Al Habsi’s excellence remains key for Wigan



1st Team Goalkeepers: Ali Al Habsi (30), Mike Pollitt (40), Lee Nicholls (19) [on loan at Northampton]

It’s hard to know what to expect from Wigan this season. The finished the last campaign with the swagger of a team marching into the Champions League, but the evidence of the season up that point showed there were some serious issues with the team.

The uncertainty extends to Ali Al Habsi. He was simply brilliant last season. He was in fantastic form making a string of great saves and one incredible double save at Wolves. He has grown with each season and the shakiness which was in evidence early on in his Latics career has gradually disappeared from few. He’s now a far more convincing goalkeeper than he once was and combined with his reflexes and athleticism, that makes him a seriously good operator.

As good as his improvement has been, there are still some errors. In fairness to the Omani international, the frequency of those mistakes has reduced and he earns his team far more than he costs them. All goalkeepers make mistakes, but Al Habsi’s can be extra frustrating particularly in view of knowing how good he can be. If he starts the season well and continues to reduce the less than assured moments, his form will be massive in getting Roberto Martinez the good start to the season he wants. If he isn’t, it could be a struggle.

With a couple of weeks to go until the transfer window closes, the options on the bench are a touch worrying for Latics fans. The only other keeper registered in the senior squad is Mike Pollitt. He’s a hugely experienced keeper, but he has already considered retirement a couple of times and that’s not ideal. Previously Chris Kirkland was the second choice, but his history of injuries meant he was often unavailable too. The club released his when his contract expired over the summer and leaves Wigan’s goalkeeping ranks looking rather thin. Lee Nicholls is the club’s ‘one for the future’ and he will begin the season on loan at Northampton.

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