A Nottingham Forest fan’s view of Kieran Dowell

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 22-year-old Kieran Dowell from Everton on a loan deal until the end of the season. Since the departure of Nick Powell Latics have badly lacked a midfield playmaker/goalscorer and Dowell certainly fits that profile.

The 6 ft 1 in tall attacking midfielder was born in Ormskirk and joined the Everton Academy at the age of seven. After playing for the reserve team he made his first team debut in a Europa League game against Krasnodar in December 2014. Dowell signed a professional contract in March 2015. He went on to make his Premier League debut as a 19-year-old as a substitute in March 2016 against Bournemouth. He made his first start two weeks later in a last day of the season win over Norwich city. He was given a new three-year contract in the summer of 2016. Dowell gained over 40 caps for England at all levels U16 to U20, being part of the under-20 World Cup winning side in the summer of 2017.

In August 2017 he joined Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan. He soon became a regular under Mark Warburton and scored a hat-trick against Hull City in October 2017. He went on to make 31 starts in the Championship with 7 appearances off the bench, scoring 9 goals.

Dowell joined Sheffield United on loan in January 2018 going on to make 8 starts and 8 substitute appearances, scoring 2 goals as the Blades won promotion to the Premier League. He went to Derby on loan in July 2019 making 8 Championship starts and 2 appearances off the bench.

In order to find out how Dowell did at Nottingham we contacted Matt at the Forza Garibaldi fan site (www.forzagaribaldi.com).

Matt commented:

At Forest, Dowell’s first couple of months were electric. He created chances and he scored goals. Some were absolute corkers too. He created something from nothing and was an instrumental part of our side.

 Sadly, Dowell’s impact faded quite dramatically. I won’t pin all of it on him as Forest did do their usual trick of collapsing and a change of manager at the turn of the year clearly disrupted things but he wasn’t the same.

Dowell’s appearances and influence dwindled and when the season ended and he returned to Everton it wasn’t really registered amongst Forest fans. When he signed for Derby on loan in the summer I thought it will either go really well or really badly.

 He may be an excellent addition for Wigan. There is definitely talent there, it just needs extracting. It just looks like a bit of a gamble which Kieron Dowell turns up.

 

Five talking points following an away win at Birmingham

Birmingham City 2 Wigan Athletic 3

Wigan Athletic’s first away win since April was another nail-biting affair, but this time they held out to gain an invaluable three points to lift themselves off the bottom of the table. The celebrations of the players at the end showed how important the win was for them.

Paul Cook made just one change in the starting lineup with Michael Jacobs coming in for Gavin Massey. That meant Josh Windass continuing at centre forward with Joe Williams in the number 10 position.

The irony is that Latics won the game without playing as well in recent matches, but still showed enough pace and movement to trouble a suspect Birmingham defence. Once again they let in soft goals, but the home side can also be accused of the same, with all three Wigan goals coming from defensive errors. For once Latics capitalized on their opponents’ errors.

Windass proves his worth

Cook kept faith in the enigmatic Josh Windass, who went on the score the first goal and have a hand in the other two. Playing without a big man up front means puts an onus on defenders and midfielders to be more creative. Windass has genuine pace that allows him to pounce on well-hit long passes. It is so refreshing following the mindless long-ball approach that characterized Wigan’s away performances for so long.

He had his best performance for the club today.

Naismith provides composure in defence

Kal Naismith has been excellent in the centre of defence in the past six matches. He provides the composure that has been so lacking for so long. Given his limited experience playing in the position we could have expected him to have made some major gaffes, but that has not been the case. Naismith has an ability to read the game, not to panic and to make the right tackle at the right moment. His distribution of the ball from defence has been outstanding.

Sadly Naismith had to go off at half time with what has been reported as a thigh injury. When he left the composure dissipated.

It is no coincidence that Cedric Kipre has looked much more comfortable since teaming up with the Scot in the centre of defence. When the combative Chey Dunkley came on after the interval Kipre was moved across to the left to accommodate him.

Nathan Byrne has a tough one

It has not been an easy season so far for Nathan Byrne. He had a torrid time this afternoon against the speedy French winger Jeremie Bela, then later with the likewise pacey Ecuadorian Jefferson Montero.

The 20-year-old Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling has competed with Byrne for the right back position, making 9 appearances compared with 19 for the latter. Sterling did not make the bench today.

Full back is not an easy role in Cook’s style of play. Full backs are not only expected to perform their full defensive duties but to bomb forward in attack. Byrne certainly put a lot of effort into his runs forward but at times looked exposed when Birmingham attacked.

