James McClean breaks down the left of the box. His cross bobbles on the rutted surface, looking like it is going out of play. But in comes Jermaine Pennant to catch the ball before it goes out of play. His pass allows Kim Bo Kyung a simple tap-in.
It was to prove to be a very important goal because it shattered Blackpool’s brittle confidence to give Malky Mackay’s Latics a lifeline, at least for the time being. But even more than that what was Kim Bo doing a yard away from the goal line? How many times this season has a Wigan central midfield player got himself so far into the opposition penalty box this season from open play? If they had done it more often the Latics goal tally would never have been so low. But in a team that is down on its knees and worried about leaking goals, the midfield players have tended to hang back to support a shaky defence.
Kim Bo is not the best of tacklers, but he has a sublime left foot and his style is reminiscent of Jordi Gomez. Having previously been described as “lightweight” and “a player who goes down too easily” by some at Cardiff, he surprised Bluebirds supporters with the quality and endeavour of his play against them last week. In fact he has been Latics’ most consistent performer in recent games.
When Mackay signed Kim Bo after his contract at Cardiff had been cancelled by mutual consent, there was by no means an overjoyed reaction by most Wigan fans. Some looked on him as never having made the grade in Wales and Latics were taking another Cardiff cast-off, following on the heels of the unpopular Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor. Some cynics even suggested Mackay had signed the Korean to help his case with the FA, referring to a particular email that had seemed to be referring to Kim Bo.
There are certainly similarities in his style of play to that of Gomez. Like the Spaniard, Kim Bo plays best in the centre of midfield, rather than being dispatched to the wing where he does not receive enough possession. He is the type of creative midfielder that Latics have lacked since Gomez left.
One wonders if Mackay reads the Wigan Athletic fan sites, message boards and social media. Fans had been asking for twin strikers for months after seeing the demise of Andy Delort and Oriel Riera in the lone centre forward role. Mackay has opted for a bold 4-4-2 formation, with only one “ball winner” in central midfield. With injuries to Chris Herd and William Kvist, Mackay put Kim Bo alongside James Perch in central midfield. Granted Kim Bo is not the best of tacklers, but he cannot be faulted for his workrate and commitment.
Mackay will also have appeased many supporters by leaving Cowie and Taylor out of the side, following a series of mediocre performances.
However, one good result against a team as poor as Blackpool does not mean that the outlook is much rosier. There are some difficult games coming up and Mackay will need to tweak his formation as the fixtures start to rain in.
The starting lineup against Blackpool was attacking, at least on paper. But many fans would have had a sense of foreboding in seeing a central partnership of McClean and the frustrating Marc-Antoine Fortune. The big man from Cayenne has survived three managers now at Wigan and regularly appears in the starting lineup despite scoring just one goal in 22 league appearances this season.
The visit to Carrow Road on Wednesday is not going to be easy. Latics have a poor record at Norwich and the Canaries are one of the in-form teams at the moment, with a 2-0 victory in the East Anglian derby against Ipswich on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see if Mackay will continue with his attacking lineup. It would not be a big surprise to see him put in an extra holding midfielder in place of a forward.
But let’s hope that Kim Bo Kyung is played in the central midfield position where he needs to be to show his true range of talents.