Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a low-quality draw with Ipswich

December 11, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 1

It was a frustrating afternoon with another woeful refereeing performance in a game largely devoid of good football. With Latics a goal up Will Keane was adjudged offside when he put the ball in the back of the net. It was the tightest of decisions signalled by the linesman. If the goal had been allowed Wigan would surely have gathered the three points. As Paul Cook would say: it is a game of fine margins.

Leam Richardson continued to play Callum Lang at centre forward, leaving specialist central striker Stephen Humphrys on the bench. He brought in Tom Pearce for Joe Bennett, Gwion Edwards for Gavin Massey, Max Power for Jordan Cousins. There was no place for Thelo Aasgaard, arguably the MOM in midweek.

We had seen the “playing it long” (aka hoofball in this case) tactic in midweek and Latics got away with it against Shrewsbury through a spectacular late goal from Thelo Aasgaard. It reared its ugly head throughout this game.

After a mediocre first half Ipswich used their bench in the second period to provide more options. Latics continued to play the same long ball game and Ipswich got their reward in the 78th minute when substitute Norwood picked up a loose ball following a well flighted free kick from Lee Evans. Many of us were hoping that Richardson would utilise the flair of Thelo Aasgaard and maybe even change the shape, but his riposte was to make a like-for-like change, bringing on Gavin Massey for Gwion Edwards after 80 minutes. The out of favour Humphrys was brought on after 90 minutes for Tom Pearce.

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:

Jeff’s right commented:

An additional stat. 3 shots on target in 90 minutes.
We have the players so why not go with three at the back and the two strikers at least for home games. Edwards ahead of Humphys. Just can not weigh this up when it’s glaringly obvious that this formation/style of football besides being awful on the eye is just not working at home. Is Cook still pulling some strings as we play the stuff he played.

Victor Moses stated:

With the game waiting for some luck/mistake or a piece of quality to win the game. Really not performing anywhere near their peak. Its so rigid slow and lacking in ambition, it’s what you’d expect from a team low on confidence.

NorthernSoul opined:

Our players can’t play 4 at the back at home. Too rigid and we create nothing and it’s been like that all season. We have scraped a lot of 1 goal wins through individual play.

Away from home when teams attack it works as you have more space to exploit.

At home, teams just sit in and we do little aside from set pieces. We are set up to try and draw at home and may as well start every game with 10 men. Away from home we are the tank out team in the division.

Change to 3 at the back at home and the fortunes will change straight away.

FrancosLoveChild wrote:

I agree but sadly it does not change the needless hoofball that is so ineffective, we rely a lot on individuals brilliance like you said and let’s be honest, we have played poorly home and away for a few weeks now, late goals have papered over the cracks of late.

Bodies are really needed in January, need some creative central players, Keane is absolutely anonymous most of times, and I think he would help stop the hoofball if he played right up too with Thelo behind. But Leam is choosing hoofball, hopefully until he identifies players we need to be more dominant in games.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Phoenix 2021 declare their intent with long contracts for Lang and Aasgaard

Chairman Talal Al-Hammad and Chief Executive Mal Brannigan have set such a positive tone since their arrival at Wigan Athletic. Their shrewd running of the club has been underpinned by a skilful and sensitive approach to human resources and PR. The have not only brought the club back on to an even keel, but they have given supporters so much hope for the future. Their recruitment has been particularly impressive, bringing in the experienced and savvy James Beattie and Rob Kelly to support Leam Richardson and showing real shrewdness in the transfer market.

From the get-go the representatives of Phoenix 2021 stated their intention to continue to develop the Latics Academy. Over the past seven days they have secured the long-term services of academy products Callum Lang and Thelo Aasgaard through new contracts. The length of the contracts is stunning. The 22 -year-old Lang’s new contract goes to summer 2025, that of the 19-year-old Aasgaard to summer 2026.

Both players joined Wigan Athletic as 14 -year-olds. However, their career trajectories differ.