Latics have enough quality to climb out of the relegation zone

Latics have shown repeatedly that there are few teams in the division for them to fear. Most of their defeats have been of their own making, in squandering chances or giving away goals through defensive errors. Nottingham Forest are now fourth in the table and Wigan made them look distinctly ordinary three days ago, even if the final scoreline did not do them justice.

Despite the rare away win the manager still remains unpopular with a majority of fans. Many still believe they will get relegated if Cook stays. However, at this stage it looks like he will be here at least until the end of the season.

However, although the manager continues to frustrate fans with his loyalty to certain senior pros as far as team selection is concerned, together with his use of substitutions, there have been improvements. The standard of football we have seen in recent away games has been light years ahead of the mindless stuff we saw for so long.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but it is not going to be an easy ride.

A trip to Leicester

Few of us have any expectations for the trip to face Leicester City this weekend. The likelihood is that Latics will receive a tonking. But on the other hand Leicester can be expected to put out a weakened lineup and Cook’s Latics have a surprisingly good record against Premier League teams in the FA Cup.

The bottom line is that Wigan will go into the game with nothing to lose, except maybe a little pride.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Latics fans react on Social Media to a defeat at Forest

Nottingham Forest 1 Wigan Athletic 0

 

Latics’ forwards low on synergy

It was a spirited performance from Latics who made Nottingham Forest look distinctly ordinary. It could be said that Wigan deserved to win after dominating the match. But in reality, it was a familiar tale: a woeful lack of finishing and slack defending leading to a headed goal from a corner. Somehow it looked like Latics would not score, no matter how many chances they had.

Paul Cook has done well in changing the approach from hoofball to real football. But although the tactics are so much better his team selections remain poor. Seeing the team list beforehand we saw once again that Gavin Massey would be deployed on the left wing, where he has previously been ineffective.  Cook persisted with Jamal Lowe who was surely due for some time on the bench after so many ineffectual performances. Rather than play Josh Windass in his best position at number 10 he played him at centre forward. He also decided to employ his three key defensive midfielders, but rather than play them side by side he pushed Joe Williams forward to the number 10 position.

Once again, we saw either square pegs in round holes or players on the field who were not in the best of form. The end result was an energetic performance, interspersed with good football, but with no cutting edge. The attacking players continue to lack not only form, but synergy. The whole was much less than the sum of its parts.

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

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, 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.

Studs88 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Doesn’t even have the good grace to mention Gelhardt’s performance. I’m sorry Paul, you’ve done a lot of good for this club. But by not walking away a few months ago you’re ruining any remaining goodwill.

It feels like you’re staying on for a big payday. Not making the best decision for the club.

BigRoy on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Superb again. Can’t score. Gelhardt very good when he came on. Guess you haven’t seen game. So obvious we have no striker. Forest fans saying best team they’ve seen this season. Team playing for Manager and this run of us playing so well and losing can’t carry on forever.

Donny’sPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Playing well… Part of the playing well is scoring goals or at least putting shots on target which could help if we started with a striker on the field or bring him on before the eighty odd minute mark.

He added:

Cook must have thought Gary Roberts was going to be a game changer. That says enough with Joffy and Big Joe warming the bench. What an absolutely idiotic substitution.

FrancosLoveChild on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Reality is, no win in 13, 1 win away for well over a year. A change was needed months ago, and today demonstrated that no matter how well we play we still lose. It is a results business and Cook is not getting them. He is a very fortunate person to even still be at the club. Anywhere else he would have been sacked months ago at the latest.

As for the match, nothing needs to be said, Massey, Lowe, Roberts, and Windass got taught a football lesson by a 17-year-old player who when he came on did more than all of them combined all game. Our attacking players are nowhere near championship quality. Their goal was again from a corner. Meanwhile the corners we took lead to absolutely nothing.

The defence was good, the midfield did their jobs, but as soon as the ball went into the final third, nothing at all, I mean all our good plays actually came from Byrne and Robinson. Massey, Lowe was horrendous, may as well played with nine men.

As for Windass, as soon as he stepped up, it was missed, I have no idea why he takes the penalties. 4 misses in a row now?

I will say the players only have themselves to blame today. I expect Gelhardt to start every game from now on as we need results and he is our only good attacking player. But Cook has had a generous amount of time now, it’s not going to improve, he needs to be ridden before the new year. Royles show some spine and do the right thing by the club. It is when you play well and lose which is the big worry.

