Match Report: Wigan Athletic 1 Bolton Wanderers 3
If you’ve watched Latics at all in the past few years, you’ll be familiar with our two most basic failings — individual defensive mistakes, and a lack of killer instinct up front. When we lose matches, it’s generally the former, when we draw them, the latter. You might as well insert your joke here, as I’m basically saying we can’t defend or attack. But it’s not quite that simple. The amazing conclusion to last season proved that when concentration levels are high, and individual mistakes are cut out, there is enough talent up front to get the necessary points. But it is games like this one — a local derby no less — that just makes you scratch your head in disbelief.
How is it possible that these are the same players who battled so hard to keep us up last year — did they not learn anything at all from that experience? Each of the three defensive lapses was a direct result of being too casual, taking too much time on the ball, as though it were a kickabout at the park.
The key sentence in our match preview was “Whether Latics go on to beat Bolton resoundingly, or to even beat them at all, is going to depend on their approach to the game.” It’s hard to assign all blame to the coach when your defenders do silly things to give away goals, but Roberto’s lineup — and approach — was just too conservative. Packing the midfield is acceptable when you’re playing the big boys, but at home to Bolton, who were bottom of the table at kickoff? Come on. It sends the wrong message to the players, and affords too much respect to the opposition. Victor Moses was the only creative player on the pitch. Shaun Maloney could have started. We’ve seen all too little of Conor Sammon, who might’ve started as centre-forward, pushing Franco Di Santo out wide. We must assume Albert Crusat is injured, another shame, as his pace is much needed. What about Callum McManaman, Nouha Dicko, both of whom have been outstanding for the reserves?
All that said, I still thought we had enough to win it, in large part due to the return of Antolin Alcaraz. My optimism was short-lived, as it was a rusty Alcaraz who gave the ball away in the move that led to the first goal, and then later in the game for the third. Steve Gohouri, given the nod ahead of Maynor Figueroa at left-back — a strange move given Patrick Van Aanholt’s availability — had his worst match in a Wigan shirt. If he hadn’t cheaply given away possession right before half-time, Latics’ momentum probably would have carried them to victory in the second half.
We should be pleased with Rodallega’s return, and that of Alcaraz, despite his mistakes. Ali Al-Habsi saved a penalty and remains someone we can rely on. Mo Diame scored again, and is emerging as our best midfielder. Victor Moses was dangerous as always, though he once again couldn’t score.
Lack of concentration. Individual mistakes. The manager’s defensive approach and tactical rigidity. The league table.
Credit Where it’s Due
Chris Eagles was a handful all afternoon and deserved his goal. David N’Gog’s goal was well taken, although all three goals exposed Gary Caldwell’s lack of pace in one way or another. If Latics players had even a percentage of the desire that Kevin Davis shows, in every single game, we’d be pushing for European places.
Ali Al-Habsi: 7 — Saved a penalty and wasn’t to blame for any of the goals.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Wasn’t involved in the poor defending that led to Bolton’s goals, but we didn’t see too much of him either.
Gary Caldwell: 5 — Beaten to the header by the less-than-lightning Nigel Reo-Coker for the first goal, gave the penalty away (though it was very soft indeed), and had his lack of pace exposed by David N’Gog for the second, and Chris Eagles for the third. A bad afternoon.
Antolin Alcaraz: 5 — Too casual, particularly given the fact it was his first match back from injury and he was bound to be a little rusty. Got caught in possession a few times, two of them led to goals. A shame, because he is our best centre-back.
Steve Gohouri: 5 — One to forget. Looked a bit confused at times at left-back, struggling with the impressive Chris Eagles. Caught trying to dribble his way out of trouble in the buildup to the second goal. Substituted at half-time. Not a left-back.
Ben Watson: 6 — I actually thought he was one of the better performers in the first half, but was sacrificed in order to bring on Hugo Rodallega at half-time.
Mo Diame: 7 — Took his goal very well, and the only Latics midfielder that consistently gets himself in scoring positions.
Dave Jones: 6 — Didn’t show his best, although his left foot set piece deliveries were useful (when he was allowed near the ball. What on earth was Di Santo doing taking direct free-kicks in the second half?!)
James McCarthy: 5 — For me, the biggest disappointment this season. Always works hard, but his class and attacking ability have been absent. So much potential, but if anything he has regressed. Still young, but we need him find his form.
Victor Moses: 7 — Same as every week. Dangerous, fast, powerful, a headache for the opposition, but needs someone to poke home the chances he creates. And a cooler head when he goes to finish them himself.
Franco Di Santo: 6 — Worked hard, a decent and skilful target man who has everything except the goalscoring instincts. He is rarely in the right place at the right time, when a cross comes into the box.
Hugo Rodallega: 6.5 — Latics did look better with him on the pitch, but he ballooned a dangerously positioned free-kick and had most of his shots blocked.
Maynor Figueroa: 6 — Better than Steve Gohouri.
Shaun Maloney: N/A — Not on the pitch long enough to make an impact. Wish he had been in the starting lineup.