Fighting for points through set pieces?

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Jake Buxton’s header at QPR brought a great save from Alex Smithies

It almost happened again. A good corner kick from Jamie Hanson and a bullet header from Jake Buxton. It would have put Latics 2-1 up at QPR, but a fine save by Alex Smithies prevented it.

Another header from Buxton from a Max Power corner had given Wigan Athletic an invaluable three points at Wolves a week before. A week earlier and Omar Bogle had headed home a goal against Norwich from corner kick launched by Michael Jacobs. Jacobs had also provided the delivery from the corner for Callum Connolly’s second goal at Burton in mid-January. Has Warren Joyce been placing more focus on set pieces during training?

Barnsley, Cardiff City and Newcastle United have the best record in the Championship division on set pieces in the season so far, each with 17 goals. Leeds United come next with 16 goals, 10 of which came from corners. Wigan only have 8, second worst to Aston Villa with 3. In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of Latics’ play this season has been their performance on corners and free kicks. Too often the delivery from corners has failed to reach the centre of the goalmouth and the players waiting in and around the box have been too passive in their approach.

Latics have an average of 11.4 shots per game, only Blackburn Rovers having a lower average count. The stats show that Latics average a respectable 13.3 shots per game at home, but away from home only 9.6 shots per game, the lowest in the division. Wigan are clearly more disciplined when playing at home, where they have collected 28 yellow cards. They have received 42 away from home, the highest in the division.

West Bromwich Albion lead the Premier League in terms of goals from set pieces. They have 15, 11 of which have come from corners. Under Tony Pulis they have become a compact unit, with a tough defence and a high work rate. They have the lowest average possession rate at 40.7%.

There are arguments to the effect that football teams should not be obsessed with possession. But Roberto Martinez was certainly a believer and by maintaining possession his teams were more able to withstand the physical demands of the Premier League, more often than not playing against teams with technically superior players. In fact the top six teams in the Premier League table also have the top six possession statistics.

Wigan Athletic’s current average possession rate of 49.3% is the 13th highest in the division, but has been on a strong downward trend since the departure of Gary Caldwell. The emphasis on passing has been superseded by what is euphemistically called a more “direct approach” under Warren Joyce. Given Joyce’s previous reputation as coach of a Manchester United reserve team that played entertaining, flowing football it is difficult to fathom why he has resorted to such methods. Is Joyce trying to stave off relegation by transitioning to a Pulis-type approach?

However, 45% of West Bromwich’s goals have come from set pieces, compared with 27% for Wigan. Given the lack of flowing football from Joyce’s teams, making goals from open play relatively scarce, it is essential that they improve their conversion rate on set pieces.

In the 2014-15 season when they were to be relegated Wigan Athletic’s average possession was 51.6 %. They had an average of 13.7 shots per game. They scored 15 goals from set pieces, 8 of which were from corners. The previous season when they reached the Championship playoffs they had 52.3% possession and 14.7 shots per game, with 17 goals from set pieces.

Although results are the primary concern for Wigan Athletic fans at this moment in time there are many who would like to see Joyce’s team playing in what David Sharpe once named “The Wigan Way”. What that actually means is open to conjecture. The best quality football that Wigan Athletic have probably ever consistently played was from March to May 2012 under Roberto Martinez, while among the most exciting was the attacking play of the Paul Jewell era.

The football played by the current team is far removed from those halcyon times, closer to that of the days of Malky Mackay. But the very minimum most fans want is for Joyce to send his team out to win, rather than not to lose.

In the meantime, with the shortage of goals from open play and a lack of willingness to throw players forward, it is the set pieces that can prove crucial for Latics’ survival in the Championship division.

What are the chances of a set piece goal against Nottingham Forest tomorrow?

 
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Latics fans react to QPR defeat on social media

The 2-1 defeat at QPR was indeed a bitter pill for Wigan Athletic fans to swallow. The loss puts them even deeper into the relegation mire. Latics were in a similar position just two years ago under Malky Mackay, when they were unable to raise their level sufficiently to avoid the drop. Can Warren Joyce stop history repeating?

In fact the stats show a startling similarity. After 33 games Latics have just 26 points, just one more than they had in 2014-15 at the same stage. Moreover the stats for the last 6 matches – W1 D1 L4 – are identical.

Once again Joyce fielded a cautious lineup, with central midfielders Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe in wide midfield. But this this time he was lacking Shaun MacDonald, who plays a key role in front of the back four. Jamie Hanson took his place.

