Stormclouds loom over Wigan Athletic’s fight to avoid relegation: time for changes?

The dedication and sheer hard work of the management team of Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch has kept Wigan Athletic in with a fighting chance of avoiding relegation from League 1. That Latics are not totally adrift of the teams above them in the table is a testimony to their endeavours. The league table shows the task ahead of them.

Courtesy of SkySports.com

After Jamie Jones had somehow allowed an innocuous shot to go through him in the 27th minute on Wednesday evening it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Latics against high flying Hull City. Up to that point they had matched the visitors and had looked solid. However, with five losses in the previous six games Wigan’s confidence was bound to be brittle. Another goal five minutes later was no surprise and as the game continued, with their confidence shot, the Wigan team capitulated. Hull could have scored more than five.

Wigan’s starting line-up against Hull consisted of just one player, Chris Merrie, who had come through their academy. There were five players new to the club over the January transfer window. Much had been said earlier in the season of a young team giving away goals through a lack of experience. In the January window the club had done well to bring in new players who might provide an experienced backbone to the squad. But goals continue to be given away with more seasoned pros having taken the place of U23 players.

With so many new players arriving it was always going to take time for the new blend to gel. The comings and goings of so many players over the course of the season has made things extremely difficult for management. Moreover, the long-term injuries to Kyle Joseph and Tom Pearce have thrown another spanner in the works.

Following poor performances and results against relegation rivals Wimbledon and Swindon, Richardson switched to a back line of three central defenders for the next game at Northampton which was decided by an opportunist strike by Callum Lang. That backline had the experience of Scott Wootton and Curtis Tilt, both 29-years-old, with over 360 career league appearances between them, together with the very capable 22-year-old George Johnston. It looked like a combination that could provide solidity at the back with enough height and muscle to deal with the aerial threat posed by so many teams in the division.

Latics did not perform badly in the following game against an Oxford team in top form, another well taken goal from Lang putting them in front. Sadly they went on to lose the game through goals created by centres into the box.

It was a surprise to see that for the Hull game Richardson had ditched his back three in favour of an orthodox back four, with Johnston pushed to left back. But what was more puzzling was his advanced midfield trio with Viv Solomon-Otabor on the left and Dan Gardner and Will Keane in the centre and on the right. The new shape did not work and all three were taken off after 56 minutes, with Latics already four goals down.

Managers under pressure tend to rely on experienced players and that showed in Richardson’s team selection. Thelo Aasgaard was rested and not in the squad. Luke Robinson and Callum Lang were on the bench and brought on in the second half. Alex Perry, whose range of passing from the centre of the field can be a real asset, has been pushed out by the arrival of the more conservative Funso Ojo. The problem over recent games has been that too many of those senior professionals have been way off form. However, Richardson has stuck with them. Jones in particular has been fortunate to have kept his place despite poor goalkeeping that has cost Latics dearly.

If Latics are to lift themselves for the visit of top-placed Lincoln City tomorrow a shake-up is needed. Having a backbone of experienced players can be of great value in a relegation dog-fight, but some need a break to help them regain their form. There are lots of hungry, talented young players at the club who can step in.

Amigo and Social Media reaction to a narrow defeat at Oxford

Oxford United 2 Wigan Athletic 1

The trip was always going to be difficult to play an Oxford side that had won 11 of their last 12 games. A soft goal conceded in the 83rd minute proved to be the decider despite the solid defence and endeavour we had seen from Wigan until the last 20 minutes when their legs seemed to become heavier.  

Leam Richardson named a lineup that was unchanged from the win at Northampton. In the first half they held their own physically.  Although Oxford had 65% of the possession the Wigan defence looked solid and well organised, the front players high pressing when the home defenders had the ball. Chances for both teams had been minimal.

Following a long half time break Callum Lang’s well taken goal after 57 minutes gave Latics a surprise lead. Lang took a knock not long after and was eventually substituted after 69 minutes by Joe Dodoo. The centre forward’s absence signalled a change in Wigan’s approach with the high pressing becoming less evident and Oxford dominating the game.

Latics were so often hoofing the ball away, inviting further pressure. Crosses were being too easily launched into the box with Wigan’s defence becoming increasingly hard pressed. After 72 minutes Brendon Barker was allowed to cross from the left flank, despite two Wigan players being in close attendance. Sam Winnall headed in with ease at the far post. Some ten minutes later Mark Sykes was  allowed the space to launch a cross into the centre where big centre back Elliott Moore outmuscled both Curtis Tilt and Scott Wootton to go on to score.

It was a defensive lapse that produced the deciding goal, but Latics had done well to hold a good Oxford side until those final 20 minutes.

