Reactions on the social media to Latics’ defeat at Forest

Nottingham Forest 3 Wigan Athletic 1

 

The goals were scored by well-hit long-range shots. Unfortunately three were in favour of Forest. Josh Windass’ first half equaliser was not enough as once again Wigan caved in the second half. Hoofball prevailed and Latics now have just 5 points from their 15 away games. It is crisis time and relegation is looming.

After the game Paul Cook commented: “…. I’m looking at each and every one of my players and wondering whether they can give me any more – I’m not so sure they can do. They kept going for the full 90 minutes, but the mistakes we’re making are just repetitive ones, the same ones.”

Are Wigan Athletic good enough to stay up? Is their current plight due to a lack of quality and depth in the squad or inept management from Cook? Or is it both?

It is our norm to write a “Five Talking Points” reaction following a match. But that would mean going over things we have written before. In order to get a broader view than our own we trawled the social media and message boards, attempting to achieve some balance, by no means easy as emotions come into play.

Our overview is that Latics have a low wage budget for the Championship division and it does not look like things will change with the new ownership. They will struggle away from home to mid-table teams such as Forest, whose wage bill is at least double that of Wigan’s. However, with good management Latics can punch above their weight as they did for so many years in the Premier League. The FA Cup win was the prime example of that.

Paul Cook is a lucky man to still be in the job. But it is his first season as a Championship manager and his squad needs strengthening. At times the football we have seen has been no better than some of us saw in the pre-1978 era. But at other times, when the tactics are right and the players diligently follow them, Latics can beat top teams in the division, at home at least.

We continue to advocate for Cook staying on but he continues to frustrate in terms of team selection and tactics. Although the manager carries the can for poor results the players too must shoulder some burden. The physical effort is there for all to see there are too few who are willing to stick their necks out and not take the easy option of a pass backwards or a hoof forward. But Cook has marginalised too many players who have talent, stubbornly keeping faith in his chosen ones who are not delivering.

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

True Believer on Latics Speyk commented:

I will repeat what I said last week. We are still six points clear of the drop and the teams below us are as incapable of getting a win as we are, I know it is not what we want football wise but the reality is that we are still in the driving seat. I really cannot see Ipswich and Bolton reversing their form and I hope that we can pull off a result against Rotherham to pull us clear. We have just ticked another game off and with just seventeen games left I really don’t see the teams below us winning two games more than us. Survival was the aim for this season and is still in our grasp.

It was still a sh.t result today though.

SH on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Our form is indefensible.

It’s a red herring blaming injuries. Our style of play away from home is unrecognisable. Today the back four hit it long at the first opportunity. Not direct play, aimless play.

Windass and Garner started to form some understanding against Villa with nice link-up play. But Cook continues to shake things up and we end up looking like strangers on the field. Windass and Vaughan never once looked to play each other in, they operated like lone strikers, chasing down long-balls, isolated.

Same can be said for midfield, not that they had much to do today, with the ball flying over their heads. Morsy and Evans should always be paired up. Ideally allowing the former to drive upto the edge of the box and help out in attack. On the right Byrne is wasted, outmuscled, and lacks guile. Stick him in his familiar right-back role and push James into midfield. At least when Pilkington and Massey are unavailable.

This long-ball crap away from home has been going on since October. No one can explain why Cook persists with it. Well, some try, but our points return says it all. And for those hanging onto that 6pt gap to the relegation spots. Let’s focus on ourselves and up expectations. I want us as a club to fulfill our potential and not target one place better than the three worst sides in the division. We all know many clubs in this division have greater resources. But 2pts from 39, away from home, shows we are massively underperforming.

C_Latic on Latics Speyk commented:

The Jones experiment was fun while it lasted, Walton back in for QPR please.

Recruitment team can be blamed for that loss, two goals coming from our LB’s defensive unawareness. Of course if they’d signed a LB that could have been prevented.

Oh and I’m certainly not Grigg’s biggest fan but let’s just allow it to sink in that we’re about it sell him in favour of Vaughan and Garner! Both attempting to outdo each other with how big a sitter each can miss.

Fair play to Jacobs, best player on the pitch, James and Windass not bad either, rest are awful. Dunkley awful long ball passes aside was alright as well, unlike Kipre he actually wins his aerial battles.

