Being candid – a look at Cardiff (H)

 

 “I think, if I’m honest, they thought they were already down. That’s how I looked at the game. It was almost a case of frustration for them, this. This game’s not the one that’s got them relegated, is it? And I thought the crowd accepted it as well.”

Neil Warnock’s post-match remarks were not appreciated by some. The blunt Yorkshireman had gained an away point, after putting out a weakened lineup. He really did not have to say such things. But was there any truth in his assertions that both the players and the crowd thought Latics were already down?

I had gone to the match feeling that Latics had the slimmist of outside chances of staying up. If it was going to happen then a win over Cardiff was paramount. But Graham Barrow doused any fire that we might have had by naming yet another lineup packed with four central midfielders. The tactic was similar to that at Brighton five days earlier: keep things on hold until the final quarter when Nick Powell could come on to save the game.

Latics had 61% of the possession in the first half, but their lack of conviction had led one fan to suggest that they would not score if they played until next Christmas. Barrow had pushed Michael Jacobs further forward than he did at Brighton, but despite his energy, the final pass always seemed to be lacking. Not surprisingly the central midfield trio of Hanson, MacDonald and Perkins lacked creativity. Even a conservative manager might have played two of the three, leaving a space for a creative midfield player. If it were politics Barrow’s lineup could have been described as far right.

At half time a fan close to me said that he thought Latics were simply going through the motions and that both teams maybe thought they were on the training ground. Moreover the crowd had been so muted, not surprising given that they had already suffered thirteen home games when their team had not scored. It was a familiar pattern, Latics looking solid, but uninspired, as they have in so many games this season. Indeed Latics have so often played at least as well as their opponents but been let down by giving away a soft goal. It had almost happened again just before half time as Perkins somehow miscued the ball straight to Craig Noone in a good position. Luckily for Latics his shot hit the crossbar.

Sadly for Barrow, the introduction of Nick Powell in the second half did not produce the  desired effect, the Cardiff defence having appeared prepared for his arrival. In desperation Barrow brought on Alex Bruce for his debut, pushing Dan Burn up front, but apart from a prolonged bout of head tennis Latics still did not look like scoring. They didn’t and neither did Cardiff.

Once again the rumours were flying after the game. The latest one suggested that second half substitutes, Ryan Colclough and Sam Morsy, did not start the game because of appearance money clauses in their contracts. Following the Haugaard issue and the recent lack of game time for Morsy in particular one wonders as to the veracity of the rumours. Loan conditions and players’ contracts can be complicated matters these days. There were three loan players in the starting lineup on Saturday, including two in midfield. Were any of them there because of loan stipulations?

Barrow’s tactics and team selections over recent weeks have been reminiscent of his predecessor, Warren Joyce. Joyce never seemed to believe his players were capable of winning by putting out a balanced lineup. His emphasis was on massed defence and stopping the other team scoring. His ultra-defensive, fightball approach rarely worked. In contrast, under  Barrow, Latics have at least tried to serve up a decent level of football, even if they have been found wanting.

Near the end of the game a fan gave his view that, over the course of the season, Latics signed players who had not been making the starting lineups at their previous clubs. Moreover so many key players from last season’s League 1 title winning side have struggled in the higher division. Added to that were long-term injuries that forced the club to bring in more loan players than they might have done.

Given the stringent budget cuts the club will be making to cope with vastly decreased revenues in League 1 next season, we can expect that most of the players who graced the pitch on Saturday will be gone over the summer. It will be interesting to see how many of those who were previously successful in League 1 will remain.

There was news from the club yesterday that seven development squad players have been released. James Barrigan and Owen Evans were offered new contracts for another year, Josh Gregory and Luke Burke had already signed theirs. Those released include Sam Cosgrove, together with players who were instrumental in the record-breaking youth team of 2015-16. The cynics will say that once again the club is penny-pinching and ask why almost all of the young players coming through the youth ranks just do not make the grade.

The final two matches of the season offer the chance to give some of the club’s home-grown talent a first team opportunity.

Let’s hope that loan stipulations involving young players from other clubs do not impede this happening.

