Another Cup or League dilemma?

Can Paul Cook emulate Gary Caldwell by winning League 1? Or will the FA Cup get in the way?
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

 

Wigan Athletic have a habit of giving the media something to feed upon. Dave Whelan certainly gave them plenty of ammunition when he appointed Malky Mackay and consequently made politically incorrect comments that the press lapped up. But he also appointed Roberto Martinez, who brought home the biggest prize in the club’s history amid worldwide media acclaim.

That FA Cup win will remain in our collective memories for years to come. Moreover it created a story that the media found irresistible. As a result Wigan Athletic became known on the world stage and it is no surprise that they are now about to be taken over by a Far East consortium.

Prior to that fateful day in May 2013 there were debates among Latics fans about what was more important – the league or the cup. There were two extremely difficult games coming up within the space of a few days: Manchester City at Wembley and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The bookmakers did not think Wigan Athletic could win either game.  In the event Roberto Martinez managed to fashion a team out of an injury-ravaged squad which went on to win the FA Cup on merit. It was a dream come true, especially for those of us who had seen the club rise from its humble origins over the years. That old debate is now settled – who would want to put the clock back and swap a cup win for a longer stay in the Premier League?

Almost five years later and a parallel debate is opening up following Monday’s remarkable win against the same club. Some in the media are saying Manchester City are the best team in the world. It remains to be seen whether they can win the Champions League, then the World Club Cup to justify that label. But they have certainly been outstanding up to this point in all competitions bar the FA Cup. That a club from the third tier could knock them out beggars belief, even if they played half of the game with ten men.

It was the third FA Cup giant-killing act by Wigan Athletic against Manchester City in five years. In that 2013 Cup Final, Wigan had 48% possession, equaling City in shots with 11 and committing 5 fouls to their opponents’ 11. A year later Uwe Rosler’s team won 2-1 at the Etihad in the quarter finals, the stats perhaps being reflective of Wigan’s status as a Championship division team, having 32% possession, 5 shots to City’s 12, each team committing 10 fouls. The stats from Monday’s game reflect what a remarkable performance it was from a side currently in League 1. City had 82% possession and 29 shots to Wigan’s 4 , but could not get a goal. Wigan conceded 11 fouls, although a number of those decisions were debatable, City committing 6.

The application, effort and discipline required to hold off the continuous waves of City attacks was remarkable and reflects on the mentality Paul Cook has instilled into his players. It was another unforgettable day for Latics fans.

So, Wigan Athletic have reached the last 8 of the FA Cup for the third time in the last half decade. A sixth-round home tie with Southampton beckons. What chance do Latics have of beating the Saints?

“Believe” remains the Wigan Athletic theme. Lots of fans will say that Latics have already beaten three Premier League sides, including the champions-elect, so why not Southampton too?

The realists will point out that Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City fielded weakened teams. If Southampton play their strongest lineup then they are likely to overcome third tier Wigan.

But will the victory over Manchester City, followed by another tie with Southampton in mid-March have an impact on Wigan’s quest to get back to the Championship division? Is the FA Cup a distraction that could cost Latics promotion?

The defeats at Southend and at home to Blackpool were an unwelcome surprise for a team that had seemed to be cruising towards the League 1 title. Some suggested that the impending takeover might have something to do with what was happening on the pitch. Others pointed to the upcoming game against Manchester City being a major distraction for the players. Or was it simply a matter of time until that good run would come to such a resounding halt?

Moreover, Monday’s heroic performance could carry a heavy toll. The sheer exertion of running for 90+ minutes with just 18% possession is something that should not be dismissed. In addition to the next FA Cup encounter, Latics have played three games less than their promotion rivals, leaving them 15 league games to play in a 10 week period. Fans will recall the long run-in that Uwe Rosler’s side faced in 2013-14, which left them jaded for the Championship play-offs. However, that season not only included a run to an FA Cup Semi Final but also six games in the Europa League.

Paul Cook’s team will be on a psychological high after that amazing performance. The question is whether they will have the stamina to cope with the bread-and-butter events of League 1. Cook is not a man who likes to rotate his squad, but he will surely have to do so over the coming weeks if Latics are to keep up their momentum for promotion.

Cook’s main challenge is to keep his players firmly focused on League 1. A win against Southampton would put Latics in the FA Cup semi-final once more, but a return to the Championship is surely the club’s main focus.

In the meantime, reports suggest that both Cook and David Sharpe travelled to Spain this week. Not surprisingly it is being linked to the change in ownership, which appears due to be completed by the end of this month. But perhaps it was to celebrate Cook’s birthday (February 22)?

Following the cup tie Cook’s popularity ratings have reached an all-time high at Wigan. He has done a wonderful job up to this point but there remain considerable hurdles to cross  over the next couple of months.

