Some talking points following Joe Gelhardt’s sensational equaliser at Hull

Hull City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

 

A moment of inspiration from the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt helped Wigan Athletic share the points. It had been a scrappy game between two mediocre teams.

Paul Cook had named an unchanged side from the one that had started in a goalless draw with Barnsley.

Chey Dunkley put Latics ahead after 7 minutes after Hull keeper, George Long, had spilled Kieffer Moore’s header. But that early lead was thrown away within a couple of minutes by inept defending with Jarrod Bowen slotting home. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki had been causing Latics problems on the right side of their defence and it was he who scored a fine goal from a free kick after 20 minutes. Wigan went into the half-time interval trailing by a 2-1 margin.

Grosicki had another excellent free kick hit the post as Hull were getting on top. Wigan’s attacking was far from convincing and the game seemed to be heading towards a home win. But Joe Gelhardt was brought on after 72 minutes, playing in a more central role this time. After 75 minutes he turned past a defender in the penalty box and scored at the near post with Long rooted to the spot.

The point gained takes Latics to 5 points from 7 matches, third from bottom.

Let’s take a look at some points arising from the game:

A goal for Dunkley – at last

Chey Dunkley is in his third season at Wigan. In his first, in League1, he was part of a formidable centre of defence with Dan Burn. Not only was Dunkley defensively solid, but he also scored 7 goals over the course of the season.

The transition to the Championship was difficult for a player who had not played at that level before. Like so many other players last season he certainly had his ups and downs, one minute making a superb last-ditch tackle, the next losing concentration. His goals also dried up. So many times, he seemed likely to score, getting himself in good positions, but he just could not put the ball home.

Dunkley’s goal yesterday will do his confidence the world of good. Now he has broken his duck in the Championship we can expect more goals from the big man.

Can Gelhardt seize the number 10 role?

Replacing Nick Powell was never going to be easy for Paul Cook. Lee Evans and Josh Windass have both stepped in with mixed results. Yesterday Cook played Jamal Lowe in a more central role in the advanced midfield trio. Lowe did not do badly but was not particularly convincing.

Powell usually played a classical number 10 role, receiving the ball in deep midfield, linking up with the forwards and overlapping full backs. But sometimes he would be pushed further forward, playing as a second central striker.

Joe Gelhardt certainly has an eye for goal, and he is not deterred by playing at this level. Not only does he have a great left foot, but he also has an eye for a pass. Will Cook be tempted to put the young player in the starting line-up against Charlton, playing behind the central striker?

Is football returning away from home?

Wigan Athletic’s poor away performances over the past twelve months have been typified by a reliance on the long ball. Moreover, signing a 6ft 5in centre forward has further invited under-pressure defenders and midfielders to lump the ball forward.

However, at Hull we saw signs of football returning, albeit riddled with errors. The possession stats showed Wigan at 58.3% and Hull 41.7%. Moreover 74% of Wigan’s passes were successful compared with 65% for the home team. In the previous game against Barnsley Latics’ successful pass stat stood at 64%.

The long-ball approach away from home has been woefully unsuccessful and we can only hope that the manager will insist that his defenders and midfielders minimise their use of the long ball. Nevertheless, it will take courage from players to play the ball out from the back, who have so often taken the easy way out.

The Byrne-Massey axis

The attacking play of Nathan Byrne and Gavin Massey was crucial to Latics’ winning the League 1 title in 2017. Indeed, Byrne went on to be voted Player of the Year. Last season was a difficult year for each of them, with Byrne losing his place to Reece James and Massey having a lot of time out injured. However, with James later being moved to midfield Byrne was able to reclaim the right back position. Massey’s return to the team saw him renew the link-up with Byrne, the two players knowing each other’s games so well.

The Byrne-Massey partnership has had a difficult start to the current season. Neither player has been at his best up to this point. Much of the opposition threat has come from their side of the pitch and their build-up work has not been at its best.

