Five talking points following a narrow home defeat by Peterborough

A well-taken goal by forward Jonson Clarke-Harris after 28 minutes was sufficient to send Latics to another defeat. Peterborough’s centre forward had found himself unmarked in Wigan’s box.

With Tom Pearce still injured John Sheridan fielded the same team that started at Charlton with the exception of Matty Palmer making his debut in midfield in place of Dan Gardner.

Peterborough had come to the DW full of confidence following three successive victories. That confidence soon showed as their smooth passing movements put pressure on the home team’s defence. As the match continued Wigan’s front two, Joe Garner and Will Keane, were starved of possession and neither looked like scoring. The poor quality of crosses into the opposition box from open play and set pieces gave them scant opportunities. Keane was replaced by Chris Merrie after 68 minutes and Garner by Ollie Crankshaw after 81 minutes. Thelo Aasgard made his debut, coming on for Palmer after 88 minutes.

Following the game Sheridan commented:

“We try and tell them week in week out to pass the ball and be more adventurous and productive in passing the ball forward and trying to hurt teams quicker and we need to do that put teams on the back foot quicker, instead of allowing them to recover and get back into position.

It’s something we do work on but we need to do a lot better. Scoring goals is a problem at the moment. There are lots of deliveries going in the box at the moment with corners and set plays but our end product isn’t there at the moment.”

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

A rocky period for Latics

After losing the first two league games Latics rallied by winning the next two. The win at Portsmouth was well merited if the home victory against Doncaster owed as much to the visitors’ profligacy in front of goal as the fighting qualities shown by Wigan. The wins were followed by a 3-0 defeat at Crewe where Latics were outplayed. Poor refereeing decisions played a major hand in the narrow defeat at Charlton but Latics never truly looked like scoring in this encounter with Peterborough.

The prime goal for Latics this season is to avoid relegation, but that is by no means an easy task given the limited resources John Sheridan has at his disposal. The starting line-up last night contained five players from last season’s squad and six on short-term contracts which end in January, half of whom are on loan. The seven players on the bench were products of the U23 and U18 teams.

Recruiting players for a club with an uncertain future is always going to be difficult. Moreover, the League 1 salary cap restricts things further. Sheridan has to use the players remaining from last season’s squad as the backbone of the team over the course of the season, although some of those could depart in the January transfer window.

The football we have seen these last couple of months has been reminiscent of that of early last season in the Championship when we saw the bright, flowing side of Cook-Richardson football interspersed with spells where hoofball prevailed. Seeing Joe Garner struggle to receive any kind of service last night brought back memories of Kieffer Moore’s early days at Wigan when his main function seemed to be in chasing futile long balls.

Giving youth a chance

The departures of talented young players such as Alfie Devine, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir for such meagre transfer fees was a bitter pill for us to swallow. However, the funds raised by their transfers helped the club to survive at a critical period in Wigan Athletic’s history. The good news is that the academy system is still intact and the U18 team has won all four of its games so far. There is still an abundance of teenage talent at the club.

It was good to see the 18-year-old Thelo Aasgard make his senior debut yesterday. Aasgard joined Latics in October 2016 and has represented Norway at the U16 level. A skilful player, well suited to the number 10 role, he has been a regular starter in the U23 team this season. He is the fourth teenager to make his League 1 debut this season following in the footsteps of the 19 year olds: Charlie Jolley, Adam Long, Emeka Obe. Divin Baningime was also 19 when made his debut in the EFL Trophy defeat by Port Vale.

Two more 19-year-olds have been making the bench but have yet to make their senior debuts. Both Kyle Joseph and Luke Robinson are Scotland youth internationals. Joseph is a striker with a good goalscoring record. Robinson is a left back who has shown expertise in shooting from outside the penalty box.

The development of home-grown talent is key to the long-term sustainability of the club. Previous managers have been reluctant to bring in young players, preferring to stick with their senior players. In John Sheridan’s case it has been a necessity because of the threadbare nature of the senior squad.  

Sheridan’s main task is to avoid relegation on a budget that is shoestring compared with previous seasons that Latics have spent in League 1 over recent years. However, should he manage to keep the club in the division and give further experience to young homegrown talent, the season could be regarded as a success.

