From Congleton to Swansea – A history of despair and elation

It is the early sixties and Latics have returned to the Cheshire League, where they first started in 1932. The Cheshire League is a now a superior league to the one they left, the Lancashire Combination, which has a reputation for the ‘big boot’ and ‘kick and rush’. Wigan Athletic, aristocrats of the northern non-league, away at Congleton. My Dad books the tickets on Eavesway coaches and away we go to South Cheshire. Congleton Town are a small club, even by Cheshire League standards. They made their way up through the Mid Cheshire League and their team is mainly amateur — some of their better players had previously distinguished themselves in the Wigan Athletic reserve team. Their ground is rustic to say the least, with an awesome slope from goal to goal, the pitch rutted and churned up. Their crowds are usually less than 200, but with Latics being the visitors they have their season high attendance of over 1,000. Latics’ visiting support can usually be relied on to give the home teams their best crowds of the season. Latics are in the top four at the time, while Congleton are pretty close to the bottom.

Opportunity for a Latics goal fest? No. A lenient referee allows Congleton to get away with dubious tackles and Latics fall apart, losing 2-1. Bobby Murdoch must have missed at least five goalscoring opportunities. The traveling Latics supporters are incensed with their team. How can a team of well paid semi professionals lose to a team of amateurs? Where is the pride in playing for your club? “A bunch of overpaid prima donnas!” say the enlightened. A senior citizen in the type of cloth cap so traditional among the men of his time, is so upset and incensed that at the end of the match he goes on to the pitch and accosts the referee. Crowd violence in an earlier era.

The next season Wigan Athletic won the Cheshire League. Congleton finished bottom and were relegated to the Manchester League. These days, they compete in the North West Counties League and their average attendance is around 150. Their Booth Street stadium has a capacity of 1,300. Meanwhile, Wigan Athletic are in their seventh season in the Premier League with an average attendance this season of 17,898.

So what happened to professional pride and why do we put up with the prima donnas playing for Latics? Beam us back to modern day. Swansea City were a better team on the day than Latics last Saturday. Dave Whelan is quoted as saying it is their worst performance for 5 years. Much as though I love what he has done for Latics, I can’t agree. There have been far worse performances. Swansea are not world beaters but they are a pretty decent team and play good football.

So why are Latics’ supporters so emotional after this match? For me, both Aston Villa and Everton were beatable, but many of us seemed to be satisfied with draws against them. I suppose we expected – or at least hoped – to beat Swansea, but it was not to be due to two spectacular strikes from Sigurdsson, playing a similar role to Jordi Gomez, behind the central striker.

Roberto Martinez has reached an all time low in the Latics opinion polls. If he were a Republican Party candidate at this time he’d be out of the race. Were his tactics poor against Swansea? They were certainly confused. Martinez had seemingly bowed to public pressure and started with two big central strikers, but Di Santo in particular did not seem to know where he was playing and Sammon was out of touch. (Ed– it has since emerged that Victor Moses was rested, having arrived back from international duty at 7pm the night before the match). In theory, it could have worked with two wing backs supplying crosses for the central strikers. Unfortunately, neither Sammon nor Di Santo is a good header of the ball. Rodallega, who can head the ball, was on the bench. Beausejour put in a fantastic cross in the 37th minute that Di Santo should have finished. The Chilean had a good first half, but faded out. This is not the first game in which he has put over mesmerising crosses which have not been attacked by the central strikers. Boyce is a solid fullback, but not a wing back, and when he goes forward it shows. The switch back to a four man defence achieved nothing. The manager’s insistence on playing an extra central midfield player meant that Gomez played there, leaving nobody wide on the right. We saw that before against QPR, and it did not work then. Tottenham have used a similar tactic at times this season, but Kyle Walker’s energy and attacking skills get closer to compensating for the absence of a wide player on their right flank. It was frustrating to once again see Boyce put in that role. Solid defender he is, but let’s play to his strengths, not expect him to play like Walker.

