Wigan Athletic 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Wigan Athletic rarely start the season with a victory, but this one was an exception. Not only did Latics pick up the three points, but they did it in style.
There were concerns about the back four, with three debutants starting alongside Chey Dunkley. Other than that Paul Cook had kept faith in the players who had performed with success last season, with the exception of Darron Gibson who was preferred to Max Power.
Entertainment returns to the DW Stadium
After last season when so many teams tried to “park the bus” at the DW this was refreshing. Wednesday had come to play an attacking game and Wigan more than matched them.
Latics had been 3-1 up when the Argentinian, Fernando Forestieri, finished off a slick move in the 67th minute. But rather than close the game down by packing their defence Latics continued to attack. There were some nervy moments for the Wigan defence with the 6 ft 3 in Wednesday substitute Lucas Joao causing problems after he joined the combative 6 ft 5 in Kosovan battering-ram Atdhe Nuhui up front. But at the other end Latics’ enterprising football caused constant problems for the Sheffield defence.
As the clock counted down one wondered whether we would see Cook’s team hold the ball in the corners, time-waste and keep possession in the manner that is so prevalent in the modern game. But to the manager’s great credit they did not do that, but continued to hone in on the Wednesday goal at every opportunity.
How many managers are there in the modern game who would do that?
Gibson silences his critics
Darron Gibson has had a frustrating career after starting at a young age for Manchester United. Niggling injuries and off the field issues have led to him not being able to realize his full potential. He had his critics among Latics fans even before he signed a short term contract with the club. But yesterday he surely silenced his critics.
The 30 year old played a key role in holding midfield, his vision and the precision of his passing adding an extra dimension to Latics’ play.
Jacobs and Massey excel
Michael Jacobs scored two opportunist goals, hit the woodwork with a cracking shot and played a key role in the third goal. Moreover he worked hard on the defensive side of his game, tireless in his harrying of the opposition.
There have been questions about the player’s ability to truly succeed in the second tier. He was not an automatic choice at Derby or Wolves. Although he was one of the first names on the team sheet under Gary Caldwell and Warren Joyce he struggled to dominate Championship defences in the 2016-17 season. But so often under Joyce he was chained to defensive duties at the expense of his attacking forte.
Yesterday he played at probably his highest level since he has been at Wigan. His intelligent movement and ability to find space made him a constant threat to the visiting defence. When he came on after the interval he received a great ovation from the crowd in the east stand following a sparkling first half. He looked like a player on a mission to show us that he can be a force in the Championship division. He went a long way towards proving that yesterday.
Gavin Massey too has had his doubters, but yesterday he looked a class act, showing blistering pace and a fine touch on the ball. Perhaps the second tier will be more to his liking, away from the up and tumble of League 1?
Two Dunkleys in defence?
The signing of Cedric Kipre from Motherwell was a surprise to most of us who had never heard of him before. On first sight some wag in the crowd suggested we have two Chey Dunkleys playing, likening the two players not only in their physique, but in their rugged defending. Another likened him to Arouna Kone who sported a similar hair style.
When Dunkley was signed from Oxford United he had only played one full season in league football. Dunkley proved himself to be a very capable player at League 1 level, although there were questions as to how he would cope in a higher division. He had a fine game yesterday dealing with Nuhui who has been a thorn in the side for previous Latics teams.
Kipre too has only had one season of league football, that being in the SPL. But he looked a force to be reckoned with yesterday, with not only an imposing physique, but pace to match.
Is Dan Burn leaving?
The signing of Kipre raised concerns among fans that Dan Burn might be leaving. This was backed up today by reports suggesting that Brighton have offered £3m for him.
Once again it may be mere speculation but Latics fans will be hoping there is no truth in it. Burn is a prize asset with a wealth of experience in the Championship, a key player in Cook’s team.
However, Burn is not the only one who could be gone in the coming week, with the club still having not tied down contracts with so many of its top players.
The uplifting start to the season could soon fall flat if Burn or other such pivotal players depart. But we have become accustomed to the wheeler-dealing that happens as the transfer deadline approaches. If one of more of those players does leave we can surely expect more new arrivals.