After the game Richardson commented:

“With the emotion that went into half-time, we went in and passed information across and then you’re waiting 30-40 minutes to kick-off the second-half.  As a professional you must take the information on and display it anyway but it didn’t help either side.The second-half was really scrappy; we got our noses in front but two balls into our box we should defend better cost us.

Going forward I thought we got in some good areas where our numbers should have favoured us, albeit in difficult conditions today. Overall, I thought for 70 minutes we were worthy of something and in the last 15 or 20 minutes we self-destructed a little bit.”

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:

You are my sunshine commented:

Really disappointed and frustrated to lose that game. We were great for an hour, looked well organised and solid defensively as well as looking a threat going forward, getting into some decent positions. We just couldn’t quite get that final cross or pass right until Lang showed good strength and smashed the ball home.

The game then seemed to change after our goal. Lang went off a short time later and we had no outlet, got pushed back by their attacking subs and were also guilty of sitting back ourselves. After defending crosses well for the most part,to concede from those 2 crosses was disappointing, especially that 2nd one. We had 2 defenders to deal with it when the ball dropped and their guy had no right whatsoever to get in between them both from behind, out muscle them and score.

I thought Lang led the line superbly again and the game changed when he went off.All the other youngsters Aasgaard, Merrie, Robinson and Johnston also did well.

Despite the disappointment at losing, we have given the form team in division a decent game today and should’ve got at least a point,if not all 3 from the position we put ourselves in after our goal. But we take the positives, work on the negatives and go again on Wednesday!

SwindonLatic stated:

We’re not going to create enough chances with Aasgard and Keane playing either side of Lang. Aasgard has some nice touches but he loses the ball too much and Keane seems to be half the player he was a couple of months ago. We won’t improve and start creating chances until we have some more pace upfront to support Lang.

Victor Moses wrote:

Aasgaard can be wasteful, but he puts a respectable shift in. Pressed and won the ball for the goal, he also helps the fullback to defend.

He later added:

It’s not so much the effort levels that gets me its the output levels. Players in the team like Keane and Gardner in past weeks who simply cannot cover distance, with two slow midfielders central and pressing the half way line is a tough ask. They get too much free territory, also with the 5 at the back every failed cross attempt they easily collect because we drop so deep.

There’s not many if any defenders in this league that cope with being pressed, but we don’t do enough of it for easy turnovers. Sitting in waiting for the next passes is allowing their better players to operate.

Springy-Park commented:

Our defence keeps making the same mistakes, they cannot clear the ball and the opposition are scoring easy goals. We keep standing off teams and giving them far too much room, we are bunched up at the back and are easily by-passed by simple crosses which causes mayhem at the back.

Unless we get this sorted out very quickly we will lose contact with the bottom pack, we have to put far more pressure on teams and not retreat into our shell. As the saying goes the best form of defence is to attack, every team we play get the ball into our goal area as quickly as possible.


As Shankly said:

“If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be.”

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to three points for Wigan Athletic at Northampton

Northampton Town 0 Wigan Athletic 1

It was not a game for the purists, but Callum Lang’s opportunist goal after 82 minutes was enough to give Latics the points. The ground staff at the Sixfields had done a great job in keeping the pitch only barely playable in the freezing conditions. The result was a hard, bumpy surface, making skilful football very difficult for both teams. The hoof became the norm:  Latics did produce flashes of good football, the Cobblers very little.

With Tom Pearce possibly out for the long term and Jamie Proctor having to self-isolate, Leam Richardson wisely shuffled his lineup and tactics. Adopting a line of three central defenders provided the height and physicality to withstand Northampton’s aerial attacks.

Lang was moved to centre forward and for most of the game he was in the shackles of the Cobblers’ physical back line, chasing long balls. It is to his credit that he seized his moment to take his chance in a manner reminiscent of Will Grigg of yesteryear, racing on to Luke Robinson’s headed clearance to outpace two defenders and score with aplomb. It had been a game with few real chances for either team the best one for Wigan coming to Thelo Aasgaard early on, his shot hitting Lang.

Latics had taken the field with two 19-year-olds in their lineup. Robinson has played for Scotland at U18 and U19 levels, but it was his first league start for Wigan. Aasgaard, brought up in Liverpool and with a Norwegian father, represented Norway at U16 level. He is a class act and last night showed the glimpses of skill and physical presence that will make him a key player for Latics.

After the game Richardson commented:

“You know what you’re going to get from Keith Curle’s team and Northampton did put it to us in many ways. You’ve got to be up for meeting that challenge. My challenge to the lads was to make sure we were better than them in every area, which allowed us to impose our little bits of quality that we always felt we could get in certain areas.