Naismith for number 10?

Since Nick Powell’s departure the number 10 position has been problematic for Latics. Various players have been tried there, including Lee Evans. The Welshman has returned to form in the last three games since returning to his favourite position in holding midfield. In the last couple of matches Sheridan has used Will Keane to support the central striker, rather than as an orthodox number 10. Although it has not been noticeably successful up to this point it remains an option that the manager might use as needs arise.

Kal Naismith has once again proved his flexibility in playing in different positions. When he has played in the centre of defence his creativity has been missed further up the pitch. But there is debate among fans as to what is his best position.

In these days of inverted wingers Naismith found himself on the right wing and Viv Solomon-Otabor on the left. The latter has impressed on both wings this season, although yesterday he was snuffed out of the game by the Peterborough defence. Naismith had some good moments but one cannot help but feeling that he looks uncomfortable playing on the right.

Despite being such an all-rounder Naismith has rarely played in central midfield. But he has all the attributes to be successful in that position. Why not give him a run as a number 10?

The Garrido takeover

The acquisition of the club by Jose Miguel Garrido is awaiting ratification by the EFL. Until that happens we will not be able to discern the direction of the club in the near future.

Garrido will be buying a club that won the FA Cup only seven years ago, has a thriving academy and is not riddled with the levels of debt which typify so many clubs in the higher levels of the EFL. On the downside he will have to support the club financially during an era in which supporters are not allowed into football grounds.

Looking forward to Plymouth on Saturday

The last two games have been tight contests where Latics have lost by the odd goal. With such a small nucleus of experienced players Sheridan will face challenges as the fixtures pile up.

We can assume that Sheridan will stick with that same nucleus of players on Saturday when Plymouth Argyle are the visitors. Let’s hope they can get back on track and pick up three valuable points.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and social media reaction to a narrow loss at Charlton

“We’re playing the twelve men at Old Trafford”.

In the Premier League days one rarely felt that Latics were going to get the balance of refereeing decisions going their way when playing the bigger clubs.

They certainly did not yesterday at The Valley.

John Sheridan had to reshuffle his pack for the game with left back Tom Pearce unavailable through injury. Gavin Massey was moved to right back, with Tom James moved across to the left. Darnell Johnson and Curtis Tilt formed yet another central defensive partnership. Will Keane was employed in a roving role behind Joe Garner. The seven substitutes on Wigan’s bench were graduates of the U23 squad.

I was a tight game ultimately decided by poor goalkeeping. The major refereeing decisions went to the home side, as noted by John Sheridan: “We are unfortunate to go away and get nothing from the game and it’s very disappointing.  We had two stonewall penalties and I will never know why he disallowed the Joe Garner goal; the linesman was 10 or 15 yards away from Will competing for the ball and he doesn’t give a foul but for some reason the referee – who is 40 yards away – gives a free-kick and disallows the goal.

The performance and the way the players went about getting something out of the game was a lot better. Again, we have lost the game and it’s disappointing because the goal is a direct free-kick and leading up to the goal we made ourselves vulnerable. The things we do, the decisions we make and we give too many little free-kicks away in dangerous areas, if you do that you get punished. It’s a shame we didn’t get something from the game because we deserved to.”

Sheridan did not use any of his bench, preferring to use the senior professionals at his disposal for the whole game. Despite the result it was a good performance with some bright spots. Gavin Massey had looked a shadow of his former self in the previous two games. He had a nervy start at right back, but grew into the game, looking more confident and assured. Curtis Tilt made an impressive debut despite not having played competitive football since March. It was good to see Lee Evans playing a more commanding role in the centre of midfield.  

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.

The_Pon commented:

Absolutely shocking refereeing today. I’m not normally one to blame a ref. They do have a difficult job to do and I’m usually willing to let a few bad decisions go, especially when they’re are bad decisions that go both ways.

Today though, it was absolutely appalling. Every decision went the same way. Charlton players just hit the deck for free kicks whenever they like, whilst two very strong penalty claims turned down and a perfectly good goal disallowed for us. That’s not to mention the niggly trips and pulls that they got away with almost every time but the ref gave them pretty much every time.

