Five talking points following a home draw with Barnsley

Wigan Athletic 0 Barnsley 0

Following a spineless display in the defeat at QPR last we saw a spirited Wigan Athletic side fight for a point against Barnsley. The energy was there, but sadly the football was not. It was poor entertainment for the crowd of around 10,000.

After the game Paul Cook commented: “It was a fair result. Both teams were nervous, there was a little bit of nervous energy and tension around the stadium and you can understand that. We’ve had our first clean sheet of the season and it’s so important for me as manager that you give these lads the belief and confidence to go and play. We showed at times today the really good sides and today we had a real appetite to not get beat and that pleased me.”

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

Another disappointing result in a six-pointer

Barnsley came into this match a point above Wigan. Like Latics they had won only one game on the opening day of the season. The Tykes will do well to avoid relegation. A win for Latics would have seen them leapfrog over the Tykes out of the relegation zone.

The more optimistic of Latics fans were expecting their team to pick up three points against a Barnsley team that was struggling. However, for others it was not a surprise to see Wigan once again disappoint in a “six-pointer”. During Cook’s reign Latics have so often disappointed when playing against teams close to them in the league table.

Cook keeps faith with Marshall

David Marshall has been in poor form in recent weeks and fans were clamouring for him to be replaced by Jamie Jones. However, without his fine performance Barnsley would surely have walked away with three points. Cook was justified in keeping faith with the goalkeeper.

Mulgrew can add an extra dimension

Charlie Mulgrew was a surprise signing. Yesterday was his first league start for Latics.

Mulgrew may be 33 years old and lacking the pace he had when younger but could prove to be a very useful signing by Cook. Yesterday he looked solid in the centre of defence and we got a glimpse of what he can do from set-pieces. Last season he scored 11 goals for Blackburn.

The Glaswegian can also play in the centre of midfield, which gives Cook another option. He can do a solid job defensively but having someone who can threaten from set-pieces is a bonus.

Are the new players settling in?

In midweek Cook talked about the settling in of new players: “The international break will be big for us because we get to train for two more weeks. That is something we did not get in pre-season. Our squad was put together very late. That is not a criticism. It is just how it is, to the point now where lads are still making their debuts and formations are coming up with players playing together for the first time.”

The starting line-up for the opening game against Cardiff City contained two new signings: David Marshall and Lewis Macleod. Yesterday there were four: Marshall, Charlie Mulgrew, Jamal Lowe and Joe Williams.

There is much debate on the message boards and social media about the quality of Latics’ players. Is this current squad better than the one that struggled in avoiding relegation last season?

The departures of Reece James and Nick Powell over the summer have hit Latics hard. James was way ahead of any other player in terms of talent, consistency and commitment. Powell had an injury-plagued season, but when he was fit and on-form he made a big difference to the team. Cook was always unlikely to get a like-for-like replacement for Powell, given the high price such a player would cost. He has experimented with other players in that role, but Powell’s creativity has been sorely missed. But the player continues to be plagued by injury and has only played one game for Stoke City in their opening game against QPR.

The results so far this season have been disappointing. It is last season’s players who have been largely involved. Will those new players make the difference over the coming week and help pull Latics out of the relegation zone?

Getting the best out of the more skilful players

The manager reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation yesterday after experimenting with a backline of three central defenders. The creative trio behind the central striker consisted of Gavin Massey, Jamal Lowe and Michael Jacobs.

On paper Cook had chosen a well-balanced line-up with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams protecting the back four and genuine pace and creativity further forward. However, the reality was something different. In a game where there was more “fightball” than football there was little chance for the creative trio to shine.

The manager would have been pleased with the commitment of his players yesterday. Following that insipid display at QPR he got the team to put in lots of sweat and toil this time around. But football was the loser in this game, and it was not the scenario for the creative trio to show their skills.

A chance for Gelhardt

It was a pleasant surprise to see the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt come off the bench after 63 minutes. He and Jensen Weir were called up for the England U18 squad this week.

Cook deserves credit for giving youth a chance in a  fiercely competitive match. But what a pity that Gelhardt was played on the right wing, rather than in the number 10 position behind the central striker.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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A Cardiff fan’s view of David Marshall

 

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of goalkeeper David Marshall from Hull City. The 34-year-old was a free agent and joins Latics on a two-year contract.

The 6ft 3in tall Glaswegian is a product of the Celtic academy. He made his senior debut at 17 as a substitute in a Scottish Cup tie against St Johnstone in February 2003. In December 2003 he made his first start in a 3-0 win at Partick Thistle in the Scottish League Cup. Marshall went on to make 18 appearances in that 2003-04 season, including an outstanding performance in keeping a clean sheet at Nou Camp, knocking Barcelona out of the UEFA Cup. He made his Scotland debut in August 2004 in a friendly against Hungary. In the next month Celtic met Barcelona again, this time in the Champions League, Marshall giving an excellent performance in a home loss to the Catalan club, saving a Ronaldinho penalty. However, after conceding nine goals in the first two games of the 2005-06 season Marshall fell out of favour with new manager Gordon Strachan. In January 2007 he joined Norwich City on loan, although his season was curtailed following an ankle injury in a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in the FA Cup in February.

Marshall joined Norwich on three-year contract in summer 2007, the fee being undisclosed. He went on to make 100 appearances for the Canaries until joining Cardiff City in summer 2009 for £500,000. Marshall was to spend 6 seasons with the Bluebirds, making 281 appearances, with 81 clean sheets. On August 30, 2016 Cardiff accepted an offer for Marshall adding up to £5m from Hull City, recently promoted to the Premier League. He went on to make 61 appearances for the Tigers.

With some 500 appearances in Scotland and England and 28 caps for Scotland, Marshall looks a fine signing for Latics.

In order to learn more about Marshall’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:

When we signed David Marshall, we weren’t sure what we were going to get. All we hoped was that we signed a keeper who could stop the rot of a run of goalies who weren’t so great. What we didn’t anticipate is that he would become, probably, our best goalie for a few decades. 

 A truly fantastic shot stopper, there have been times where fans were reduced to awed gasps as he pulled out another world class saves. During our first, ill-fated, Premier League season, he kept us in many games with brilliant saves. He was vital in playoff semi-finals, stopping penalties brilliantly. He would pull last minute saves out of nowhere and if a ball was deflected, he’d find a way to get back to the ball.

 There was talk earlier this summer that we were going to sell Etheridge, our number one, and the only player I would have replaced him with is Marshy. He’s a brilliant, brilliant, keeper. Vocal, adept at crosses, shot-stopping, and decent distribution.