We’ve set our criteria out, we know our aims and we’ve spoken about them now for a while. We’re a new group even in the middle of a season and our numbers are continually reduced, with Tom Pearce’s injury and Jamie Proctor’s positive Covid test after such a good debut.

Our lads are always training and learning, and that showed with Luke Robinson getting his full debut – he was outstanding. He’s played a massive part in us keeping a clean sheet and he’ll certainly remember his first 90 minutes for us.”

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:

Victor Moses commented:

The pitch was terrible, players falling over all game. Slipping, ball getting stuck in their feet. They were very direct, most players struggled to control the ball especially Keane, his was woeful.

Both of Langs goals he’s spun the defender before finishing nicely. Had more to do this time but took that goal very well.

Forgot to mention Aasgaard, played really well tonight. Whilst all the other players struggled to control the ball he was tidy and creative. Much better then we’ve seen from Gardner recently. Robinson did solid a lwb, Darikwa defended excellently.

Arthur_Itis said:

Wigan tried to play on the deck occasionally but the pitch was horrendous (the ball bobble waist height on a simple 10 yard pass at one point) so we ended up hoofing it and just don’t have the players for that tactic.
Northampton were set up for the hoof from the off, but Tilt and Johnston particularly battled well, and we managed to limit their chances.
Both teams were poor, but I felt we could have been much better if we’d been playing on a bowling green, whereas I felt they peaked no matter what the conditions.

Skem Tic  added:

For me that was a hard earned but well deserved win, Northampton looked like a team that were playing away against top of the league opposition. They appeared to be playing for a draw from about the fifth minute and became difficult to break down and were getting away with plenty of fouls, as usual we got no help from the usual Poor referee.
Langs goal was great, the strength he showed holding off two defenders pushing and pulling him back it would have been easy for him to go down, glad he didn’t the as it would have been waved away as a coming together by the ref!
Defence were much better tonight and the whole team looked like they wanted to play. Man of match for me Curtis Tilt! Keep it up Latics!

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to giving away three points to Wimbledon

Wigan Athletic 2 AFC Wimbledon 3

Reckless goalkeeping knocked the stuffing out of a Wigan Athletic team that had gritted its teeth and dragged the scores level after trailing by two goals in an awful first half display. Curtis Tilt’s header had pulled one back just before the half time whistle and debutant Jamie Proctor finished clinically to equalise after 68 minutes following awful defence by the visitors. It looked like Latics could go on and win the game until the 76th minute when Jamie Jones had a rush of blood to the head and clattered into Joe Pigott, who converted the ensuing penalty.

There were few bright spots for Latics in a mediocre game of football, but the return of Viv Solomon-Otabor was a welcome sight. Jamie Proctor had arrived on loan from Rotherham to cover the absence of Kyle Joseph who is out for the rest of the season with a back injury. Proctor is the kind of big target man centre forward that can be prevalent in the division. Like Marc-Antoine Fortune his career conversion rate has been unimpressive, but his physicality can upset defences and create opportunities for his teammates. It was good to see how he put away the goal today.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“The biggest disappointment for myself was how we started the game. We know what Wimbledon are, how honest they are as a team and we knew what to expect. I thought we responded okay with the goal before half time and came out in the second half the better team in the ascendency and then we don’t see it through which disappoints me.”

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:

Degsy1 said:

After a dismal 1st half we came back in the second and after levelling up we looked like we were good to take it !.

Let down again by a big defensive mistake !

I’m feeling so so p.ssed off this evening – if I wasn’t doing a “dry February” I’d defo get a few down my neck tonight !

Every bl..dy game I think – “this is where it turns around” …….”surely we’ll get three points ….” etc etc and each time we seem to get let down by giving silly goals away !

I think just a couple more inept performances like this and last week and we will be cut so far adrift it will take a miracle to get us back on tack !

FormbyLatic commented:

I’ve seen enough in this second half to think we have scope to improve once these players get used to playing together. We just need to knock the suicide defending on the head and continue to play with aggression. Another massively disappointing afternoon though.

Jonnysking added:

Play Evans (take your pick which one) in goal or no keeper at all and we couldn’t be much worse.
Wimbledon had four shots and three went in. Jones may be nice guy, but he is still a sh.t keeper which ever way you look at it. If a takeover does go through I can’t see anyone keeping this manager either.

Loudmouthblue opined:

It is not the job of the fans to offer alternate names, what worries me is we have not secured a loan keeper during the window and why management haven’t made it a priority.

I have been actively watching football as an adult for 47 years been a season ticket holder at WAFC for well over 30 of those years so please indulge me that while I dont always get it right with a good footballer as their style might not suit my liking, but I know a bad un when I see one especially in a keeper, I honestly cannot remember one as consistently error prone as Jones, you can put your mortgage on him giving at least one goal scoring opportunity in a game with an unforced error and that is unacceptable.

