The wingers need to deliver if Latics are to avoid relegation

Les Campbell front extreme left, Harry Lyon centre, Allan Brown second right, Walter Stanley front extreme right

In the mid 1960’s Allan Brown’s Wigan Athletic team played a really entertaining brand of football. The excellent wingers, Les Campbell and Walter Stanley, would put over a stream of tantalizing crosses for the twin strikers to feed on. No wonder that Latics scored 121 goals in the 1964-65 season, when they won the Cheshire County League. Centre forward Harry Lyon led the scoring with 67 goals in all competitions.

How would a player like Lyon do these days in the era of the inverted winger? Lyon was a superb header of the ball, who could shoot with both feet. Sometimes one seemed to know that a goal was coming as soon as a cross was launched from the wing.

Playing on the widest position on the pitch, wingers must have near perfect ball control and the ability to make plays in tight spaces without playing the ball out of play. The winger spends much of his time running down balls played ahead of him, racing by fullbacks with the ball at his feet and tracking back down the wing to defend.

A good winger will also have a consistent and threatening cross. After passing a fullback, the winger needs a quick and accurate trigger foot to feed the strikers. Many of the great wingers have been great dribblers, but there are effective wingers who are not necessarily world class dribblers but have lightning speed. Others are somehow able to squeeze out crosses in the tightest of spaces without beating their man.

Given  the above it appears logical to play a winger on his ‘natural foot’.  Having the strong foot closest to the sideline provides more control and enables the delivery of dangerous outswinging crosses. Strikers with a physical presence, who are strong in the air and know where to position themselves for crosses are best served by natural wingers.

The role of the winger has changed in recent years, and gone are the days when all the winger had to do was make runs up and down the lines as they try to outmanoeuvre the full-back and cross into the penalty area.

An inverted winger (inside-out winger) shows more diagonal movement than a natural winger. A left-footed player will occupy a position on the right flank and a right-footer will play off the left. The tactic that has become commonplace in football over the past decade or so.

With the centres of defences so heavily policed, players Gareth Bale and Arjen Robben on the right and Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez on the left have been so effective. The frequent attack pattern of an inverted winger is cutting inside from the wing, which can be completed by shooting with the strong foot or an accurate through ball played at an angle of ninety degrees. Scrappy, poaching strikers content to drop back and pick up loose balls in the box can thrive playing alongside inverted wingers.

hold back and pick up loose balls in the box can thrive playing alongside inverted wingers.

In Paul Cook’s first season as manager at Wigan wingers played key roles in both attack and defence. With natural wingers Gavin Massey or Ryan Colclough on the right and inverted winger Michael Jacobs on the left Latics had a real cutting edge. Jacobs went on to score 13 goals, Colclough and Massey each notching 5 in that 2017-18 season in League 1.

Colclough left at the summer of 2018 and Jacobs and Massey both had injury problems in the course of the 2018-19 season. But Jacobs went on to score 4 goals in 22 appearances in the Championship, Massey notching 5 from 17.

It has been sad to see the wingers struggle this season. Massey was injured when the season started and found his place occupied by new signing Jamal Lowe. Since his return he has not been able to reach the levels he attained previously. Being played so often on the left wing, where he looks like a fish out of water, has hardly helped.

Jacobs has once again been bugged by injuries and has looked a pale shadow of what we have seen before. His critics will say that he is a League 1 player who is not up to it at Championship level. However, under Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce in the Championship in 2016-17 he was one of the first names on the team sheet, going on to make 46 appearances.

Lowe has certainly enjoyed the backing of the manager. Despite his indifferent form he has made 33 appearances up to this point. Lowe arrived with some hype, having scored 15 goals for Portsmouth last season. His critics consider him too lightweight in possession and he has not yet made the transition to the second tier.