 Oi on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Shame on cooky for not sticking to his word at the beginning of the season. These tactics he’s employing at the moment are awful. I fear we will not win another game this season of cook is allowed to carry on with these tactics. Is it just me or is Gibson one of the worst midfielders we have ever had. How can our defenders “pass” the ball out more than our midfielder. I hate to say it as I really do rate Cook, but I think he has lost his mind with this shite football. Maybe time for management change?

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

With five days left till the window shuts, it’s looking likely that there will be no significant money spent. It’s also looking likely that any change of manager will come in May, if that’s the case. Large amounts spent in the next few days will probably mean that Cook’s here for a while. None, or very little, that he’s just keeping the seat warm.

Mr Brownbill on the Cockney Latic Forum opined:

Should have been potted 3 weeks ago….but new man would have had to rework what we have cos looks like we have 1 out 0 in policy. Thank god Bolton and Ipswich really look destined to drop …we are on a par with these at present.He is showing zero signs of getting to grips with the mess and with the form at present how can anyone want to suffer this shit any longer is beyond me……get rid.

The Egg on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

If a salesman is given a target of 100 sales in a year and after 60% of the year has made 60 sales will he get sacked? No because despite not hitting target yet he is in line to do so.

Granted if he had only made 10 sales after 60% they probably would.

Cook was given the task to keep us up. We still haven’t been in the bottom 3 yet and until we are I can’t them pulling the trigger. Think it will be the new man with 7 or 8 games to go scenario.

Made in Wigan on Latics Speyk commented:

Did anyone expect anything but a loss at Forest? Didn’t go, but mate who did said we were absolutely useless again against a woeful forest team.

We are now between a rock and a hard place. Personally I thought the time to change manager was at the start of the month. Would be strange timing to do so now when the window is closing. Regardless I think there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. It’s like Groundhog Day every away game and I’m struggling to see where the next result is coming from. Bar a couple of home victories our form has nose dived. After the Villa game I was hoping it would be a catalyst but understand today’s game was more of the same dross. Couple that with an intent to sell our best striker for relative peanuts, reluctance to sign a specialist left back and general ineptitude in the transfer which shows no signs of abating I am no longer convinced. It seems our hopes of survival are resting on other teams being worse than us and relying on other teams isn’t a good position to be in.

Despite the odd timing to change managers reluctantly I think Cooks position is now virtually untenable. I say reluctantly as I like him and think he is a better manager than what we are currently witnessing despite the shite he has signed. The dilemma is do we stick or twist before the next block of 4 or 5 fixtures in which we have to pick up a decent points haul from? I think the answer is dependent on who we had lined up to replace him.

Chris Stafford on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams added:

Let’s just limp to the end of the season . I have a feeling this is what the board are thinking . Cook will go at end of season I think and they will get there own man in.

King_dezeeuw06 on Latics Speyk said:

Garner, Evans and Roberts dropped Vaughan, Byrne (on wing) and Gibson in?!

Cook said Garner would score goals if we gave him a run of starts – he has improved a bit in reccent weeks and then gets dropped what are we supposed to make of that?

Byrne on the wing again – why? it has failed miserably every time to offer any threat we tried it and have Macca available or even Roberts better than him for midfield. I rate Byrne as a full back but as a winger Walker who wasn’t ripping up trees in L1 deserves a chance ahead of giving Byrne another start there.

Gibson literally can’t run and has been responsible for so many crap goals. He shouldn’t even be on the bench let alone in before MacDonald.

Before a ball was kicked you knew Bryne would offer zero threat and be subbed or moved into defence, Gibson would stand off everyone and come off knackered and Vaughan would get subbed off after posing zero threat. And all 3 happened like clockwork – how can our management not see this and avoid it?

Jones can’t save a shot if it’s outside the box. He is turning into as much of a liability as Walton but in different ways. Need a new keeper asap neither of ours are good enough. Our midfield can’t not realise this but make no attempt to stop the shot.

Our defensive organisation is all over the place and every time they get the ball down and play we look wide open. Our midfield pressing was so poor we back off and give them time and space to pick a pass or shoot – which is suicidal with Jones in goal.