Naismith, Gelhardt and Robinson had good games today.

HuddWiganFan on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

 For the first time in my Tics supporting life, I honestly don’t even care anymore. Not bothered in the slightest – same old, same old.

This will continue to happen – week in, week out – until we are relegated/a managerial change is made. End of story.

Can Latics stay up under Cook?

Paul Cook’s approval rating must be around an all-time low with Wigan Athletic fans.  Latics are bottom of the Championship and so much of the football we have witnessed over the past twelve months has been comparable with that of the worst days of Warren Joyce and Malky Mackay. At times the manager’s tactics, team selections and substitutions have looked clueless. Cook can count himself fortunate to still be in the job, but Darren Royle and the IEC have stuck with him, much to the frustrations of fans who cannot wait to see him go.

But despite the frustrations of that last-minute substitution yesterday there has been a welcome shift in the style of football in the past four games. Has Cook seen the light on the road to Damascus? Will it continue? We can only surmise what would have happened if the manager had vigorously discouraged his players employing the “hoof” earlier in the season.

Despite their lowly league position Latics have looked a decent team in those past four games. The quality of their football has shown a big improvement and retaining possession more effectively has meant that legs have not become leaden in the closing minutes. Sadly the performances did not produce a win, although neither did they lose. Significantly three of those draws were at the DW so Latics now have consecutive away games at Nottingham and Birmingham coming up. Given their woeful away record there are few Wigan fans who would predict a win for their team in either of those games. But then again, the performance at Blackburn showed that Latics can perform away from home without giving away freebies to the opposition in the closing minutes.

The unlikely partnership of Cedric Kipre and Kal Naismith in the centre of defence has been a revelation. Both have resisted the hoof, showing their capabilities of building up moves from the back. Moreover they have blended together to form a solid defensive partnership. Too often defenders have put the ball out of play at the merest sniff of danger, inviting more pressure from opposition throw-ins. Moreover unnecessary free kicks have been so often been conceded, turning up that pressure even more. Defensive discipline on a par with that of other Championship clubs is required, rather than the scrapping, falsely “safety first” mentality we have seen that is more akin to lower league football.

Chey Dunkley has been a notable performer for Latics since his arrival from Oxford United in the summer of 2017. He was pivotal in the League 1 title winning team and without the five goals he has scored this season his team would be in much more parlous position. But Dunkley remains a work in progress. His distribution leaves much to be desired. Building moves up from the back is not his forte. It is something the coaches can surely help him with.

Latics have conceded three goals from their last four games, with one clean sheet. But more than anything else it has been a lack of cutting edge in attack that has led to draws rather than victories. Cook has bravely stuck to a more mobile, but less physical strike-force. With Josh Windass at centre forward, rather than orthodox target men Joe Garner and Kieffer Moore, there has been much less of aimless long ball.  Long passes have been more measured, looking to capitalize on the pace of the likes of Windass, Jamal Lowe and Gavin Massey to run beyond the defenders.

Windass remains a frustrating player to watch, capable of moments of inspiration, but also those of lack of concentration. At his best his pace and movement is a threat to any defence, but too often he has been caught offside or his final pass has been ill-judged. Although a valid alternative at centre forward he is best employed in the number 10 position behind a target man.

Lowe has struggled to make the transition from League 1, with just one goal in 20 starts and 4 substitute appearances. Although not lacking in effort he has yet to show that he can be a force at Championship level. One wonders if the player would have progressed better through a more gradual introduction to second tier English football, being brought off the bench in earlier games, giving him the time to adjust to the higher level he was being introduced to? Cook continues to play Lowe at number 10, but surely has better options for that position. Windass and Joe Gelhardt are two of those. Cook also has the option of playing a midfield trio of Evans-Morsy-Williams. Replacing Nick Powell was always going to be difficult, but at this stage Lowe does not look the answer.

Having missed the pre-season through injury Massey has looked a shadow of his former self this season. Rather being heavily involved in build-up play along the right as before he has been largely anonymous. Cook has received a lot of criticism from the fans over his loyalty to Massey and Michael Jacobs who were key wide men in the League 1 title-winning team. Despite their lack of form they have made a total of 37 appearances this season. However, Jacobs had his best game for some time yesterday.

Despite the recent improved performances Paul Cook’s position at the club remains precarious. Royle and the owners have an important decision to make with the transfer window opening on Wednesday coming. Are they willing to back the manager in another transfer market with the club in bottom position despite spending  8m over summer?