Don’t mind cr.p referees that much when they’re cr.p for both sides, but obvious bias makes my blood boil.

SwindonLatic said:

Poor goal to concede. But we deserved at least a point. If we can get an end product out of Viv he can be as big for us at this level as Yanic was. Get the Palmer lad in, in place of Gardner and we could have the makings of a half decent team. Looked much more solid at the back. Liked the look of Tilt

Tilt was very good, head and shoulders our best player. Having Garner back certainly helped. Evans looked better than he has in recent games in def mid, but really started to look more like his old self after we went behind and it felt like he started to take more responsibility and dictating the play – that is what he is best at and hopefully with Palmer coming in he will be able to do more of it. Keane showed some nice flashes but he doesn’t really seem to be the Kieffer Moore type who can cope with the long balls and needs the ball more on the deck and players running off him. Otabor and Kal could really do some damage but they are so often taking on 3 players by themselves and crowded out – they need some help in the form of some runners and support to pull men away from them or give them options to slide someone in.

Felt that we aren’t really doing ourselves justice. We are not giving ourselves many options on the ball with a lack movement resulting in losing the ball by going long and we haven’t got a Moore to make it work. On the occasions we go up a gear start to up the tempo, show more urgency and commit men forward like we did towards the end we look a much better team. Not sure if the players are showing the opposition too much respect but if that the is the reason they really shouldn’t. Need to start games showing the urgency we show after we go behind.

Omar Bogle is still totally sh­.te – even at this level!

We’ve played about 5 of the likely teams in the promotion hunt this season and they’ve all been utter shte. We have been in turmoil with a team of cast offs yet if we could cut out costly errors to give away the points we could’ve probably won all 5. If we could get our takeover done and get our act together there is no reason we couldn’t fly up the league but we’ve got to do better ourselves.

 

TrueBeliever opined:

Quite an even game for me, Charlton looking to bed players in as were we. The goal was a mistake from Jones but overall he had a decent game and kept us in it when their forward turned Johnson in the first half.

Johnson and Tilt looked comfortable given it was the first game they had played together. Evans looked better running the show from deeper but Gardner is too loose on the ball and tries the flicks too often losing us possession.

Massey was half decent as a full back but still lacks confidence and pace going forward, maybe he is still trying to get his fitness back and will improve with game time. Solomon-Otabor drifts in and out but is dangerous in one on one situations when he gets the ball out of his feet.

I thought both Garner and Keane fought well against a couple of decent CB’s and won their fair share of the ball without actually creating much. No doubt if they get to play together more they will improve and form an understanding.

We should have been given at least one of the two penalty shouts as Evans had his standing foot whipped away as he was about to shoot. The one with Keane was more debateable but his set up for Garner was never a foul and the assistant ref, who had the better view, obviously thought so. Poor decision by the ref.

Overall a decent performance from yet another makeshift side still looking to find some consistency and getting to know each others games.

Onwards to Tuesday and the visit of Peterborough with at least an improvement on last week’s performance.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Seeking the right blend of youth and experience

“Liverpool were a good, talented footballing side but our lads were a lot stronger against Liverpool. Tonight, playing against a very experienced team who have been around the block a bit was a massive learning curve for some of the younger players to know the standard if they want to make a living in the game and that will only stand them in good stead.”

So said John Sheridan following a home defeat by Port Vale in the EFL trophy. In reality the 3-1 scoreline was flattering to a Latics side who were out of their depth on the night.

Sheridan had put out a mixed lineup as he had in the game against the Liverpool U21 side.

The team included seven players who were under 23, together with Owen Evans (23), Tom James (24), Lee Evans (26), Dan Gardner (30).

On first glance the formation looked well balanced, but as play commenced, we saw that Chris Merrie was playing at left back, Tom Pearce on the left wing and Dan Gardner in holding midfield. After conceding a couple of goals due to errors Sheridan reverted to the line-up we would have expected, with Merrie back in midfield and Pearce at full back. Even before the errors the visitors were causing problems to a defence that was all at sea.