 
Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

“Joyce must go” – Latics fans react to Bristol City defeat on social media

The fan reaction on the social media to the midweek win at Birmingham was muted, to say the least. Put simply, so many people were wondering if that result was the heralding of another false dawn. Sadly it proved to be the case. Yesterday’s defeat by struggling Bristol City was not a surprise, despite the fact that the west country club had not won away since September

On this site we make an effort to provide a balanced view. We have never advocated the sacking of a Wigan Athletic manager. But a week ago we suggested that David Sharpe might look at giving Warren Joyce “sick leave” until the end of the season, after even a German commentator had used the English term “Kick and Rush” during his commentary of the televised Blackburn game. Quite frankly, the transformation from possession-style football to the type of “fightball” that persists in the Joyce era has been numbing. The manager’s focus on stopping the other team playing has blown away his own players’ ability to pass the ball.

Unless Joyce suddenly sees light on the road to Damascus, Latics are finished for the season. But the manager seems to have a stubbornness to confront reality, regularly shooting himself in the foot with inane comments that give people even more doubt in his credibility.

David Sharpe certainly made a mistake in ridding the club of Gary Caldwell so early, with Latics just one point from safety. But when Joyce was appointed we expected to see the kind of skilful football that his young teams at Manchester United produced regularly. Despite his lack of managerial experience Joyce must have been appealing to Sharpe. The promise of attractive football, together with an ability to develop young players, were Joyce’s trump cards.

The young chairman was hoodwinked. The standard of football we have seen since is on a par with that of the Malky Mackay era, hardly above what Latics could produce pre-1978 as a proud non-league club. Moreover Joyce has not used the young talent at the club, preferring to bring loan players from bigger clubs. Jordan Flores was dispatched on loan to Blackpool and seems unlikely to return. The exciting Luke Burke was pushed out of the senior squad and sent on loan to Barrow. In the meantime he is giving regular game time to young players from other clubs who will be gone at the end of the season.

Given the turnover that Latics have had with managers over recent years, added to the fact that Joyce has a three and a half year contract, Sharpe will be reluctant to dismiss Joyce. But if the inevitable (relegation) happens, and it almost certainly will, Latics will be back in League 1, but this time without parachute payments. What is even less palatable, for lovers of attacking football, is that Joyce might well continue. The near future seems bleak.

We have once more tried to compile a balanced view of social media comments, following today’s defeat. The reality is that pro-Joyce comments were practically impossible to find, following another sterile performance.

Once more, our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Charlz54 on Latics Speyk stated:

When Mackay was sacked, Sharpey said that as a fan he wanted a manager that would bring back the Wigan way in terms of how we played. Good passing football with an eye for goal! Well what I sat through this afternoon was certainly not the Wigan way……absolute rubbish to watch and a style of play that clearly does not excite the crowd and does not bring results. We need to get shut NOW and then maybe, just maybe a new manager might just bring that uplift needed to get us out of this……I know it’s a big ask but the way we are playing at the moment we will be relegated sooner than later with games to spare.
I want to enjoy my
football again….I’m not saying we should always win, I just want to be entertained.

 Si @king_dezeeuw06 tweeted:

@DavidSharpe91  sorry but you’ve got to sack WJ. We tried to back him but hes just clearly miles out of his depth – our football is appauling

Paul Kendrick @PKendrickWIG commented:

Sorry but can’t find any kind of positivity today. Could still be out there, with Bristol City on the coach, and wouldn’t have scored.

Laticus on Latics Speyk said:

This manager needs to do the decent thing and resign.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Taking off Obertan summed up our time under Joyce. First time since Yanic left we had genuine class up top. Looked fit and up for it.

Tony Moon on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams replied to a comment by saying:

To be fair Dave Carter as I said, I could take that, but the way we’re playing is a throwback to John Beck & Dave Bassett…. though they did it better

 Jonnysuffolk_Latic on Latics Speyk commented:

 If I were Joyce I wouldn’t resign, Sharpe has to sack him. Joyce’s tactics are atrocious, but he’s gone through surgery and has got back to the touchline asap, I don’t doubt he has given his all to the job so he shouldn’t be expected to resign. Sharpe (or Whelan) is the one who gave him the job, he’s the one who chose the inexperience, unproven manager when we clearly needed the opposite, he must be the one to admit the mistake.