Recovering from injury Massey missed pre-season and still does not look like he is firing on all cylinders.

None of the wingers in Cook’s squad has shown real consistency this season. Michael Jacobs has blown hot and cold, Jamal Lowe has looked out of place on the left, Anthony Pilkington continues to be bogged by injury and Kal Naismith has been used sparingly.

Given the physical demands on the wingers, being expected to track back to help the full backs but also to go sprinting forward, Cook might be well advised to rotate them on a regular basis. With either Massey or Lowe on the right and Jacobs or Naismith on the left he has good options.

In the meantime, Cook will have to decide whether to stick with a below-par Byrne, in the hope that he will regain form, or bring in the young Chelsea loan player, Dujon Sterling, who has not even been appearing on the bench.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Advertisements

Five talking points following a home draw with Barnsley

Wigan Athletic 0 Barnsley 0

Following a spineless display in the defeat at QPR last we saw a spirited Wigan Athletic side fight for a point against Barnsley. The energy was there, but sadly the football was not. It was poor entertainment for the crowd of around 10,000.

After the game Paul Cook commented: “It was a fair result. Both teams were nervous, there was a little bit of nervous energy and tension around the stadium and you can understand that. We’ve had our first clean sheet of the season and it’s so important for me as manager that you give these lads the belief and confidence to go and play. We showed at times today the really good sides and today we had a real appetite to not get beat and that pleased me.”

Let’s look at some points arising from the game:

Another disappointing result in a six-pointer

Barnsley came into this match a point above Wigan. Like Latics they had won only one game on the opening day of the season. The Tykes will do well to avoid relegation. A win for Latics would have seen them leapfrog over the Tykes out of the relegation zone.

The more optimistic of Latics fans were expecting their team to pick up three points against a Barnsley team that was struggling. However, for others it was not a surprise to see Wigan once again disappoint in a “six-pointer”. During Cook’s reign Latics have so often disappointed when playing against teams close to them in the league table.

Cook keeps faith with Marshall

David Marshall has been in poor form in recent weeks and fans were clamouring for him to be replaced by Jamie Jones. However, without his fine performance Barnsley would surely have walked away with three points. Cook was justified in keeping faith with the goalkeeper.

Mulgrew can add an extra dimension

Charlie Mulgrew was a surprise signing. Yesterday was his first league start for Latics.

Mulgrew may be 33 years old and lacking the pace he had when younger but could prove to be a very useful signing by Cook. Yesterday he looked solid in the centre of defence and we got a glimpse of what he can do from set-pieces. Last season he scored 11 goals for Blackburn.

The Glaswegian can also play in the centre of midfield, which gives Cook another option. He can do a solid job defensively but having someone who can threaten from set-pieces is a bonus.

Are the new players settling in?

In midweek Cook talked about the settling in of new players: “The international break will be big for us because we get to train for two more weeks. That is something we did not get in pre-season. Our squad was put together very late. That is not a criticism. It is just how it is, to the point now where lads are still making their debuts and formations are coming up with players playing together for the first time.”

The starting line-up for the opening game against Cardiff City contained two new signings: David Marshall and Lewis Macleod. Yesterday there were four: Marshall, Charlie Mulgrew, Jamal Lowe and Joe Williams.

There is much debate on the message boards and social media about the quality of Latics’ players. Is this current squad better than the one that struggled in avoiding relegation last season?

The departures of Reece James and Nick Powell over the summer have hit Latics hard. James was way ahead of any other player in terms of talent, consistency and commitment. Powell had an injury-plagued season, but when he was fit and on-form he made a big difference to the team. Cook was always unlikely to get a like-for-like replacement for Powell, given the high price such a player would cost. He has experimented with other players in that role, but Powell’s creativity has been sorely missed. But the player continues to be plagued by injury and has only played one game for Stoke City in their opening game against QPR.