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Wigan Athletic fans react to AFC Fylde result on social media

Result: AFC Fylde 1 Wigan Athletic 1

A goal up at half time and having totally dominated the match up to that point, who would have thought that Latics would come away with just a draw? Sloppy defence in the 70th minute led to Nathan Byrne making a reckless tackle, with the National League’s leading scorer, Danny Rowe, slotting home the resulting penalty.

After simply “parking the bus” up to that point, Fylde brought on another striker in Matt Blinkhorn in the 62nd minute. It showed at least some ambition on the home team’s part. But even after Fylde equalised Wigan continued to dominate possession. But the home team’s defence held firm.

We thought we would trawl the social media to get some fan views on the match. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified blow:

Stuart Alker @stuartalker tweeted:

Tonight was one very poor night in what will ultimately be a successful season. Don’t dwell on it. Congratulate the opposition. Move on.

Dragnet on Latics Speyk stated:

Give Fylde some credit, they did not play kick and rush, passed the ball well, closed us down so that we had to pass side wards and backwards, and for ten minutes during which we conceded the penalty had us on the back foot. The playing surface for this time of the year was a credit to them, and we would be foolish to take them too lightly in the replay. The more I look at max he reminds me of Ray Wilkens who was a master of the sideways and back pass, I am sure he must be playing to orders.

Chris Roughley @WAFC_CHRIS1 tweeted:

Power has one average game after 4 MoM performances and now must be sold to Basingstoke. Get a grip.

Nottinghamlatic on Latics Speyk responded:

Draggers – to be fair, Power did try a few forward passes, but only one actually came off. He looked very ordinary on a stage where he could and should have starred.

 Filmoss on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

From an armchair point of view I thought it was awful ! They were there for the taking, especially in the first half and we were woeful with the final piece of the proverbial jigsaw!

 Ihaventaclue on Latics Speyk commented:

Does anyone know what to do when the opposition fill the box and ‘park-the-bus’ with all its passengers, conductor and driver. It’s kinda what happened last night, and happens often in the league games. Away teams at the DW should arrive in a minibus, for starters.

 Runcornfan1978 on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

… We are a decent side & are where we are in the league on deserved merit. Last night was a classic cup tie where the minnows, whilst totally outclassed by higher league opposition, performed as a unit & fully deserved their draw. Admittedly! I believe we treated the game as a training match & should have been more ruthless. I get the impression that after we scored, we took the foot off the peddle & thought “game-over.” Plus, fylde did come at us more in the 2nd half.

I agree, Cook does need a word with them. And, im also sorry for you & your boys matchday experience, which should have been (regardless of the result) a thoroughly enjoyable evening out.

LaticSloth @LaticsSloth tweeted:

Official: any fan who “BOO”s their own player as he comes on as a sub, and before he’s even had a chance to kick a ball….IS A COMPLETE W–KER!!!

Richard Ricardo on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams stated:

Power was fine; Jacobs was a dynamo; Burn was a bit off the boil and should have weighted his pass to Powell a bit better, Byrne was trying hard, Dunkley held the defence together; James is playing like Jimmy Ryan used to for Man U about 40 years ago, but most of all it is important to give the underdog false hope. It’ll be a walkover at the DW. We are still in ‘THE cup’ which already has our name on it, which is a lot more that some will be tomorrow.

Horc on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

I thought Burn was great, if only he had shown a bit more composure near the end when, after a great run he over hit his pass to put Powell clean through.
PS Max Power should be in for shooting practice tomorrow with Evans and Michael Jacobs needs to be bought a new sat nav as he didn’t show up tonight.
We should have won by three or four goals on the balance of play and chances created, but at the end of the day we have another match to go to, so its not all doom and gloom.

Moonay on Latics Speyk gave the view that:

Cook has really got to sharpen up his shooting, and improve his positional sense when trying to get on the end of crosses.

 

 

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Latics fans react on social media to Man U game

manupic

Only the most optimistic of Wigan Athletic fans would have expected their team to get some kind of result at Old Trafford.  Damage limitation was the best that most of us had hoped for. But Warren Joyce’s team performed well until Fellaini’s goal in the 44th minute. Latics had at least matched their expensive opponents up to that point and if Michael Jacobs had not fluffed a clear shot on goal they could even have been ahead before the big Belgian bruiser barged past Callum Connolly for that goal.

Once behind it was a tall order for a Latics team playing with just one forward. But early in the second half home keeper Romero fluffed a cross straight to David Perkins, one of the outstanding performers up to that point. But sadly Perkins is not known for his goal scoring and could not put the chance away. It was not an easy chance, but it was a lost opportunity to get back in the game. The seemingly inevitable was to follow, as Latics sank under United’s pressure.