 SJL @livesey99 tweeted:

Can’t wait to be rattling around in that souless breezeblock next season. 5000 watching Joyce setting up for a point against Southend

Coach 43 on the Cockney Latic Forum opined:

 Must go now, tactics far too negative for the whole season and can’t believe how low the skill level has dropped. This was a must win game and we wouldn’t have scored if still playing now. Saw Skem v Frickley Athletic in a cup game last year and they played better football. Uncle Dave looked quite shocked at the end of the game so hopefully will have a quiet word.

Craig Aspey @AS_caspey tweeted:

Play with intent to win, play with passion, play the hardest you can and do it every game.If you’re still second best then that’s forgivable.

PieArmy on the Cockney Latic Forum noted:

I think we must remember that the vast majority of football managers are not highly educated men, and quite often they will make two statements that completely contradict each other:

Quote: “Ryan wasn’t really playing during his loan spell, so he had a lot of work to do when he came back.”

Fact: He actually made made 14 starts and 9 sub appearances in the 25 games played. He even played on 30 Dec!

Now if WJ had said something akin to “During the last 6 weeks of his loan spell Ryan wasn’t getting enough game time which has impacted on his fitness level” then he would not look so much of a buffoon.

But then again, I would suspect Colclough has had more game time this season than a certain Mr Grigg, who now plays 2nd fiddle to someone who was playing non-league football last season, and is anything but on fire. If anyone needs a proverbial kick up the backside its him!

 WN5 on Latics Speyk added:

Wigan 0-0 Preston
Wigan 0-0 Forest
Blackburn 1-0 Wigan
Wigan 0-1 Bristol City

If that’s not sackable then what is? An absolute disaster of an appointment. Sharpey should also be held to account!

 JonWigan on the Cockney Latics forum said:

The tactics today couldn’t be further away from Caldwell’s. The approach today was hoof it toward to Omar “offside” Bogle and hope we can pick up the 2nd ball. Piss poor as a tactic, p.ss poor as a manager. Has to go!

 Whittleblue on Latics Speyk concluded that:

Another must win game against a relegation candidate, another disgrace, woeful, utterly pathetic performance.
Bristol City’s recent record is sh.t, fans are chanting for the manager to go yet there was only one team that appeared capable of winning it by building a small amount of momentum and pressure that we couldn’t muster. I couldn’t care less whether it was or wasn’t a corner or if it was offside or not, a point in any case was not enough – it was the total lack of attacking intent whatsoever that completely pisses me off.

I didn’t think we could stay up but I thought we had reasonable fixtures and playing with some intent you just never know. On the basis of recent games I’m unsure why I thought that, are players aren’t great in certain areas but I at least hoped if we were to go down we’d go down fighting so it gave us a chance. I must have been deluded. For f**ks sake you can’t keep playing in the same unadventurous manner when you need to win, those tactics, the game plan, the performance was just utterly perplexing and completely soul destroying. Enough is enough.

Snowblind on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

 The problem we have as fans is there’s not a glimmer of hope in the current situation, there is nothing we can get behind and have a bit of faith in.

I really think we are down, it’s too late now.

C’mon WJ you’re a decent fella, do the right thing, walk away it will hurt our club to have to buy you out.

 Peter Millward on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

Kenny Swain’s team tried to pass a ball. They were just terrible at it. To be fair, he was signing players from the Crewe second team at the time but, like Joyce, he wasn’t a manager either

Lowey on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

The question for me is no longer can he keep us up but do I want to watch any more of this negative sh.te. Easy answer for me.

Don’t score, don’t look remotely like scoring and play not a jot of football.

David Green on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams added:

The damage is already done lets get the season over with joyce then start ln league1 with an experienced manager who can recover the damage and sort this sh.t out

Danny_de_Zeeuw16 on Latics Speyk focused on the January window:

Warren Joyce has had a go and proved to be worse than caldwell. He has bought some terrible players into the football club and his negative cage the players up tactics has wrecked any hope of survival. I agree that we should have stuck with the side that got us up. But also that it was the January transfer window that killed us off and for that sharpe should take the blame for penny pinching.