After being a key player in the Latics youth team Lang was sent on a season-long loan to Morecambe in League 2 while still only 18. He went on to make 30 appearances, scoring 10 goals. The following season saw him continue to do well in League 2 with 13 goals in 42 appearances for Oldham Athletic. The next loan was at League 1 Shrewsbury where a metatarsal injury limited him to 16 appearances, scoring two goals. Last season saw him score 3 goals in 17 appearances for Motherwell before being recalled by Latics in January. He proved to be a key player in the fight against relegation, his 7 goals in 17 appearances being crucial.

Lang’s form this season has been sensational. Despite usually playing in a wide position he is the leading goalscorer with 10 goals and 4 assists.

Aasgaard’s passage through the Academy to the first team squad was by no means easy. In his own words:

I had a tough journey with the Under 18s because I was growing so much, I was missing games through injuries and the staff really helped me all the way, from sports science to the physios and analysts. 

Gregor Rioch has really looked after me from the development phase to stepping into first team football and Leam Richardson had his trust in me last year to perform on the pitch and hopefully, I can continue to do that.

With the issues we had last year, it was a tough time for the Club but for me, it was a chance to prove that I am up for the challenge. It was up to me to take advantage of the opportunity and luckily I did.”

Aasgaard too played an important part in helping Latics avoid relegation last season.  Although his natural position is as a number 10, he showed his versatility by appearing in various midfield roles. He made 13 starts in League 1, with 20 substitute appearances, scoring 3 goals.

The confirmation of the prolonged contracts for Lang and Aasgaard has brought a sigh of relief among Latics fans. Following the raiding last season of Alfie Devine, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir by Premier League clubs and Kyle Joseph by Championship team Swansea, for fees way below market value, the club has made a statement. It will resist efforts by elite clubs to poach its young talent. Should Lang or Aasgaard eventually leave, the club will receive compensation around market value.

Lang is a key player in Leam Richardson’s promotion-seeking side. His name is among the first on the team sheet.

Aasgaard has only had one league start this season, with four appearances off the bench. His appearances have been somewhat curtailed by injuries, plus he has had to compete with a bunch of capable and experienced pros to even gain a place on the bench. What Aasgaard needs to develop further is regular game time and given the current situation at Wigan he is not going to get it. Richardson faces the choice of sending the player out on loan in January or retaining him as a fringe member of the senior squad. There is no doubt that should the player stay injury-free and get regular games under his belt, he will be a force to reckon with. He has always had that sublime skill, but now has the physique to resist the rough and tumble of the third tier.

Decisions will also need to be made about Adam Long and Luke Robinson, who made major strides last season in stepping up to the senior squad. With a large senior team squad packed with experience they have fallen way down the pecking order. Long is only 21, Robinson is 19.  

Phoenix 2021 have made a major statement about investing in their young talent though the long contracts offered to Lang and Aasgaard. Elite clubs take note!

Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a last-gasp win against Shrewsbury

December 8, 2021: Wigan Athletic 2 Shrewsbury 1

Why are these midweek home games so difficult? Latics were playing a team in the lower reaches of the table, with no away victories in League 1 this season.

 But after getting off to a flying start with an opportunist goal on two minutes from Tendayi Darikwa they struggled and the visitors were playing the better football, their equaliser in the 39th minute being no great surprise. Wigan improved in the second half but had to wait until the 93rd minute for Thelo Aasgaard’s long range winner.

Leam Richardson had left Stephen Humphrys on the bench with Callum Lang playing at centre forward. The manager once again gave a vote of confidence to Gavin Massey, playing him on the right wing in preference to Gwion Edwards and Jordan Jones. Joe Bennett came in for his League 1 debut.

Latics have now gone 10 games without defeat and are level on points with Rotherham at the top of the table, but with a game in hand. Capable of really incisive finishing and dogged defending this Wigan team is not always pretty to watch, being more pragmatic in their approach than aesthetically pleasing.