Dave Whelan’s main complaint was that three quality players were left on the bench. Moses was the most surprising omission from the starting lineup. He had not long arrived back from a long trip to Rwanda. He looked lively for ten minutes or so when brought on in the second half, but faded out. Diame and Rodallega both looked promising when brought on as substitutes but once again did not deliver. However, despite his mediocre season and poor finishing Rodallega still looks more likely to score than either Di Santo or Sammon. Diame too can look good but tends not to deliver that final defence-splitting pass or fluffs his shots on goal. Like the poor, it seems like Gomez will always be with us. After going through a purple patch he has been mediocre as of late and has not justified the faith placed in him by Martinez. He is also once again becoming the butt of the crowd.

From my viewpoint, however, the Swansea match was no surprise. They scored two fine goals, one on the stroke of halftime, the worst time psychologically for a Latics team that was already struggling. Rather than simply look at the Swansea game as a “must win” we need to look at the previous two home matches against Everton and Aston Villa in the same category. There is little to choose between any of those three teams – Everton, Aston Villa or Swansea. All three are capable of beating Latics on their day but they are also ‘beatable’ away from home. Failing to win against Everton and Villa put added pressure on Latics to beat Swansea : drawing with each of them in bore draws was not the end result we needed.

So where do we go from here? Fortunately the other bottom five teams fared badly this weekend. Latics and Bolton remain glued on 20 points, with Blackburn, QPR and Wolves on 22. To be frank, none of the five deserve to stay up based on their performances so far this season, but two of them will. Wigan are no worse than the others. Watch the other four teams play and you see the kinds of defensive errors and lack of definition in finishing that has characterized Latics all season. All have difficult fixtures between now and the end of the season. It could well boil down to whichever team gets the luck – a scrappy goal, lucky deflection, controversial refereeing decision or playing against weakened opposition – choose from any one of these. Which of these teams has the mental toughness to hang in there and not panic when things are not going to plan and the pressure mounts?

A major factor in Latics staying up last season was the support they got from the fans when the going got rough at the season’s end. Blackburn fans turned against their manager months ago, but like Martinez he remains there. To hear the chanting against Steve Kean when Blackburn visited the DW was depressing and hardly helped their players. It is to be hoped that this is not going to happen to the same degree at Wigan — Roberto Martinez is with us for the long haul. Many of us are frustrated with his tactics and team selections at times, but things are coming to a head. Let’s hope we don’t stoop to the level of those Blackburn fans. To do so could be the final straw that sends Latics in a downward spiral to the Championship and below.

This is not the first time Wigan Athletic supporters have been frustrated by a seeming lack of effort from their players. We all want to see a player give his one hundred percent commitment whilst donning a Latics jersey. We want to see pride and commitment towards our club. Let’s not forget that the main people running the football side of our club are Latics icons. Graham Barrow was one of the most committed players you could ever see play for Wigan Athletic, a great servant of the club as ex-player and ex-manager. Graeme Jones was a totally committed centre forward who would run himself into the ground for his team. He retains our record of top scorer in a season in league football, scoring 33 league goals in 1996-97. Roberto Martinez spent six years as a player at Wigan, a real fan favourite. He turned down a lucrative offer over summer, showing his loyalty and love of Wigan Athletic football club. So can the love of Wigan Athletic and the commitment from these three people in pole positions at the club be transmitted to the players?

Are there players in the current squad who are just there for the money or are biding their time until their contracts run down to move on to something bigger and better? I read the other day that Latics have nine of their squad out of contract at the end of the season. If this is the case do they remain totally committed to Wigan Athletic for the rest of the season? The benching of both Diame and Rodallega poses questions whether Martinez believes they can show the level of commitment required. One could also argue that playing time should not be given to players who are not willing to sign on for another year. Maybe that playing time should be given to someone who has proved their loyalty and could do a job for the team? We live in a cynical and mercenary world where footballers earn tens of thousands of pounds per week for sitting on the bench, sometimes not even that. However, it would be unfair to tar Diame and Rodallega and the others who are due to be out of contract by that same brush. Who is to say that their own professional pride should not prevail and they do their utmost to keep their current club in the Premier League? The overriding concern is how we could have so many players who have not committed themselves to new contracts. Is it that Dave Whelan is unwilling to give in to unreasonable wage demands or is that the players themselves do not expect Latics to be in the Premier league next season?

