Five talking points following an insipid performance at Brentford

Brentford 2 Wigan Athletic 0

 

For Latics this season there have been times when the result has not reflected the performance. It was certainly the case at Griffin Park yesterday, although on this occasion the parameters were reversed. Brentford’s two goals hardly reflected their mastery of the game. They could have won by a margin of five or six.

It was a day that Latics might want to forget and instead focus on the next match against Hull City on Tuesday. But it can be argued that there are lessons to be learned from the defeat.

Let’s take a look at some points arising from the game:

Sam Morsy will be getting a rest after all

Whether the captain’s challenge on Yoann Barbet in the 60th minute was a true red card offence is debatable. But given the attention he had received from the referee prior to the incident it was unwise of Morsy to launch himself into such a challenge.

Morsy had not been at his best yesterday, although the same could be said about so many others around him. He had been unable to join the Egypt squad over the international break due to injury. One wondered if he was still suffering the effects of that injury yesterday as his play was distinctly off-key.

Following his stint in the Russia World Cup Morsy came back and was thrust straight into the Wigan team. But given the commitment we have come to expect from the captain it would have been a surprise for him to have been eased back into the team despite his lack of a summer break.

The red card is a bitter pill for Morsy to swallow, but it will nevertheless give him a break that might even prove beneficial over the course of the season.

Another poor performance after an international break

All clubs in the top two tiers must cope with the complications that arise through international breaks. But some seem to cope with it better than others. For Wigan Athletic it has often proved more problematic.

Paul Cook addressed the situation prior to the trip to Griffin Park saying:

“It was great for us to have so many players going across the world, it’s great for me as a manager to see my lads getting recognition in international football. It does give me the worry of if some of them will be in the right place to be picked again for the next match because of the travelling. Do I pick them tomorrow when we’ve got another game on Tuesday? It offers a different challenge, but like our supporters know, we’re going to do our best to meet them head on.”

 Will Grigg and Antonee Robinson were the first team regulars involved in international duty this time around.

Grigg scored an opportunist goal for Northern Ireland in the 92nd minute against Bosnia Herzegovina after coming off the bench after 69 minutes. That was sufficient for him to be named as a starter in the next game against Israel, where he was substituted after 65 minutes with his team already two goals ahead. Both games were played in Belfast.

Robinson was thrust into the USA starting line-up against Brazil at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. By all accounts it was a learning experience for the 20-year-old against such an experienced and capable Brazil side. He came on in the 56th minute in the next game against Mexico in Nashville, being involved in his team’s winning goal after 71 minutes.

Cook decided to rest Grigg yesterday, with James Vaughan in his place. He started Robinson who had played more game time than Grigg over the break and had travelled so many more miles together with having to deal with jet lag.

However, Cook has a wealth of options for the centre forward spot, with Joe Garner and Josh Windass also available. He does not have such choices at left back, with Robinson being the only specialist available for the position. Given the physical demands the Everton loanee has faced over the past weeks it was no surprise that he was far from his best yesterday.

With two more games coming up before Saturday, Cook will surely have to give Robinson a rest in at least one of them. His most likely replacement in that position is the right-footed Callum Connolly.

Sticking with a successful formula

Two aspects that have typified Paul Cook’s successful formula at Wigan have been sticking by a winning team and attacking with pace and gusto from wide positions.

Cook largely stuck by the team that beat Rotherham by making one change, Grigg being rested. But there was a distinct lack of pace and directness from the flanks. Losing Gavin Massey for several months is a big blow for Cook. The player not only has blistering pace, but also makes a major defensive contribution. Faced with options of playing the pacey Michael Jacobs, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Callum McManaman or Nathan Byrne on the right he once more chose the more pedestrian option in Connolly. On the left we saw muted displays by Windass and Robinson.

The good news for Cook is that Jacobs is available again after injury. Can we expect him to be on the right wing against Hull?

Kipre continues to develop

Cedric Kipre has had a baptism of fire in English football playing in a new back four. In the early games he had periods of excellence interspersed with moments of seemingly switching off and looking vulnerable. It was a lot to ask for a 21-year-old with just one full season of first team football behind him to step in for a player of the capabilities of Dan Burn.

But Kipre has already shown that he can make a major impact at Wigan. After being ‘Man of the Match’ against Rotherham, he was arguably Latics’ best defender yesterday, other than the outstanding Christian Walton. Kipre was not only looking solid in defence but moving forward to make interventions in midfield.

Worryingly for Cook, Kipre appeared to be carrying an injury in the closing stages. With Burn still unavailable it could be Alex Bruce who lines up against Hull.

Burn’s eventual return to action will give Cook more options in defence, not only providing cover at centre half, but also at left back.

Following the Brentford formula?