The results so far this season have been disappointing. It is last season’s players who have been largely involved. Will those new players make the difference over the coming week and help pull Latics out of the relegation zone?

Getting the best out of the more skilful players

The manager reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation yesterday after experimenting with a backline of three central defenders. The creative trio behind the central striker consisted of Gavin Massey, Jamal Lowe and Michael Jacobs.

On paper Cook had chosen a well-balanced line-up with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams protecting the back four and genuine pace and creativity further forward. However, the reality was something different. In a game where there was more “fightball” than football there was little chance for the creative trio to shine.

The manager would have been pleased with the commitment of his players yesterday. Following that insipid display at QPR he got the team to put in lots of sweat and toil this time around. But football was the loser in this game, and it was not the scenario for the creative trio to show their skills.

A chance for Gelhardt

It was a pleasant surprise to see the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt come off the bench after 63 minutes. He and Jensen Weir were called up for the England U18 squad this week.

Cook deserves credit for giving youth a chance in a  fiercely competitive match. But what a pity that Gelhardt was played on the right wing, rather than in the number 10 position behind the central striker.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

How social media reacted to a predictable away defeat at QPR

QPR 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Cedric Kipre’s goal in the second minute gave Latics a temporary confidence boost. Although their main attacking strategy was to launch long balls to the 5 ft 10in Joe Garner up against big central defendersWigan’s defence was looking more solid than of late. Latics held out until half time, but the second half was a different story. There was only one team trying to play football: it was not Wigan. The three QPR goals were down to awful defence and Wigan’s long ball tactics posed no threat to the home team.

We on this site were initially pleased to see Paul Cook appointed. He was an excellent player for Latics and had a fine record in management, albeit in the lower leagues. More than anything else he had a reputation for his teams playing good football. But the long ball game that now characterises the team’s approach is reminiscent of the darkest days of Coyle and Mackay.

Let’s take a look at how fans have reacted to recent events through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Victor Moses on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Only way to describe this – embarrassing. Against two struggling teams we’ve been dominated. For any brave fans who are willing to sacrifice a whole day to watch this s..t, fair play to you all.

Was going to give Cook some praise today. Started the first five minutes with 3 at the back and looked good, we changed shortly after the goal to five at the back. Parking the bus from the fifth minute until the 20th minute. After being dominated for 15 minutes he finally made a good decision, moved Kipre in front of the back four. For the rest of the half it was much more even. Instead of having 6-9 player’s standing around in the defensive third doing nothing, we started to have pressure on the ball making it a game again.

Second half starts and from the off we reverted to five at the back, there’s no word’s for that type of decision making. You could see goal’s going from the off, camped out near our box for the whole second half. Changed nothing just accepted being dominated for the entire second half. 3, should of been 5.

Since Morsy came back, we placed Evans back on the right and he’s been awful there. Morsy has been poor as well. Both of them play better on the opposite sides.

Stoke can’t buy a win yet they beat us comfortably, Middlesbrough in the same position. Today a very poor QPR had the easiest home game they’ll have all season, cup games against non-league teams will have more desire to be attack minded then we do away from home.

FormbyLatic on the Latics Speyk Forum added:

Squad has changed but our tactics away from home haven’t changed one jot.

 

Jrfatfan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Never thought I’d say it but agree. Some very strange selections and tactics. First of all he leaves Williams out the squad, wonder if it was to teach him a lesson? If it was it is Mr Cook who has been taught a lesson.

Secondly, plays Marshall and Kipre who have been dire and lacking in confidence. It should have been Jones and Mulgrew to try and stop the leaks. Then he takes Jacobs off and brings Naismith on when Massey is on bench. He is devoid of ideas and has to rely on his backroom staff who have never played or managed higher than Accrington Stanley.

Chris Hooton anybody

LoudmouthBlue on the Latics Speyk Forum stated:

Williams walked out of training yesterday and went home after being told he was not in the squad today, something not right at the club when a new signing does that.