The bottom line is that we need to avoid that trap door of relegation first. Then we can deal with issues of players out of contract. Roberto Martinez is a beleaguered young manager with his back against the wall. The majority of Wigan Athletic fans now want him out, but Dave Whelan is not going to comply with their wishes. Wigan Athletic football club is run by a loyal management team that loves the club and wants it to grow. They are prepared to look long term, with a view towards finding stability for the club. The necessary infrastructure has been gradually put into place. Martinez has worked wonders in keeping a club with such a low operating budget in the Premier League over the past two seasons. He needs a minimum of five years to judge him a success or failure.

So what has changed from Congleton to Swansea? Most of our fans would not be old enough to have seen the teams that played in the Cheshire League in the sixties. The younger fans will only remember constant struggles to stay in the Premier League. Our club’s history has been a mixture of despair and elation. Wigan Athletic have come a long way and we don’t want to put back the clock and be spiraling down the leagues. One can only hope that the love of Wigan Athletic shown by the senior managers of the club is instilled into our players as much as it possibly can be. Let’s stick together and support the club through thick and thin. Latics are far from dead and buried and can maintain their Premier League status next year. Let’s keep the faith!

WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE OF SALVATION – END OF YEAR REVELATIONS – A LOOK BACK AT WIGAN ATHLETIC IN 2011

Christmas is past and it is the time of year when we reflect back on events of the past twelve months and make our resolutions for the coming year. As a Wigan Athletic fan I have to admit that 2011 has been an extremely stressful, frustrating year. But the fact is that we are still in the Premier League – even if the establishment might not want us there and is doing us no favours. It is going to continue to be an uphill battle for us to hang in there, but we are within striking distance of salvation. We have got through an horrendous December fixture list with pride intact and have maintained our status quo in the table.

What revelations we have seen since the Wolves defeat in November. Revelation number one was Roberto Martinez changing his tactical system in a way that has got better performances from the players he has at his disposal. However, for me the biggest revelations have been the form of the previously unfavoured Ronnie Stam and the much maligned Jordi Gomez.

Ronnie Stam joined Latics after helping FC Twente win their first ever Eredivisie championship in 2009-2010. He was their player of the year that season. He was called up for his first Netherlands cap at the end of the season but was unable to make it through injury. Clearly an accomplished player noted for his strong motivation and work ethic. Taking over from his fellow Dutchman – the elegant Mario Melchiot – was never going to be easy and Stam was unable to provide the level of combative tackling required for a Premier League full back. However, at wing back he has the energy and drive to shield his central defenders whilst making surging runs upfield and providing tantalizing crosses. What a transformation!

Jordi Gómez is a product of the superb Barcelona youth system. He left the club when 22 years old in 2007 to join their city rivals Espanyol. He was later recruited by Swansea in a season-long loan in summer 2008, scoring 14 goals in the Championship division. Steve Claridge provided a scouting report of Gomez for the Guardian newspaper in February 2009 where he quotes that “Roberto Martínez has certainly used his knowledge of Spanish football to get Jordi Gómez on loan for the season from under the noses of three La Liga sides. Languid was a word that sprung to mind after I watched Gómez play as he is rarely rushed into doing anything, even in tight situations, and instead remains cool, calm and collected on the ball, making at times a difficult game look easy.” It is that languidity of style that has helped make Gomez the butt of frustrated fans who demand a more high action approach. In his first Premier League season at Wigan he was constantly fouled, prompting comments that he was slow on the ball. He was lambasted for his lack of tackling ability. Earlier this season he was asked to play on the right wing, clearly not his best position. This did not help him look good in front of the fans. However, I would challenge anyone who could criticise the man after his recent performances, where he has looked every ounce a Premier League player, playing the midfield general role with panache, but also covering a huge number of yards in each December game. I once heard a quote that we would only see Gomez show his real self when Latics were playing well. Hats off to Jordi for hanging in there, despite the pressure on him.