Sheridan has let it be known that he is looking for some more experienced players to supplement his squad: to get a suitable blend of youth and experience. Both Gardner and Viv Solomon-Otabor have signed extended contracts until January. Solomon-Otabor has looked impressive in his early Latics career. Gardner, who had worked previously under Leam Richardson at Chesterfield and Sheridan at Oldham, has looked less so. Nathan Cameron’s short-term contract is coming to an end shortly and Sheridan will have to decide whether to offer an extension. He has played in two league games so far but has been suffering from an injury.

The transfer window for EFL clubs closes on October 16. However, due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 virus many clubs have clubs have tightened their belts. The net result is hundreds of free agents available in the football markets.

Gerald Krasner has stated that he expects to be out by the end of the month, assuming the Garrido takeover is completed by that point. Whether the administrators will allow Sheridan to sign more players during that time remains to be seen, but there will still be free agents available beyond October should new ownership give the green light.

Krasner has taken a lot of flak from Latics fans, but if the sale to Jose Miguel Garrido Cristo goes through he and his associates might ultimately be remembered as the people who helped save the club from liquidation.

Jay Whittle has been an outstanding source of information for Latics fans in the times of crisis over these months. His interviews with key people involved in the fight to keep the club afloat have been both revealing and empathetic. This recent one with Gerald Krasner is well worth viewing if you have not already done so:

Five talking points following a gritty victory against Doncaster


Wigan Athletic 1 Doncaster Rovers 0

Who would have thought that a Wigan Athletic team built around the bare remnants of Paul Cook’s squad could be in mid-table after four games played? This win over an in-form Doncaster side who had been unbeaten in their first three games was the result of a well-taken goal by Joe Garner together with no mean amount of grit and determination.

There were surprises in John Sheridan’s opening line-up, with Nathan Cameron on the bench and Danny Fox in discussions with Robbie Fowler, manager of East Bengal, who play in Calcutta. Kal Naismith was moved back into the centre of defence with Darnell Johnson making his debut, on loan from Leicester City.

Darren Moore’s Doncaster looked a useful outfit in the first half, their movement and fluidity constantly challenging Wigan’s defence. But thanks to profligate finishing and fine saves from Jamie Jones the game was goalless at half time. Latics were much better in the second half, buoyed by Garner’s excellent header from Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross after 59 minutes.

Following the game Sheridan commented: “I am very pleased with the result. It was a really tough game, which I expected because they’ve got a very good footballing side and they gave us a lot of problems in the first half. We were probably fortunate to go in level at the break because we didn’t really get going and we were a bit sloppy in the way we started the game. I felt we should have got up the pitch a bit further and got in and around people but what we asked of them at half-time they have gone and done in the second-half and I thought we were magnificent in the second-half; we created problems, got in and around them and played some excellent football ourselves, scoring a great goal to get the three points.”

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

Maintaining a style of play

John Sheridan’s appointment was hardly heralded by Latics fans. Most of us had expected Liam Richardson to take over as manager. However, the combination of the two has helped to stabilise things on the field of play.

The starting line-up from this match contained six players from last season’s squad, two who have stepped up from the U23 squad, the remainder being loan players or those on short-term contracts.

However, the style of play developed during Paul Cook’s three-year tenure has remained in place. This is something that has so often not been the case in the past.

Dave Whelan’s mistake of appointing Owen Coyle as successor to Roberto Martinez is the most memorable. A group of players weaned on patient possession football struggled to adapt to a long-ball approach from a new manager.

It is to Sheridan’s credit that has not tampered with the style and method of play that had been previously established.

A captain who leads by example

Sam Morsy’s departure from the club was a bitter blow. Morsy was not only a key player in midfield, but a captain who led by example.

Joe Garner was the obvious choice for the captaincy when Morsy departed, a senior professional, known for his gritty determination to succeed.

With five goals in six games the new captain has been in fine form. For the first time since joining Latics in August 2018 he is now the undisputed first-choice central striker at the club. He is thriving on it.

Garner is a combative figure on the field of play, not afraid to mix things physically with powerful central defenders who tower above him. He clearly relishes playing in the target-man role, but Garner is also capable of making killer passes as we saw yesterday when he put Solomon-Atabor through with a pass that should have led to Latics taking a two goal lead.