After the match Joyce commented: “Every game is a cup final and that’s the way we have got to approach it; we have put little runs together with wins and draws but not built on it and enjoyed a good run for a more sustained period. It’s a long journey back now, and we have to make sure we look after the players tomorrow because it’s been a busy period of games and then we’ll prepare for the next cup final against Forest on Saturday. It’s disappointing, we dust ourselves down and go again, there were a lot of good aspects of the performance and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

Of the 14 players signed in January, three made the starting lineup. Wide players Andy Kellett,  Gabriel Obertan and James Weir were on the bench, although Obertan came on for Will Grigg after 72 minutes. Striker Mikael Mandron, plucked from non-league Eastleigh Town, came on for his debut after 80 minutes. However, having three strikers on the field does not necessarily provide more goal threat with a dearth of creativity from the midfield.

Blackburn Rovers have parted ways with Owen Coyle in an attempt to stave off relegation. They are one point behind Wigan with two games in hand. In hindsight one of the mistakes David Sharpe made in his early days as chairman was to prolong the reign of the hapless Mackay until it was virtually too late to avoid a place in the bottom three. However, given that Joyce has a three and a half year contract, which would be costly to pay off, it is unlikely that he will be dismissed.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, 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:

qprvital

Vancouverlatic on Latics Speyk commented:

We’ve been in worse positions than this under the con man Martinez and scraped through. No reason we can’t do it again. The vitriolic rubbish on here about Joyce is mind boggling, We were always going to struggle this Season with no money, why the surprise ? We’re not relegated yet, not even close, so start being a fan, stop moaning and start supporting.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

Loan players and narrow defeats. So like last relegation season. Almost inclined to give up all hope now. Very early but…#wafc

Loudmouth Blue on Latics Speyk commented:

Can the person monitoring the fans websites on behalf of the club take a flaming look at that and please pass it on to Sharp / Whelan / Jackson, and please, please tell us how you came to the decision to employ Joyce, how did he come onto your Radar and what redeeming qualities do you see in him.

What the above doesn’t show is the scabby wins where we were outplayed, or the negative non possession crap we endure most games.

qprplayerpositioosm DonnysPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

The signings we made in January certainly look like signings for league one. Quite a few young promising players and unfit loan players who won’t be here anyway. Sam Morsy and Power will be sold and Grigg will be back to twenty goals a season.

 Jeffs right on Latics Speyk envisages a return to League 1:

Hopefully we can bounce back and win league one next season and Whelan/ Sharpe and co learn from the mistakes from 14/15 and 16/17 we may make a go of the Championship in 18/19.
Austerity austerity austerity and go sideways and backwards. I wouldn’t bank on it though and if it comes down to investing again we may find ourselves down for a number of years.  Get shut of Wildshut and replace him with nothing. Suicide!!!! Especially when we were so shit anyway.

Filmoss on the Cockney Latic Forum is not hopeful:

I might be more positive if the manager is! Too cautious and I honestly can’t really see any run of results coming our way anytime soon! The stat of just 1 home win in nigh on 5 months doesn’t bode too well either! The signings reek of League One preparation as well !

livesesy TH10 on Latics Speyk mentioned a lack of quality and ambition:

Just not good enough, we have one player who carries an attacking threat. The rest work hard but lack quality and ambition. I don’t think playing with 4 central midfielders is helping, we have absolutely no width at all. Grigg is completely ineffective and I’m not sure he even knows what position he’s actually playing in.

It’s up there with the least entertaining Latics team I’ve ever seen, not enjoyable to watch at all. I think it’ll be a miracle if we stay up.

Grim Reaper on Latics Speyk added:

This Clown needs to stop packing the midfield with full of defensive minded central midfielders, tonight yet again there was no width or attack minded players in there. The only times we see a positive attack minded team is when we are behind and chasing games.

Jimmyc  on the Cockney Latic Forum advocated a need for stability:

I’m not so sure changing the manager will turn things around Mr B. The buck stops with the manager of course but for me we are a very naive club.You need stability, and that is something we haven’t had for 3 or 4 years now. Look at the last two transfer windows both seem to have unsettled us. We had a mini good run early Jan winning 3 on the spin, and beginning to look like a good team. then came transfer deadline day, and we’ve been poor since, and now look like a relegation side! Stick with him, and hope the club be more prudent in future transfer windows.

