the ball to team mates rather than clear the ball when under pressure.

Standing at 1.92m tall according to Transfermarkt he was very effecting in Aerial Duels and was a real threat from set pieces too. He didn’t panic when in 1v1 situations out wide, and often timed his tackles well or used his strength to push the opponent off the ball. He marked his man tightly more often than not and had a decent reading of the game to match.

Whilst having the attributes to be a ball playing defender, Watts did slice clearances both with his head and boot when trying to get distance on the ball. And whilst he did show ability to pass he wasn’t totally consistent with a number of passes falling short of their target too.

Rating- B1

Kell Watts had a solid game for Wigan but was largely untroubled on his side, he had the physical and technical potential to be strong defensively as well as influence the game going forward and looked like he could pose a significant threat in the opposition box from set pieces. If he continues to work on how he passes the ball, and covers defensively he could be a strong all round defender.

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