We lost yanic who was our only inventive player who could produce something out of nothing. Ok he could be quiet and disinterested in some games but when you look at his impact on our attacking game, even when he sometimes only put in 50 per cent he was still too much too handle at this level. He was a phenomenal talent who could bail out his teammates a goal or an assist or even a crazy run to relieve pressure and get us up the pitch. So we got a 7m which on the face of it looks a good price but the timing left us with no chance of a replacement. We could still of sold him if we had stayed up and sold him if we had gone down, I’d argue for the same money if not more. If we had kept yanic then I really believe he would have been the difference against sides like Bristol and Blackburn etc which would now see us looking cosy like burton. Instead we have now brought in players who are not upto speed fitness wise or even upto scratch or a young player in Bogle who needs time to bed in.

When you look at his yanic replacements and signings

Obertan – looked good yesterday no idea why he got subbed. Actually has a bit of go forward. For me looks fairly rudimentary but if we play him wide right he will hurt lesser teams. Why has it tasked so long to play him???? He’s a professional athlete he’s fit enough he should be starting.

Connolly good young player but cannot be expected to play every single game. Starting like a house on fire and now he’s gassing and showing vulnerability in his pace and positional awareness. He will be a good un

Gilks I like him good solid keeper

Bruce – decent player but where is he and why are we paying for him if he’s injured? We have decent depth at centre back that’s a waste of money and cheaper 4th choice would ha e been better.

James weir – powderpuff player who has decent technical ability but lacks the fight or physical attributes. A nothing signing he’s a squad depth player and he doesn’t suit the style of play.

Bogle – great talent but he’s one for the future. You can’t pin your hopes on him he’s not ready yet. Get onside for gods sake

Mandron -league 1 at best, solid in the air but nothing we should be looking at. He’s a poor mans Craig Davies.

Tunnicliffe bloody awful he’s league 1 at best. Why on earth is he here? Jobs for the boys

Jamie Hanson – committed player decent cross might be one for the future but he looks like a right back who’s being forced into centre midfield. He never attacks

Laurent- no idea I need help on this one

Jack Byrne- looks a decent centre mid from when he was at Blackburn

Marcus Browne – barely played

Why did Joyce take colclough back to put him on the bench.

Time for a new manager or even barrow till the end of the year with a view of attracting the right man next year. We cannot show we accept mediocrity at this club

 LostockHallLatic on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

 This was a big game in our disastrous season and after Tuesday I was hoping that we would grasp the game by the scruff of the neck and go all out to win. Alas no, he turned a draw into defeat. Not spoken to a single fan who is happy with his cautious, try to sneak something style. No doubt he’ll reel off the excuses without having the balls to admit he’s got it wrong. I’m almost resigned to life in Div 1; so young Sharpie needs to act promptly, otherwise season ticket sales for next season will be non existent !

Joyce Out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Latics fans react on social media to Man U game

manupic

Only the most optimistic of Wigan Athletic fans would have expected their team to get some kind of result at Old Trafford.  Damage limitation was the best that most of us had hoped for. But Warren Joyce’s team performed well until Fellaini’s goal in the 44th minute. Latics had at least matched their expensive opponents up to that point and if Michael Jacobs had not fluffed a clear shot on goal they could even have been ahead before the big Belgian bruiser barged past Callum Connolly for that goal.

Once behind it was a tall order for a Latics team playing with just one forward. But early in the second half home keeper Romero fluffed a cross straight to David Perkins, one of the outstanding performers up to that point. But sadly Perkins is not known for his goal scoring and could not put the chance away. It was not an easy chance, but it was a lost opportunity to get back in the game. The seemingly inevitable was to follow, as Latics sank under United’s pressure.

