Wigan Athletic 1 Lincoln City 2
“We’ll learn from tonight” said Leam Richardson after a third consecutive midweek home defeat.
After a high intensity performance at Wimbledon on Saturday this was quite the reverse. The Wigan players just did not have the energy and drive to deal with a stubborn and determined Lincoln side. They simply looked jaded as they did in those other Tuesday night defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons.
The style of football we have seen since Richardson took over has been a carbon copy of that we saw in the Paul Cook era. At its best it is dynamic, high intensity attacking football. At its worst it is lethargic, with seemingly endless, sterile, inter-passing across the back four, too often terminating in a hopeful punt forward.
Paul Cook’s side won promotion by a canter, buoyed by a solid defence, a functional midfield and flair up front. David Sharpe had allowed him a wage bill of some £12m, retaining a key core of players from the Championship, with Dan Burn bossing the defence and the talents of Nick Powell and Will Grigg further forward. The wage bill for this squad is reportedly well above the norms of League 1 but will surely not approach that which Cook was afforded.
Even with the departure of Cook his legacy has remained. Latics continue to play 4-3-2-1, doggedly sticking to the system even when things are not going well. Management remains loyal to a core group of established senior pros, substitutions are made later in the game than those made by the opposition and are “like for like”, with no modification of the team’s shape.
Despite there being 46 games to play in a League 1 season and despite having a squad laden with players of quality and experience, Richardson continues to stick to the same starting line-up, unless injuries intervene. Regular squad rotation is resisted, resulting in key players looking jaded as the fixtures pile up.
Despite now having experienced assistants and coaches around him Richardson continues to doggedly follow the old, familiar blueprint. However, that is not to say it does not have its advantages: sticking to a similar starting XI and that familiar 4-2-3-1 formation leads to a certain type of cohesion and motivation among those chosen players.
Despite those midweek home defeats Latics have 28 points from 14 matches, just two points behind the top two teams. A fine start to the season with a newly assembled squad, for which the manager and his coaches deserve credit. The challenge for Richardson is to avoid burnout of his key players and to provide opportunities to all of his squad. But, like Cook, he is reluctant to tamper with a formula that he has had success with in the past. However, adjustments will need to be made and he needs to seek a balance between squad rotation and keeping a settled team together.
Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:
Why are all our passes 15-20-25yarders every team that comes play short pass and move pass and move and play through us as there goal tonight. We are far better away and very frustrating to watch at home and if we don’t remedy this home form it will cost us dear.
He later added:
That was truly dreadful, Sunderland Sheff Wed MKDons Lincoln all played the same way pass and move and we just can’t cope with it.
Probs the worst start we played so far this season, players losing every ball and can’t even play simple passes. Tactically outplayed so far, teams are starting to learn how to play Vs long balls.
For the last month or so been taking the usual path to the DW for a much anticipated under floodlight game hoping to see a tantalising, energetic & rip roaring game with three points or a cup progression in the bag….sadly this hasn’t been the case & surely this isn’t going to be a monkey on our back – a win at home midweek??
Tonight was much the same as previous visits where the visitors have sussed us out very early doors, counter act us, get on top & inevitably take control with us becoming an unrecognisable team who fluff passes, panic in possession & become a team who uncharacteristically lose confidence in what they’ve been doing well in previous matches. Sadly imo LR follows the team & seems unable to react to the oppositions gameplan…doesn’t bode well going forward & I really hope this midweek hoodoo doesn’t hang around long.
All down to Leam. No hoodoo, no ultra tiredness. Just down to Leam and how we play at home.
Wolves youth, Sunderland, Sheff Weds, Milton Keynes and now Lincoln. Possession football and too many passes, lack of wideman, wing backs one up top, players out of position is just not working in home games.
I’m not having it that Lincoln were a decent team, nor did they play well. They were absolute cr.p. But somehow, we managed to be even worse. I can take losing to MK. They were a good team, well organised, came with a plan, executed it well, and fair play to them. It happens. Losing to Lincoln is an absolute embarrassment though. We need to change how we play.
Power is not a RB. He’s also too slow (not necessarily pace, though he’s no Usain Bolt, but I mean that far too often, he takes too many touches and ends up under pressure and playing it backwards, losing all our attacking momentum). He needs some practice hitting passes and crosses first time if he’s going to continue in that position.
Darikwa isn’t a left footer, so shouldn’t be playing at LB. He has to cut inside to hit a good pass or cross from wide positions, which isn’t going to work long term because good RBs force him outside so he can’t get a ball away. He should be playing RB, because that’s his natural position and he’s top quality when he plays there.
Bayliss isn’t a holding mid. He’s a #10 or attacking mid. Playing him so deep is wasting his attacking ability, and he’s not defensively minded so he gets caught out of position in that role, which puts him under pressure and then passes go astray. Further up the pitch, he’s going to look for those killer balls and if we attack with pace, he’ll create a lot because he has the attacking instinct; he won’t have to take half a second to think what to do: further up the pitch, it comes naturally.
Looks like Tom Naylor is going to be out for a while. I reckon it’s a hamstring from how he went down and he looked to be in a lot of pain. Could mean Power will step into midfield, which I have mixed feelings about: love his attitude, professionalism and commitment, but I still don’t really rate him for ability. Keane looks knackered. We know he’s a quality player, but maybe time to give him a couple of games R&R: let Bayliss play in his natural position because he’s a perfect like-for-like deputy for Keane.
Humphrys is a good striker, but he’s not a target man. To get the best out of him, we can’t just lump long balls to him. He needs proper service. Same goes for Wyke… though Wyke is more suited to that role, I still think we’re going to get far more out of him if we stop the hit and hope stuff.
Not going to get on Leam’s case though. We’ve played well in far more games than we haven’t, but I do hope he now spends some time on the training ground practising some alternative ways to play, because keeping doing the same things when it clearly isn’t working isn’t what genuine promotion chasing teams do. They have different ways to play, can switch between them on the fly, and by doing so find what works during the course of the game.
Hopefully, losing to such a poor team will be the catalyst for some of the changes we need to happen.
We’ve won all our Saturday Home games this season, so I’m not concerned at all about the tactics. The problem is Tuesday Night games come too soon after Saturday, Players don’t have enough time to recover and always look leggy and lethargic. 2 midweek games running we’ve been 2nd to the ball every single time. The big test for us will be next Tuesday. If it is tiredness after Saturday, then our 5 game unbeaten away record will disappear at Fleetwood.
Would be very surprised at any tactical changes – 4231 is ingrained into our club and the Cook / Richardson playbook.
Get ready for another no man’s land in the middle of the pitch – hopefully with a different outcome ….!