Wigan vs. QPR: Clean sheets unlikely


Wigan Athletic returns to the DW to face a Harrified QPR with even fewer available players than they left it — some feat! — including all four of the club’s first-choice centre-backs. The injury total now stands at eight senior players.

Word on the street is Roberto Martinez will revert to a more traditional four-man defence featuring Emmerson Boyce and Adrian Lopez as centre-halves — which sounds fine until reminded of Ronnie Stam’s defensive frailties as a traditional right-back, and the lack of a Maynor Figueroa understudy on the left. The idea of Boyce and Lopez being flanked by two wing-backs playing as full-backs — Stam and Beausejour — is not a warm and fuzzy one, not least because the team’s attacking play has largely been built around their ability to get forward and put crosses into the box.

A perhaps more fluid adjustment, if not without its own set of risks, would be the inclusion of promising Spanish youngster Roman Golobart as third centre-half. This would allow Beausejour and Stam to play in their natural positions and the rest of the team could remain unchanged.

Whichever way Martinez decides to go, statistics suggest the rest of us are in for some goals tomorrow. While Southampton lead the goals conceded table with a remarkable 32 — more than 2 per game — Wigan is close behind with 28, followed by QPR on 27. Considering Wigan’s four first choice defenders are unavailable and the goalkeeper is suffering from a bit of a confidence crisis, a clean sheet does not look likely, though stranger things have happened. If reports of Julio Cesar’s fitness struggle are true, we could even be in for another Robert Green appearance at the DW, thus furthering the argument.

Have you ever sat down to write something and realized five paragraphs in that it’s all coming out wrong?

Despite the defensive crisis and unlikeliness of a clean sheet, I am backing Wigan to win this fixture. Harry has already made big improvements at QPR, with the defence tightened up and Sean Wright-Phillips enjoying a second chance. They showed last week that they are quite good at hitting the post, which should sound familiar. But despite the negative results of the last two fixtures, Latics’ form overall has not been okay. If the general play and discipline of the City match can be retained, three points should be up for grabs.

Prediction: Wigan 2 QPR 1, Jordi Gomez style.

On probation: Latics quarter-season report card

Technically, we’re one and a half matches late for a quarter-season analysis. Like most Latics supporters, I tend to need a few days to recover from the latest loss. Fulham and Wolves took a bit longer than usual. But along came the international break, allowing me the space and time to cycle through all five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — and a new one, faith-based optimism. Warning: this final stage may set you up for another round of the previous. But what if it doesn’t?

I’ll stop short of predicting a turning point in our season this Saturday against Blackburn, as I’ve made that mistake before. But it certainly seems an appropriate time to look back at our disastrous start and assess the individuals involved in it. First, we’ve averaged each player’s match performance ratings this season (which are admittedly subjective and only based on those given by Los Three Amigos writers, but serve as an interesting starting point for discussion). There are some surprises in there, but all interesting and insightful. For instance, defying all emotion, the struggling Gary Caldwell scores the same as reliable Emmerson Boyce. But while Emmerson has been steady and Gary Caldwell poor of late, it was the latter that scored highest (8) points in matches against Swansea and Newcastle. We try to make sense of it all below:

Player Ratings

Ali Al-Habsi: 7.1 — With Moses, our best regular performer. His score would have been higher but for the costly mistake against Norwich on day one, which cost the team 2 points, and probably cost Ali at least 0.2 in this assessment.

Emmerson Boyce: 6.2 — Our most consistent defender, the only one we seem to be able to rely on. He’s one of the few players who seems to be improving as the season goes along. Had a tough day at Villa but otherwise 6s and 7s.

Gary Caldwell: 6.2 — On the whole has looked slow and past it. But he had a couple cracking games, versus Swansea and Newcastle away, defending well and displaying the qualities you look for in a captain. A lot of fans have made him something of a scapegoat, but Roberto has asked a lot of him. So far, he’s had Lopez, Gohouri, Boyce, Alcaraz and Figueroa partner him — five players in 11 matches. The central defensive partnership is the most important on the field and has been completely disrupted. It is telling that his best performances came with Alcaraz/Boyce at Swansea, and then Alcaraz at Newcastle.