Our set pieces are just pointless we pose zero threat and most of the time don’t even manage to get the ball into the box. What do we do in training all week?

Morsy is the ball carrier in our team that makes us tick but he was pushed up to accomodate Gibson in a 4-1-4-1 and it nullified his main attributes – bonkers decision. He now misses the QPR and Rotherham game through suspension for yellows too. We are f—ed without him in centre mid for those games. We desperately need another def mid to play with Morsy all 3 summer signings – Evans, Connolly and Gibson are varying degrees of not good enough and not even better than Max was.

Vaughan just not good enough every time he gets anywhere near a decent position he miscontrols the ball or falls over. All he does is run around and foul people. I respect his effort but he’s just not got the ability it shouldn’t be a shock since he hasn’t performed at this level in 5 or so years for Huddersfield, Birmingham, Sunderland or us. Could the taller, stronger and faster Cole really offer less? Despite not doing much in L1 I’d still give him a go ahead of Vaughan at this point.

Thought Dunks and Kipre threw themselves in front of everything and they had to as they had minimal protection it prob would’ve been worse if it wasn’t for them. Jacobs and Windass tried to take some responsibility and run with the ball but had no support if they broke and often mucked up the final ball when they rarely got in great positions. Windass shot prob should’ve been saved by their keeper but at least he had a go which hardly anyone else does. He also won us another penalty that Garner mucked up – why take an identical penalty to the one you took 2 weeks ago?! Especially when the last one only just went in and the Forest keeper is 6’7 and more likely to stretch across if you go the same place and put no power on it.

Forest were crap and easily there for the taking, but we were worse. It was too much long ball and no one getting forward. There is just no tempo, no organisation, no urgency or intensity. So poor again – Villa was clearly a fluke rather than a turning point where lessons were learned – we have been gifted enough teams playing poorly enough to get points but every time we get a bad side we manage to play badly enough to still lose to them. When other teams often go behind they pile on pressure and push the other team back when we go behind the other team ends up pushing us back further.

We stuck with Cook when we had the best opportunity to make the change so we probably arent going to change now. But we are just so poor with no signs of improving our flaws or learning from our mistakes. He should’ve gone by now but he’ll get the next 2 must win games no matter what just got to pray we scrape 4th bottom due to our good start giving us enough of a cushion to somehow keep 3 teams below us. But if you’re best hope is not you being good enough but pray others conspire to be worse than us is a sign what you are doing is not good enough. Staying up this season should be easy with the amount of awful teams and we are going to at best scrape it by the skin our our teeth and I don’t think we may even be good enough to do that. We look a beaten team who’s ran out of ideas who are too afraid to attack and just hoping for the outside chance to not lose.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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Selling off prized assets would be a hammer blow to good football at Wigan

Nick Powell and Will Grigg to be gone within the coming week? Photo courtesy of Goodbrand Stats@StatsChristian

The writing was on the wall. No contract nailed down for Nick Powell and Will Grigg out of favour with the manager. Given the situation has been festering for weeks it is no surprise to hear the media telling us that Powell will soon be off for Glasgow and Grigg to Sunderland.

Over the summer we were nervous about Wigan Athletic selling off their prized assets. In terms of market transfer value, the trio of Dan Burn, Will Grigg and Nick Powell were head and shoulders above the rest.

It was a relief when the summer transfer window closed and only one of those assets was sold. The sale of Burn to Brighton for around £3m helped underpin the signings of Cedric Kipre (around £1m), Leonardo Da Silva Lopes (around £800,000), Joe Garner (around £1.2m) and Josh Windass (around £2m).

The Powell and Grigg transfers would bring in around £3.5m. Should they leave – and we expect they will – what effect would it have on the team’s ability to stay in the Championship division?

Latics started the season utilising players who were the backbone of the League 1 title winning team. The loss of Dan Burn and Nathan Byrne through injury meant that the 21-year-old Cedric Kipre and the 18-year-old Reece James were drafted into the defence.

Nevertheless, the starting lineup in the first game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday still contained seven of last season’s regulars: Christian Walton, Chey Dunkley, Sam Morsy, Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell and Will Grigg. The early season form was promising, built around the mutual understanding between those players whose confidence was high following their previous successes in League 1.