In the absence of Charlie Wyke and with Humphrys being out of favour we saw Lang being used in a role that does not suit him. Too often he was left to chase wayward long balls from the centre backs that were easily gobbled up by the Shrews defence. It was a like a throwback to the darker days of the Championship when central strikers like Josh Windass had such awful service from the defence.

There was always a strong element of long ball in the Cook/Richardson era. It was at its best when the balls were well targeted with a big target man there to hold off the defenders, as it had been this season with Wyke playing that role. We saw it close to its worst last night with defenders taking the easy option of “playing it long” rather than work the ball through midfield. Lang is not Wyke: he needs the ball at his feet, not hooved above his head.

No matter what the style of football is on display it is results that football managers are judged on. Richardson’s team is resilient, and they wear the opposition down so that as the second half progresses there is always a chance of a late goal. Shrewsbury looked tired in the closing minutes, with stoppages that might have given weary legs some respite. Latics have a solid goalkeeper, tenacious defenders and capable midfielders who protect the defence. In Callum Lang and Will Keane, they have players who can both score and create goals, with James McClean looking a class above League 1 level on the left.

After the match Leam Richardson commented: “It was a great finish to the game and a great start to the game. I didn’t think we were great in the first half; we weren’t able to force Shrewsbury into a negative shape because we kept turning the ball over. I thought we came out for the second half and controlled large parts of it and with good habits you will get them moments where your flair players need to produce and thankfully tonight young Thelo Aasgaard has produced. We want to be expressive and expansive and score those types of goals but then we don’t want to be disrespectful with the ball and with ourselves and have a first half like tonight, because we have set good standards and it certainly won’t happen again.”

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:

Jocklatic commented:

Great start to the game, crisp, sharp & quick passing got us a well worked lead within 2 mins of the start, just a shame we didn’t keep it up but I’ll take an injury time winner all day…..we weren’t at our best but managed to secure the 3 points which they say is the sign of a good team. Was impressed by Joe Bennett but less than impressed with JM’s & his misplaced passes, hopefully just a bad day at the office…..there were a few Latics players guilty of misplaced passes but perhaps that’s down to the terrible conditions & it was nice to get the ‘winless midweek at home’ monkey off our back.

FrancosLoveChild added:

Not gonna lie, we are one of the worst sides in this league passing the ball, Shrewsbury look like Barcelona compared to us, it’s quite incredible how Leam gets results out of this squad. No disrespect to them but there are 4/5 better squads in this league, just hope we can keep up those results till the end.

Zakky stated:

Sometimes it looks like the pitch is to big for us.
Joe Bennett has been outstanding so far.

C_Latic opined:

Good point this. I respect that Tilt is very good in the air, but it feels like he’s a got a big mistake in him at some point and it also feels like he’s far too easy to wind up which will lead to him getting sent off one day.

As a matter of fact, I hate the chopping and changing of our centre backs in general. It’s never healthy doing that in my opinion as it makes it impossible for the full-backs and keeper to build a solid understanding and rapport with them, especially at set pieces. It’s no coincidence that we’ve stopped keeping clean sheets since Leam started tinkering with the CBs every game.

The crowd was poor, but expected. It’s a UCL night before Christmas payday and has been absolutely p..ing down non stop for two days straight. That rain will have knocked hundreds off the gate tonight I bet.

Oscarbon wrote:

Agree. I thought Massey worked hard and showed some nice touches. He was our most attacking player tonight. I think McLean can be forgiven one bad game after the blood, sweat and tears he has put into the rest of the season so far.

I am getting a bit concerned about Will Keane’s prolonged drop in form. He was class up to the last 5 games but seems too easily marked out of the game recently. Aasgaard had another cracker although there were times when he looked like he was in the back four he had to come so deep for the ball.

Can someone explain why our back four, when presented with 20yards of open field in front of them still feel the need to pass either sideways or back to Amos. Bl..dy infuriating.

