The Wigan Athletic revival party was put on hold by an exceptionally well organized and opportunistic West Brom side on Saturday. While Roberto Martinez’s choice of “frustrating” was more than apt, the biggest takeaway appears to be that with Shaun Maloney’s impact reduced by a niggling ankle injury (that has forced him out of the Scotland squad this week), Latics sorely missed a player with the ability to unlock a defence — something Victor Moses used to do with some regularity last season.
In fact, the only memorable moment of dribbling skill resulted in Latics’ best chance of an equaliser, when Franco Di Santo skinned his man down the left hand side before Maloney blazed over. Neither Jean Beausejour nor Ronnie Stam, whose return was pleasing, possess the pace to beat their man for speed. West Brom’s centre halves had a field day clearing hopeful crosses from the box. Ben Watson’s long range strikes were the only other real threat Wigan could muster.
Before West Brom scored, Latics had looked dominant and fluid, if not incisive. Ben Watson was playing some beautiful stuff and was unlucky with his long range strikes. The goal was a good response. Ali Al-Habsi was fantastic. Ronnie Stam was an immediate improvement in the attacking third when he came on, although his crosses were not sharp.
A lack of imagination on this display. West Brom defended in numbers and Latics could not find a way through. It would have been nice to see Di Santo on the ball more frequently, but he didn’t seem to drop deep enough to get on it. With the amount of possession around the box and Shaun Maloney struggling, Jordi Gomez might have been an option earlier in the game. It also appeared to be an ideal opportunity to give Mauro Boselli a runout, as the attacks appeared to be based on hopeful crosses into the box. He came on very late. Also a shame Ryo Miyaichi and his pace were unavailable through injury.
No cause for panic, but this match was crying out for a player willing to run at the WBA defence and force errors. It will go down as a missed opportunity. Players like Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney, usually excellent, have failed to convert scoring opportunities in recent matches. Ronnie Stam’s introduction suggested Emmerson Boyce’s attacking play has been acknowledged as sub-standard in recent outings.
Ali Al-Habsi: 9 — Despite hurting his shoulder in the warm-up, he was at his very best. One save from Romelu Lukaku in the second half stands out. Top class.
Ivan Ramis: 6 — No errors, but a bit of a wobbly performance after several excellent ones.
Gary Caldwell: 5 — Unlucky with his own goal, but was run ragged by Shane Long and eventually substituted.
Maynor Figueroa: 6 – Almost gave away a goal in the first half with some casual defending. Otherwise, not a bad match.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Offered little in attack. Better when dropped to the back three.
Jean Beausejour: 6 — Nice ball for Koné’s goal. Had a good first half, but his worst second half since joining the club with misplaced passes and a spurned opportunity.
James McCarthy: 7 — Strong in midfield, wish he had been able to get forward more often.
Ben Watson: 8 — Probably the best outfield performance, he was the most positive attempting through balls and shots. Gave the ball away frustratingly a few times, but if anyone deserved a goal it was him.
Shaun Maloney: 6 — Quietest performance in a while. West Brom identified him as the main man and marked him heavily, but he was also apparently carrying an injury.
Franco Di Santo: 6 — Also quiet. Only really got on the ball to good effect once or twice. No shots or goal attempts.
Arouna Koné: 6.5 — Did well to stay onside for his goal. Held the ball up well but had little space to operate in, and not much service either.
Ronnie Stam: Saw a lot of the ball and put several crosses in, all well defended. A welcome return.
Jordi Gomez: Not enough time to make an impact.
Mauro Boselli: Came on for the last 8 or so minutes, by which point Latics had lost the bulk of possession and were restricted to hopeful crosses — none of which reached him.