Adgjlzcbm on Latics Speyk gave his impressions of the game:

Was at the game. Our players clearly showed they do not know each other at the end. Tunniclife had some bad turns but he was generally good. Power & Conolly were both skinned by Lualua who was MOM. Lots of head tennis from us. Burn our MOM again. Grigg seemed to be tasked to win balls for Bogle. MacDonald thoroughly missed. Morsy most creative midfielder early on but looked tired at the end. Their keeper made more saves than Gilks. Our manager should have done more homework on our opposition.

NuneatonLatic on the Cockney Latic Forum looked at mistakes made this season:

The way I see it is the whole season has been a catalogue of needless errors. Too many changes made close season and Caldwell rightly paid the price. Joyce has a job to steady it and indeed has done to the fact that nobody gives us a beating. We always lose by the odd goal and that is the managers fault. His sole emphasis seems to be on flooding midfield to stifle the opposition. He is totally unable to get the balance between midfield and attack. If we had scored just 6 more goals losses would have been draws and draws victories. Grigg is coming in for some terrible criticism but the lad has seen countless changes behind him and its understandable why he is struggling. The way Joyce sets up I doubt that it matters how many strikers we use until he finds the right mix. Frustrating thing is we are not far off at all we just need to be more adventurous.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Whatever happens @David Sharpe91 has to ensure we don’t have another summer of change. Have to give Joyce a chance with his own squad.

The Egg on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

Obviously I think most of us on here would support the club regardless of the division we are in and in most cases have done just that. What is infuriating me at the moment is that we seem to be accepting that relegation is going to happen.

Of course in January we had to look at both the possibility of surviving and also going down which is why Yanic had to go for the price he did as we wouldn’t get anywhere near that if we went down and HAD to sell, but the signings we made all seemed to me to be in preperation for League One. Young lads with an exciting future. I’m sorry but that isn’t going to get us out the mire. We needed to sign someone who has battled before and knows what it takes to survive a relegation battle. I think we needed that in the Manager’s chair as well.

The substitutions on Saturday were the final straw for me, obviously I hope we get out this mess but I just cannot see it and it looks like another re-building phase only this time we won’t have parachute payments to rely on.

King_dezeeuw06 on Latics Speyk gave his overview:

What u want me to say about Joyce? Be super negative and procliam we are going down even though we have a quarter of the season left? Say we have a team full of creativity and goals that is just being mismanaged when we dont? Pretend we haven’t deserved more points than we have got lately? Pretend he wasnt kicked in the balls by our best player f—ing off on deadline day and having a lack of budget to recruit quality? Shout we should sack a manager who clearly isn’t going anywhere and replace him with Rowett, Pearson, Redknapp or any other unrealistic and unaffordable option? Pretend the players missing clear cut chances to win games isn’t our biggesr failing right now?

If this was early season or we hadn’t already changed manager or we had the budget to get someone much better in id probably be more critical. But we were up s— creek with no money to attract top bosses or players before Joyce arrived and we are still in that position. The reason we hired him out of left field and took a gamble was due to lack of affordable decent alternatives – Steve Evans was then and prob still id one of the better realistic managers we could get if we wanted a new boss and that appointment would’ve gone down worse than Joyce’s.

Has Joyce got it all right or do i agree with everything he does? Nope. Its a results business and although our form is better since the turn of the year we aren’t getting the results we hoped overall. I’ve already said it like everyone else has i think Joyce needs to be braver with his selectlins, tactics and subs – we are too negative and he deserves critasism for being too cautious. Id have loved us to be aggressive and ambitious in our last few games and hope we are moving forward. But despite us dropping points we aren’t adrift and we arent doomed yet, its a horrible result tonight, we are all hurting but we are still only 2 points behind 4th bottom so im not going to write us off yet.

Teams (including us) in years gone by have survived facing much worse odds than we face now. People had us dead and buried a few times this season after bad results and we clawed our way back into the pack so why cant we do it again? I’m not kidding myself I’m as worried as anyone else that we won’t do it, but the day Joyce walked in we all knew it was going to be tough and i bet we’d all have said keep us up, even if its by the skin of our teeth and we’ll be happy this year. That is still possible even if it’s looking like it will be at best a close call but he hasn’t failed yet.

We know Joyce is here until summer at the very least, an alternative boss isn’t going to happen, new players arent able to come – what we have now may not be enough but it’s all we’re getting. So as frustrated as we all are we’ve got 2 choices now moan, give up and call for a sacking that isn’t coming or try and keep positive, support and hope for the best.