OnLoanFromEnfield added:

Short Pass sideways, short pass backwards, repeat and hoof (straight to the opposition) … simple !
Just like watching Dunkley playing in the Championship albeit the current crop keep the ball in the stadium.

Shrewsbury were effective at filling the spaces and did have 11 players behind the ball for long periods of time. Tricky to break down and the players that you would expect to assist there not stepping up.

Naylor’s passing was poor in the first half too.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

A refreshing change in formation for Wigan Athletic

In the summer of 2014 Uwe Rosler was a popular man with Latics followers. The German had taken over in early December with Wigan Athletic lying in the depths of the Championship table. Rosler went on to take them to 5th place and the FA Cup semi-final. They were narrowly defeated by QPR in the Championship playoffs and by Arsenal at Wembley. Although a section of the fanbase had not been happy with his squad rotation policy he produced the results and repaired the damage caused during Owen Coyle’s awful tenure.

The adage “Managers are judged on results” rang true for Rosler. Latics had been one of the bookmakers’ favourites for promotion but by mid-November the German had been sacked as they had slid down the table.

Leam Richardson too is popular with Latics fans. He worked wonders in helping the club avoid relegation last season and his newly assembled squad, with 15 new signings, has made an impressive start to the season. But three midweek home defeats, with the players looking “flat” had led to questions about whether he was too set in his ways, rigidly sticking to his favoured 4-2-3-1 system, not rotating his squad sufficiently to keep players fresh, making substitutions too late in the game, as fixture were piling-up.

If there was one factor that led to Uwe Rosler’s downfall it would be in making too many new signings over the summer, when he already had a strong squad. Richardson’s case differs in that he only had five contracted players when summer recruitment started. However, he now has a big squad which is going to need careful management in ensuring that fringe players do not get disenchanted through lack of game time.

Richardson took a major step forward in the Burton Albion game on Saturday when he brought in Curtis Tilt and Stephen Humphys and gave a League 1 debut to Jason Kerr. Fan concerns about the depth of quality of the squad soon diminished as all three players made fine contributions.

But the real surprise was a switch away from 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2 formation. Kerr was employed as a right centre back, a role in which he enjoyed great success in St Johnstone’s run to win both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup last season. Jack Whatmough looked very comfortable in the centre of the back three, with the experienced Tilt to his left. Max Power played a deep midfield role with Tom Bayliss more advanced. James McClean looked so at home at left wing back, a position he occupies for the Republic of Ireland. Tendayi Darikwa looked so much better back on the right- hand side and was afforded more freedom in the wing back role. The new formation allowed Richardson to play twin strikers in Humphrys and Charlie Wyke. Humphrys is a talented player who has spent too much time on the bench with only one central striker being employed in 4-2-3-1. Will Keane has looked somewhat jaded in recent games. The return of Thelo Aasgaard from injury will provide Richardson with a back-up in that number 10/creative central midfield role.

With Latics a goal up and Burton down to ten men after 15 minutes it is hard to evaluate the success of the new formation. But credit must go to Richardson for his willingness to go against his own previous orthodoxy. It was noticeable that there was less of a gap in the centre of the field and there was so much less long ball than we have been seeing so frequently. The formation helped to facilitate a more possession-based build up.  

3-4-1-2 offers differing opportunities to players than 4-2-3-1. Callum Lang was suspended and did not play. Lang nominally plays on the right flank but is not a conventional winger. He is a key player because of his willingness to run at opposition defences and he is always a candidate for scoring a goal. His ideal position is open to conjecture, but he would surely be comfortable in the front two of a 3-4-1-2 system.

Richardson has made a response to critics who have had concerns about the rigidity of his tactical outlook. He has shown himself to be a great motivator of his players and is a fine ambassador for the club, discreet in his comments, showing a dignity that is not the norm in football club managers. It was heartening to see him make this change.