Anthony Pilkington has proved himself in the Premier League and his quality is there for all to see. But fitness is a major issue for the player. Pilkington was signed after making just one start in the 2017-18 Championship season for Cardiff.  He has made only 13 starts in the Championship since joining Latics in the summer of 2018. Pilkington is rare among modern wingers in that he is genuinely two footed and can look as effective on the left as the right.

Kal Naismith originally joined Latics as a left winger but his versatility has seen him being used as a left back and centre back. It is in the latter position that he has impressed most and was becoming one of the most consistent performers until the Preston game when things did not go well for him, among others. With the inclusion of Leon Balogun at Cardiff and the impending return of Chey Dunkley from suspension it appears that Naismith’s chances of resuming his blossoming partnership in the centre of defence with Cedric Kipre are numbered. Will Cook return him to his original left wing role?

Kieffer Moore’s signing last summer was met with general approval by Latics fans last summer, although there some who questioned whether the manager’s intention was to sign a player who would further enable him to continue with his long ball tactics. Moore has had a torrid time with the lack of service from the wings hardly helping. Moore is the kind of old-fashioned centre forward who would have thrived in the era of natural wingers. But his tally of one headed goal in 23 appearances indicates the quality of crosses he has received. With the wingers frequently moving diagonally it has often been the full backs who have made the crosses into the box.Moreover too much of Moore’s effort has been wasted in chasing long balls some thirty yards from the opposition goal with his back to it.

The wingers should be playing key roles in not only creating chances but scoring too.

Last season wingers scored 13 league goals for Latics, at an average of one every 3.5 games. So far this season wingers have scored 5 league goals in 33 games, an average of one every 6.6 games.

Cook needs wingers who are fully fit, played in their best positions and in-form. Given the indifferent form of so many of them there is a case for giving Bournemouth loan player Alex Dobre an opportunity.

Social Media Reaction as controversial refereeing causes damage against Middlesbrough

Wigan Athletic 2 Middlesbrough 2

In the end it was a disappointing result and it puts Latics in serious trouble in the bottom three. But after Sam Morsy had put Wigan ahead with a very well-taken goal after 29 minutes they matched the visitors until two controversial incidents in the second half.

After an hour Joe Gelhardt put Kieffer Moore through for a clear run on goal only to be fouled from behind by Harold Makoudi. It looked like a red card, but referee Oliver Langford gave the Frenchman a yellow. Within a couple of minutes Chey Dunkley received his marching orders on receiving a second yellow card. Lewis Wing went on to score a deflected free kick followed by another from a long shot that seemed to go through David Marshall. Ten man Latics salvaged a point from Makoudi’s own goal from an excellent Nathan Byrne cross.

Not only were Langford’s sending off decisions hugely influential in changing the balance of the game but his judgement in so many other occasions was sadly lacking, doing Wigan Athletic no favours at all.

Refereeing decisions have so often gone against Latics this season. VAR may not be popular in England, but where would Latics now be in the table if it had been operating this season? Are Latics games more difficult than most to referee?

Some interesting statistics on fouls and cards given are available on Footstats.co.uk.

Prior to last night more fouls have been awarded in games involving Wigan Athletic than any other team in the division. Latics committed an average of 13.9 fouls per match, second highest after Sheffield Wednesday with 15.4. However, Wigan had 13.2 fouls committed against them. Wigan lie in mid-table with an average of 7.4 fouls committed per card, around average for the division. The opposition have 8.5 fouls per game for a card. In contrast Brentford average 9.6 cards per foul, their opposition 6.4.

Although the stats do not suggest an obvious bias against Latics, they nevertheless suggest that decisions have not favoured them overall. What factors might have impacted?

Paul Cook’s Wigan are one of the more physical sides in the Championship, with a very different style of play to Brentford, whose foul and card count is so much more favourable. .

Cook is very careful in post-match interviews not to directly criticise the opposition’s tactics or the referee. However, his remonstrations aimed at the fourth official and match referee have become more and more ugly. It was no surprise to see him receive a yellow card last night. Is the manager getting a bad name in refereeing circles for his poor behaviour?