 Tremendous on Latics Speyk thought that:

 I’d like someone to justify how they think there has been some sort of improvement since the managerial change. There seems to be several who thinks that there has been.

On top of these stats quoted here, is anyone aware that the ‘much improved’ defensive organisation has changed the defensive record from conceding 16 in 14 games to conceding 24 in 18. We have only kept 5 clean sheets in those 18 games having kept 4 in the first 14 (with a rubbish goalkeeper in those first 14, apparently).  It kind of looks worse now to me. At the other end of the pitch, the major problem would appear to be worse now as well.  We failed to score in 6 of the first 14 games and have failed to score 9 times from the last 18 games, 6 (SIX) of those at home! So it seems we are scoring less frequently and conceding more often. Why did all 5 of Griggs league goals come in the first 14 games, and he has failed to score since?

On top of all this we have become hardly worth watching, this brand of football, promised to be the Wigan way by the Chairman at the time of the managerial change. I have never seen football like this in all my time watching Wigan.

Please someone explain why they think it has improved.

He also added:

Whichever way you dress it up it does appear that the appointment of Joyce is proving to be a failure thus far! He has had enough games to turn it around yet we are still in the bottom 3 and a few points adrift at that! Too late to sack him and so he will more than likely stay and hopefully navigate us out of League One! He’ll have to be a bit more positive with his tactics mind!
qprlast

 

 

 

 

 

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Latics fans react to Preston draw on social media

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Is the glass half empty or half full? Some view the goalless draw with Preston North End as an opportunity to gain three points being lost. Others say it is another point gained in the fight against relegation.

The absence of a specialist winger in Warren Joyce’s starting lineup was a surprise to most of us, especially with Latics playing at home. However, he stuck with his Bogle-Grigg partnership, although the latter played behind the former, rather than them being utilised as twin strikers. In the absence of a genuine winger central midfielders Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe were played wide.

Joyce has certainly built a team that others don’t like to play against.  After the game Preston’s Irish midfielder Alan Browne commented: “We knew that they’d be at it from the start. They didn’t give us any time on the ball and it was a real battle.” But, however insistent the manager might be in saying that he is trying to win games, Latics continue to look like a team playing not to lose. We can only ponder on what might have happened had Matt Gilks not made that early penalty save.

After the game Joyce commented: “We have had games where we have played better than that and ended up with nothing. At the minute, we have to dust ourselves down and go again on Tuesday night because we’re trying to win every game that we play in. I don’t think that you can fault the players’ efforts to do that today; they tried their best but unfortunately that little bit of quality on the final shot or cross wasn’t quite there and that’s why we didn’t score the goals.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

 socialpreston

Stephen Warnock @StephenWarnock23 tweeted:

A real battle today. A clean sheet and a point on positive note. We recover & get ready for Tuesday. Another massive game.

Dean Chambers on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Shocking game. We were sh..te as a team, too many hoofs, passes not making their man and getting under each others feet. Need to win on Tuesday. MoM Shaun MacDonald.

Bigroy on the Cockney Latic Forum referred to the dearth of goals:

Given we haven’t scored a goal in almost half the games we’ve played it’s understandable fans feel frustrated. Amazing that we are still in with a chance of staying up.

Zakky on Latics Speyk thought a draw was a fair result:

 We really didn’t deserve to win today PNE seemed far more up for it than us and our play was very sluggish. It was a great double save from Gilks that kept us in it, I would say we edged it on chances but overall we didnt deserve to win. Bogel tried very hard but looks to be carrying an injury and will be far more effective when he is as fit as the rest Will Grigg was very poor today, in my opinion he just does not do enough. A draw was the right result.

Noel Wards Leg on Latics Speyk had another view:

I’d disagree Zakky. I thought we did deserve to win it – just. I thought we had the better of the chances, the possession and the territory. We faded in the second half but I thought Bogle caused them all kinds of problems.

Like a lot of people I was a little disappointed at us not going for it with the substitutions especially as their left back was limping and Obertan would have made mincemeat of him I felt, but we are a more attacking threat than we were earlier in the season and hey ho, it’s another point in the bag.

Runcornfan1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum questioned the manager’s approach:

Someone please ask joyce why is he so negative & doesn’t at least try to go for it.