Joyce had once again put on a cautious line up, loading the midfield. But until Fellaini’s goal they had looked well organised and were holding their own. The defence had been solid and the midfield industrious. Joyce’s influence on the defensive make-up of his teams is clear. He is making Latics a hard team to beat. However, it is on the offensive side where the work still needs doing. As yesterday’s game wore on, Will Grigg looked more and more isolated in the lone centre forward role. Given the team’s lack of goals it is worrying to hear rumours about Yanic Wildschut being sold off. Craig Davies has already left for Scunthorpe and Adam Le Fondre was not even on the bench yesterday. Neither was Jordi Gomez. Some say that Gomez is not a Joyce-type player. It would therefore be no surprise if he and Le Fondre were to depart in the next couple of days.

Yesterday’s Paul Kendrick’s headline read “We don’t want to sell Yanic – Joyce”, with the manager being quoted that: “It’s simple as far as I’m concerned – you don’t want to sell your best players. I’ve come here and I’m trying to build a football club. I don’t think Yanic had played a full game this season before I came to the football club. He’s progressed, he’s lost weight, he’s sharper, he’s fitter.” Rumour suggests that Wildschut will go if Latics are offered between £5-£6 m. The manager clearly does not want to lose one of his key players, but the Chief Executive and Chairman appear to have different ideas.

Losing Wildschut would be a hammer blow for a manager trying to keep his team in the division. Some would say that the club could use at least some of the funds to sign a replacement, but Latics will be reluctant to pay a significant transfer fee for a player who will expect a high salary to match. Given that Latics already have more loan players than they can field in  a match, the likelihood would be to go for a free agent or a younger player from the lower divisions.

All will be revealed in the next couple of days.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

lineker

Max Power @power_m4 tweeted:

Great experience today, thought we gave a good account of ourselves despite the result! Thanks for the support.

David Sharpe @DavidSharpe91 responded:

Scoreline is harsh but very proud of the boys. 1st half we were excellent. Equally as proud of our fans, non stop singing for 90 mins

Argus on the Cockney Latic Forum commented that:

We’ve scored 1 goal at Old Trafford in what 9 goes and that was a last minute Baines penalty in 2006 I think.We were 1 minute away from a perfect 1st half performance.You really didn’t think we were going to go gung ho at them did you – they would have scored a hatful similar to their 3rd if we had. We should have been 1-0 up if Jacobs had connected instead of that air shot in the 1st half.

Morsy’s performance showed the class difference between the PL and the Championship. He was fairly anonymous today.That was one of our better performances there and we should be OK for the rest of the season.4th bottom will do at this stage then we can take stock and consolidate ready for next season.

Jonjo Gallagher @JonjoGallagher tweeted:

I mean this whole heartedly I do not want to get back to that greed league that isn’t football, where is my sport gone #wafc

 Jocklatic on Latics Speyk commented on the atmosphere at Old Trafford:

Well we tried hard to give them a game n up until their goal against the run of play we was holding our own. Had we held on to a 0-0 till half time then it wud have been a different game …but my oh my what an absolutely abysmal atmosphere there is from the ‘ tourist’ that visit there….it is awful n no wonder teams in the prem can come n get a win. No pressure from home crowd, no atmosphere, no intimidation of away team in fact it was so sterile it was like a pre season game. Even walking up to the game from the cricket club was directed….ffs support yer team (utd)…..worst home support I’ve seen …even worse than blackpool away last season who r boycotting the club…..big team my a..e

Donnys Page on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

If you go to a place like Old Trafford and try to stifle and slow them down eventually you get what you deserve. Totally different match plan from the last three games and left Grigg so isolated on his own. Brought on Yanic for pace but soon after took off the only striker at the club and no further positive options on the bench. Two of the pointless signings had a run out but hopefully we won’t be seeing them again. Let us hope we get back to the style and approach we had for the three wins. Very disappointed today but at the end of the day we were playing the bank but just wish we could have been more positive and not have just put up a brick wall. Could we have lost with a greater score?

Ihaventaclue on Latics Speyk was positive about the performance:

We were great today. Well done every one. Cracking good atmosphere – in our corner, but blimey how 60,000 can do nothing except a half hearted cheer when a goal goes in ….. is beyond me. No wonder they needed all the help they could get from the ref. Actually with their reputation I was really surprised, I was expecting more.

