It was sad to see Wigan Athletic revert to capitulation mode again on Tuesday evening. Capitulation mode has been typified this season by allowing a “monopoly” team to completely dominate the match without any significant physical intervention. As reported in this column in previous posts Wigan’s foul count this season has typically been 8 or 9 per game against these teams, as opposed to averaging 13 to 14 against other opposition. It was therefore no surprise after this performance that the foul count against Wigan was only 7, with Tottenham committing one more. The irony is that Latics have committed more fouls this season than any other team in the division. So what happens in these matches? Nobody here is counting a foul as a positive thing, but the stats give much cause for conjecture.
It was something we have seen too often before this season against the big boys. A defence stuck really deep and minimal effort to show any attacking intent in terms of putting men forward, especially in the first half. The scoreline was kind to Wigan – Spurs could have scored a lot more. In the last 20 minutes we saw some spirit, typified by the inspirational Ronnie Stam’s lone and unsupported forays into the Tottenham half. With better finishing his terrific crosses would have resulted in goals, but this was not to be.
Wigan had reverted to their three centre halves formation, with Jean Beausejour put in as left wing back. Nominally a left winger he did pretty well in his defensive role until failing to mark Gareth Bale who scored an opportunist goal in the 29th minute. The goal came as no surprise. Only 5 minutes later Latics suffered that kind of ill luck that happens to struggling teams – or bad play depending how you see things – that saw Maynor Figueroa’s clearance hit Jordi Gomez and bounce back nicely for Modric to hook in Tottenham’s second goal. The scoreline would have been much worse for Wigan at halftime – and throughout the whole match – without another fine goalkeeping display from Ali Al Habsi. Bale and Assou Ekottu form a terrific left sided attacking front for Spurs and they overwhelmed Latics in that first half. A memory sticks in my head of Ronnie Stam being swamped by their attacks with no other Latics player in sight for support. I cannot recall a Premier League match, where for so long, two players seemed to “own’ one sector of the pitch, with so little collective challenge to their dominance.
Wigan rallied to some extent in the second half, but the home team was clearly in command. Once again it was therefore no surprise that Gareth Bale scored a simple goal in the 63rd minute, ignoring Watson’s challenge and stroking the ball home. You could say it was the goal of a genius or a soft goal to give away – your choice. Nobody had marked Bale all evening and he had a field day.
James McArthur came on for Jordi Gomez and he scored an opportunist, if deflected, goal in the 80th minute. Latics then rallied and put Tottenham under pressure in a way that did not seem possible before. Unfortunately their finishing was not to be apparent. Albert Crusat came on after 87 minutes for Ben Watson, but Wigan were a beaten force well before then.
There was controversy in the 73rd minute when Assou Ekotto committed a horrible red card foul against Franco Di Santo, who had to go off to be replaced by Conor Sammon. The referee and his assistant were so close to the play, but neither reacted. Not even a yellow card! One wonders what would have happened if a Wigan player had done this.
The stats reveal Tottenham having 20 shots or target and Wigan 9. Tottenham enjoyed 62% of the possession. There was one yellow card, for Albert Crusat in the 90th minute.
One could say that the scoreline suggests that Latics did not get “thumped”. Moreover they escaped without anyone being sent off and only one belated yellow card. A goal for James McArthur was a reward for his persistence and endeavour.
This dual mode of damage limitation/capitulation is hard for supporters to take. One could argue that the end result of 3-1 does not look so bad, but the reality was something else. The woeful lack of ambition in the first half played into Tottenham’s hands and they were allowed to look impressive. The shortage of “steel” in midfield was plain to see.
Tottenham have a vastly superior squad to Wigan. They spend big monopoly money to do it. However, the gulf between Tottenhams’ collective self confidence and the paucity of self belief among Wigan players looked way beyond the difference in technical levels. No surprise, one supposes, with Spurs in 3rd place and Wigan 20th. It is the lack of self belief that is keeping Wigan glued to the bottom of the table.
Ali Al Habsi: 7 – Another good display. Kept Latics in the game with fine saves.
Ronnie Stam:7 – Struggled defensively in the first half when swamped by left sided attackers, but hung in there and never gave up. An example to his teammates in his “never say die” approach.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 – Showed poise and technique, but did not offer enough support to the right side of defence in the first half especially.
Gary Caldwell: 6 – Tried hard to steady a sinking ship.
Maynor Figueroa: 6 – Also tried hard to hold back the Tottenham tide.
Jean Beausejour: 6 – Showed skilful touches, but this was a baptism of fire being asked to play at wing back.
James McCarthy: 5 – Disappointing.
Ben Watson: 5 – Disappointing.
Jordi Gomez: 5 – Ineffective, taken off after 71 minutes.
Victor Moses: 6 – Lack of service gave him little opportunity.
Franco Di Santo: 5 – Did not reach his usual level in terms of holding the ball up as a lone striker. Unconvincing as a finisher.
Conor Sammon: 4 – Visibly lacking in goalscoring confidence. Desperately needs a goal somehow.
James McArthur: 6 – Showed his usual commitment and got into good positions. His goal was somewhat fortunate but well deserved.
Albert Crusat: – Hard to prove your point when brought on in the 87th minute.