He started slowly at Norwich, but in the 37th minute he ghosted into a centre forward position to meet Michael Jacobs’ cross, only to be thwarted by a superb block from Martin Olsson. As the second half progressed he became the orchestrator, receiving the ball under pressure, spraying passes out to the wings. It was no big surprise when he opened Latics’ account in the 72nd minute with an opportunist goal when Will Grigg’s flick opened up space in the Norwich rearguard. Just a minute later he was to go inches wide with a crisply taken free kicked curled around the defensive wall.
Wigan Athletic were unlucky not to have come away with a point from Carrow Road after all had seemed lost early in the proceedings. In the second half they had played to the Caldwell tune, with Jordi Gomez the orchestrator. Back at the club after a two year absence he looked consummately at ease with the style of football his team was playing.
Jordi Gomez is not everybody’s cup of tea. He had four years of Premier League football under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, but only started in some 40% of the games, scoring a total of 10 goals. However, the manager always kept faith in his fellow Catalan, whose style of play many would say epitomized the Martinez era. The names of the two became practically synonymous, so much so that elements of the crowd, frustrated at the slowness of build-up play would so often vent their fury on Gomez.
But the build-up play in the second half at Norwich was not so slow and Gomez was clearly enjoying it. In his final season at Wigan prior to leaving for Sunderland Gomez suffered for months under a manager who considered him a “luxury player”. It was when the inept Owen Coyle left and Uwe Rosler took over that we saw the best of the player, who provided inspiration for a surge in the second half of the season that took Latics into the FA Cup semi-final and the Championship playoffs. Gomez scored 2 goals under Coyle and 9 under Rosler.
Gary Caldwell’s style of football bears a strong resemblance to that of Roberto Martinez, if a little more pragmatic. It is therefore no surprise that he can achieve harmony so quickly with the totally new faces around him in the Wigan Athletic team. Knowing Jordi as we do, we can continue to expect the kind of frustrating back passes that have typically marked his play, but at the same time we know that at Championship level he is a player to be reckoned with.
Gomez is already in tune. Despite having just a 22 minute appearance off the bench against QPR and very little pre-season game time, he went the full 90 at Norwich. Some have labelled him as lazy, his languid style betraying the yardage he covers during a game. There was no sign of laziness at Carrow Road: more that of a player committed to becoming a vital cog in Gary Caldwell’s machine.
Gomez will continue to divide opinion among supporters, but he fits into Caldwell’s style of play like a glove. At his best he can orchestrate the midfield, scoring goals and putting through slide rule passes to his forwards. He will surely be looking forward to a successful return to Wigan.