Just how important is James McCarthy to Wigan Athletic?
Having only turned 20 in November, the influence on the team of the former Hamilton Accies star is far greater than what it should be, and that isn`t a slight at the Latics but recognition of what a great talent McCarthy is.
After forcing his way into the starting eleven last January, McCarthy made himself a permanent fixture in the Latics midfield with some excellent performances at the back end of last season, at times it was hard to believe he was still only 19 such was the maturity of his play.
So it was set-up for the youngster to flourish this season. We`ll forget the opening two games against Blackpool and Chelsea, as a whole the Latics were awful, but in the next league game away at White Hart Lane, McCarthy put his stamp on the midfield as the Latics returned with 3 points after beating Spurs in their own back yard.
The seven league games that followed Chelsea saw the Latics pick up 10 points and suffer just one defeat, against Manchester City, in these seven games McCarthy was excellent, full of energy, supporting both defence and attack, a true box to box midfield player, unfortunately in the seventh game the young Scot suffered ankle ligament damage and missed the next fourteen Premier League matches.
Some say that you realise just how good a player is when he is out, well without doubt McCarthy was sorely missed, those fourteen games without the influential midfielder saw a return of just 12 points, six defeats and a disjointed midfield that looked like it needed some inspiration.
McCarthy made a goalscoring return to action when he started the game against Aston Villa on 25th January, unfortunately he could not help the Latics avoid defeat but his presence in the team certainly brought about a greater sense of urgency to the rest of the midfield.
Since the loss to Villa, the Latics have played three Premier League games, McCarthy has started all three, scored another two goals and inspired a win and two away draws, that`s 5 points from three games.
The stats back up the importance of James McCarthy to Wigan Athletic, but to be fair stats can be manipulated, but what cant be manipulated are, his presence on the pitch, his running, tackling, supporting play, enthusiasm and his never say die attitude.
McCarthy makes the team play, he is the rhythm, the heart beat if you like, that drives the rest on.
Just how important is James McCarthy to Wigan Athletic? Extremely important and with a fit McCarthy in the team the odds on avoiding relegation must massively improve.
James McCarthy is the Latics heart beat
All in-article photo`s courtesy of Bernard Platt/Wigan Athletic
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