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

I think it’s open for debate whether the keeper should have come out for the ball. In my eyes, Connolly was too lightweight and allowed Fellaini to outmuscle him. That said, it was a decent defensive performance till the goal, but it was game over when it went in with Joyce’s reluctance to support his lone forward.

Loudmouthblue on Latics Speyk thought the goalkeeper was at fault:

The cross for Fellaini’s goal came from wide and was very high, in the air a long time and travelled along the six yard box, any decent keeper, especially one that is 6ft 7in would have come for that.

Hindleymonwafc  on Latics Speyk questioned the case:

The cross was excellent….how can you blame any keeper for being in two minds about that .

 MightyBongsmon on Latics Speyk added:

That cross was too high & deep for any keeper to come out for. If you want to look at blame for the 1st & 2nd goals blame the players who didn’t put pressure on the guy who crossed it & the full backs for getting out muscled & outjumped. Mind you that’s nit picking. I looked at taking 4-0 before kick off but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I also thought that in the 1st half Latics were the better side but that Jacobs miss & their goal killed us

Northern Soul on Latics Speyk thought Connolly had been fouled:

Outmuscled? I’d hardly calling getting elbowed in the face outmuscled. Since when is that anything other than a foul?

Piemon on Latics Speyk questioned the consistency of the refereeing:

Completely sour grapes from me here but …If Fellani commits two professional fouls and isn’t booked for either, and then Burn is booked for one similar foul . . . how was Fellaini still on the pitch to score the opener? At the end we just ran out of steam after a stonking first half performance

 Noel Wards Leg on Latics Speyk summed up by saying:

Lots of plus points aside from the result. For me the biggest was that we created chances – something we failed to do against very ordinary opposition until quite recently. The players are fitter and working hard.

Several players who did not look up to the task earlier in the season are now looking very, very good players. I thought Max Power looked our classiest player today but I’m just in awe of Perks for his ability to break up play and run all day at an age when others are retiring.

I liked Gary Caldwell and am grateful for what he did for us but even last season I was never overly convinced of his style of play. For me he erred too much on the side of patience and not enough on the side of urgency. Warren Joyce is beginning to have success at instructing players to look for the forward pass and to have players looking for space between the lines. It provides for more entertaining football I feel and we saw evidence of that today even against the richest club in the world.

I’m desperately hoping that we get a new striker in in the next couple of days but I would imagine that whoever it is will only be there providing support to Will Grigg and not necessarily improving the team.
yanictwitter

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

Another fire sale, another relegation?

   firesale2

The January transfer window was approaching and Wigan Athletic had just lost their fifth game out of the seven they had cahmp-table-2014-15played under their latest manager. Their line up in that match against Sheffield Wednesday was studded with ex-Premier League players. They were playing a mid-table team with the lowest goals-for record in the division. Sadly it was not to be and Latics went down 1-0.  Callum McManaman’s sending off after 68 minutes surely being a contributory factor. The New Year of 2015 saw Latics second from bottom of the Championship with just 20 points from 24 games played.

There are clear parallels between the current New Year period in 2017 and that of a couple of years prior. Latics are once again second from bottom and their new manager yesterday suffered his seventh defeat in nine games in charge. Rumours are already floating around the social media of another fire sale of players, as happened in 2015. But surely the club has learned from recent history? Is another fire sale the answer to turning around the team’s fortunes?

But the fundamentals of the situation of a couple of years ago and that of now differ. In January 2015, the club did it as a means of drastically slashing its wage bill. Malky Mackay was the hapless manager who had to oversee it and patch up his squad, largely with young champ-table2017loanees and free agents on short term contracts. There was surprisingly little uproar from the fans at the time, with the likes of cup final heroes Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and Ben Watson being dispatched at bargain prices. People had been so disillusioned by a perceived lack of effort from the players that many did not question that a big shake up was required.

The rumours of the next departures are already floating around the social media. Nathan Byrne to Charlton, Sam Morsy to Barnsley on a permanent deal, Will Grigg to any club willing to pay £2m for him, Adam Le Fondre’s loan from Cardiff to be cut short, currently linked with Scunthorpe. We will doubtless see many more rumours flying around the message boards in the coming weeks. Some will have substance, some not. Once again many fans will welcome a shake-up, with so many players in the current squad being labelled as League 1 players, not of Championship standard.

