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

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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

A Barnsley fan’s view of Joe Williams

Last week Wigan Athletic announced the signing of 22-year-old Joe Williams from Everton for an undisclosed fee. The midfielder signed a three-year contract.

Born in Liverpool, Williams joined the Everton Academy at the age of 7, becoming a first-year scholar in June 2013. In the 2013-14 season he broke into the U-21 squad. In 2016 he won two caps for the England U-20 team.

Williams spent the 2017-18 season on loan to Barnsley, where he made 38 appearances, scoring one goal. Last season he was on loan at Bolton Wanderers where he made 29 appearances.

Williams is a tenacious midfield player, very strong in the tackle.

In order to learn about Williams’ time at Barnsley we contacted CraigIsRed (@CraigIsRed) through Twitter. He commented:

Joe is remembered fondly at Oakwell. He enjoyed a successful loan spell with Barnsley in 2017 which was unfortunately cut short due to injury. He played really well in that anchor-man role between defence and midfield.

 Joe’s a player that’s not afraid to get stuck in and his timing with tackles is great for the most part. He was the glue that stuck that team of ours together a couple of seasons ago, winning back the ball, scooping up loose balls, and transitioning defence to attack. I have full confidence that he’s only improved more and more since then.

 Overall, Joe’s a really good Championship midfielder. He’s still young as well so I can see him pushing even higher in the future.

 

A Barnsley fan’s view of Kieffer Moore

Barnsley FC yesterday announced the transfer of the 6ft 5in centre forward Kieffer Moore to Wigan Athletic. The 26-year-old has signed a three-year contract.

Kieffer Roberto Francisco Moore was born in Torquay and came through the youth system of Torquay United. After the club folded their youth team, he played in the South Devon league for a couple of seasons before going on trial for Truro City in the summer of 2012. Moore made 22 appearances, scoring 13 goals, for Truro in the Conference South before joining Dorchester Town in the same division in February 2013. He made 17 appearances for Dorchester, scoring 9 goals, before joining Yeovil Town then in the Championship in the summer of 2013.

Moore made 50 appearances for Yeovil, scoring 7 goals, before being released as the club were relegated to League 2. In the summer of 2015 season, he went to Norway and played for Viking Stavanger, making 9 appearances, before signing for Forest Green Rovers in January 2016. He helped them reach the National League play-offs, missing the final defeat by Grimsby Town due to a ruptured appendix the night after the semi-final second leg against Dover Athletic. In November 2016 Moore joined Torquay United of the National League on a 28-day loan, scoring 5 goals in 4 appearances.  In January 2017 he signed for Ipswich Town for a fee of £10,000. Moore spent the first half of the 2017-18 season on loan at Rotherham United, scoring 13 goals in 22 appearances. In January 2018 he signed for Barnsley for an undisclosed fee. He went on to score 21 goals in 51 appearances for the Yorkshire club.

In order to learn more about Moore’s time at Oakwell we contacted Barnsley fans CraigIsRed (@CraigIsRed) and FourFourTarn (@FourFourTarn) through Twitter.

CraigIsRed commented:

He’s an absolute workhorse upfront – never stops running. He does tend to have fouls awarded against him on a regular basis due to his 6’6 stature, though, which you’ll undoubtedly come to find quite frustrating because in most cases it’s a fair aerial challenge he puts in.

I could make a case for him being unproven at Championship level, but to be honest the games he played for us in The Championship a couple of seasons ago were under a god-awful manager who changed the line-up, formation, and system every single game, so in my view he can’t be judged on that.

 He’s always been a standout player in League One, though, and definitely deserves his chance to play in a settled Championship team. I believe a big reason we’ve opted to sell him is because he doesn’t quite fit the new style of play Daniel Stendel has brought to Barnsley FC, so he would have been a little wasted at Oakwell had he stayed this season. I think he’ll do well for The Latics this season. Be excited! You’ve gained a great player and a great personality.

 Look after ‘Big Kieff’, and all the best for this season!

 FourFourTarn said:

Most Barnsley fans will be sad to see Kieffer go, he was excellent for us in our promotion season last season but the reality is he doesn’t fit the way Stendel wants to play and the £3-4mill price tag is very fair.

 Despite his size Kieffer isn’t the most dominant in the air when playing direct however he’s excellent when the ball is played into his chest or feet. He’s also very quick for a big man when his legs get going. He’s excellent at getting himself good chances but also pretty good at missing them but by law of averages he bags a fair few. The biggest criticism is probably is engine, it’s not his fault but carrying that massive frame around can’t be easy and that’s probably why he’s moving on.

 Can’t fault his work rate, always works as hard as he can, fans absolutely loved him. He had a song within a couple of weeks and I think for now this is his level, I don’t think he’s good enough technically for the prem but could be a top Champ striker in the right system.

A Portsmouth fan’s view of Jamal Lowe

 

Jamal Lowe made his debut for Wigan Athletic on Saturday following a transfer from Portsmouth for a fee estimated to be around £2.6m. The 25-year-old winger scored 17 goals in League 1 last season.

Lowe was born in Harrow and joined the Barnet academy. He made his League 2 debut as a substitute for Barnet in August 2012 as an 18-year-old in a 3-1 defeat by York City. Lowe signed a professional contract in October 2012, going on to make 10 appearances until he was loaned out to Hayes and Yeading United in December 2012, followed by a series of loans to Boreham Wood, Hitchin Town, St Albans City, Farnborough and Hemel Hempstead Town. In January 2015 Lowe left Barnet permanently to re-join St Albans, then moving back to Hemel Hempstead. He moved on to Hampton and Richmond Borough where he made 48 appearances, scoring 29 goals before Paul Cook signed him for Portsmouth for an undisclosed fee in October 2016 on an 18-month-contract.

In January 2018 Lowe signed a further 3 years contract with Pompey, being Kenny Jackett’s first choice right winger. He made on to make 119 appearances, scoring 30 goals for the south coast club.

To learn more about Lowe’s time at Portsmouth we contacted Jim Bonner (@FrattonFaithful) of the Fratton Faithful fan site.

Here’s over to Jim:

Jamal Lowe will undoubtedly improve the Wigan squad and he is reunited with a manager who should be able to get the best out of him having initially taken him from non-league. His improvement over the last few years has been rapid, and it could be argued that he was the best winger in League One last season. Jamal is quick, can beat a man and has an eye for goal whilst never shying away from tracking back and helping his team mates to do the defensive work when under the cosh.

 Whilst he is unproven at Championship level you won’t find many Pompey fans thinking he wasn’t good enough for them. However, as much as we’ll have fond memories of his time at Fratton Park, his exit (much like Paul Cook’s) could have been handled better and his dig at the staff on his statement when he signed for Wigan was unnecessary. There are some Pompey fans who question why Lowe has left a club that are favourites for promotion for a team who may swap places with them at the end of the season but a footballer’s career is short and it’s understandable that he wants to test himself at a higher level and get paid much more money for it.

If Wigan are to fight a relegation battle again this season, then Lowe could be the difference between survival and the drop. He’s tenacious and has enough quality to succeed in the Championship so he should be a hit for the Latics, especially given that he should fit perfectly into the system and style of football that Cook employs. We (perhaps begrudgingly) wish him all the best.