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Zeb2 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Ref made 10 (TEN) bookings in the second half and to be fair maybe two or three were warranted …..staggeringly inept.

I didn’t fancy Moore to finish that chance that Gelhardt set him up for, so the bloke that cleaned him out did us a favour, free kick in a great position and them down to ten men…..oh hang on …what the fuck is he doing?…a yellow? Absolute bollocks

5 minutes later WE are down to ten men and are losing the game.
Keeper no chance with the free kick …hit Jacobs in the wall and completely wrong footed Marshall…..second goal looked like a calamity but it was a horrible night with a strong wind swirling about….couldn’t tell from the West stand whether the shot moved a great deal or not ?

Still it shows what can happen when you have a pop from distance instead of trying to walk it in ,,that said…Pilkington should have “walked us home” from 4 yards if he’d committed to Naismith’s great ball across the 6 yard box.

All very frustrating especially with Charlton winning at Forest, which based on the Forest we’ve seen this season especially away, shouldn’t have been that great a surprise given Forest are actually very mediocre along with virtually all of the rest of this ordinary division. The poor quality in the Championship this season will of itself make relegation from it a tad more shameful than usual. I can’t see any of the promotion contenders ‘doing a Sheffield United’ next season.

Laticssince1978 on the Cockney LaticForum said:

The ref knows the rules a clear one on one opportunity is a red card.That decision changed the game and I’m confident we would of gone on to win.

Gosh he got so much wrong tonight he embarrassed himself yes the referee has a lot to take blame for on this instance.

Studs88 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

It was a real kick in the guts tonight. For the first time in an age it felt like the team, manager & fans came together. Albeit due to the injustices of the ref.

That said we still made basic errors and didn’t finish the game off. Gelhardt and Pilkington added a lot to our attacking prowess. Even though neither had an outstanding game. I still do feel we need to shake things up further and get Garner on alongside Moore.

Given results elsewhere we could realistically be all but down before the end of the month. That’s a damning indictment on the management team and boardroom. Especially when you consider the dreadful quality up and down this division.

This is it now. No more excuses from Cook about it being a ‘tough division’. We have to pull out results against top teams and relegation rivals. We need to target wins. It’s going to take an average not far off 2pts per game for the rest of the season. Anything less and relegation beckons.

You are my sunshine on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

I’ve never been as angry at a ref at a home tics game in my life! He was an absolute disgrace and cost us 2 crucial points. Moore was through on goal and their last man fouled him on the edge of the box, it should of been a straight red. Then moments later Dunkley got an extremely soft 2nd yellow,only after the Boro players put pressure on the spineless ref. Unbelievable.In those 2 vital moments the game then turned on it’s head thanks to a lucky deflected goal from the free kick and a Marshall error.

The referee after those 2 horrendous game changing decisions then completely lost the plot for the rest of the game. In the end credit to the players for then battling back and getting a point, but we needed the win tonight, which I feel we would of got if that incompetent p**** had done his job properly. I hope we never see him again.

I was satisfied in how the game was going at that point. Cook had picked a much more attacking line up with 4 attacking players and a back 4.Yes our end product and decision making in the final third let us down several times, but at least the intent of getting into those positions was there.
We were 1-0 up and for all Boro’s decent pass and move and threat from wide areas, they never really threatened our goal and we seemed to have the game under control till the ref ruined it.

The bottom line is we should of been 1-0 up playing against 10 men and I’m confident at that point we go on to win the game.To have about 11 yellows in that game which was nowhere near a dirty game shows what a complete pigs ear the ref made of the game! I’m absolutely disgusted and feel robbed tonight!

 

Walgarthjohn on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Refs must be sick of that clown on the touch line calling them every match it’s embarrassing.

 

Donnyspage on the Cockney LaticForum said:

Boro were absolutely dire. We have no cutting edge stemming from attacking midfield. If we had we may not have had to worry about the refs decisions or going a goal down. Basically we huffed and puffed but to not much avail.

