Liam Ridgewell is one of those strange entities in football. He's not flash – though that haircut might suggest otherwise. He's one of those defenders – in England at least – that you don't usually notice. While he's definitely a great team player and has plenty to offer in terms of passion and versatility he doesn't exactly set the world alight; though he does seem like a lovely chap. However, since his move to the Timbers, he's managed to reinvent himself into player who steps up more often than not and earns rather a lot of money doing so.
With his loan move to Championship side Wigan Athletic – a club managed by Malky McKay, a man who has turned a few heads with his infamous texts messages last year – was seen as a chance for him to get some game time in a fast-paced league and return to Portland in some form and fitness. Wigan are in a bit of trouble in the Championship, winning just four games and conceding 39 goals and scoring just 27 after 29 games. How do you try and stop a leaky defence? Liam Ridgewell, of course...
So, how exactly is the 30-year-old getting on in Lancashire? Well, he made is debut in the 3-1 defeat to his former side Birmingham City back on the 10th of January and he was dragged off at half-time. While his performance wasn't awe-inspiring, his withdrawal was more to do with his fitness levels after putting a good shift down the left-hand side.
The defender mainly milled around the left-side and barely made it over the half-way line due to his legs feeling rather heavy and his pace receeding more than Landon Donovan's hairline.
His second game, against Blackburn Rovers, saw Ridgewell manage a full 90 minutes and despite picking up a rare point, his performance was once again unconvincing. The former England Under 21 star won just one aerial duel, 33% of his tackles and just 49% of his passes with the majority of those being long balls – Caleb Porter would be particularly unimpressed.
Ridgewell picked up two more full games against Huddersfield Town and Championship high-flyers Ipswich Town. Against Huddersfield, 'Ridgy' switched to centre-back but once again struggled to find his form or his passing boots for that matter. Once again, the 30-year-old failed to complete 50% of his passes and had the lowest pass completion rate of any Wigan player with just 49%. Sure, he's hardly Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo – though he's definitely turning into a bit of a 'football hipster' – but you'd expect better from a Timbers player, considering he completed 74% of his passes last season for Timbers with his lowest pass completion coming at 68% in the 2-1 and 3-0 wins against SJ Earthquakes.
Three games into his loan deal and Ridgewell was hardly finding form, more misplacing passes and not winning his attempted tackles. When Wigan came up against Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town, a side who have spent a measly £10,000 this season but are still in competition for promotion to the Premier League, you'd expect dear Liam to struggle again. Did he? Not exactly. Once again his passing was totally off though he made it over 50% this time. His defensive side of the game was improved though, winning his only tackle, 4/5 of his headed duels and making four important clearances.
While Ipswich are in good form, they're not a patch on the side Ridgewell and Wigan played at the weekend, AFC Bournemouth. Eddie Howes' side have blitzkrieg through the league this season, scoring 62 goals – more than any side in the Championship and Premier League and the same number as Barcelona. Unlike the teams he had come up against in previous matches, Bournemouth have been ruthless during this campaign and have attacked from the get-go to ensure they pick up the three points.
While Bournemouth were attacking, our man was all at sea. Though Wigan fended off Eddie Howe's side for the most of the first-half, Ridgewell and co were caught napping by Callum Wilson he received a lovely ball over the top and breezed past the Timbers man; who looked to give up after a few futile steps in pursuit.
Ridgewell was at fault for the second goal as well. With Yann Kermorgant pouncing on a lost ball and the 30-year-old defender being stuck in some mud and failed to close the in-form Frenchman down.
Could it get any worse? On several occasions, Bournemouth's pace was just too much for him and his positioning was meaning he was getting caught out over and over again.
While the Championship may be the second tier of English football, it is one of the most competitive leagues in Europe and while MLS is probably more technically sound, the Championship is extremely fast-paced. That's not to say the players are quick – though some are – it's more the intensity is so high. The prize of Premier League football and the money that comes with it is so much that teams will keep going and keep attacking, like Bournemouth.
With his loan deal almost up, it hasn't exactly been successful from a performance standpoint as his defensive stats will show you below.
However, despite his unconvincing performances, the 30-year-old has got some minutes in a highly competitive league rather than some friendlies against Houston or Sporting KC. There are some positives to take from his loan deal and a return to MLS action is likely to see an improvement in his form – at least we all hope it will, right?