Going back to our tactical lineup. Having three central defenders is really helping to provide more stability in defence. Some weeks ago there were many who questioned the class of our captain, Gary Caldwell, some suggesting that he was a Championship player out of place in the Premier League. His recent performances have proved so many people wrong. It is no coincidence that the stats place him among the highest in the division for interceptions made: who is more likely to put his body in the way to save his team but this determined Scot? Maynor Figueroa had a difficult start to the season, playing as an orthodox centre half, but has been excellent in his new position of left centre half. Antolin Alcaraz has had a topsy turvy season, but for me, remains our best defender. The best is yet to come from him.

So what is our revelationary new system? How does it work and who plays where? We seem to have a legion of midfield players, a lone centre forward and another player with licence to roam in Victor Moses. In the Chelsea game I recall seeing Victor Moses haring down the left wing with David Jones running on his inside. Although one might have expected Jones to be the one going down the left wing and Moses inside the whole thing seemed to work. No matter what the system you have to have players coming into the penalty box for you to score most of your goals. Our old friend, Garry Birtles, pointed out the lack of support for the lone centre forward in the Arsenal match. Since then there has been a significant improvement, the midfield players getting further forward in support. However, the question remains whether the implementation of the system provides a consistent and adequate level of support for the central striker. Moreover orthodox wingers do not fit into that system, so one wonders whether the role of Albert Crusat is nullified by the system. It has been disappointing not to see more of Shaun Maloney, but this system may well suit him, if he can get back in there. However, Martinez retains the option to move to the old 4-3-3 setup, if the situation demands. All in all, a good situation where you have tactical flexibility. Well done, Roberto!

What kind of quality do we have in the Latics’ squad? A tough question to answer, but the bottom line is that we have enough to be edging towards mid-table. We have a lot of players who can be considered “a work in progress” . Some of them are good enough to play for a top four team with comfort. Our goalkeeper, Ali Al Habsi, competes with the best in the division. James McCarthy has become an excellent “Makelele” although we miss his attacking prowess. Ben Watson is a fine footballer who has fallen foul in some way – maybe the perception that he would not fit so well into the new system or perhaps something off-field? Victor Moses is potentially an international class player, but is young and lacks definition to his exciting runs. He needs more time. Mohammed Diame has probably been our best outfield player this season. A complete player who would fit comfortably into any of the top four teams. We have players like Franco Di Santo, with wonderful technique, but not the confidence to go with it. Alcaraz is potentially a class above his partners in defence, although this is not yet fully proven. The on-loan Van Aanholt is clearly a class player and we may well see him step into the left wing back position, as a stronger player defensively than David Jones. We have no real problem players in the squad – a far cry from recent years when we have had some people who were happy to pick up fat cheques for minimal work. Over the past two years Martinez has patiently unloaded such players. There are some real good pros there who work hard and do their best. Callum McNanaman will challenge for a position following a successful loan spell at Blackpool. Roman Golobart, a potential defensive giant, is doing so well at Inverness they want to extend his loan until the end of the season. Still only nineteen he could be the revelation a year from now.

Well done, Roberto Martinez, in sticking to your guns and having an expectation of good football. Your long term planning is exceptional and you have managed to keep Wigan Athletic in the Premier League despite the financial restraints you have had to deal with. You are to be commended on your faith in players, such as Stam and Gomez, and in your belief that we can compete at this level. We remain the in the mire, but there remains more than a glimmer of hope that we will be in the Premier League again next season. A week or two back I was getting pessimistic about our chances of hanging in there. Now we are within striking distance of salvation and there have been genuine revelations in player performances. My New Year Resolution must be to “KEEP THE FAITH” and not waiver. We can do it, despite the obstacles the Premier League puts in our way.

West Brom – Wigan Preview: Living in hope

Let’s start with an admission. I don’t have the faintest clue what is going to happen at the Hawthorns tomorrow.