Roberto Martinez made the switch to 3-4-3 in the middle of the 2009-10 season when relegation was imminent. It led to the most successful set of results in Wigan’s league history. It also paved the way to winning the FA Cup. Despite those successes there are Latics fans who do not favour a system with three at the back.

In the Cook/Richardson era Latics flitted with systems playing three at the back, but it could never really compete with the 4-2-3-1. Let’s hope that Richardson will give his new system enough time to evaluate it.  Another criticism Richardson has faced has been a lack of a Plan B. Getting his players accustomed to a change in shape, either from game to game, or within a game, would be a major step forward in his development as a manager.

The likelihood is that 4-2-3-1 will continue to be the modus operandi for Richardson, but one hopes that he will keep an open mind towards changes in shape. One way of looking at things is to decide on a system and look at how well players fit into it. Another way is to look at the individual talent in the squad and devise a system that can get the best out of them in their entirety.

Amigo and Social Media Reactions to a home defeat to Lincoln

Wigan Athletic 1 Lincoln City 2

“We’ll learn from tonight” said Leam Richardson after a third consecutive midweek home defeat.

After a high intensity performance at Wimbledon on Saturday this was quite the reverse. The Wigan players just did not have the energy and drive to deal with a stubborn and determined Lincoln side. They simply looked jaded as they did in those other Tuesday night defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons.

The style of football we have seen since Richardson took over has been a carbon copy of that we saw in the Paul Cook era. At its best it is dynamic, high intensity attacking football. At its worst it is lethargic, with seemingly endless, sterile, inter-passing across the back four, too often terminating in a hopeful punt forward.

Paul Cook’s side won promotion by a canter, buoyed by a solid defence, a functional midfield and flair up front. David Sharpe had allowed him a wage bill of some £12m, retaining a key core of players from the Championship, with Dan Burn bossing the defence and the talents of Nick Powell and Will Grigg further forward. The wage bill for this squad is reportedly well above the norms of League 1 but will surely not approach that which Cook was afforded.

Even with the departure of Cook his legacy has remained. Latics continue to play 4-3-2-1, doggedly sticking to the system even when things are not going well. Management remains loyal to a core group of established senior pros, substitutions are made later in the game than those made by the opposition and are “like for like”, with no modification of the team’s shape.

Despite there being 46 games to play in a League 1 season and despite having a squad laden with players of quality and experience, Richardson continues to stick to the same starting line-up, unless injuries intervene. Regular squad rotation is resisted, resulting in key players looking jaded as the fixtures pile up.

Despite now having experienced assistants and coaches around him Richardson continues to doggedly follow the old, familiar blueprint. However, that is not to say it does not have its advantages: sticking to a similar starting XI and that familiar 4-2-3-1 formation leads to a certain type of cohesion and motivation among those chosen players.

Despite those midweek home defeats Latics have 28 points from 14 matches, just two points behind the top two teams. A fine start to the season with a newly assembled squad, for which the manager and his coaches deserve credit. The challenge for Richardson is to avoid burnout of his key players and to provide opportunities to all of his squad. But, like Cook, he is reluctant to tamper with a formula that he has had success with in the past. However, adjustments will need to be made and he needs to seek a balance between squad rotation and keeping a settled team together.

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:

Zakky commented:

Why are all our passes 15-20-25yarders every team that comes play short pass and move pass and move and play through us as there goal tonight. We are far better away and very frustrating to watch at home and if we don’t remedy this home form it will cost us dear.

He later added:

That was truly dreadful, Sunderland Sheff Wed MKDons Lincoln all played the same way pass and move and we just can’t cope with it.

FrancosLoveChild opined:

Probs the worst start we played so far this season, players losing every ball and can’t even play simple passes. Tactically outplayed so far, teams are starting to learn how to play Vs long balls.

Jocklatic commented:

For the last month or so been taking the usual path to the DW for a much anticipated under floodlight game hoping to see a tantalising, energetic & rip roaring game with three points or a cup progression in the bag….sadly this hasn’t been the case & surely this isn’t going to be a monkey on our back – a win at home midweek??