Watching Cook remonstrating with the officials was embarrasing. The salary of a surgeon but the attitude and manners of a Liverpool Sunday League pub team coach. He was arguing with everone around him before the controversy started. Agree that their man should have gone for bringing down the last man but Dunks foul was also a second bookable offence which was also punished with the goal.

It’s not looking too good again really.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

 

The player Cook must start against Middlesbrough

Photo courtesy of the Sun newspaper

The Sun newspaper reports that Jude Bellingham could on his way to Manchester United for a fee of £30m. Bellingham made his debut for Birmingham City’s under-23 team as a 15-year-old in October 2018. He became their youngest-ever first team player at the age of 16 years, 38 days in an EFL Cup game at Portsmouth in August 2019. Under manager Pep Clotet he has now made 20 starts in the Championship this season.

Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Joe Gelhardt too is a prodigious young talent, although a year older than Bellingham. He made his Wigan Athletic debut as a 16-year-old in an EFL Cup game against Rotherham in August 2018. Under manager Paul Cook he has since made 13 appearances in the Championship, with just one start in the 2-1 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday a couple of weeks ago.

The approaches of Clotet and Cook are certainly contrasting. Clotet has given Bellingham every opportunity to showcase his talents. Cook has used Gelhardt as an impact substitute, although in less than half of the games Latics have played in the Championship this season.

Cook has constantly talked about the need to shield Gelhardt from too much pressure at an early age. His most recent comment was that: “I think all Wigan fans probably want him to start, and the hard thing for me as a manager is trying to protect the young man – as good as he is.” However, he did add that: “He’s only 17, he’s a fantastic talent who makes things happen on a football pitch. His time is coming, that’s for sure.”

Cook got his starting lineup woefully wrong in Saturday’s home match against Preston. Playing with a back five and three defensive midfielders, reminiscent of the Warren Joyce era, was a valid tactic against a Leeds side which was technically superior. However, facing a Preston side that had won only 3 times in 14 away games, it was the wrong ploy. It was only after Preston went 2-0 up that Cook changed his formation and took off a defender to bring on Gelhardt. The youngster went on to provide the pass leading to Chey Dunkley’s goal after 57 minutes, looked dangerous and forced a good save from the Preston keeper in the last minute. As Cook said: Gelhardt makes things happen.

Since the departure of Nick Powell, the manager has experimented with different players in the number 10 position behind the centre forward, none of whom has been able to establish himself there. His recent preference has been to use Joe Williams, a holding midfielder, in that position. Williams is an all-action player who has been one of Latics’ best performers this season, but a number 10 he is not. The player needs to be restored to his best position.

Using Williams or Lee Evans at number 10 has been an option that has given Cook more midfield tackling cover, but there has been a crying-out need for a naturally creative player in that position. It looked like we might have had that kind of player when Kieran Dowell signed on loan from Everton. However, Cook dispatched Dowell to play wide, preferring to continue with Williams as a 10.

In the absence of Dowell through injury there remains one prime candidate for the number 10 position – Joe Gelhardt.

At Wigan, Cook has mentors who had illustrious careers after making their debuts at a tender age. Peter Reid started for Bolton as an 18-year-old while Joe Royle was only 16 when he first played for Everton. It makes the manager’s reluctance to immerse Gelhardt hard to understand.

Middlesbrough have only won two games away from home this season. They can certainly be beaten if Wigan go in with a positive approach.

Playing Gelhardt from the start is paramount. Moreover, he should not be dispatched to a wide position, but played behind the centre forward. The creativity and dynamism that Gelhardt can provide is something that has been so lacking over the course of the season.

The Social Media reaction to a frustrating home defeat to Preston

Wigan Athletic 1 Preston NE 2

It was always going to be a difficult match against a Preston side vying for a playoff place. They had outplayed Wigan at Deepdale and would surely be full of confidence coming into this one.