Since Roberto’s tactical switch three matches ago, we’ve seen all shades of Wigan. The best attacking performance of the season came in the Blackburn draw, which would have been a win but for Andre bloody Mariner. The best defensive performance came in the away win at Sunderland. The worst performance full-stop, began the second Mikel Arteta scored Arsenal’s first.

Football has way of clouding one’s judgement. Having most recently watched 65 minutes of capitulation against an Arsenal team at their imperious best, co-starring ourselves at our demoralized worst, it’s hard to view this next fixture with any real optimism. And yet, in the first 25 minutes of the game against that same Arsenal side, we played some of our best football all season. How would I feel if Arsenal had gone 4-0 up and Latics had finished with those excellent 25 minutes of football. Ok, still probably not great, but certainly a bit more optimistic.

If Latics were a craft beer, it would be high gravity stuff. One week I’m blabbering about turning points and the next I can’t see a way out.

The encouraging thing about this Latics side, that separates it from most sides doomed to relegation is that, in more matches than not, we look capable of winning. We haven’t been getting the points yet, obviously, but we didn’t last year either. I had an exchange with a fellow supporter on Twitter earlier today, during which we discussed the lack of goals from our forwards. He felt that Rodallega was on his way and wasn’t too sad to see the back of him. So I asked him who he’d rather see up front, Franco Di Santo or Conor Sammon? His response pretty much sums up what it’s like to be a Wigan supporter these days: “Probably Franco, but it’s hard. Sammon looks like he can score goals but isn’t. Franco doesn’t look like he can, but has.” In recent times, the match we actually won was one of the few (against beatable opposition) that we didn’t deserve to. On the other hand, quite how we didn’t beat Blackburn, Newcastle, Fulham, Norwich, Swansea is beyond me. If we’d managed even two wins out of those, we’d be 14th, the position West Brom is currently in.

So off we go to the Hawthorns, living in hope. Or faith? West Brom away was an exciting fixture last year. It may have even been the one that got Roberto Di Matteo the sack (not beating us has proven to be the final straw for quite a few teams over the years). They are usually fairly open affairs, 2-1s or 2-2s. There is obviously a lot of pressure, in last place, with fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, and a resurgent Stoke away coming up. But did the walloping by Arsenal lift some of it?

Most everyone is fit, to my knowledge. Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz will be welcome returnees. Roberto has been answering a lot of questions about Hugo Rodallega, who has still not signed a new contract and has presumably been spending his time begging someone else to sign him. Which in fairness is some task since he is a striker but hasn’t scored since May. But there have been hints in there that suggest the Colombian will make an appearance at some point tomorrow. Lets just all hope it’s not on the left wing. That said, I don’t think Conor Sammon has done anything to deserve losing his place — he did well against Blackburn and Sunderland, starved of service against Arsenal. Nor has Franco Di Santo, for that matter, he remains the only Latics striker to score a goal this season.

I won’t predict a lineup this time, but will instead suggest one (assuming the same tactical system with wingbacks):  Ali Al-Habsi, Figueroa-Alcaraz-Boyce in the middle, Stam and Jones as wingbacks; McArthur & Diame in the centre of midfield; Jordi & Moses, but only if they are allowed to roam, rather than getting stuck on the wing. What’s the point of having wingbacks if it doesn’t allow these two to cut inside; Franco Di Santo up top.

Heart says: West Brom are organized and committed as all Roy Hodgson teams (except Liverpool) tend to be. But they aren’t particularly creative, so our defence holds strong and we run out 2-0 winners. C’mon Latics!!

Mind says: Hard to see a clean sheet here, but we should be good enough to score a goal. 1-1.

Wolves – Wigan Preview: It’s now or never


If the must-win theme in our match previews of late has been getting a bit repetitive, at least its message becomes truer by the week. Wigan has already lost two absolutely-must-win home fixtures, the first with a shambolic display against Bolton, the second a luckless affair against bogey team Fulham. The next three — Wolves away, Blackburn at home, and Sunderland away — are probably as crucial to our survival as any in the season run-in. Not only because they are matches we should expect to emerge from with some points. But because we have to emerge from them with some points. If we don’t, we go into December bottom of the table with fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United in four of the five next games.

