When a boxer is too beaten up to continue, his coach throws a towel into the ring to signal that the fight is over.
Gary Caldwell might have wanted to throw in the towel at various times during an awful performance at promotion-chasing Brentford. The unfortunate deflection of a Pritchard free kick after 25 minutes was the precursor of the nothingness that followed. Latics had dominated the game up to that point, at least in terms of possession. But a team with such brittle confidence was unlikely to be up to the task of getting back into the game following such an unfortunate goal.
What was to follow was merely a replay of the football we have seen so often this season. Toothless in attack, woeful in defence, passing awful
Gary Caldwell set up his stall with a 3-5-2 formation. It worked well for the first quarter of the game with the wing backs getting into advanced positions, particularly Gaetan Bong on the left. The team pressed forward to harass Brentford’s passing game. Wigan’s passing was neat and their interplays led them into the Brentford box on various occasions. One had a feeling that something positive might happen, even of the incisive final pass was lacking. It looked like Caldwell had got the team playing the kind of football he was seeking.
But as the game progressed following that first goal one got the feeling that Latics could be in for a drubbing. The Latics back three looked like they had never played together before, fragile and vulnerable to the movement of the Brentford midfield and wide players. Wigan’s midfield was both pedestrian and predictable. The forwards found it hard to stay onside.
But then again, what did Latics have to play for in the last match of a catastrophic season? The majority of the players who made the starting lineup are unlikely to be at the club next season. But at least Caldwell had taken the opportunity to give Billy Mckay his first start, together with bringing the 18 year old Louis Robles and the 19 year old Jordan Flores off the bench for their first senior appearances after 64 minutes.
The breath of fresh air that Caldwell’s appointment has brought into the club was not enough today. The Scot has inherited a poor team that was never going to be good enough to beat promotion chasers like Wolves and Brentford in the last two games. But if that deflection had not beaten Lee Nicholls half way through the first half, perhaps a goalless draw might have been on the cards today?
The social media and message boards have been packed with fans asking which of the players whose contracts are expiring next month should be offered new contracts. On the basis of today’s performances alone the answer would quite simply be “none” except the goalkeeper. The highlight of the afternoon for Wigan was Lee Nicholls’ late penalty save. With the impending departure of both Ali Al-Habsi and quite probably Scott Carson it is no surprise to hear strong rumours that the young keeper has been offered a contract extension.
It is a measure of how far Latics have fallen over the past months that Brentford could so easily carve holes into the defence as the game wore on. The kind of football they played today is something that Caldwell might well aspire to. The Scot has a mountain of a task ahead of him to get Latics back to that level of performance.
Meanwhile we will continue to play our guessing games as to who is to stay and who is to go.
It is going to be an interesting summer!