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

A chance missed, made worse by Burton beating Norwich.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

It was a battle. No doubts about effort and discipline. A bit of flair and we’re laughing

Formbylatic on Latics Speyk was positive:

My other half, who is the biggest critic of Latics, said it was the best game she had seen this season. I really enjoyed the game and thought we were really unlucky not to win. Love the potential with Bogle. We should have had at least 2 penalties imo and there’s was never a penalty in a month of Sundays. Onwards and upwards. Few complaints about the performance today.

Piearmy on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Can somebody ask him how many points he believes will be enough to stay up, and see if they can get a straight answer.

LoudmouthBlue on Latics Speyk commented:

 I am ever so glad this new manager has got us so fit from when we had Caldwell in charge, my next hope is getting his team to string two passes together. Which was never a problem under Caldwell.

Stewart Hart @No1fan talked about a need for width:

Without Wildschut/Jacobs need an outright attacking winger. Obertan for Power made sense.

He added:

One things clear, cannot continue with Power in wide role. Obertan needs to come in. Tunnicliffe actually did OK, reminds me of Morsy

Whittleblue on Latics Speyk summed up:

 Draw was probably a fair result.

The game and performance just encapsulates what type of team we are at present. Plenty of endeavour, effort and organisation but not enough quality up front, which is what I feared when the window shut. Bogles efforts aside, the balls into the box be it from dead balls or open play are absolutely atrocious, really really poor. Power I’m afraid was the main culprit on this front today.

Looked like a stonewall penalty for me on Bogle, he went through the back of him to win the ball and cleaned him out. The last substitution for me was poor and showed a lack of attacking intent when we need the win, I felt Obertan or weir could have come on.

The lack of strikers at the club is beginning to tell, Bogle looked sha…ed out at the end and we were in desperate need of fresh legs but sadly there is no one else. Whilst I enjoyed the game I find our situation frustrating. If the season was to start now I’m pretty sure we’d be comfortable in lower mid table come the end of the season, but it doesn’t and we are still in the mire with games running out. Can’t fault the effort and application but the lack of goals I fear is what will cost us our league position.

 Samuel Bennett @benitlatics91 tweeted:

Hahahaha just had a #PNEFC fan tell me that our glory days are gone. Sorry pal, but your last major honour was in 1938. 79 years ago

PNE fan Beckford on Latics Speyk gave his view:

A truly awful game which just turned into a sluggish, scrappy battle between two sides that were incapable of producing any sort of attacking quality on the day. IMHO the game would’ve opened up if we’d converted the penalty but it wasn’t to be.

I think you’re capable of staying up. Joyce seems to have instilled some fight into your team and the new lad Bogle looked a real handful. Add that to Bristol City’s never ending slide down the table, and you might just be able to do it. I hope you do because I like local away games, just a shame our club turned it into some sort of daft family fun day by dishing out cringey, embarrassing masks and etc. That sort of nonsense should be saved for home games IMHO as it didn’t help the atmosphere in our end, nor did the missed pen.

nwlfinish

 

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Can Joyce avoid relegation?

tablefeb2012In mid-February five years ago Wigan Athletic looked to be on a slide out of the Premier League. They had hit rock bottom in mid-January and just could not seem to climb out of the mire. A month later they were still bottom, with just two wins out of their previous ten league matches. However, a win at Bolton and a draw at home to Everton in the last two matches had provided some hope. The fans had started to “Believe” and rallied behind their manager and team.

It was to take another month for Latics to climb off the bottom, following a 1-1 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. But the defence had been tightening up, with less “soft” goals being given away. Shaun Maloney had finally got a place in the starting line-up against Albion and he was to be the catalyst to revitalise the attacking side of Wigan’s game. By the end of the season Latics were in 15th place, 7 points clear of the relegation zone. They had won five of their final six matches.

A year later Latics were to find themselves second from bottom in mid-February. By the end of the season they were to rise one place, not enough to avoid relegation. Some attributed relegation being due to the FA Cup campaign, others cited horrendous injury problems. But few would have traded an FA Cup win for a continuation in the Premier League.