Assuming we don’t pick up much in that Christmas deathtrap, I think we need no less than 7 out of the next 9 points. Which means beating Blackburn at home, then beating either Wolves or Sunderland away, and drawing with the other. Given Wolves’ poor form, this may be the better chance for that away win.

The good news is that Latics have a strong record at Molineaux in recent times. We won 2-1 last year and 2-0 the year before. Their form has been poor, losing 7 of the last 9, although they won 3 of the 4 before that, and the most recent two losses were back-to-back exercises against Man City. They did draw at home to Swansea and lose to Newcastle, though, which should give us hope.

The bad news, of course, is that our form is worse. We are now on a staggering eight-match losing streak, although performances have not been as bad as the statistic suggests. With the exception of Man City away, Latics could have (in several cases should have) emerged with points. We live in hope that this will be the performance that delivers reward.

Not too much in the way of player news other than the excellent report on Mo Diame’s ankle injury not being serious. He may even be in contention for a starting spot on Sunday, and thank goodness given the rest of our midfield’s scoring record this season. Gary Caldwell is out suspended, which I daresay has been greeted with enthusiasm by many sections of Latics support. He appears to have lost a yard of pace — not that he was ever the quickest — and equally importantly, presence. I felt he was a good choice for captain when he first arrived at the club, but the defense is severely lacking the authority he was signed to provide, something has gone wrong. Roberto has a few options to replace him — none that steady — playing Steve Gohouri or Adrian Lopez in the centre with Antolin Alcaraz, or moving the ever reliable Emmerson Boyce into centre, drafting in Ronnie Stam at right-back. Or playing Gohouri or Lopez at right back. The main concern should be containing Matt Jarvis, who usually operates down Wolves’ left wing.

If Diame is fit, I would guess a repeat lineup in midfield, with Dave Jones and Ben Watson. Albert Crusat was dangerous against Fulham and should keep his place on the left, while Victor Moses will continue to provoke panic in goalposts country-wide on the right. Hugo Rodallega has been poor — a lifeless, dejected version of the livewire striker with the neon green boots that joined us under Steve Bruce. He remains the most likely player to score, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Martinez opted for Franco Di Santo, who at least looks like he wants to be on the pitch.

As for Wolves, it will probably be a 4-5-1 similar to ours, with Kevin Doyle the frontman. Matt Jarvis will be the main creative threat, while Jamie O’Hara will be energetic in midfield. Cristophe Berra is a bit of a weak link in their defense, though old Birmingham bruiser Roger Johnson always seemed to enjoy a good tussle with Rodallega, I’m sure it will be the same in different colours.

Not much more to say. We’ve played well in the last two outings but haven’t scored. We know we’ll hit the post at least once, but lets hope it bounces in this time.

Heart says: We are a bogey team for Wolves. The extra pace in centre of defense will do us well. We need to win. 1-0.

Mind says: If Wolves score first, we’ve had it. If we do, anything is possible. Realistically, 1-1, but lets hope I’m wrong.

Wigan Athletic 1 Bolton Wanderers 3: Defensive disaster

Match Report: Wigan Athletic 1 Bolton Wanderers 3

If you’ve watched Latics at all in the past few years, you’ll be familiar with our two most basic failings — individual defensive mistakes, and a lack of killer instinct up front. When we lose matches, it’s generally the former, when we draw them, the latter. You might as well insert your joke here, as I’m basically saying we can’t defend or attack. But it’s not quite that simple. The amazing conclusion to last season proved that when concentration levels are high, and individual mistakes are cut out, there is enough talent up front to get the necessary points. But it is games like this one — a local derby no less — that just makes you scratch your head in disbelief.

How is it possible that these are the same players who battled so hard to keep us up last year — did they not learn anything at all from that experience? Each of the three defensive lapses was a direct result of being too casual, taking too much time on the ball, as though it were a kickabout at the park.