TrueLatic4eva on the Cockney Latic Forum opined:

No manager in Britain would still be in a job with his away record over the last 12 months.

Five talking points following a dire performance at Preston

Preston North End 3 Wigan Athletic 0

 

Wigan Athletic followers had been dizzy as the transfer window closed, with Latics investing some £9m to give Paul Cook a squad stronger than he could ever have imagined. The mood was upbeat, with some wild optimists even envisioning promotion. But this performance was a reality check for all of us.

It was reported that this week Paul Cook had his players watch a video of the 4-0 drubbing received at Preston in early October last season. One would have hoped it would have had the desired effect. But it didn’t: the result was marginally better, but the performance was actually worse. PNE were far superior in all aspects and Wigan never looked as if they were in the game.

The first two goals were results of inept defending, the third beautifully taken. The standard of football played by Preston was far superior.

After the game Paul Cook said: “It was just deja vu – exactly the same as last year,” fumed the Latics boss. We want the lads to improve away from home and come back with some better results. I actually thought coming here first up would be educational in terms of what happened here last year. But we were too soft, too easy to play against. We stuck to the task well towards the end – but by then the game had gone. In any derby match, if you’re not prepared to fight and scrap for everything, you’ll get beat. And I want to assure our supporters that the players will not be getting an easy ride from me – make no mistake about that.”

Let’s take a look at some points arising:

Team selection

With Anthony Pilkington injured many fans expected either Jamal Lowe or Gavin Massey to be brought in on the right wing. But students of Cook team selections were not surprised to see Kal Naismith chosen ahead of them. Michael Jacobs was moved to the right, where he was woefully ineffective. Cook had two right wingers on the bench in Jamal Lowe and Gavin Massey

It was a surprise to see Cedric Kipre selected ahead of Chey Dunkley. Dunkley had looked uncomfortable at times against Cardiff, but his aerial ability was missed yesterday.

Hoof ball rears its ugly head again

PNE are hardly a club noted for skilful possession football. But they outplayed Latics in that department. In the first half Wigan constantly hoofed hopeful balls forward, only for the PNE defence to gobble them up. Neither Joe Garner, nor his substitute after 26 minutes, Kieffer Moore, had a chance to do much with such awful service.

It is a pattern that prevailed in so many games away from home last season. The manager has not addressed it.

The defence looks so vulnerable

We saw the warning signs against Cardiff. But defensive weaknesses had been secondary to Latics’ attacking prowess and the profligacy of Cardiff’s attackers. David Marshall needs time to regain confidence. He has a fine career record but has looked nervy so far. The defence in front of him has hardly inspired confidence.

Cook’s decision to choose Kipre in place of Dunkley was a surprise since the manager tends to stick with a winning team. He had to replace Pilkington, but not Dunkley. Opinions vary as to who is the better choice: Kipre or Dunkley. Despite Kipre being slightly taller than Dunkley it is the latter who deals much more effectively with aerial threats. Kipre is still only 22 and can lack awareness and positional sense. However, he has an ability to make outstanding tackles and interceptions. Given time the Ivorian can become a top player at this level.

All of the back four were poor yesterday. That included Danny Fox who was substituted after 63 minutes with Naismith moving to centre back. Fox was at fault for PNE’s second goal, leaving Louis Moult unmarked to head home. Against Cardiff his lack of tight marking allowed Omar Bogle to level up the scores. It has not been a good start to the season for the experienced defender, whose presence last season helped to tighten up a porous centre of defence. It remains to be seen if Fox will keep his place with Charlie Mulgrew challenging for a place in the left centre of defence.

Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray commented this week on their club site regarding Mulgrew’s departure: “He’s the captain of our club and has taken us on an amazing journey over the last few years. We have to commend him and thank him for that. Here we are now, allowing him to move on loan. We want to play a different way this year, higher up the pitch, and for the way we want to play I want a bit more athleticism and a bit more ability in covering the ground. At times we will be left one v one and I don’t think that’s a strength of Charlie Mulgrew. He understands that and we felt it would be difficult for him around the club and not playing as much as he’d like.”