Paul Cook stuck with the same lineup that gained an attritional 1-0 victory at Leeds. That game had been won by superb, last-gasp defending, together with a modicum of luck. Cook tends to stick to a winning formula, but was it the right lineup to play at home against local rivals full of confidence?

The Leeds victory was perhaps a blindfold for preparing for this game. Although the three points were so welcome, one wondered if the fightball/long ball approach applied might be repeated against Preston.

Alas it was. It took us back to the time before Cook appeared to see the light: football rather than fightball/hoofball. Then there was hope at least.

The most successful managers have the ability to adjust their lineup according to the situation. Cook had done that at Leeds but not here. Good managers  rest players who are not at their best.They also make substitutions in a timely and imaginative manner when the opposition are dominating proceedings.

Sadly Cook continues to stick in his rut, making the same mistakes week in, week out. It is going to take a paradigm shift from him if he is to continue at the helm and save Latics from relegation. He has a squad good enough to avoid the drop, but the manager’s rigidity and lack of awareness are dragging them down.

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Nuneatonlatic C  on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Preston had 4 forward minded players and it stuck out like a sore thumb. We could have been dead and buried after 15 mins. Both their goals came from having an extra body in the area something we cannot comprehend. But without a decent ball or cross we may as well play with no strikers let alone 2.

The_Pon on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Five defenders. Three defensive midfielders. At home. To a kind of ok ish team.

Fair enough to set up like that away to Leeds or WBA etc, but at home to a team who are no better than us on paper is unforgivable.

Relegation guaranteed. We’re not adrift and with an even remotely competent manager I’d say we were in with a good shout to stay up… But with 🤡 we may as well just resign ourselves to the inevitability of League One next year.

Worst manager in our club’s entire history. By a mile. How he still has a job is beyond me, but he won’t get sacked. Scouse Mafia are seeing to it that our club is dismantled slowly and painfully.

I despair. Nothing else to do.

Super Stuart Barlow on the Cockney LaticForum said:

What is he supposed to do when there are decisions like that being made. That referee was a f…ing joke.

1st half we were crap, 2nd much better but no cutting edge and every ball forward saw Moore get raped by one of their centre backs.

You are my sunshine on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

That team selection from Cook today was a disgrace IMO. We started the game with 8 defensive minded outfield players at HOME to Preston, who should be respected, but not feared. They have a poor away record this season and had only scored 11 goals before today.

I could understand why he did it last week against top of league, away at Elland Road, but to do it for this game is inexcusable. We had back to back wins which gave everyone a lift, so should of been positive right from the start. But that team selection was a big negative before a ball was kicked and ended up costing us.
It was so obvious after the early exchanges it wasn’t working and mine and many other tics fans fears when we saw the selection were realised. Cook should of changed it at the very latest at HT if not before. But he inexplicably didn’t and they scored early, giving us a mountain to climb.

He then made the changes of bringing on 2 attacking players, we were crying out for from the start. The game then completely changed and for the last 35 mins we battered Preston but why the hell were those extra 1 or 2 attacking players not starting. Unbelievable. Then to compound matters he took Moore off instead of Lowe. Moore was a big threat in the box and having him and Garner on together that last 10 or so mins could of got us a point.
Yes the players were poor 1st half, but I blame Cook massively today, for playing that formation, with all those defensive minded players in it, for a home game, after back to back wins.

LoudmouthBlue on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Lowe is the only player that has taken part in every game we have played this season, WHY ?

Studs88 on the Latics Speyk Forum added:

There’s a player in there. But I’m afraid he is not up to Championship standard.

Offers nothing going forward. Consistently one of the worst players on the field. But even more damning is how easily he loses the ball. Directly leading to Preston’s second goal.

That should be the last time he pulls on a shirt for this club. It’s a disgrace he gets a place ahead of Gelhardt, Moore, Garner etc. We may as well be playing with ten men.

