How Charles N'Zogbia's value to Wigan is becoming more apparent as the season progresses
"Shay pulled out with a knee injury as did insom…insomnia…er Charlie."
From the moment bumbling former Newcastle United boss Joe Kinnear mispronounced Charles N'Zogbia's name during a post match interview in January 2009, the temperamental Frenchman was destined for a move away from the club.
There was a flurry of speculation about where he would end up, but, when his hastily-arranged transfer to Wigan was announced two days later, it came as a surprise to many. In his 83 appearances for the DW Stadium outfit, he showed exactly why.
The talented midfielder produced an array of match-winning displays to drag the perennial strugglers away from the Premier League's trap door — none more important than his pivotal display in the 3-2 comeback victory against West Ham last May. N'Zogbia was instrumental as Wigan recovered from two goals down to give his side the platform to stave off relegation for the sixth successive year, and relegate the Hammers in the process.
Success was bittersweet for Latics fans however, as N'Zogbia's performance showed what it was their side would be missing when his contract ran out two months later. Any lingering hopes that their talisman would pen a new deal were dashed when he finally signed for Aston Villa in late July. In fact, if N'Zogbia's potentially virulent nature didn't belie his football ability, he might well have ended up at a side challenging in the league's upper echelons.
If five points from their first three Premier League games made Wigan supporters feel they could cope without N'Zogbia's talents, an ensuing run of eight straight defeats proved otherwise. With only four goals to show for their efforts during that run, they lacked a crucial creative impetus throughout.
Despite a goal in Saturday's 3-3 draw with Blackburn, summer recruit Albert Crusat has shown nothing to suggest he can pose Premier League defences a consistent threat. Similarly, former Celtic midfielder Shaun Maloney has so far struggled to shake off the disappointing reputation he picked up while at Aston Villa four years ago.
N'Zogbia's most likely replacement seems to be Victor Moses, but, for all his verve and youthful enthusiasm, the 20-year-old is still a bit raw to carry the fate of his club on his ample shoulders. Twelve games without an assist or a goal only goes to highlight this. Hugo Rodallega also seems to be a shadow of his former self this year. N'Zogbia's absence can't be seen as the sole reason for the Colombian's indifferent form, but it must be a contributing factor.
Although N'Zogbia's own displays haven't yet reached the same standard for Villa as they were for Wigan, his former club's performance tells it's own story. There's still a long way to go for Roberto Martinez's men to prove they weren't a one-man team, the signs aren't positive.
The way things are going, it looks as though there will be more sleepless nights ahead for the Wigan fraternity until they find a suitable replacement for insomnia...sorry N'Zogbia.