A current poll on Vital Wigan indicates that 56% of fans believe that Warren Joyce can turn things around if given time. A significant proportion cast the blame for the club’s current predicament on Gary Caldwell and his recruitment team. Others cite Joyce’s inexperience as a manager and the woeful tactics and team selections we have seen over the past couple of months. But how much longer will David Sharpe be willing to wait if Joyce cannot deliver over the coming weeks? Sharpe will hopefully have learned from two years ago when he left it too late in the season to rid the club of Malky Mackay.

Rumours suggest that Joyce is trying to sign 34 year old Dean Whitehead, an experienced higher leagues player, although his better days are behind him. The big question is whether Sharpe will back Joyce with the funds needed to bring in quality reinforcements, a task complicated by the fact that Latics are currently on track back to League 1. Given the recent pronouncements of Jonathan Jackson on the club’s finances it seems more likely that Latics will sell off their prime assets – certainly Will Grigg and possibly Yanic Wildschut – and bring in loannees and experienced players of the ilk of Whitehead on short term contracts. With the prospect of a return to League 1 looming, Jackson and Sharpe will be unwilling to speculate on big money and long term contracts to tempt quality players to come in.

The fire sale of two years ago led to relegation. Repeating such actions this month will surely lead along the same path.

There are dangerous times ahead in the coming weeks.

 

Like us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter here.

Champagne football returns to the DW –Latics 3 Blackburn Rovers 0 – with match highlights

It was probably Nick Powell's best display in a Wigan shirt.

It was probably Nick Powell’s best display in a Wigan shirt.

It brought back memories of the champagne football of yesteryear. Admittedly Rovers looked a poor side, but the quality of Wigan’s play in the first half was reminiscent of that of those glorious times of the tail end of the 2012-13 season. In those days Shaun Maloney had been at the heart of it: yesterday it was Nick Powell.

Gary Caldwell stuck with the 3-5-2 formation. With Jake Buxton suspended, Stephen Warnock moved to left centre back, with Dan Burn in the middle and Craig Morgan on the right. David Perkins was played as a left wing back, with Nick Powell taking his place in midfield.

Wigan soon settled into a positive rhythm, building up from the back, but not averse to launching calculated long balls. The wing backs were lively, the midfield fluid and classy, the two forwards constantly searching for space. Latics’ high pressing caused Blackburn problems from the start and Alex Gilbey might have scored as early as the third minute after Yanic Wildschut had dispossessed centre back Shaun Duffy and rolled the ball into his path. Gilbey fired narrowly wide.

Given Wigan’s dominance it came as no surprise when they scored after 14 minutes. A glorious long diagonal pass from Morgan to Wildschut initiated a move that saw Max Power teed up for a shot from outside the box. Power’s shot was wayward, but Will Grigg instinctively got his head to the ball and it flashed into the net. The champagne football continued, with Powell orchestrating the play, together with his midfield partners, Gilbey and Power. Latics almost went two up after 25 minutes with Wildschut hitting the crossbar but another goal was surely coming. It happened in the 33rd minute when Powell curled in a free kick from the left side of the penalty area, goalkeeper Steele getting hands to it, but unable to keep it out.

Latics went into half time with a two goal lead after playing scintillating football. But one wondered if they could keep it going or whether they would go into their shells as they did at Bristol a week before. Could they keep up that same intensity?

It turned out that they couldn’t. However, although they were to take their foot off the gas they remained in control. As the second half wore on, Powell’s influence was to diminish, as was the high pressing that had characterized their first half display. Powell was to go off after 62 minutes, being replaced by Michael Jacobs.

The visitors had started to come back into the game, but a minute later an own goal by the unfortunate Duffy from a superb cross by Jacobs was to knock them back on their heels. Tim Chow replaced the excellent Luke Burke after 75 minutes, with Craig Davies coming on for an equally excellent Will Grigg after 81 minutes. The game was to peter away with Latics seemingly having Tuesday’s game against Birmingham City uppermost in their minds.