Many question Cook’s summer spending, with Jamal Lowe and Kieffer Moore not yet having shown that they have adjusted to a higher level of football. However, in Moore’s case they will point to his fine performances for Wales, which show he can perform at a higher level surrounded by players of the quality of Gareth Bale and Daniel James. For Wigan his main function has been in chasing speculative long balls, some 35 yards from the opposition goal, with his back facing towards it. When the big man is fit again Cook will face the dilemma of whether to start him, with the likelihood that his defenders will once again the easy way out by launching those awful long-balls. So many fans will advocate getting the big man into the box to latch on to crosses from the wings.

Cook also signed Antonee Robinson and Joe Williams over the summer. Robinson continues to improve in his defensive role, although he can be woefully lacking in vision and composure when making his final pass in attack. But Robinson is still only 22 and surely has a bright future ahead. Williams has certainly impressed with his dynamic approach and range of tackling and passing skills. Another very good signing at only 23 years of age.

If Cook is to continue one can only hope that he will persist with the recent style of play we have seen. It has been a breath of fresh air after so many hours of tedious, poor football, particularly away from home. It is very much a matter of sticking with the blend we have seen in the past four games. Incorporating players like Dunkley and Moore into the blend will be tricky, for different reasons. What has been missing from the recent blend has been incisive finishing. Playing in-form players in their natural positions is crucial.

Can Latics stay up if Cook continues?

It is by no means impossible.

Five talking points following an excellent display against WBA

Wigan Athletic 1 West Bromwich Albion 1

What a transformation: the long ball approach hardly reared its ugly head. In its place we saw Latics building up moves from the back in the manner of yesteryear. If it had not been for a woeful lack of concentration by keeper Jamie Jones Wigan would have surely won this game against the league leaders. They were the better team throughout.

Paul Cook made seven changes, mostly through injuries. Kal Naismith reverted to the centre of defence and Josh Windass was played at centre forward in preference to Joe Garner.

What caused the transformation?

The style of play was a revelation compared with the awful stuff we have seen so often over these months. Rather than launch long balls the defenders passed the ball to midfielders who made themselves readily available to receive it. Was Cook’s absence from the side-lines through suspension a factor?

The fourth official was possibly relieved to find out that he did not have to listen to Cook’s constant ranting and raving. It is an ugly side of a manager who otherwise behaves with dignity compared to most of his counterparts from other clubs. There is much to be said for a manager’s passion, but one wonders whether Cook’s attention to detail on the pitch has been distracted by a constant need to berate that fourth official.

The big question is whether the return to playing good football was due to Cook’s match strategy or whether it was down to Liam Richardson  directing the team from the side-lines.

Energy levels not a problem

The stats show that Latics had 44% of the possession. Their pass completion rate was 82%, the highest for some time. The players did not look leggy in the closing stages as they so often have this season.

The long ball approach that has been so often used has typically ceded possession, causing Latics players to have to constantly press to get the ball back. Not surprisingly their energy would sap as the games progressed.

The message is clear: Cook must insist that his defenders eschew the easy option of launching long balls. They must take responsibility in building up moves from the back.

Why Windass for Garner?

It was a welcome surprise to see Josh Windass played at centre forward. It was reported that Kieffer Moore was injured but Cook did have an orthodox target man available in Joe Garner. With Windass playing up front, the defenders were less likely to launch long balls. Windass has the pace that Garner and Moore do not have, although he does not have their physicality.

Round pegs in round holes

One of the criticisms of Cook’s management has been his habit of putting round pegs in square holes. Last night we saw Gavin Massey look so much more comfortable playing on the right wing rather than looking like a duck out of water out on the left. Through playing Jamal Lowe at number 10 Cook was able to include both players in positions that suited them.

 What will happen when Dunkley and Moore return?

Chey Dunkley has been one of the mainstays in Cook’s teams since he arrived at Wigan. At his best he is strong in the air and can make stunning last-ditch tackles. However, he is prone to kicking the ball out of play at the merest hint of danger and nobody has launched more long balls than he.

Kieffer Moore’s presence on the pitch almost invites defenders to send long balls in his direction. Sadly, he has rarely been able to do what is more important: getting into right place in the penalty box to score goals. For once he got a good cross when he headed home against Luton. The quality of crossing from the flanks has so often been woeful.

If both are available for Saturday’s game against Huddersfield will they be in the starting eleven? If so, what style of football can we expect?

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com