However, as time went injuries took five of those seven out of the equation for periods of months. The front four of Massey, Powell, Jacobs and Grigg had combined so well the previous season and looked like they were going to continue to show that positive chemistry in a higher division. But the last time that quartet was to play together was at Stoke in late August.

Since those early days of the season when Wigan were so enjoyable to watch the quality of football has plummeted. The team has lacked creativity and a cutting edge. The smooth attacking football has only returned on occasions, the norm being a so-called “direct” approach. Nevertheless, even then chances have been created but the finishing touch has not been there. Some would say that had not Cook not left his best goalscorer, Will Grigg, so often on the bench, more points would have been picked up.

Grigg has made only 10 starts in the 28 league games this season. When asked why the player with the best career goalscoring record has been so consistently omitted Cook retorted that it was because his supply line of Jacobs, Massey and Powell had been injured. The bizarre response of the manager is of concern to those of us who prefer an emphasis on a creative approach. Largely through the assistance of that supply line Grigg scored 26 goals in 53 appearances last season, but is that to suggest that he cannot score goals without them? His career record shows that he can.

The debate continues among fans whether Will Grigg is a Championship-level striker. The last time he was there in 2016-17 he scored 7 goals in 38 appearances. In both that season and this he has had niggling injuries that have impeded his progress. Some critics will say that the pressure of playing against higher quality defenders has led to those injuries.

Grigg is an intelligent footballer. He knows how to run into space, timing his runs adeptly to stay onside. He showed his quality against Premier League opposition in the FA Cup last season. His strike against Manchester City will be etched in the memories of Latics fans for year to come. But Grigg also scored at Bournemouth and got two against West Ham.

When Wigan resort to a long-ball approach he has tended to be less effective. But so have the other strikers who have competed with Grigg for his place. In fact, so many of the long balls launched from defence have been of low quality, leaving an unsupported central striker a hopeless task of evading two big central defenders.

Nick Powell’s last appearance was on November 28 against Blackburn Rovers. It could be the last he played for Latics. We have waited since summer to hear news of an extension of his contract, but nothing has resulted. Have the player’s wage demands been beyond what the club is willing to pay? Or are they unwilling to commit to a long-term contract on a salary well above Wigan norms for someone who has had major injury problems over recent years?

If he leaves Powell will be sorely missed. He has been the orchestrator behind the best football the team has played in the past eighteen months, a virtually irreplaceable asset. However, his contract runs out in summer when he can leave as a free agent. Media reports suggests that both Celtic and Rangers are keen to sign him before the transfer window closes in a week’s time.

Latics will press for realistic prices if they are to let both Grigg and Powell leave. Rumour has it that they will push for £1m for Grigg and £2.7m for Powell.

Should the transfers go ahead what proportion of any incoming funds would be invested in new players? Moreover, will the club’s recruitment be more effective than it was in summer?

Up to this point Latics have signed only one player in the January window, free agent Anthony Pilkington. With the departures of Dan Burn and Alex Bruce Latics certainly need cover in the centre of defence. They also need someone who can play left back with Antonee Robinson still injured.

Reports tell us that they have offered Reading £450,000 for Tyler Blackett and Nottingham Forest £200,000 for Danny Fox. Both can play at left back or in central defence. They are also interested in free agent Alex Milosevic, a Swedish international central defender.

Defensive reinforcements will be brought in, but the big question is what is going to happen to the quality of football if Grigg and Powell are released?

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Five talking points following a depressing performance at Hillsborough

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 0

 

Following the uplifting display against Aston Villa we witnessed another depressing performance at Hillsborough. Two poor teams offered little by the way of entertainment, although the conditions did not make things easy for either side. The game was decided by an excellent strike by Wednesday centre forward Steven Fletcher, aided by a lack of challenge from the Wigan midfield. But the home side were deserved winners, having eight shots on target compared with one from a toothless Latics outfit.

Paul Cook had named an unchanged side. Latics started positively but they were reluctant to push men forward to support the lone striker, Joe Garner. The high tempo, high pressing game that we saw against Villa was not evident. It was the home side who posed the greater goal threat and Jamie Jones was much the busier keeper. Wednesday could well have scored had it not been for superb last-ditch tackles from Chey Dunkley and Cedric Kipre and good goalkeeping by Jones.

