“Certainly off the back of tonight’s performance, there is going to be a couple of changes. It’s back to the training ground, we’ve got another few players into the club over the last couple of weeks so they’ll certainly be players getting their chances.”
So said Malky Mackay after arguably the worst performance of a depressing season, a 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forest.
Mackay had chosen a team with one change from that which lost against Bournemouth. Chris Herd came in for the injured Chris McCann. Billy McKay remained on the bench.
Mackay clearly had a plan to smother Forest’s fire by playing ugly. With Leon Clarke playing a lone centre forward role there was clearly going to be little goal threat from Latics unless the midfield trio of Cowie, Kvist and Herd got up to support him. With all three being defence-minded players that was unlikely to happen. Somehow Latics scrapped it out for 33 minutes until Britt Assombalomba opened the scoring, heralding a disintegration of order within the Wigan side. The only surprise is that Forest scored only two more.
One win in the last 16 league matches is the most dire of statistics. Moreover there is little likelihood of it changing soon as Mackay is likely to bring in more players who have never played together before, some of whom will be lacking match fitness as has been the case with Herd and Kim Bo Kyung in the past couple of games.
The loss of Emyr Huws for the rest of the season is a hammer blow for Mackay. Moreover the absence of Chris McCann last night left him desperately short of midfield cover.
Looking at the Wigan lineup before the game gave one a sense of foreboding. There just was not the talent in the starting eleven that we have become accustomed to over these years. The family silver was sold off and the side is now desperately short on quality.
Mackay has signed in only two new players on permanent contracts, Billy McKay and Jason Pearce. Clarke – who has played for 14 clubs – and Herd are players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, coming to Wigan on loan, unlikely to be offered extensions by their parent clubs at the end of the season. Kim’s contract at Cardiff was cancelled, as was Gaetan Bong’s at Olympiakos. They are on short term deals until the end of the season. Harry Maguire and Sheyi Ojo are young players coming from Premier League clubs, the former having minimal experience of Championship football, tghe latter none.
Ironically the two players who have been signed on permanent terms have been low on the totem pole.
Pearce is yet to appear, despite the poor form showed by Leon Barnett, who now looks a mere shadow of the player he was a year ago. Mackay once again persisted in a back four of Perch, Barnett, Ridgewell and Taylor. One would have expected that that quartet would have built up some mutual understanding following several games as a unit, but the way Forest were able to slice them open suggests that was not the case.
Mackay will be forced to change his back four in the next game at Reading, with Liam Ridgewell returning to Portland. Andrew Taylor is another whose form has been below par and he might well be replaced by Gaetan Bong. The most likely formation at Reading will be Perch, Pearce, Maguire and Bong. Not an ideal situation at this time of the season to have a new team of back four players.
McKay sadly seems to be following in the footsteps of Andy Delort, having come on last night after 88 minutes, although he did play the full second half against Bournemouth. Despite scoring 10 goals in 23 Scottish Premier League games his manager does not deem him necessary in the starting lineup. Let’s hope he will be better treated at the club than the Frenchman, who is now back at Tours, the rumours being that Latics continue to pay his wages.
Both Kim and Herd arrived at the club short of match fitness. Kim played the first 45 minutes on Saturday and only 9 minutes more last night. Herd’s stats are 59 minutes and 63 minutes respectively. Putting in unfit players when the team is struggling is hardly ideal.
However, with an absence of technically skilled players in the squad Mackay probably felt Kim was worth the risk. Ojo showed his skills on Saturday, but is unproven at this level. Can he put those skills into effect over a whole game? Mackay was forced to play Herd at right back against Bournemouth in the absence of Perch. Last night he was pushed in to shore up the midfield.
In the days of Roberto Martinez the “Believe” motto became the standard that raised the team into achieving against the odds. The manager himself had clear belief in his players and they responded on the pitch.
Under Mackay “believing” is much harder for us fans. His record up to this point as Latics manager is unbelievably bad. Will Dave Whelan pull the plug and bring in someone else to try to salvage the season, or is he already resigned to the club being in League 1 next year?
The likelihood is that Mackay will stay at least until the end of the season. He has come in as a hatchet man, chopping away at the squad, but he has not been allowed to bring in hordes of new players on long term contracts.
If Mackay stays next season, albeit in League 1, what can we expect?
The Scot is clearly a better manager than his results at Wigan suggest. His record at both Watford and Cardiff stands close scrutiny in terms of team performances. However, his teams have not been known for their entertainment value. Attendances will plummet, but the club will be cushioned by a continuing parachute payment of some £9 million. The pragmatists would continue to support him providing he got the results good enough to bring the club back upmto the Championship. If the results did not come then his situation woukd become untenable.
it is a bleak near future that lies ahead for Wigan Athletic. Will we ever get back to the point where we can “believe” again?
Before we can believe in our team, they need to believe in themselves. This is not all down to the manager, and the longer the winless streak goes on, the less confidence they will have as a team. Man for man I have no doubt that they are as good as any in this division.
I think Mackay will stay until the end of the season. If we go down to League One then so be it. I watch League One and it’s not so bad – the likes of MK Dons and Swindon have lit the league up this year. If we can get back in to the Championship quickly that would be fantastic, but we have said this before when we went down to the Premier League. Right now I think we have to get the new lads in (I know Maguire is quality and has performed well on much bigger stages, and Ojo is a very promising player) as the old ones have been very poor. The defence needs refreshing and the midfield needs far more attacking threat and creativity – we are playing far too many defensively-minded players in midfield. Finally we have to get the young players in, e.g. Nicholls, Flores, Jennings etc., because they could be very, very important in League One when working with a smaller budget.
