Wigan Athletic 0 Swansea 0
It was another learning experience for Wigan Athletic’s young team. After being starved of the ball in the first half, and perhaps fortunate to be on level terms, they improved in the second. As the game progressed the Swans started to tire and Latics started to get a foothold. Despite Swansea’s superiority in possession and shots on goal Will Grigg could have won it for Wigan, but he failed to convert two gilt-edged chances.
After the game Leam Richardson was quoted on saying:
“It was a very good 0-0 and we are really proud of the point.”
Did Richardson’s comment reflect upon Wigan’s approach to the game?
Let’s take a look at some key points.
It was one of the better goalless draws
Richardson was right. Goalless draws are hardly conducive to drawing people to watch football matches, but this one was better than most.
Swansea’s football was akin to that of Roberto Martinez’ best at Wigan. Based on possession with intelligent movement. But that is no surprise since the Swans have been playing in that way since Martinez instilled it in them between 2007 and 2009. Since then many managers have come and gone, but the style of football has remained possession-based. It was a pleasure to watch last night.
Unlike Swansea Wigan’s style has fluctuated wildly over those years, from the approach of Martinez to the dire long ball stuff we saw in the eras of Owen Coyle and Malky Mackay, to the sterile defensive approach from Warren Joyce.
Swansea’s approach work and skill in passing the ball out from the back, despite Wigan’s pressing, was admirable. Their problem is that they don’t possess the quality strikers to put the ball into the back of the net.
Sam Morsy gets a well-deserved rest
Cook wisely rested Sam Morsy, who will benefit from the break after being with Egypt in the summer when his teammates were resting.
Darren Gibson did a reasonable job of replacing him, not afraid to get stuck into the tackle and putting in lots of effort.
But Latics need to get Morsy refreshed and back to his best. Swansea had too much time and space last night and it is players of the physicality of Morsy who can combat that.
Competition for places and giving players game time
Apart from left full back Cook has multiple players competing for places in the other positions. None more so than at centre forward. Will Grigg is Cook’s main choice, but he has to provide Joe Garner and James Vaughan with game time if they are to play a part. Grigg maybe could have done better with the two chances he had, but he was in the right place at the right time to get the opportunities.
Cook has also used Nick Powell at centre forward later in games. Were he to concentrate on being a number 9 Powell would certainly give Grigg, Garner and Vaughan a run for their money.
How good are Swansea?
When Latics got relegated in 2013 they sold and released lots of players to cut costs. They would have been faced with too many players on Premier League wages with much decreased revenue in the second tier. Even allowing for parachute payments they would have faced financial problems. But Premier League regulars such as Ali Al-Habsi, Emmerson Boyce, James McArthur, Shaun Maloney and Ivan Ramis stayed, along with the likes of Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson.
After the dire time under Owen Coyle, Uwe Rosler did a great job in turning the team round and getting them into not only the FA Cup semi-final, but the Championship playoffs. He used a spine of experienced top-flight players together with others brought in during the transfer windows.
Swansea have not done that. Only Kyle Naughton in last night’s side was a regular last season. Over the summer they raked in some £45 m in a fire sale of players, together with sending other big earners off on loan.
New manager Graham Potter has done well up to this point, putting a hotchpotch group of players together to play skilful possession football.
But despite what some confused pundits in the broadcasting and social media might have suggested, this was not a Swansea team laden with ex-Premier League players.
Given the circumstances did Cook and his staff pay the Swans too much respect?
Attacking and defending as a unit
The early games in the season were exhilarating as Latics attacked and defended as a unit. Since then it has gradually become more fragmented. That lack of cohesion allowed Swansea the time and space to look the better side.
Much of this may be down to the physical demands of the Championship with so many games being played in a condensed period. The players were fresh earlier in the season, but that verve has now dissipated as the reality of the fixture congestion has kicked in.
On the bright side it was another clean sheet for Latics and Christian Walton, who was once again excellent between the sticks. The prime goal for Latics this season is consolidation. A tight defence would go a long way towards achieving that.
Latics have conceded just two goals in the last four matches.
Will defensive consolidation be the order of the day to consolidate? Or will we again see that high energy, refreshingly naive, attacking approach that we saw in August?