Brentford have now moved up to second place and look like genuine promotion contenders. Their football yesterday was a delight to watch, full of movement, pace and invention. They looked light years ahead of Wigan from the get-go.

Despite a staffing budget of around £10 m they are challenging clubs who are spending three times as much. Brentford’s formula is straight forward. They nurture young players and sell them off at a good profit to keep the club afloat. Some of the young players are produced in their academy, but the majority are signed from other clubs. Yesterday’s starting line-up included two centre backs with a combined age of 40 and a front three totalling 65 years of age. One of those players, Chris Mepham, came through their academy but the others came at a combined cost of around £6.5 m from clubs in England and France. The eventual sale of just one of those five could eventually enable the club to cover the initial outlay.

Paul Cook too is trying to build a young team at Wigan. But out of the starting line-up at Griffin Park four of the youngest five were loan players, Cedric Kipre being the exception. Brentford had no loanees in their starting line-up.

The use of loan players at Wigan has been a source of much discussion by fans over recent years. But once more the club is giving young players belonging to other clubs the upper hand over their own loan talent.

The signings of Kipre (21) and Da Silva Lopes (19) are indications that Latics might well move towards a Brentford-style model if they can consolidate themselves in the Championship. Such a model requires infrastructure in having the kind of scouting network that can identify young talent.

Moreover, Brentford are looking not only in England, but in Europe, for their talent.

Cook has built a squad of largely British Isles based players, with Kipre and Da Silva Lopes the exceptions. It contrasts widely to the approach of Roberto Martinez, who was able to bring in players from outside the country and meld them into a working unit. Five of the starting line-up for the FA Cup Final were from overseas.

It will be interesting to see how the new ownership will approach recruitment policy at Wigan Athletic. Will they come in with their cheque books in hand or will they look toward adopting a more systematic long-term plan akin to that of Brentford?

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Five talking points following on from the QPR game

QPR 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Queens Park Rangers are so-called because when they were formed in 1886 most of their players came from Queens Park, which is some three miles away from where they currently play.

Loftus Road is situated in the buzzing, multi-ethnic White City area of Shepherd’s Bush. It is a fascinating place to visit, with lots of sporting history, the old White City Stadium having hosted the 1908 Olympics and a match in the 1966 World Cup.

Some three weeks ago, on the train traveling to Wigan for the first game of the season I was talking to some QPR supporters on their way to Preston. They said it was going to be a tough season for their club and that they would be happy to avoid relegation. They also told me that the view from the elevated tier of the visitors end at Loftus Road is as good as any at the ground.

They were right on both counts. The view was as good as I can remember from an away end, being so close to the pitch. QPR looked a struggling team yesterday, barely able to pass the ball with any degree of fluency. But they got a break from a goal that should not have been allowed and they played with determination and with a well organised defence.

It was enough to see off a somewhat lacklustre Wigan Athletic team.

Loftus Road has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Latics

In midweek Latics had extended their undefeated run against Stoke City to nine games with a stunning 3-0 win.

So often in a match preview a journalist will refer to the history of matches between the two clubs. Many would argue that past history is irrelevant to the current day. In this case an on-form Wigan were facing a pointless QPR, fresh from a 3-0 midweek drubbing by Bristol City at Loftus Road.

The last time Latics won at Loftus Road was in March 2003 in a Division 2 (fourth tier) confrontation. Nathan Ellington scored the only goal of the game in the 47th minute to extend Wigan’s lead at the top of the table.

But yesterday’s result means that Wigan have lost 6 and drawn one of their last 7 visits to Loftus Road. They have won only 2 of their 16 home and away encounters with the West London club.

Cook resists the opportunity to freshen his line up

We can rarely expect Paul Cook to tamper with a winning team. But prior to this match he had said:

“The likelihood is it will be a changed team for Saturday, which is on one hand disappointing because the lads are doing smashing. But on the other hand it gives the lads an opportunity to come and play. Some changes have been forced upon us, possibly one or two are due to the weight of fixtures as well.”

In the event he made only two changes, resting the 18-year-old Reece James, bringing back Nathan Byrne, replacing the injured Michael Jacobs with Josh Windass. Should he have made more changes after two demanding games in just over a week?

Yesterday’s performance was by no means a bad one. The defence looked strong enough to deal with what the home team could muster, and the midfield play was neat enough, if the wingers did not make such an impact. When Gavin Massey limped off after 31 minutes most of us expected Callum McManaman to come on, but instead James was introduced with Byrne moving to the right wing. James made an uncharacteristically hesitant start but improved as the game went on. On the left side of Wigan’s attack Antonee Robinson was not showing the kind of spark that we know he is capable of, with Windass tucking inside.

