Despite making several impressive summer signings, Oldham Athletic have struggled to deliver so far this season, but what exactly has gone wrong at Boundary Park and how could the side bounce back?
On Saturday afternoon, Oldham Athletic suffered a disappointing 3-0 loss to Bromley in the National League, extending their winless run to seven matches and as a result, the club dropped to 22nd in the fifth tier having earned just seven points from their opening nine matches.
Oldham haven’t won since their 5-1 victory against Aldershot Town over a month ago. This is extremely surprising given the level of calibre of some of their summer signings, including players with EFL promotions on their CV, with many National League fans predicting them to compete for the play-off places and potentially even the title.
Going back to the summer transfer window, Oldham Athletic secured the services of experienced EFL forward James Norwood from Barnsley, as well as Cheltenham Town’s Charlie Raglan, Carlisle United’s Brennan Dickenson and Portsmouth’s Kieron Freeman.
Similarly, the National League side also won the race to sign Chester FC powerhouse Kurt Willoughby, Gateshead’s Dan Ward and Altrincham midfielder Josh Lundstram, drastically boosting their squad depth and quality at the manager’s disposal.
However, the club slipped to a 4-0 loss to Southend United on the opening day, but despite their win over Aldershot, the club has since lost to the likes of FC Halifax Town and Solihull Moors. However, they have shown promise with a point against league leaders Chesterfield and a promising display against Gateshead.
Unsurprisingly, this awful run has led to David Unsworth being sacked as manager of the National League side, confirmed via their official website.
With that being said, let’s begin to break down what’s happened so far and look at potential solutions that could be made…
What has gone wrong?
Oldham Athletic finished the 2022/23 campaign in great form with the club unbeaten in their final six matches and losing just one of their final ten matches. More convincingly, the defeat came against league champions Wrexham, making their run of form even more admirable but that simply hasn’t carried over to the new season.
Admittedly, Oldham did have a big clear-out over the summer with the likes of Jordan Clarke, Jack Stobbs, Lois Maynard and Zaine Francis-Angol leaving the football club as well as key loanees like Peter Clarke and Timmy Abraham returning to their parent clubs.
Defensively, the club have also conceded 15 goals so far which is the joint-fourth worst in the entire division with only Aldershot Town, York City and AFC Fylde conceding more goals so far this season. Similarly, Oldham is also one of seven sides that are yet to hit double figures for goals scored so far this season despite having a vast amount of attacking options.
There are also tactical concerns surrounding the club’s current style of play and the lack of first-team minutes for players such as Alex Reid, who has featured just three times this season despite scoring twice in his final four games last season and hitting double figures for the campaign.
Was the sacking justified?
Judging by social media comments and fan feedback, David Unsworth’s dismissal was a justified decision, given the fact that the club sit 22nd in the table after winning just one of their nine league games so far.
As mentioned above, various players have struggled for game-time so far this season, which also extends to summer signing Kurt Willoughby who grabbed 20 goals last season, but has featured just five times this season with just two of them being starts.
There has been a noticeable lack of an explanation from David Unsworth regarding certain tactical decisions so far this season, which has increased fan frustration.
Unsworth won 14 of his 47 matches in charge of the National League side and averaged 1.21 points per game. The issue is that given Oldham’s current form, they are currently on track to earn just 35 points which will relegate them to the National League North.
This means that things have had to change because a club like Oldham Athletic shouldn’t be in the National League relegation zone on paper, especially given the investment in players that the club made this summer, but what needs to change?
What other changes need to be made?
Firstly, the club need to try and turn their results around to get the fans back on-side because a toxic atmosphere will only continue to have a negative effect on the results. However, fans are more than entitled to voice their concerns given the fact the club have won just one match all season.
Injuries haven’t helped Oldham Athletic so far, but failing to start players like Kurt Willoughby and Alex Reid is extremely confusing given both players know where the back of the net is and have what it takes to turn results around on their own.
In terms of a football club, when there is a run of form like Oldham’s, the blame is always placed solely on the manager and it usually results in him losing his job which is something that has now occurred. Whoever is next in line, has a major job on their hands because the club need a quick turnaround in results to win the supporters over.
Admittedly, I also believe that Oldham Athletic need to consider adding a reinforcement or two into the current squad. The midfield area in particular should be an area of priority and given Oldham have Kieron Freeman, it could persuade them to make a move for his former Portsmouth teammate Ryan Tunnicliffe who would be a perfect signing for the club.
I don’t believe another forward is required given the club has plenty of options including players already mentioned as well as the likes of Hallam Hope, Mike Fondop and Joe Nuttall.
Meanwhile, a defensive reinforcement could be another option for the club and in this instance, a promising youth player from the Championship could be a possibility, sliding alongside the likes of Liam Hogan, Mark Kitching and Shaun Hobson in competition for a starting spot for the club.
Oldham Athletic fans, what do you think needs to change moving forward and similarly if a reinforcement is required, who would you look to sign?