True Believer commented:

We definitely improved when VSO came on. We became more direct and the only problem was we didn’t get him involved enough. Should start him Tuesday if fit.

I am also not convinced that Callum Lang should be played wide, he has a tendency to let the ball go across his body and fails to control it then ends up fouling the defender to try to rescue the situation. Might be better as a number ten playing off Proctor.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to a woeful football game at Swindon

Swindon Town 1 Wigan Athletic 0

I did not have high hopes for Latics winning this game. In recent years Wigan have so often performed poorly against teams close to them at the top or bottom of a division, although Kyle Joseph’s epic hat-trick helped buck that trend fairly recently in a win at Burton. Moreover, Latics were fielding yet another new line-up in the centre of defence in Scott Wootton and Curtis Tilt, together with a debut for Funso Ojo in midfield. No time to gel.

After 17 minutes a lack of mutual understanding between the two centre backs allowed an unmarked Tyler Smith to head the ball at Jamie Jones who parried the ball away to an offside Brett Pitman to slot the ball home. It had been a dire game of football up to that stage and sadly for Wigan it got no better. Even though the home team were down to 10 men after Dion Conroy’s red card in the 64th minute Latics were toothless and devoid of imagination in attack. The midfield was static, as were the front three. More than anything else Latics seemed to lack the passion to get back into the game.

It was a frustrating game for Latics fans to watch, nothing more so than the sheer wastage of corner kicks. The quality of delivery of balls launched directly into the box from corners was woeful, but what was even more frustrating was a sterile routine on short corners, with the ball so often going back towards the half-way line, relieving pressure on the opposition defence. This is nothing new, but it was particularly frustrating in this game. A rethink needed from the coaching staff on the matter.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“It was a tough night. It took is 15-20 minutes for us to try and impose our style in tough conditions.The goal was very disappointing and then when they go down to 10 men, it’s about our decision making and asking the question of how can we be more productive?

Tonight wasn’t our night. The players were honest in their approach and we tried to play the right way, but we’ve got to be better with our quality and our end product.We’re disappointed with the goal, but when there’s change there are always going to be a few teething problems. We’ve changed again, drastically, and we aren’t blessed with great numbers to mix it up, but what we have got is an honest group who stand for each other in this situation. All we can do is continue to do our best for the club.”

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:

King_dezueew06 said:

Gardner didn’t bother closing down full back, Tilt didn’t pick up his man but Jones still should’ve done better. All deserve blame but Jones mucks up what should be routine saves too often.

True Believer responded:

Come on KDZ, the guy was left exposed again and actually made a snap save from a free header. That was never a routine save.

Once again the keeper will be ostracised for a complete shambles by the defence and blamed for a loss whilst the rest of the “toothless” team fail to get a shot on target.

The passing tonight was abysmal all sideways and backwards none of the midfield played a decent pass all night and because of this we failed to threaten a weakened defence after their CB and captain was sent off.


Too many people on here looking for a scapegoat and blinded by the fact that the keeper we have is L1 keeper and not a world class stopper.

FrancosLoveChild opined:

No excuses for that performance. Not buying the players need to gel or that we have a young side. Absolutely no fight for a relegation 6 pointer. Completely deserve relegation with torrid performances like that.

FormbyLatic stated:

I’m absolutely convinced that this is a confidence issue. The players are much better than the cr.p we saw tonight.

True Believer summarised:

TBH and getting away from the criticism of Jones we were absolutely clueless tonight. From back to front we didn’t help each other. The midfield were guilty of allowing runners to use the wings all game and failed to stop the crosses that were putting the CB’s under pressure.

The CB’s were asleep for the goal and the constant passing across the back slowed the game to walking pace and allowed the opposition to get their defence set.

Pearce was once again our main threat, but his throw in routine is crap. He ambles over to the ball and then waits to allow the opposition to mark up the runners before looking to play the ball. Darikwa on the other hand used Wootton on a good few occasions to get the ball back in play quicker.

Our forwards were static and gave the midfield no opportunity to play the ball to them. They should have been moving the CB’s around and making runs to break the line but instead stood in front of the backs giving them the time to make a challenge. When they did break the line the final ball was poor and often over hit allowing the opposition to mop it up and snuff out the threat.

All in all it was a poor performance and had Swindon had the confidence and players that Blackpool had we would probably have shipped more goals as in my opinion this was a worse performance than the one against the seasiders.

Hopefully we can put it right next time out and I still believe the players are capable of getting us the results we need
.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com