Was this going to be the turning point for the season? Wigan Athletic up by a goal after 76 minutes. Victor Moses runs through with Crusat in a great position. Moses decides to go it alone and the chance to kill off the game is lost. Soon after Everton get their equalizer as Jones and Boyce watch Anichebe leap to glance a header into the net.
Those five minutes were the highlight of a dire contest for the spectator. Harsh weather conditions hardly helped. Everton can scarcely be called an attractive team. Their strategy is based on strong defence. They tend to pick goals up from set plays, especially in the second half. Latics never really looked like scoring against that miserly Everton defence, but for once got a slice of luck, with Neville and Howard conspiring to give away a bizarre own goal. It was that slice of luck we had all been waiting for – the chance to turn around the season after another long winless streak. Alas, it was not to be.
The stats for the match show that Wigan enjoyed 52% of the possession and committed 15 fouls to Everton’s 12. Both teams had 10 shots but the reality was that neither keeper was kept busy. This was a classic bore draw, with neither side able to muster any consistent attacking threat.
The good is that Latics did not lose. However, this columnist does not agree with the sentiment that this was a point gained. You have to be able to beat mid table teams like Everton if you want to maintain your Premier League status.
Once again Wigan’s centre forward was lone in the extreme. Both modified systems – 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 – allow the possibility of wide players coming forward to attack. The 5-3-2 becomes 3-5-2 when you give your wing backs due licence to play further forward. Put simply it is not the system that is letting Latics down in terms of goalscoring, but their reluctance to put sufficient players into more forward positions. Look at when Latics get the ball in wide positions deep into their opponents half. No matter how well a winger or wing back can cross the ball there have to be bodies inside the box to score. Moreover those players in the box need to attack the ball, rather than wait for it passively. How demoralizing it must be for players like Ronnie Stam to put in beautifully crafted crosses with no end result. The same applies to set pieces. We have the worst record in the division for scoring off set pieces. Our players seem to have lost the ability to aggressively head the ball towards goal. Moreover the delivery of corners and free kicks leaves much to be desired. Oh for a Ryan Taylor or Seb Larsson to take our set pieces.
The reluctance to put more players forward is the hallmark of a struggling team. The risk of losing a goal to counter attack is real and scary to a team lacking in self confidence. However, if you genuinely want to win a match you have to risk losing goals to counter attacks. Latics are at the point of the season where draws are not sufficient. They need to start winning games. A positive spin can be put on the draw in this match by looking at it as not losing, after a string of four successive defeats. There is some validity to that argument, but the time for spin is no more – time is marching out on us – let’s go in to win matches and not be content with a draw. The fear factor needs to be overcome.
Ali Al Habsi: 6 – For once he had little to do!
Ronnie Stam:6 – Not his best performance, although surprisingly substituted after 65 minutes.
Emmerson Boyce: 5 – Steady but not at his best.
Gary Caldwell: 6 – Marshalled the defence, led by example.
Maynor Figueroa: 5 – Steady but not at his best.
Jean Beausejour: 6 – Worked hard, showing nice touches.
James McCarthy: 6 – Worked hard in front of the defence, but we need to see more of him in attack.
James McArthur: 7 – Showed great commitment: a real team player.
Jordi Gomez: 4 – Poor, justifiably taken off after 64 minutes.
Victor Moses: 4 – Poor. Too often runs head-down into blind alleys.
Franco Di Santo: 5 – Tried hard, but to little effect. Taken off after 69 minutes. Hardly ever plays the full 90 minutes or completes a run of consecutive games. A stop-start season for him.
David Jones: – Came on as substitute for Stam. Looked out of place on the right hand side.
Hugo Rodallega: – Came on for Gomez. Showed commitment and got into some decent positions.
Albert Crusat: – Came on for Di Santo after 69 minutes. Did what he could with little service.