They were two goals up after 15 minutes and it looked like Wigan were going to win by a country mile. The Oldham defence looked stunned and more goals could have come in the first half which the away side dominated so much that Oldham could not muster a single shot on goal.
But the second half was a different matter, as the home team came back into the match and Wigan’s fluid passing dissipated. It was not so pretty to watch, but Wigan Latics were to come away with a clean sheet, their rearguard action being effective in limiting Oldham’s opportunities on goal.
The end result was Wigan moving to the top of the League 1 table on goal difference ahead of Peterborough, Fleetwood and Shrewsbury. In contrast Oldahm Athletic share bottom place with Northampton Town with no points from the opening three games.
The performance gave us lots to think about:
Paul Cook’s side is not afraid to take the game to the opponents from the start. There was no hesitancy to Wigan’s approach to this game. They pushed forward from the get-go, swamping Oldham in their own half of the pitch. The result was a couple of early goals which were to seal the result. It was an approach that was poles apart from the tepid, sterile stuff we saw under Warren Joyce.
Cook’s football so far has not been what we might have expected. The manager arrived with a reputation of possession-based football, but what we have seen up to this point has not been on a par with what we saw in the Caldwell or Martinez eras. Cook’s team is by no means afraid to launch long balls and its central defenders will not hesitate to clear their lines when under pressure. It is a more pragmatic approach than we anticipated, but it is attack-minded, with Latics pushing men forward in a way that we have not seen for some time. No longer is the centre forward isolated, plowing a lone furrow. Moreover the wide players are seemingly expected to pump balls into the box with teammates moving forward to be on the receiving end. At times it is reminiscent of the football of the era of Paul Jewell.
This team is not averse to getting its hands dirty. It has a rugged centre of defence, fronted by a combative midfield, all outfield players expected to fight for possession. The choice of Sam Morsy as team captain sets the tone. Morsy and Lee Evans are a force in central midfield, with their ability to slug it out with the opposition and turn defence into attack. Yesterday Wigan committed 16 fouls to Oldham’s 11.
Alex Gilbey’s time will come. Gilbey has had to be satisfied with a place on the bench so far, with Nick Powell occupying his natural position in the centre of the advanced midfield trio. The ex-Colchester man is a talented player who will surely make an impact upon the season. Cook is probably reconciled to losing Powell by the end of August, but knows that he has Gilbey to call upon when needed.
David Sharpe will need to think twice before breaking up this squad. The young chairman will have to make some major decisions over the next two weeks. We continue to hear that Latics are a “selling club” and we know that, without funds coming in from transfer fees, expenditure on wages will far exceed revenue. The latest rumours tell us that a Championship club have made a bid for Nick Powell and that Birmingham City are interested in Dan Burn. Both have been key players in the flying start the team has made this season, but will they be here in September? Moreover Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs are in the final year of their contracts, making them prime targets for interested clubs.
Is Sharpe willing to take the risk of going into the red this season in order to keep intact a squad that is surely good enough to challenge for promotion?