January 14, 2023: Cardiff City 1 Wigan Athletic 1
A game between the two teams with the worst records in the division over the past 10 matches was always going to be tense. It was a mediocre spectacle, with neither team able to play with any fluency.
Kolo Toure had opted for another conservative lineup with Steven Caulker coming in to play in the middle of a back three and Callum Lang and Will Keane up front.
Callum O’Dowda’s 82nd minute deflected shot gave the home team the lead, but Latics did not cave and Keane was once again in the right place at the right time to equalise after 96 minutes.
Following the game Toure commented:
“I have to praise the players because they worked hard, and gave everything in the game. We started the game well, and I believe we were the better team in the first half. We created so many chances, but we have to be more clinical. In the second half, it was more balanced, but they started to dominate and scored.
This afternoon, you could see the players were together and wanted to come back. It shows the team spirit that we are trying to create here, and we want our players to hate losing games.I have to praise them (the players) for their fighting spirit, and their mentality in refusing to lose. We want to make sure we give everything in every single game, so we can have no regrets.”
Some talking points:
A valuable point gained
Following three successive 4-1 defeats in the league it was important to halt that losing streak. Toure continued with the defensive approach that he used for the draw in the FA Cup at Luton. It looked like he was playing for a draw until Cardiff scored, after which Latics had to play with more attacking intent.
At this stage of the season with the composition of the squad in a state of flux, with morale so low, any point gained is a blessing.
The point helped keep Wigan from falling further away from the rest of the relegation pack.
How long will it take for Toure be able to find a happy medium with his tactical approach?
Kolo Toure remains winless after 7 games in charge. His first two games showed promise: a composed performance producing a 1-1 draw at Millwall, then a second half fight back after going two goals behind against high flying Sheffield United. Latics had shown bravery on the ball, loose long balls from defence were minimised and the quality of their football really improved.
However, the following three matches saw the defence torn apart with the team looking short of organisation and shape.
What we saw yesterday was akin to the approach shown by Leam Richardson in his worst times before he was dismissed. It was effectively playing five at the back with three holding midfielders, with the two front men starved of decent service. Max Power’s ugly long throws, largely ineffective under the previous manager, once again reared their ugly head.
The hope is that Toure can find a happy medium between the two extremes.
Caulker makes a good debut
Much has been said about Steven Caulker’s career and the number of clubs he has had. However, he played a key role in the point gained at Cardiff. Caulker was a rock in the centre of the back line, not only having a good game individually, but playing a key role in marshalling the teammates around him.
Latics had needed that kind of experience in their rearguard for some time.
Azeez offers something different
When Jordan Cousins limped off after 49 minutes Miguel Azeez took over his role in left midfield. He entered the field with a bit of a swagger, wearing short socks with little protection for his shins. He went close to scoring 6 minutes after being on the field, making an intelligent run to the centre of the box latching on to an incisive pass from Tom Naylor. His effort sadly passed over the crossbar, but his movement was good to see.
Azeez clearly has a touch of class, something that Toure can build on. But will the defensive aspects of his game be strong enough for him to warrant a regular place in the starting lineup?
Lang and Power off form
Callum Lang has had a difficult season adjusting to the play in a higher division. He looked a forlorn sight yesterday, unable to retain possession of the ball. It was no surprise when he was substituted after 71 minutes.
Max Power was largely anonymous in this game until he made a superb cross for that last-minute equaliser. His recent form has been disappointing.
Both players have lost their way over these months. Lang would be a constant danger to League 1 defences and Power’s pinpoint crossing produced so many chances last season.
Toure’s dilemma is in whether to continue to show faith in them or to give them time on the bench to go back to re-examine their games.