Much of the problem with Wigan’s defence away from home has stemmed from playing too deep. The same thing happened at Deepdale, with PNE having acres of space in central midfield, with Lee Evans and Lewis Macleod physically unable to cover that wide area against the home team’s trio of central midfielders. With Preston so dominant in possession in the first half on the situation was crying out for a change in formation but Cook chose to stick with his favoured 4-2-3-1 system.

Moore and Williams make their debuts

Kieffer Moore came on early for Joe Garner but the service to him was poor, largely consisting of hopeful punts in his general direction. The presence of a 6ft 5in centre forward can invite under-pressure defenders to launch such long balls, but it is rarely going to be effective. Although tall and physically strong Moore is not an outstanding header of the ball. He will do better with the ball played to his feet or crossed accurately into the penalty box for him to run on to.

Joe Williams came on after 72 minutes and added energy to the midfield. He is known for his rugged tackling, but also has an eye for a pass.

Many fans had expected Jamal Lowe to start this game on the right wing. He eventually came on after 63 minutes but was not used in his normal position.

Last season Wigan were struck by injuries to key players and the squad was severely stretched. This season’s squad has a better balance and quality and there are at least two players competing for each position. The manager’s challenge will be in keeping players happy who are not getting regular games.

A change in formation and approach

Cook’s successes as a manager have been built on the 4-2-3-1 formation adopted by so many clubs these days. We have seen him experiment, occasionally reverting to a backline of three, typically when trying to close games down.

Given the vulnerability of the centre of defence, particularly away from home, the manager might consider a change in formation. A backline of three of Dunkley, Fox, Kipre or Mulgrew would surely provide more defensive stability, allowing the full backs more attacking freedom in wing back roles. In fact, the 3-4-3 formation utilised by Roberto Martinez at Wigan might well get the best out of the players that Cook has at his disposal.

However, irrespective of the formation he employs the manager must demand that his players build up moves from the back. The hoof ball approach that we so often saw last season has been unsuccessful, particularly away from home. It is not appropriate in the Championship division.

Put simply, Cook must be flexible in determining the best formation after looking at the strengths of his own players and the opposition. Moreover, he must insist on his players having the discipline and patience to play the quality of football necessary for success in the second tier of English football.

Courtesy of WhoScored.com

A Bolton fan’s view of Joe Williams and news of Latics’ academy

 

Yesterday we published a Barnsley fan’s view of Joe Williams. Williams played at Barnsley in the 2017-18 season, then at Bolton in 2018-19.

In order to learn more about Williams’ time at Bolton we contacted Chris Mann of the Burnden Aces fan site http://www.burndenaces.co.uk (@BurndenAces ).

Here’s over to Chris:

Joe Williams recently joined Wigan Athletic from Everton, signing a three-year contract at the DW Stadium. The time was right for him to move away from Goodison Park. Having spent the past two seasons out on loan at Barnsley and Bolton, respectively, it was clear to see he was a long way from Premier League quality.Wigan fans will no doubt have seen clips on YouTube of a stunning goal he scored whilst with the Tykes, but don’t get too carried away as it is the only one he has managed in more than 60 Championship appearances. There are some strong qualities to Williams’ game. He isn’t scared of a tackle, has a good engine and likes to get the ball on the floor, but a lack of consistency and potential disciplinary issues need to be ironed out.It’s difficult to truly judge any Wanderers player based on last season alone. The general consensus is that he has more in his locker than was shown at the University of Bolton Stadium, but with two relegations from his two years in the second-tier, he and you must be hoping it is a case of third-time lucky.
Well done, Jack, on putting this great news on Twitter. We await confirmation  from the club, but the transition from Category 3 to Category 2 is really going to help in the development of young talent.

Courtesy of FlashScores.co.uk