Sorry to say this, but for the last few weeks I have had the distinct impression that we’re doomed and the only way is through that relegation trap door – no doubt when Blackpool eventually overtake us – which I’m sure they will do, then our fate will be set in stone with two months to spare.
The stats: results and performances speak wholly for themselves: a grand total of just 5 league wins in almost 40 games since we exited the FA cup semi finals in May…. That has got to be the worst form in WAFC’s entire history! Only Portsmouth can rival us now for possessing the ignominious title of a club who have plummetted down the leagues so soon after winning the FA Cup. It’s hardly the proudest accolade to be in possession of. At least when we got relegated in 2013, we were the only club who – perversely – had the distinction of taking a piece of silverware down with us as a consolation prize – who else managed that? This time around, it’s just mediocrity and predictability of the most soul-sapping kind imaginable.
Every single passing week, with the fixtures rattling past thick and fast, I have absolutely zero optimism or confidence that Wigan will ever win any game and just get three much needed points more or indeed go on even the shortest of unbeaten runs (just to achieve that for TWO games, right now, is asking a lot!), because the entire squad is so mismatched having been decimated with all the best players having long moved on as if they all wanted nothing more than to desert a fast-sinking ship. As a result, total demoralisation seems to have set in. Our squad is feeble and completely lacking any fight or indeed confidence to turn things around. I have no idea how Mackay feels about this or what he is doing wrong, but that is not the point anymore.
Even the remote hope that we can still, as was the usual tradition, up our game at this time of the year (spending the first half of the season languishing as we always do then going on a surprising good run towards the final few weeks) long vanished in a puff of smoke as week by week another defeat was notched up. Wigan are in freefall and utter turmoil: it’s depressingly obvious we are now marooned up that proverbial creek minus our paddles….. and, sadly, these days, when people ask me which team I follow, I have to now hiss through gritted teeth: “Friggin’ Pathetic”. It seems to be very apt, not that I have any pride in saying that, of course.
One very small niggling thought haunts me though: could all this unprecedented misery we’re experiencing with the sinking fortunes of the club’s performances merely have been Karma instilled on our chief Mr Whelan amidst all this hoo-hah regarding his alleged racism and his appointment of fellow ‘diplomatic’ Mr Mackay? Was there indeed somebody up there who desired a wish to exact some sort of divine intervention and thus teach somebody a lesson? We may never know. But it’s not just down to coincidence, surely?
You make a good point about the whole Whelan-Mackay-racism controversy. When Malky was appointed it must have brought some bad atmosphere immediately to the club, with his FA case still pending and the vocal opposition of so many people. What was the need for Mr. Whelan, though I believe he deserves huge respect for what he has done for the club, to appoint Mackay instead of the likes of Steve Clarke or Chris Hughton? Surely their managerial credentials are just as good and they would have brought relatively no baggage at all. I can’t help wondering whether he also wouldn’t have said whatever he said in the newspaper interview had he not appointed Mackay – I am sure Whelan said mainly to defend Malky. I think this was the real point of the season in which things at the club turned sour. Nevertheless I am a Latics fan and will stick by the team in League One.
But as we can all see, Mackay hasn’t exactly set things alight and galvanised the club’s sagging fortunes on the pitch though, has he? Maybe the reason for that is twofold: in that firstly, none of the new players have managed to gel thus the remaining three or four old faces from the FA Cup winning squad are kind of felt wanting, and secondly, as alluded to above, once you’re stuck in that perpetual losing run (which Wigan excel at at some point in practically every season anyway – but admittedly not as acutely as this time around), it’s hard to psychologically drag oneself out of the mire into which they’ve got stuck.
Malky just can’t seem to motivate the players into winning (or even drawing) games right now. All those demoralising defeats by one goal margins at home and away have now turned into more comprehensive thrashings as seen against the Cherries and Forest…and that is a very disturbing development because that minus GD is starting to become as bad as Blackpool’s. Stats now show that this is the worst ever run Wigan have been on and Malky’s record is also taking a battering as he has now won fewer points whilst in charge of Wigan than he has done with any other club in the same period of time. Put it this way, when Owen Coyle was sacked in November 2013 we already had 22 points at that stage and we were lower mid-table!!….it’s unbelievable to think we’re far worse off now. It’s not something to be proud of. Rosler may well have been a one-season-wonder with what he eventually achieved by getting us to the play-offs last year, but ultimately the team disharmony – not to mention the results – speaks for itself.
Talking of team spirit and mindsets: what gets me is this – how come my second team (Middlesbrough: who are now ironically sitting pretty at the direct opposite end of the table – in pole position, having knocked long-reigning Bournemouth off the top at long last) have managed to instil a similar collective belief that they can WIN every game and keep up the momentum and push….. unlike Wigan, who, conversely, seem to approach each new fixture with the resigned and defeatist air of LOSING them instead? It’s true that if you’re on a good run, you tend to keep it going as a result of the team morale being at a high….. Witness our remarkable 10-game unbeaten run (9 wins and one draw) last season which culminated in the FA Cup semis (although once after that was achieved, and lost, we then reverted to type for the remainder of the run-in)….. Then of course, when you’re on a losing streak and stuck in a rut like we have been now pretty much ever since the season started, morale is at rock bottom and it becomes a huge psychological barrier, making it an increasingly difficult uphill struggle to try and lift ourselves out of that slump.