A couple of years later, in mid-February 2015, Malky Mackay’s Latics were second from bottom, nine points from safety. When the manager had taken over from Uwe Rosler in early November 2014, Latics had been third from bottom, but only one point from safety. But the fire sale that followed in January, together with a lack of investment in suitable replacements, led to Latics finishing second from bottom, seven points behind Rotherham who were safe in 21st place. The quality of football during Mackay’s reign had plummeted drastically.

tablefeb2017

Once again Wigan Athletic find themselves second from bottom in mid-February. They are five points behind the 21st placed team, Burton Albion, but with a game in hand. Wigan were in  exactly the same position when Gary Caldwell was dismissed in late October and replaced by Warren Joyce.

In terms of results the records of the two managers are remarkably similar. Caldwell’s league record reads W2 D5 L7, GF 13 GA 16 Pts 11 and Joyce’s is W3 D3 L9 GF 14 GA 22 Pts 12.

So despite the change in manager, results have stayed largely the same. However, in terms of quality of football there has been a major change. The possession football that typified the Caldwell era has been replaced by a more “direct” style under Joyce, reminiscent of the Mackay era. Caldwell’s team had started the season cautiously, with the manager seemingly reluctant to push men forward to support the central striker, for fear of counterattack. The caution has become even more evident under Joyce, with frequent use of a version of 4-1-4-1, leaving the lone striker isolated and too often fighting a lost cause.

In their successful fight against relegation in 2011-12 Wigan Athletic continued to try to play good football, even when the odds were stacked against them. Their famous late season victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United were gained on merit, through resolute defence and some inspired attacking. It looks unlikely to be the case this year, with Joyce in charge.

However, despite the poor quality of the football, Joyce appears to have made some progress. His insistence on a high level of fitness caused injury problems early on for players unused to the intensity he was seeking. But the players do look fitter now and willingly run themselves into the ground for the cause. There is no lack of effort.

Fans of Joyce will say that he has already improved some of the players and that he has filled gaps in the squad that needed attention. The departure of Yanic Wildschut has left the team short of pace on the wings, but nobody can argue with a transfer fee of around £7 million. The Dutchman certainly made progress under Joyce, not least in his level of fitness and being able to play the full ninety plus.

Dan Burn made a bad start in Joyce’s first game as manager, in  a 3-0 home reverse to Reading, the manager leaving him out for the next couple of games. But in recent weeks the big centre half has looked a much more assured and accomplished player. Joyce has fixed the problematic right back position with the acquisition of Callum Connolly on loan from Everton. Moreover he brought back Sam Morsy from his loan at Barnsley and the player has played consistently well since his return.

However, there remain questions over Joyce’s tactics. It can be argued that Joyce has tightened up the defence, although the goals against record does not reflect that,  albeit with three goals conceded against Reading, Fulham and Rotherham. Joyce’s critics will say that his emphasis is on trying not to lose, so often pulling back ten men in defence.

Latics were clearly unlucky not to save a point at Fulham on Saturday, going down to a last minute of stoppage time winner. But even with a 2-1 lead at half time were they really likely to come away with three points, given the way Fulham were dominating possession?

fulham-lineupOnce again Joyce operated the 4-1-4-1 formation. The stats revealed that Fulham had 73.3% of possession, Latics 26.7%. I simply cannot recall Wigan Athletic having such a small share of possession in a match.

Possession is a frequent talking point for Wigan Athletic supporters. Not everyone enjoyed the football served up by Roberto Martinez, despite his considerable accomplishments at the club. Neither was Gary Caldwell universally liked despite bringing home the League 1 title. At times the football served up by both managers could be sterile, with midfielders far too willing to pass the ball sideways or backwards. But at its best the possession football played by Martinez’s teams was enough to beat the top teams in the country in the Premier League and to win the FA Cup on merit, without resorting to over physical tactics. Caldwell built up a big squad, packed with players who had too much ability for most of the opposition in League 1. His football followed a similar style to that of his Catalan mentor.

Many long-standing supporters recall the days of 4-4-2 with Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts, a dynamic partnership in attack. Many still yearn for the more direct, but rarely negative, football of Paul Jewell’s heyday at Wigan.

However, neither Caldwell nor Joyce, managers of the modern era, are fans of the twin striker formation. There have been so many times this season, under both managers, when the centre forward has been lone in the true sense. There has been a reluctance to attack the opposition in the way that Jewell’s teams might have done. But that said, it was Wigan’s defensive record under Jewell more than anything else that propelled them up the divisions.

There are arguments on both sides, for and against possession football. Warren Joyce has support from many fans for his teams not playing in that way. However, when David Sharpe was in his early days as chairman he talked about wanting football played the “Wigan Way”. Whether that was a reference to the days of Martinez or Jewell is open to conjecture. But whatever way we look at it, the football served up so far by Joyce has come nowhere close.