But Latics managed to keep it at 0-0 when the teams marched off to the half time interval. The second half revealed that depressing type of play that has been so often the norm in recent months. The “hoof” was very much prevalent, and Wigan struggled to do anything constructive with the ball. After Fletcher’s goal in the 62nd minute one hoped for a riposte from Wigan, but nothing resulted. If another goal was to come in the game, it would most likely be the home team that scored it.

Following the match Paul Cook commented: “At half-time I was thinking there was something there for us but in the second-half Sheffield Wednesday totally dominated the game and fully deserved the victory. We got ourselves into a position to possibly get something from the game but, unfortunately, we fell away in the second-half and Sheffield Wednesday were full value for the win. We never got a foothold in the game or got into positions to hurt them and that is great credit to them.”

Jones once again impresses

But for an excellent display by Jamie Jones the scoreline would have been quite different. Although it is the keeper’s first season in the Championship at the age of 29, he looks far from overawed. In fact, he seems to be relishing it. Again, he was assertive in his box, making some fine saves. Moreover, as soon as he catches a ball, he is quick to step forward, looking for a quick throw to a player in space. Sadly, yesterday there were too few of his teammates moving to make themselves available to receive the ball. Far too often the keeper had to kick long, typically resulting in lost possession.

A product of the Everton youth system Jones joined Leyton Orient as a 19-year-old, spending 6 seasons there, making 161 league appearances. After letting his contract run down at the O’s he joined Preston as a free agent in July 2014. During his two years at Preston he made 14 league appearances, with another 34 on loan at Colchester, Coventry and Rochdale. Jones joined Stevenage in January 2016 and went on to make 53 appearances for them in League 2 before joining Latics as a free agent in August 2017.

An unbalanced midfield

Rather than play side by side in central midfield Lee Evans and Sam Morsy were given different roles. Evans was put in front of the back four with Morsy pushed further forward. Then midway through the first half Gary Roberts was moved from the left wing to play an inside left position. Josh Windass was moved to the wing.

The net result was Evans being swamped by the heavily populated home midfield, with Morsy and Roberts able to create few openings going forward. Windass had played one of his better games against Villa in a mobile number 10 role, but the switch saw him consigned to the wing where he rarely plays his best.

The lack of midfield cover was plain to see in Fletcher’s goal.

What on earth was Cook trying to achieve? Wednesday playmaker Barry Bannan had the freedom of the park.

What happens at half time?

Despite not playing particularly well in the first period Latics went in to the interval on level terms. For many teams playing away such a situation could be seen as a springboard to getting a positive result. But in Latics’ case this season it has rarely happened.

Based on goals scored in the first half of league games this season Latics would be placed in 16th position with 35 points. However, based on goals scored in the second half they would be 22nd with 26 points. Moreover, in away games Latics’ second half goals place them in 23rd position. Tables provided by Soccerstats.com can be viewed here.

Latics were 2-0 up at Swansea after dominating the game in the first half through high tempo, high pressing football. In the second half the intensity just was not there, and the home team came back to level the scores. Like yesterday in the second half Wigan had started employing the hoof.

Are the reasons for the disappointing second half performances due to physical reasons? Or are they psychological? Or the result of tactics discussions during the interval? After a fine performance against Aston Villa, where the intensity did not diminish in the second half, we were hoping for something similar yesterday.

Injuries hit hard again

After making an excellent debut last week Anthony Pilkington had to leave the field of play at half time after turning his ankle over. Cedric Kipre continued to play despite an ankle niggle. But it was Will Grigg’s injury that looked the more serious.

Cook is having no luck on the injury front and he remarked after the game that: “That’s what the league is, you get injuries, we were in a bit of fog but getting towards clear light and now it looks like we are heading back into that fog – that’s the way it is, though.”

Grigg to Sunderland off

The constant media barrage of “Grigg to Sunderland” has been wearing thin with Wigan Athletic supporters. But if Grigg’s injury is as serious as it appeared, he surely will not be leaving this month.

Will Grigg remains a favourite of so many Latics fans, though there are those who do not consider him to be a Championship level striker. His season has been riddled with injury, but even when fit he has often been left out of the starting lineup.