Joe Garner is now 32. He has had made more than 470 career appearances at nine clubs. Nevertheless, he retains an enthusiasm that must surely rub off on the less experienced players around him.

A young centre of midfield

Two young Liverpudlians, Chris Merrie and Alex Perry, have certainly caught the eye in recent weeks in establishing themselves as an option in the centre of midfield. Having operated together in the U23 team they know each other’s games and gel as a partnership in that key area.

Chris Merrie is 21 and a product of the Wigan Athletic academy. He joined Latics in 2013 after previously being part of the Everton youth system. Prior to this season his Latics appearances had been limited to cup competitions. In the 2017-18 season he went on loan to both Southport and Altrincham, making a total of 25 appearances. A regular at U23 level Merrie has stepped up to the senior squad. He is strong in the tackle and is an accurate passer with his trusted left foot.

Alex Perry is 22 and a product of the Bolton Wanderers academy. Latics acquired him from as a free agent with Bolton suffering financial difficulties in September 2018. Prior to this season Perry’s only first team experience had been during a month’s loan at Northern Premier League side Sutton Coldfield in November 2017 and a single appearance for Bolton in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Perry was a regular in the Latics U23 team and has made an impressive step-up to the senior level this season. He is an energetic midfielder, strong in the tackle, who shows vision in his passing.

Put Massey on the right

Gavin Massey is now 28. He joined Latics in July 2017. At his best he has used his searing pace to cut apart opposition defences, and he has scored spectacular goals. His partnership with Nathan Byrne on Wigan’s right was a key factor in Latics winning League 1 in the 2017-18 season.

Last season was not Massey’s best. He is an exclusively one-footed player, most effective on his “natural side”, the right. So often last season Cook would frustratingly play him on the left. Massey has always been willing to work hard for the team and does not shirk in his defensive duties. However, playing him on the left wing has hardly helped him be at his incisive best.

When yesterday’s team sheet came out one hoped in vain that Massey would be played on the right with Viv Solomon-Atabor on the left. The latter has shown is ability to play effectively on either wing. Although being predominantly right footed he can use his left to good effect.

Using Massey as a “workhorse” left winger has never got the best out of the player. Being so one-footed means he constantly passes the ball inside or backwards, lacking the option of going on the outside past the full back.

It can only be hoped that Sheridan will see this and employ the player in his most effective role.

Evans must gain more self-belief

Lee Evans is now 26 and should be nearing his peak as a midfield player. Evans is physically strong and possesses a fine technique and the vision to make a killer pass or score goals. With such attributes Evans should be further on in his career than he is.

Last season was tough for the Welshman with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams forming a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield. At times Evans played in the problematic number 10 role, sometimes looking good, but could not establish himself as the first choice for that position.

There is debate among supporters as to Evans’ best position. Before Williams’ arrival he would often partner Sam Morsy in central midfield. Although defensively solid he does not have the tenacity of such as Morsy and Williams, but his ability to launch pinpoint long passes from the centre of the pitch was a useful tool for the team.

We know that Evans can be an effective holding midfielder in League 1, but Sheridan has given him the chance to show what he can do as a number 10. In the opening games of the season he was somewhat anonymous, possibly shell-shocked like many others by what was happening off the field of play at the club. He has since improved.

Evans has the ability to be among the top midfield players in the third tier. But too often he makes the square pass rather taking the more incisive option which he is capable of. Moreover, he has scored spectacular goals in the past, but does not shoot often enough.

With belief Lee Evans can be a top player. He has the attributes necessary to be so. If Sheridan and his staff can continue to give him a good run of games and help instil more self-belief in the player, he could be key to Latics’ success in the near future.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Social media reaction to an honourable defeat at Ipswich

Ipswich Town 2 Wigan Athletic 0

The signings of Josh Clarke and Danny Fox provided Wigan Athletic fans with a fillip approaching this game. With the departure of Nathan Byrne Latics were lacking at right back and it looked like Clarke would step in. Moreover, after starting the Fleetwood game with two 19-year-old central defenders, with no senior experience, we were hoping the return of Fox would stabilise a leaky defence.