What Latics fans want more than anything else at this moment is to avoid relegation. Joyce will be largely forgiven for serving up “ugly” football if he can keep the club in the Championship division. His followers will say that he has been working on tightening up the defence and the players’ fitness, that better football will follow once he has players he has signed himself, who can play the style he wants. His signing of no less than fourteen new players over the January transfer window suggests that this is what he is seeking.

Joyce’s problem with the new players is that so many have arrived short of match fitness due to lack of competitive football since the start of the season. Wildschut’s pace has been badly missed. Gabriel Obertan is a different kind of player, but has genuine pace. However, he lacks match fitness, his last appearance in Russia being on December 1. Moreover he had only made 6 starts and 2 appearances off the bench for Anzhi Makhachkala since August. James Weir too lacks match sharpness after not making any appearances for Hull City since his move from Manchester United in summer. Joyce appears reluctant to include Ryan Colclough, who was called back from loan at Milton Keynes Dons after scoring 5 goals in 18 appearances.

But then again, it is not so much the amount of attacking talents Joyce has on hand. It is more a matter of not withdrawing his midfielders into largely  defensive roles and fielding a lineup with more attacking intent.

Should Joyce wish to adopt a more attacking posture he will need a more creative player in advanced midfield. Josh Laurent made the bench on Saturday, but did not appear. Joyce also has at his disposal the 20 year old Jack Byrne, signed from Manchester City. Byrne was signed as a player for the future, but could play an important creative role this season.

The jury remains out regarding Warren Joyce’s abilities as a Championship manager. However, most fans feel he deserves more time in the job. Given the length of contract he has this is most likely. In the meantime we can only hope that he can focus on playing to win, rather than not to lose.

Wigan Athletic fans like to “Believe”. They will support Joyce in his fight against relegation.

But wouldn’t it be something if we did not go into games focusing not only on stopping the other team playing, but also stressing the importance of attack?

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A Hartlepool United fan’s view of Josh Laurent

 

Few players could show as much delight as did Josh Laurent after signing for Wigan Athletic on the transfer window deadline day. The 21 year old, 6ft 2 in tall,  was signed from Hartlepool United for an undisclosed fee.

On signing the player Warren Joyce commented: “Josh is a player the club has been watching all season and we feel he has the potential to shine at a higher level of football, given the right environment and the time in which to develop.  He’s a powerful, ball-playing midfielder and we welcome him to the squad.”

Joshua Ishaele Jacob-Heron Hunt-Laurent was born in Leytonstone. After playing for the Wycombe Wanderers youth team he joined the Queens Park Rangers academy in the summer of 2012.  He went on to make 20 appearances for the QPR youth team that won the Professional Development U18 League 2 title for 2012-13. In February 2014 Laurent was sent on a short term  loan to Conference Premier club Braintree Town. He went on to make 16 appearances before returning to QPR in mid-April.

Other than his spell on loan Laurent had played for the development squad until January 2015 when he signed for Brentford for an undisclosed fee. Laurent’s departure caused a reaction from QPR fans, frustrated by the club’s reluctance to give their young talent a chance. He went on to make one senior appearance for the Bees, in a League Cup game against Oxford United in August 2015. Just eight days later he was on a short term loan at Newport County, making his Football League debut in a home defeat by Leyton Orient. Laurent went on to make three more appearances before being recalled to Brentford in mid-October.

In February 2016 Laurent joined Hartlepool United on a free transfer. He went on to make 24 starts and 9 substitute appearances for the north east club, scoring one goal.

In order to find out more about Laurent’s time at Victoria Park we contacted Hartlepool fan @LordSmythe through Twitter.

Here’s over to Lord:

After a difficult start Josh showed what he was capable of and finally his efforts on the training ground were rewarded with a first team call up putting in some impressive displays which obviously caught the eye from clubs including Wigan Athletic.

Despite limited (league) appearances (28) Josh’s ability to cover ground in a stylish attacking midfielder role, comfortable in possession, a “baller” with potential to score goals made him a favourite with the fans an acquisition to any side.

He has the ability to do well at a higher level and everyone at Hartlepool United I’m sure wish Josh all the best for the future with The Latics …. from one blue & white shirt to another eh?

Certainly Pools loss and Latics gain.

 

Laurent goal after 43 seconds.

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