In the meantime, Devante Cole has returned from his loan spell at Burton Albion after making 6 starts and 7 substitute appearances, scoring 2 goals. If Grigg is out long-term will Cook look for a replacement in the transfer window or will he give Cole the genuine opportunity he was denied in the second half of last season?

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

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Five talking points following a high intensity victory over Aston Villa

Wigan Athletic 3 Aston Villa 0

 

It was as if the clock had been turned back. That negative long-ball approach was no longer evident. In its place was the high intensity football that has underpinned Latics’ best performances this season. They did it at Swansea for half a game, but this time they kept it going in the second half, the high press disrupting Villa’s passing game, threatening their defence.

Paul Cook looked to have taken a gamble by including Anthony Pilkington in the starting lineup, given that the player had not made an appearance for Cardiff’s senior side since April 2018. He also made a bold move in bringing in Jamie Jones in goal.

Both players made a difference in an impressive win over the big spending visitors, but a mix up between Jones and Cedric Kipre after 10 minutes ended up with Tammy Abraham missing a relatively easy chance. If Abraham had scored it could have been a killer blow for a Latics side with such brittle confidence. Fortunately for Wigan he didn’t and in the 41st minute a sublime piece of skill from Pilkington saw him dribble past his full back and pass to Gary Roberts who blasted the ball home. Michael Jacobs came on for Pilkington after 60 minutes and within ten minutes he scored with a spectacular diving header from Lee Evans’ long cross. Joe Garner slotted home a “soft” penalty after Josh Windass had gone down following a challenge from Glenn Whelan.

Following the game Paul Cook made the pertinent comment that: “All of the big moments in the games recently have gone against us but today the key moments went for us.”

Let’s look at some points arising:

Jones and Pilkington make a difference

Cook’s boldness in bringing in Jamie Jones and Anthony Pilkington certainly paid off. Apart from the mix-up with Kipre, Jones looked calm and confident in goal. Although the visitors failed to get a single shot on target Jones commanded the penalty box and his handling was excellent.

Pilkington fitted instantly into the style of play, adding an extra dimension to Wigan’s midfield. He was calm in receiving the ball under pressure, showing good control and change of pace. The trickery he showed in getting past his full back to set up Roberts’ goal was spectacular.

Pilkington looks an excellent signing and his versatility will give Cook more options.

Latics can punch above their weight in the Championship

Wigan’s starting lineup contained two loan players and five signed on free transfers. Their wage bill is one of the lowest in the division.

They were competing against players whose salaries dwarf theirs. Yannick Bolasie’s annual salary is around £3.5 m, Tammy Abraham gets some £2.8 m per year. Jack Grealish did not play in this match, but his annual salary is around £2.6 m. Scott Hogan, Ross McCormack and Micah Richards all earn over £1.5million per year. No Latics player earns as much as any of those three Villa substitutes who were not called upon in this match.

Aston Villa are England’s fifth most successful club as measured by winning the top division. But it is 38 years since they last won the old First Division. Last season they were beaten in the Championship playoff final by Fulham.

In their desperation to get back into the top-flight Villa run the risk of breaking FFP rules. In order to comply they could sell their major asset, Jack Grealish, whose market value is around £30 m. However, the HS2 train line cuts through their training ground at Bodymoor Heath, giving them an option of selling it to a property company owned by one of the billionaire owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawaris. Such a sale would count as income and help them keep within FFP rules.

Villa are one of so many big city clubs in the Championship division who continue to splash huge sums of money into a race to get back into the Premier League. But Latics matched them in the first game at Villa Park, unluckily losing to a goal in time added on. Moreover, they showed on Saturday that they can punch above their weight with that 3-0 victory.

Dean Smith’s post-match comments

Paul Cook is loath to criticise opposing team managers and their tactics. He stands out like a beacon compared with so many managers in the Championship division.

The Villa manager’s post-match comments did not reflect well upon him. Neither did attempts by some of his players to persuade the referee to give Wigan players red cards. Both Joe Garner and Sam Morsy are surely well known to the referees in the division for being robust. But neither deserved a red card in this game. Wigan fans might recall Sam Morsy’s sending off at Brentford in September while Smith oversaw the Bees.