Pubey on the Latics Speyk Forum defended the player:

Even when he’s not playing particularly well he still has the ability to make chances and I think he’s massively underrated.

His shot today was a pretty good effort that was well saved
He also put a fantastic cross along the 6 yard box that wasn’t picked up by anyone
His movement and positioning was good but he was rarely passed to
He frequently won free-kicks and throw-ins with his impressive movement

Clearly this season’s scapegoat, sadly.

Super Stuart Barlow on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

What is he supposed to do when there are decisions like that being made. That referee was a f…ing joke.

1st half we were crap, 2nd much better but no cutting edge and every ball forward saw Moore get raped by one of their centre backs.

Mr Brownbill on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Oh yeah……and Windass nets on debut

 

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

An underwhelming transfer window for Wigan Athletic

Has this been the worst-ever transfer window for Latics?

The net result:

OUT

  • Charlie Mulgrew – chose to go back to Blackburn.
  • Josh Windass – on loan to Sheffield Wednesday.
  • the unwanted and largely untried Devante Cole signed for Doncaster Rovers.

IN (on loan):

  • Alex Dobre – 21 year-old Romanian winger from Bournemouth. 36 appearances (2 goals) on loan at Bury, Rochdale and Yeovil over past three seasons.
  • Jan Mlakar – 21 year-old Slovenian centre forward from Brighton. 6 Championship appearances on loan for QPR last season, no goals. Previously at Fiorentina, Venezia and Maribor.
  • Leon Balogun – 31 year-old Nigerian central defender from Brighton. 8 Premier League appearances last season. A total of 85 appearances in the Bundesliga for Hannover, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Mainz.

Comments:

  1. The Jedi move collapse was a shame for everyone. The fee will go down and dramatically so if Latics are relegated as seems likely given the fact the team is weaker than when the window began, and now Robinson is unsettled.
  2. Josh Windass out — who was one of the few rays of hopes in recent times when Cook started playing him (though sadly, it appears he was only played in order to shift him off the wage bill). A frustrating player but in the right hands could go on to be good at this level. He has a contract at Wigan until summer 2021. Is it a loan-to-buy deal with Wednesday?
  3. Mlakar – hasn’t scored for any single club except Maribor, which suggests he hasn’t adapted well culturally on or off the pitch in either Italy or England. Is he a desperation last minute addition?
  4. Dobre – scored one goal in 21 appearances for Yeovil in League Two. Lowe scored a bunch for Pompey in League One and has struggled. So… hopes are not high.
  5. Balogun looks the most positive on paper — experience and pedigree, at least. But no small detail: hasn’t really played football for two years.

Latics would surely have counted on the Jedi money and had some signings lined up. But they weren’t willing to spend the money when it fell through, in particular, given the perilous league position which is very much down to the manager’s poor performance at Championship level.

The new ownership is running this club as a business, unlike most Chinese owners, and if you do the math and statistical analysis, the crazy January spending most clubs do is bananas and loans are a good way to go.

However, if you do go the loan route you need a manager with credibility and Cook is hardly that. If you are Klopp or Guardiola, Ancelotti or Rodgers, do you send your talented young player who is finding their way to Cook? No — you send them to Cocu or Lampard or someone with a connection to the club or a defined style of play that will evolve rather than devolve them.

Now the optimistic look:  

Kal Naismith and Cedric Kipre look good at centre back. Midfield is doing better. Lowe’s confidence should take a boost and he’s had half a season in the Championship, is clearly talented, and should improve. Kieffer Moore is also looking much better. Joe Gelhardt got his full debut out the way and perhaps he will be a sensation in this final stretch. The fixture list, particularly at home, is favourable.

The owners have backed the club with investments in the stadium and academy, spending over £8m in the summer transfer window, putting in up to £1m per month to cover running costs. They have a blueprint based upon prudent investment in player recruitment and the development of homegrown talent.

Despite the woes of the senior side the youth and U23 teams continue to shine, with great promise.