Tonight was much the same as previous visits where the visitors have sussed us out very early doors, counter act us, get on top & inevitably take control with us becoming an unrecognisable team who fluff passes, panic in possession & become a team who uncharacteristically lose confidence in what they’ve been doing well in previous matches. Sadly imo LR follows the team & seems unable to react to the oppositions gameplan…doesn’t bode well going forward & I really hope this midweek hoodoo doesn’t hang around long.

Jeffsright summarised:

All down to Leam. No hoodoo, no ultra tiredness. Just down to Leam and how we play at home.
Wolves youth, Sunderland, Sheff Weds, Milton Keynes and now Lincoln. Possession football and too many passes, lack of wideman, wing backs one up top, players out of position is just not working in home games.

The_Pon concluded:

I’m not having it that Lincoln were a decent team, nor did they play well. They were absolute cr.p. But somehow, we managed to be even worse. I can take losing to MK. They were a good team, well organised, came with a plan, executed it well, and fair play to them. It happens. Losing to Lincoln is an absolute embarrassment though. We need to change how we play.

Power is not a RB. He’s also too slow (not necessarily pace, though he’s no Usain Bolt, but I mean that far too often, he takes too many touches and ends up under pressure and playing it backwards, losing all our attacking momentum). He needs some practice hitting passes and crosses first time if he’s going to continue in that position.

Darikwa isn’t a left footer, so shouldn’t be playing at LB. He has to cut inside to hit a good pass or cross from wide positions, which isn’t going to work long term because good RBs force him outside so he can’t get a ball away. He should be playing RB, because that’s his natural position and he’s top quality when he plays there.

Bayliss isn’t a holding mid. He’s a #10 or attacking mid. Playing him so deep is wasting his attacking ability, and he’s not defensively minded so he gets caught out of position in that role, which puts him under pressure and then passes go astray. Further up the pitch, he’s going to look for those killer balls and if we attack with pace, he’ll create a lot because he has the attacking instinct; he won’t have to take half a second to think what to do: further up the pitch, it comes naturally.

Looks like Tom Naylor is going to be out for a while. I reckon it’s a hamstring from how he went down and he looked to be in a lot of pain. Could mean Power will step into midfield, which I have mixed feelings about: love his attitude, professionalism and commitment, but I still don’t really rate him for ability. Keane looks knackered. We know he’s a quality player, but maybe time to give him a couple of games R&R: let Bayliss play in his natural position because he’s a perfect like-for-like deputy for Keane.

Humphrys is a good striker, but he’s not a target man. To get the best out of him, we can’t just lump long balls to him. He needs proper service. Same goes for Wyke… though Wyke is more suited to that role, I still think we’re going to get far more out of him if we stop the hit and hope stuff.

Not going to get on Leam’s case though. We’ve played well in far more games than we haven’t, but I do hope he now spends some time on the training ground practising some alternative ways to play, because keeping doing the same things when it clearly isn’t working isn’t what genuine promotion chasing teams do. They have different ways to play, can switch between them on the fly, and by doing so find what works during the course of the game.

Hopefully, losing to such a poor team will be the catalyst for some of the changes we need to happen.

ExiledViking commented:

We’ve won all our Saturday Home games this season, so I’m not concerned at all about the tactics. The problem is Tuesday Night games come too soon after Saturday, Players don’t have enough time to recover and always look leggy and lethargic. 2 midweek games running we’ve been 2nd to the ball every single time. The big test for us will be next Tuesday. If it is tiredness after Saturday, then our 5 game unbeaten away record will disappear at Fleetwood.

Hampton wrote:

Would be very surprised at any tactical changes – 4231 is ingrained into our club and the Cook / Richardson playbook.
Get ready for another no man’s land in the middle of the pitch – hopefully with a different outcome ….!

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com