The key sentence in our match preview was “Whether Latics go on to beat Bolton resoundingly, or to even beat them at all, is going to depend on their approach to the game.” It’s hard to assign all blame to the coach when your defenders do silly things to give away goals, but Roberto’s lineup — and approach — was just too conservative. Packing the midfield is acceptable when you’re playing the big boys, but at home to Bolton, who were bottom of the table at kickoff? Come on. It sends the wrong message to the players, and affords too much respect to the opposition. Victor Moses was the only creative player on the pitch. Shaun Maloney could have started. We’ve seen all too little of Conor Sammon, who might’ve started as centre-forward, pushing Franco Di Santo out wide. We must assume Albert Crusat is injured, another shame, as his pace is much needed. What about Callum McManaman, Nouha Dicko, both of whom have been outstanding for the reserves?

All that said, I still thought we had enough to win it, in large part due to the return of Antolin Alcaraz. My optimism was short-lived, as it was a rusty Alcaraz who gave the ball away in the move that led to the first goal, and then later in the game for the third. Steve Gohouri, given the nod ahead of Maynor Figueroa at left-back — a strange move given Patrick Van Aanholt’s availability — had his worst match in a Wigan shirt. If he hadn’t cheaply given away possession right before half-time, Latics’ momentum probably would have carried them to victory in the second half.

The Good:

We should be pleased with Rodallega’s return, and that of Alcaraz, despite his mistakes. Ali Al-Habsi saved a penalty and remains someone we can rely on. Mo Diame scored again, and is emerging as our best midfielder. Victor Moses was dangerous as always, though he once again couldn’t score.

The Bad:

Lack of concentration. Individual mistakes. The manager’s defensive approach and tactical rigidity. The league table.

Credit Where it’s Due

Chris Eagles was a handful all afternoon and deserved his goal. David N’Gog’s goal was well taken, although all three goals exposed Gary Caldwell’s lack of pace in one way or another. If Latics players had even a percentage of the desire that Kevin Davis shows, in every single game, we’d be pushing for European places.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 7 — Saved a penalty and wasn’t to blame for any of the goals.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Wasn’t involved in the poor defending that led to Bolton’s goals, but we didn’t see too much of him either.

Gary Caldwell: 5 — Beaten to the header by the less-than-lightning Nigel Reo-Coker for the first goal, gave the penalty away (though it was very soft indeed), and had his lack of pace exposed by David N’Gog for the second, and Chris Eagles for the third. A bad afternoon.

Antolin Alcaraz: 5 — Too casual, particularly given the fact it was his first match back from injury and he was bound to be a little rusty. Got caught in possession a few times, two of them led to goals. A shame, because he is our best centre-back.

Steve Gohouri: 5 — One to forget. Looked a bit confused at times at left-back, struggling with the impressive Chris Eagles. Caught trying to dribble his way out of trouble in the buildup to the second goal. Substituted at half-time. Not a left-back.

Ben Watson: 6 — I actually thought he was one of the better performers in the first half, but was sacrificed in order to bring on Hugo Rodallega at half-time.

Mo Diame: 7 — Took his goal very well, and the only Latics midfielder that consistently gets himself in scoring positions.

Dave Jones: 6 — Didn’t show his best, although his left foot set piece deliveries were useful (when he was allowed near the ball. What on earth was Di Santo doing taking direct free-kicks in the second half?!)

James McCarthy: 5 — For me, the biggest disappointment this season. Always works hard, but his class and attacking ability have been absent. So much potential, but if anything he has regressed. Still young, but we need him find his form.

Victor Moses: 7 — Same as every week. Dangerous, fast, powerful, a headache for the opposition, but needs someone to poke home the chances he creates. And a cooler head when he goes to finish them himself.

Franco Di Santo: 6 — Worked hard, a decent and skilful target man who has everything except the goalscoring instincts. He is rarely in the right place at the right time, when a cross comes into the box.

Subs:

Hugo Rodallega: 6.5 — Latics did look better with him on the pitch, but he ballooned a dangerously positioned free-kick and had most of his shots blocked.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 — Better than Steve Gohouri.

Shaun Maloney:  N/A — Not on the pitch long enough to make an impact. Wish he had been in the starting lineup.