Cook was able to give James a rest – at least for the first third of the game – because he had an experienced and capable specialist right back to replace the Chelsea youngster. He did not have that option on the left. Playing with a right footed left winger Cook’s system relies on a left footed full back to provide variety. Kal Naismith was tried there in pre-season but struggles defensively. Callum Connolly can certainly play there, having done that for Everton U23s when Jonjoe Kenny would occupy the right back position. Connolly is a fine young player and Cook will most likely use him sometimes in the left back position. But with Connolly being right footed the balance could only be retained by playing a left footer like Naismith or Gary Roberts on the left wing.

Whether Latics would have done better if Cook had rested more weary legs, both during the latter part of the game at Stoke and in yesterday’s game, is academic. But the manager was more able to stick with his low rotation formula in League 1 where the combined mental and physical load is less demanding than in the Championship. Moreover, he faces dealing with disenchanted players in his squad if he does not rotate more.

Evans shines

Lee Evans was excellent again yesterday, solid in defence and a force going forward. Moreover, his quality delivery from set-pieces threatened the home defence. It was a pity that Chey Dunkley could not put away another of Evans’ sumptuous deliveries in the closing minutes.

Bringing back Evans to the club could prove to be the best piece of business the club did over summer.

VAR and Latics

While the Latics were playing at QPR, Barcelona were winning 1-0 at Valladolid until the home team had thought they had equalised in stoppage time. But as in all the major European football leagues bar two (the English Premier League and Championship), La Liga uses VAR. In this case the video assistant referee ruled that the goal had come from an offside position.

Were VAR to have been used last weekend at the DW Stadium, Cash’s 89th minute dive would surely not have resulted in a penalty. Moreover, the follow up by the encroaching Soudani to Walton’s save from the spot-kick would have been spotted. The blatant push on Dunkley yesterday, leading to Hamed’s goal would also have been picked up by VAR.

VAR will most likely be introduced in England’s top two tiers next season. In the meantime, there will be those that argue that major refereeing decisions, for and against a team, balance out over the course of a season. Judging by the balance of the major decisions made during Wigan’s eight seasons in the Premier League does this really hold true? One doubts that. Too often the balance of refereeing decisions have been unduly influenced by bigger clubs which have more “clout”, at the expense of smaller clubs.

Moreover, with VAR referees can feel under greater scrutiny.

Welcome news that Joe Gelhardt has signed a professional contract

The 16-year-old had been linked with possible moves to Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United, before signing a 3-year professional contract for Latics in midweek.

Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson commented: “Joe is a player with huge potential, who has starred on the international scene for England’s youth teams in recent years as a result of his natural talent and dedication to football. Having joined the club in 2013, Joe is an example of the excellent work we see at the academy daily.”

Following the contract extension for the 19-year-old Callum Lang, this is another welcome move by the club.

However, with the loan transfer window still one for another five days we await news on the permanence of key players in the senior squad, whose contracts expire in June 2019.

 

 

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A Bolton Wanderers fan’s view of Antonee Robinson

 

The 21 year-old Antonee Robinson joined Wigan Athletic on a year’s loan from Everton on the summer transfer deadline day. The 6 ft tall Robinson is 21 years old.

Born in Milton Keynes of an American father, Robinson joined Everton as an 11-year-old.  He signed a professional contract for the Toffees when 17, after being awarded the Under 18s Player of the Season. Robinson missed much of the 2015-16 season because of a cartilage injury. Despite his injury he was offered a new one-year contract and went on to play three EFL Trophy games for the U23 side in 2016-17.

In August 2017 Robinson joined Bolton Wanderers on loan. He went on to make 30 appearances over the course of the season.

After playing for the US under 18 team he went on to make his full international debut in May 2018 against Bolivia.

In order to learn more about Robinson’s time at Bolton we contacted Chris Mann of the Burnden Aces fan site http://www.burndenaces.co.uk (@BurndenAces ).

Here’s over to Chris:

Following Andrew Taylor’s performances during our League One promotion season of 2016/17, Antonee Robinson arrived at Bolton as somewhat of a low-key signing and one many expected to provide nothing more than backup.

 A couple of Carabao Cup ties aside, Robinson had to wait for an opportunity with Wanderers but was thrust in earlier than anticipated when Taylor picked up an early-season injury.

 It would be a baptism of fire for Robinson, who was torn apart by Adama Traore on his first league start on an afternoon where we were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Middlesbrough at Macron Stadium.

 Many young players would have crumbled there and then but Phil Parkinson showed a huge amount of faith in Robinson, even as the club embarked on a run of eight successive defeats without scoring a single goal.

 As the season progressed, Bolton’s form improved and so did that of Robinson, who made the left-back position his own for the majority of the campaign and earned a first international call-up to the United States squad.