However, in the event it was not to be, neither Clarke nor Fox deemed fit to play at Portman Road. When I looked at the team selection it was clear that Kal Naismith would play at the back. I was about to congratulate the Richardson/Sheridan selections, assuming they were giving Emeka Obe and Adam Long support by playing Naismith in between them in a back line of three. Sadly, that did not happen, and the end result was Obe being played at right back where he looked like a duck out of water. Ipswich repeatedly flooded the right side of Wigan’s defence which looked not only unbalanced but short of midfield cover.

Following the game John Sheridan commented:

I thought we started the game very well. We possibly should have been two up, we created some great opportunities. The first goal changes the outcome of games so often, and who knows what might have happened. And their first goal is very disappointing…it’s a cheap foul, people switch off and it ends up in the back of the net.

But while we were disappointed to go into half-time 1-0 down, in the second half we just never got going. I know it’s the first day of the season, it’s a boiling hot day and the pitch was sticky, but we didn’t play with any penetration at all.”

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.

Kendal Blue commented:

We saw last time at this level that there will be many more mistakes and you’ve got to be there to take advantage. Obi’s clearly nervous (2 foul throws, owch), but it’s to be expected. He has Naismith with him and Solomon-Otabor just in front now and they will settle him. Alternatively, Adam Long looks a natural and is ready for this chance. Definitely the right move to put Kal in the back 4 and Fox will also allow him to develop. Tired legs will factor today but we’ve put up enough to show we’re a decent bet at this level from a football side of things.

The_Pon said:

Obi, Long, Merrie. None of them have any significant experience in the league. It’s easy to forget that Tom Pearce has played less than 20 competitive games as well, since we know him already. I’ll take Solomon-Otabor on the chin. I didn’t realise he’d played as many games as he had before joining us; now I’ve looked him up then fair enough, he shouldn’t be overly nervy.

Obi is having a total mare, but to be fair to him, he wasn’t ready yet and we already knew that. Hopefully throwing him in the deep end as we’ve had to do will make him learn faster.

Obi was seen as a great prospect, and with more first team action, he may improve very quickly. Hope he does… Will need some of the older lads to put their arm round his shoulders and pick him up, because this performance can’t have done his confidence any good. I’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen another ten games or so. Like I said, Dan Burn was embarrassingly bad in his first few games, then it suddenly clicked for him and we know the story after that. I hope Obi can do something similar.

Long looks ready. He’s played well today all things considered and he’ll only get better with more game time. Merrie is no cause for concern either.

I think we’ll be ok this year. No title run, but we’re good enough to stay afloat in this league from what I’ve seen. There are definitely enough worse teams in League One that we shouldn’t be in a relegation scrap. If new owners come on board in the next few weeks and put in a bit of cash, who knows? Honestly, I’d say we only need 3-4 players to be very comfortable at this level. It’s not a strong division.

Skem Tic commented:

I think without Naismith it could have been much worse, however we do look decent going forward, we just need much more time playing as a team. We have to remember that although a fair few players have had plenty of experience it’s only Naismith who would have been a first choice player last season. It’s going to be an up hill struggle for next few months but we have to stick behind them and sadly social media is the only way we can do this at the moment.
It’s certainly not all doom and gloom!

FrancosLoveChild added:

Obi just lacked Fox bo…cking him and keeping him focused, something young players with lack of experience has. Think if he is in the centre next to Fox, he will grow into a decent player, he has the physique for it. He had a howler, a terrible performance, that is reality, and everyone needs to accept that, he will only get strong from it when you learn from mistakes and bad games. Takes shocking performances to learn.

Arthur_Itis stated:

I’m mentally prepared to give all the young un’s a lot of leaway this season. Thought Long looked great today with Naismith at the side of him.
It’s very difficult to judge Obi IMO, out of position and stranded. As others have said, I’ll reserve judgment until he’s had an extended run in his natural position with seasoned pro’s around him.

My original score prediction was 5:0, I’m slightly less pessimistic for the season after today, but we need to pick some (probably scrappy) points up fairly soon just to give everyone a lift and that bit of belief that can work wonders.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com