The Good

The signing of Nick Powell a couple of weeks ago was a gamble. Lacking first team football over the past two years and being beset by injuries, Caldwell was nevertheless hoping the player could regain that spark that he showed in Owen Coyle’s days at Wigan. But Powell’s midfield play was a revelation in this match, probably his best display in Latics colours. He looked a complete player in midfield, his technical abilities being allied with a keen workrate. Gary Caldwell later remarked that:

That’s what Nick can do when he has got his mind on it and he’s right. He’s been first class since he came in, worked really hard with the fitness coaches – credit to them for getting him fit – and I’d probably say he’s working at a fitness level of about 60% at the moment and yet you saw today what he could produce.

Alex Gilbey also had a fine game. He is another player with a great technique, but he was to ally that with excellent movement off the ball and a willingness to fight for possession. Although in some ways a similar type of player to Max Power there seems to be room in the Wigan midfield for the two.

Luke Burke continues to impress. He is the complete wing back, intelligent in his distribution, strong in the tackle, with a level of composure that belies his 18 years of age. One wonders how he will fare when used as an orthodox right back when the manager opts for a conventional back four. On the evidence of what we have seen so far he should slot in seamlessly.

David Perkins was also impressive at wing back, constantly supporting attacks, solid in defence. The back three were strong, Craig Morgan being his usual calm influence, with his fine distribution. Dan Burn looked much more comfortable in the centre of the back three, where he was able to use his height to greater effect, winning headers, but he was also effective on the ground. Stephen Warnock was excellent throughout, tenacious in the tackle, thoughtful in his positioning, showing better judgement with his passing.

There have been questions as to whether Will Grigg can perform above League 1 level. On the basis of this performance there is no doubt that he can. Although faced with two uncompromising central defenders he led them a merry dance, his intelligent movement creating space. Yanic Wildschut was also impressive in a role where he has freedom to roam, rather being tied to a wide position which makes it easier for the opposition to nullify his efforts. Moreover the Dutchman is showing an increasing awareness of the positioning of his colleagues, more effective in his passing.

The Bad

Once again the second half performance was a disappointment after the first. Is there something in the players’ mindsets, is it a fitness issue, is it the manager’s desire to drop back on defence and hit on the counterattack? Or is it associated with the natural ebb and flow of a football game?

Whatever it is it needs to be addressed. Not only is it unfair on the fans, who go to a match hoping for entertainment, but it also lets teams off the hook who could have been dead and buried if the intensity had been kept up.

Uwe Rosler used the high pressing tactic to great effect during his better days at the club, although his players were unable to sustain it beyond the first half. Yesterday it was enough to unbalance the Blackburn defence in the early stages, but it dissipated as the game progressed.

It would be refreshing to see a Latics team, in the lead at the interval, come out and attack the opposition as soon as the second half starts. One can understand a team taking its foot off the gas in the final quarter, given another encounter being just three days away. But the second half slump is something that needs to be addressed.

Player Ratings

Adam Bogdan: 7 – had a fairly quiet time.

Luke Burke: 8 – excellent.

Craig Morgan: 8 – an understated, consistent performer and a calming influence on the defence.

Dan Burn: 8 – his best game so far.

Stephen Warnock: 8.5 – seems to relish that left centre back position. Influential.

David Perkins: 8 – as selfless as ever, but showing no mean level of skill too.

Max Power: 8 – getting back to his old form. Will he claim an assist for Grigg’s goal?

Alex Gilbey: 8.5 – looks a class player.

Nick Powell: 9 – a terrific display.

Will Grigg: 8.5 – a fine performance. His goal bore the stamp of a true poacher.

Yanic Wildschut: 8 – very good.

Substitutes:

Michael Jacobs: – came on after 63 minutes. Worked hard.

Tim Chow: – on for Burke after 75 minutes.

Craig Davies: – it was good to see the big man come on in the last 10 minutes for a tired Grigg. There have been rumours that he is on his way out of the club, but his physical presence gives Caldwell more options.