 The Everton loanee has undoubted potential, with his pace and ability to burst forward once making him a fans’ favourite in these parts, but his defensive capability needs some serious work if he is ever to make the grade at Premier League level.

 Robinson may have been handed a new three-year deal at Goodison Park, but I just don’t see him forcing a way through. The Toffees will cash in at some stage and a good season at Wigan will only increase his value. As is so often the case with loan deals though – as we have seen ourselves in this instance – just don’t expect any loyalty at the end of it.

 

 

 
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Latics fans react to recent events on the social media

The social media and message boards have been particularly busy recently following a trio of signings the day before the first game of the season, each doing well in a wonderfully entertaining win over Sheffield Wednesday. But a lot more could happen before the transfer window closes on Thursday, with speculation abounding in the media. Moreover there has also been a rumour that the takeover will be announced on Thursday too.

Once again we trawled the social media following Saturday’s game. 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.

Will Jones picked up Alan Nixon’s tweet about who was sitting behind Dave Whelan in the directors’ box on Saturday:

Studds40 on Latics Speyk commented:

If that’s not Cheng it’s his spitting image.

If it is him, and his family still own a minority stake in IEC, it can only be a positive to see him taking in a Latics game. Better still by all accounts he enjoyed it. Whether it’s direct involvement, or a passing interest, these things can lead to other business associations such as sponsorships and what have you.

It was also good to see all of the current owners and board members sat with the prospective owners. At the very least it suggest a cordial working relationship. Same goes with seeing Royal and his son in the directors box. Better to have a smooth transition.

Hampton on Latics Speyk stated:

It was Cheng (straight fm the owners suite horses mouth) he is not fronting up the transaction but is underwriting it hence some of the corporate validation delays. How much he will lump on tics is of course open to question.

Pemblue1932 on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Been in wigan all week, and at the training ground, already paid for the new pitch (6 million), moved the worriers out of the offices and into Robin Park, initially investigating 80 million to get us in the prem, was behind Cook signing new contract.

Horc responded to Pemblue:

Nobody will shoot the messenger pemblue, I just hope you are right on the third part.
BTW, I heard it will be announced before the deadline and there could be further additions to the squad.

Trent_Wigan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented on player performances on Saturday:

Gibson was MoM for me today. His 1st touch passes were excellent. Always made himself available for the ball.

Robinson gave him a run for MoM. If he carries on like that he will be the best left back we have had since Baines. Not only can he cross a ball he can do it with both feet.

HudWiganFan on Latics Speyk commended the players:

Excellent performance – its great to see players like Jacobs and Massey proving their critics wrong and showcasing their skills to great effect.

A fast-paced, enthralling attacking performance that produced countless chances against sturdy championship opposition and easily warranted more goals than the three scored.

Not bad for a team filled with ‘League One players’ that allegedly lack the quality to play at the level above!!

Bigroy on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Lots of reasons to be optimistic. For his first professional game Reece James was fearless and settled well despite the odd mishit pass, Kipre was a revelation and like a rock at the back, Robinson looked quick on the break, set up the first goal and has bags of potential whilst Gibson controlled the midfield, played some great balls, broke up play and made a terrific goal saving block in the second half. Jacobs was MOTM, scored two good goals, hit the bar with a cracking effort and got an assist for the third and you couldn’t say any of the players didn’t play well. All round a great game and thought the scoreline flattered the opposition given the chances we created. If we keep that level this season should be a cracker.

GazLatic on Latics Speyk opined:

Kipre is only 21, a million is a snip of he develops. It’s a good example of the business plan buying young players to look at selling on for a profit.

Studds40 on Latics Speyk expects further turnover:

I imagine 4 or 5 will be on the way out to streamline the squad and make room on the wage bill. Even if we are flush with cash you don’t want established players never in with a chance of making the bench. Cole, Colclough, Walker, MacDonald, plus Flores & Lang, maybe on the market.

Apparently we’ve left the No.10 squad number free. So that could be for an outright striker or someone to sit just behind. At this time all clubs are open to in’s and out’s. Quality players may become available we weren’t in for that we take an interest in.

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WafcHarvey on Latics Speyk revealed:

I was chatting with Walkers family in Glasgow. They was saying that Jamie wasn’t happy with his involvement and had asked his agent to speak with the club. He was told that he was too small and weak when he arrived which he has been working on. I can only imagine Cook has been miffed by his agents involvement and decided to freeze him out. His Instagram showed him at the training ground Saturday and he has removed Wigan Athletic from his Instagram and changed his picture to him in a Hearts top. Shame as I thought he would do well this season, but I also said Gilbey would be one of our best players last season and he left on deadline day so what do I know!

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