Lee Evans back in form

Like others around him Lee Evans has had a torrid time in recent weeks. He has been a shadow of the player we saw earlier in the season. But on Saturday we saw him back to his best. Evans was excellent in defence and constructive in attack. He is an important creative force for Latics and leads in assists this season, tying with Nick Powell on four.

Evans’ longer passes are so often trademark diagonal balls. That stunning 40-yard cross for Jacobs’ goal was a gem.

Sticking to a winning formula

There had been a ray of hope in the first half display at Swansea a couple of weeks earlier with Latics eschewing the long-ball, building up more patiently from the back, pressing high up the pitch. But for some reason they were not able to maintain it in the second half at the Liberty Stadium.

That same successful formula returned in this game, the difference being that it lasted 90 minutes rather than 45. Playing that kind of high intensity football has significant physical demands on the players and with games coming in thick and fast it can be difficult to keep up.

But in this winter period there are few midweek games. In fact, in the next 8 weeks there is just one for Latics, that being the home game with Stoke on February 13th.

With a less hectic schedule allowing players more recovery time the timing is right for Cook to employ the high intensity approach on a regular basis. Not only does it nullify attacking options for expensively assembled teams like Aston Villa, but it also provides a spectacle for fans who have had scant entertainment in recent months.

If Cook can stick to this winning formula and the injury situation continues to improve, we will surely see Latics climb back up the table in the coming weeks.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cardiff fan’s view of Anthony Pilkington

 

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of the 30-year-old Anthony Pilkington on an 18-month contract. The winger was signed as a free agent, having left Cardiff City by mutual agreement.

Although Pilkington has not played first team football this season, he has made over 300 career appearances in league football, with three full seasons in the Premier League. Although Pilkington was born in Blackburn, he has made 9 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, qualifying through having an Irish grandparent. He has an impressive goalscoring record for a wide player and can score spectacular goals with either foot. He can also play as a central striker.

On signing the player Paul Cook commented: “Anthony has good experience in the Championship and Premier League, I am delighted to bring him to Wigan Athletic. He won promotion with Cardiff City last season, so he knows what it takes to do well at this level and I am sure he will be a big asset to us for the rest of this campaign and beyond.”

The 6 ft tall Pilkington was part of the youth programs at Preston, Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers, but joined Atherton Collieries as a 17-year-old in November 2005 whilst attending Myerscough College, where the Collieries manager, Alan Lord, was a lecturer. After making a strong impression, scoring 19 goals in 35 games, he signed for Stockport County in December 2006. County were in League 2 at the time. Pilkington made 80 appearances for County over three seasons, scoring 17 goals, one of them helping them to win the League 2 playoffs in 2008.

Pilkington signed for Huddersfield Town, then in League 1, in January 2009. He went on to make 92 appearances for the Terriers, scoring 19 goals.

In the summer of 2011 he joined Norwich City for a fee of £2 m. He went on to make 58 Premier League starts, with 17 appearances off the bench, scoring 14 goals in three seasons with the Canaries.

In July 2014 Pilkington signed for Cardiff City for a fee of £1 m. He went on to make 111 appearances, scoring 23 goals and contributing eight assists. Last season he scored 5 goals in 13 appearances in the Bluebird’s promotion campaign.

In order to learn more about Pilkington’s time at Cardiff we reached out to Benjamin James of the View from the Ninian fan site (http://www.viewfromtheninian.com/).

Here’s over to Benjamin:

Pilks is a Cardiff player who deserved more from his time at Cardiff. He came in the season after we got relegated and was a bright light for us. Committed, scored and assisted and was pretty reliable. When Warnock came in, his space in the team became less of a guarantee and by the start of last year, he was out of the squad consistently.

But he was a model pro and worked hard and clawed his way back into contention. He wasn’t a regular, but he scored some important goals – none more so than his late equaliser at Sheffield United that went a long way to helping us get promoted.

There’s certainly a feeling that he should have had more of a say this season. It was perhaps a little unfair that he was left out the 25 for the Premier League when he could have been in the squad on merit – plus for his lengthy service.

 You’ve got a good player and a top pro on your hands.