Antolin Alcaraz: 6 — Missed the opening part of the season to injury and will miss the next three matches for spitting at an opponent. Started poorly against Bolton, looked good in a couple, then brought shame on himself and the club with the spitting incident at Molineaux. A shame, since he’s the club’s best centre back.

Maynor Figueroa: 6.2 — Was given a few generous ratings when filling in at centre back. Has looked low on confidence recently, his attacking is better than his defending and goals often start down his side. Recently admitted to an Honduran newspaper that he is not in a good moment of form.

Ronnie Stam: 6 — Largely limited to substitute appearances, has done reasonably well when he has come on, but isn’t the solution. Not good enough going forward to be a winger, not good enough at defending to be a right back.

Patrick Van Aanholt: 7 — Was excellent against Everton when Maynor Figueroa was pushed inside, but has since featured very little.

Adrian Lopez: 4.75 — Latics’ lowest rated performer largely thanks to a nightmare against Norwich on opening day. Looks uncomfortable whenever he plays.

Steve Gohouri: 5 — A bit of a nightmare season for him. Sent off trying to mark Gareth Bale, then gave away the crucial goal against Bolton on his return, and looked wobbly at centre half. He’ll need to improve if he remains there throughout Alcaraz’s suspension.

Ben Watson: 6.7 — Consistent. Latics problems have not been in the midfield passing department. Truly masterful against Newcastle — my favourite performance of anyone in a Wigan shirt this season — but otherwise in the 6 and 7s. The question still lingers: is he best-suited to that deep midfield role?  If he tackles like he did at St. James Park yes, if not, no.

Mo Diame: 6.7 — Started slowly but has grown into the season, scored a couple very well taken goals, and looks our best midfielder.

James McCarthy: 5.5 — We expect more. Was probably playing with niggles in the early part of the season, before getting more seriously injured and losing his place to Dave Jones. Lets hope the spell on the sidelines has allowed him to heal. His performances were a catalyst in the team’s turnaround last year, we’ll hope he can do the same this time around.

Dave Jones: 6.9 — Highest-rated midfielder, although he has played fewer matches than the others. He has injected energy and intelligence into the midfield, with four of his five performances 7s.

Jordi Gomez: 6.5 — Started the season well, with an excellent performance at Swansea. But eventually lost his place and hasn’t been seen since.

James McArthur: 5.9 — Hasn’t let the team down in his substitute appearances, but also hasn’t provided much that the other midfielders at the club didn’t already.

Victor Moses: 7.1 — If he’d scored a few goals by now we’d be raving about him. (We’d also not be bottom of the league). His dribbling, pace and strength are unplayable. But his final pass, cross or shot lets him down every time. Is too young and raw to be playing such a crucial role at the club, though he has been extremely unlucky, hitting the post about 4-5 times.

Albert Crusat: 6.4 — Has looked lively in his five appearances, good pace and touch, but needs someone to get on the end of his crosses. Doesn’t seem direct enough to score himself.

Shaun Maloney: 7.5 — His rating is based on a cameo at Villa Park, during which he immediately changed the way the team attacked. Other appearances have been so brief they went unrated. Would like to see more of him.

Hugo Rodallega: 5.9 — Has gotten worse and worse. Desperately needs a goal, but chances won’t come easier than the one he missed at Wolves last week. Are contract talks affecting his form? Frustrating to watch at the moment.

Franco Di Santo: 6.8 — Has played well this season as the lone frontman, but all three goals have come from deflections, and he never seems to be in the right place at the right time. Would probably gel very well with Hugo in a 4-4-2, but we know that’s probably not going to happen.

Conor Sammon: 6 —  10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, hard to judge him. But he certainly deserves his chance. His pace, energy and heart lift the stadium when he comes on.


The exercise has confirmed the obvious. Our defense has been unsettled and inconsistent. The club’s goalscorer is having a bad season. And the man we were banking on to match Charles N’Zogbia’s contribution has played well, but not produced the numbers the Frenchman did. Last season, Hugo and Charlie shared the burden of scoring our goals. But neither Hugo nor Victor Moses has scored this season. Sure, the defense has not played well — but by far the bigger concern is at the other end of the pitch.

Goals conceded, per match, this season: 1.8

Goals conceded, per match, last season: 1.6

Goals scored, per match, this season: 0.63

Goals scored, per match, last season: 1.05