April 16, 2022: Wigan Athletic 1 Cambridge United 2
“I thought the game was the old proverbial of a game of two halves. I thought we started the game a little bit slow in possession and you’ve got to give credit to Cambridge who worked hard to create some chances in the first half. They took their chances and we weren’t as productive in the opposition half during the first half. I thought in the second half, we played with a tempo and with a really good flowing mindset that we’ve had for most of the year.”
Leam Richardson was certainly understating what happened in the first half. Latics were outplayed and the visitors were good value for their two goal lead. Wigan clawed their way back into the game in the second half and were unlucky not to equalise in the dying minutes, being defied by a superb double save by Bulgarian goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov.
Richardson had brought in Gwion Edwards and Graeme Shinnie, reverting to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Max Power was put at right back, with Tendayi Darikwa on the left.
It was a surprise that the manager had ditched the 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 system that had served so well in the past weeks. Seeing that it had not worked he reverted to three at the back at half time, with Jason Kerr bolstering the defence against the visitors’ aerial threat and Tom Pearce’s left footedness providing more balance on the left flank.
Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:
Credit for the opposition comes in the form of the best centre forward display I’ve seen from any visitor this season ….Ironside isn’t a 6’ 4” monster but he is as strong as a bull and knows exactly how to play the role. Our centre backs were largely powerless against him.
(V Oliver did similarly for Gillingham a couple of months ago but only for the 2nd 45 mins)
Taking everything into consideration I think we looked a very very tired team. Our movement was ponderous and our decision making was slow..
The pace at which the Rotherham game and now the MK games are being played is light years faster than our turgid display.
Jeffs right responded:
I don’t think we are tired. It’s just how we play the game. There haven’t been many games at the DW this season where we have played with pace and urgency. Generally we have been pretty boring but made up with the work rate and never say die attitude.
It is a little disingenuous to say it was all down to how we played without praising the way Cambridge went about their task. They hammered us with an aerial game from one of the biggest sides I have seen in a while, they won every knock down second ball from their own front two and same from their defensive clearances.
Yes LR got it wrong today and should have started as he lined up for the second half.
To all those slating Darikwa, he was our best player today, he played in front of me both halves and stopped a number of crosses coming in and got forward and linked up well in the second half until he went off, we were sat with a couple who came from Huddersfield but were Sheff Utd season ticket holders, they were there with their family, her brothers lad was one of our juniors who were introduced at half time, they were astounded when Darikwa was taken off.
How many games did we go unbeaten playing with a back five? Reverts to a back four, and to make matters worse played two full backs out of position. I’ll say it, he’s either f..king thick or scared of upsetting his favourites.
Eternally grateful for him sticking with us last season, and he’s done some decent things this season, but going forward not sure he’s the right man to take us to the next level. My opinion.
All that said, that starting line up and set up was nonsensical….reverting to something that has repeatedly failed already….and all driven by a single absentee ….plain daft
King _dezeeuw06 summarised:
I imagine everyone from our fan base was immediately concerned when they saw the team and change of formation. We all know this formation just means we can’t play out and hoof it to no one. We were playing one of the divisions stronger long ball teams and we know we are useless at long ball. So why are we playing to Cambridge’s strengths and our weaknesses deliberately?
I know we struggled away on a small pitch against Burton but you don’t revert to doing all the bad things that we improved since we stopped doing as a response. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.
You never get anything out of Edwards. Why start him? You know in advance he’ll be subbed off after doing nothing.
Dealing with Cambridge’s aerial threat (Ironside and Smith) was what cost us at their place so why take out arguably our best defensive header in Kerr?
In this formation Keane always ends up playing too high up and we get nothing creatively out of him when he’s not linking up play the side falls down. He was too high against Burton and he was even higher tonight.
Naylor and Shinnie are too similar and in this formation drop too deep and combine that with Keane being too high you completely vacate the middle of the pitch making winning second balls and linking up attack and defence very difficult.
Power is key in key to our midfield as he runs the game so why move him out of centre mid when Darikwa is in the side to play 2 players out of position? You knew Power would almost certainly end up back in centre mid out of necessity.
Darikwa is no use at left back why is he not at right back or one of our 2 good left backs starting? It didn’t need any hindsight to know Darikwa would have to swop sides for us to get any threat from left back.
Magennis up front on his own never works, constantly long balling in at him loses it but that’s all we did.
The change of formation suited none of our players it made everything worse all over the park. The changes only suited Cambridge who probably couldn’t believe their luck at our inexplicable decision to abandon what worked on our unbeaten run and revert back to the tactics that gave us our last loss.
Richardson said he didn’t think the change in formation and tactics cost us in that first half but he is clearly just trying to deflect as his changes at half time subbing on 2 defenders to undo all his changes tells it’s own story. He has got a lot of plaudits but he deserves massive critisism for setting us up to fail today – it was just completely counter intuitive. He is always very slow to make changes, it was obvious from the first minute it wasn’t working so how it took conceding 2 goals and 45 mins to do anything about it was beggars belief. If we started with the usual wing backs we’d have probably been alright but needless and bizarre tinkering gave them a 2 goal head start and the damage was done.
Blame certainly falls on the coaching staff but a lot of the players just shirked responsibility. When we were crying out for players to get control of the centre of the pitch and show for the ball most of them went and stood up front in a big long line waiting for a long ball that none of them had a chance of winning. Only Power really tried to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and most of the other players just gave it to him and stood back and left him to try and do something on his own. I know the tactics in the first half were awful but in the second half there were a lot of bottlers unfortunately.
Tactically we were poor against Burton but I still got the train of thought, so you are disappointed and accept it as a bad night. If we played a coherent team and tactics tonight and we lost then you’d be frustrated but it happens – but no one in that ground except the coaching staff would’ve picked that starting line up. Not because everyone is super clever it’s because it was super obvious it was wrong. It’s so frustrating we’ve dropped 5 points from our 2 easiest remaining games that would’ve seen us pretty much up when so much of that is completely self inflicted.
Sheffield Wednesday and Pompey did us big favours this past week, we’ve made a mess at our end but it could’ve been much worse. 3 hard games coming up now – got to get back to playing football and getting control of the midfield or we’ll blow this golden chance.
I think everyone knew once the lineups were announced for the Cambridge match that Richardson had completely bottled his team selection, formation, and tactics. Why on earth he reverted to the negative 4-2-3-1 I have no idea, I thought he had finally figured out that the team is MUCH better suited to a 3-4-1-2 system with two wingbacks and three centre backs. He wasted two starting spots with Shinnie and Edwards, the former of whom has been utterly useless since his January arrival, and the latter of whom is at best an impact sub. Power was wasted at right back, and Darikwa is well established as being useless at left back. Why he hasn’t been starting Magennis and Humphreys together up top is beyond me, it worked well when it was briefly tried. It seemed Richardson realised his mistakes by halftime, but by then the damage was done. Thankfully Sheffield Wednesday bailed us out by beating MK Dons later that day. This was on paper the easiest of Wigan’s remaining fixtures, they are really going to have to step it up now against some tough opponents to make sure they get over the line.