Joyce had once again put on a cautious line up, loading the midfield. But until Fellaini’s goal they had looked well organised and were holding their own. The defence had been solid and the midfield industrious. Joyce’s influence on the defensive make-up of his teams is clear. He is making Latics a hard team to beat. However, it is on the offensive side where the work still needs doing. As yesterday’s game wore on, Will Grigg looked more and more isolated in the lone centre forward role. Given the team’s lack of goals it is worrying to hear rumours about Yanic Wildschut being sold off. Craig Davies has already left for Scunthorpe and Adam Le Fondre was not even on the bench yesterday. Neither was Jordi Gomez. Some say that Gomez is not a Joyce-type player. It would therefore be no surprise if he and Le Fondre were to depart in the next couple of days.

Yesterday’s Paul Kendrick’s headline read “We don’t want to sell Yanic – Joyce”, with the manager being quoted that: “It’s simple as far as I’m concerned – you don’t want to sell your best players. I’ve come here and I’m trying to build a football club. I don’t think Yanic had played a full game this season before I came to the football club. He’s progressed, he’s lost weight, he’s sharper, he’s fitter.” Rumour suggests that Wildschut will go if Latics are offered between £5-£6 m. The manager clearly does not want to lose one of his key players, but the Chief Executive and Chairman appear to have different ideas.

Losing Wildschut would be a hammer blow for a manager trying to keep his team in the division. Some would say that the club could use at least some of the funds to sign a replacement, but Latics will be reluctant to pay a significant transfer fee for a player who will expect a high salary to match. Given that Latics already have more loan players than they can field in  a match, the likelihood would be to go for a free agent or a younger player from the lower divisions.

All will be revealed in the next couple of days.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

lineker

Max Power @power_m4 tweeted:

Great experience today, thought we gave a good account of ourselves despite the result! Thanks for the support.

David Sharpe @DavidSharpe91 responded:

Scoreline is harsh but very proud of the boys. 1st half we were excellent. Equally as proud of our fans, non stop singing for 90 mins

Argus on the Cockney Latic Forum commented that:

We’ve scored 1 goal at Old Trafford in what 9 goes and that was a last minute Baines penalty in 2006 I think.We were 1 minute away from a perfect 1st half performance.You really didn’t think we were going to go gung ho at them did you – they would have scored a hatful similar to their 3rd if we had. We should have been 1-0 up if Jacobs had connected instead of that air shot in the 1st half.

Morsy’s performance showed the class difference between the PL and the Championship. He was fairly anonymous today.That was one of our better performances there and we should be OK for the rest of the season.4th bottom will do at this stage then we can take stock and consolidate ready for next season.

Jonjo Gallagher @JonjoGallagher tweeted:

I mean this whole heartedly I do not want to get back to that greed league that isn’t football, where is my sport gone #wafc

 Jocklatic on Latics Speyk commented on the atmosphere at Old Trafford:

Well we tried hard to give them a game n up until their goal against the run of play we was holding our own. Had we held on to a 0-0 till half time then it wud have been a different game …but my oh my what an absolutely abysmal atmosphere there is from the ‘ tourist’ that visit there….it is awful n no wonder teams in the prem can come n get a win. No pressure from home crowd, no atmosphere, no intimidation of away team in fact it was so sterile it was like a pre season game. Even walking up to the game from the cricket club was directed….ffs support yer team (utd)…..worst home support I’ve seen …even worse than blackpool away last season who r boycotting the club…..big team my a..e

Donnys Page on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

If you go to a place like Old Trafford and try to stifle and slow them down eventually you get what you deserve. Totally different match plan from the last three games and left Grigg so isolated on his own. Brought on Yanic for pace but soon after took off the only striker at the club and no further positive options on the bench. Two of the pointless signings had a run out but hopefully we won’t be seeing them again. Let us hope we get back to the style and approach we had for the three wins. Very disappointed today but at the end of the day we were playing the bank but just wish we could have been more positive and not have just put up a brick wall. Could we have lost with a greater score?

Ihaventaclue on Latics Speyk was positive about the performance:

We were great today. Well done every one. Cracking good atmosphere – in our corner, but blimey how 60,000 can do nothing except a half hearted cheer when a goal goes in ….. is beyond me. No wonder they needed all the help they could get from the ref. Actually with their reputation I was really surprised, I was expecting more.

Dave Carter on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

I think it’s open for debate whether the keeper should have come out for the ball. In my eyes, Connolly was too lightweight and allowed Fellaini to outmuscle him. That said, it was a decent defensive performance till the goal, but it was game over when it went in with Joyce’s reluctance to support his lone forward.

Loudmouthblue on Latics Speyk thought the goalkeeper was at fault:

The cross for Fellaini’s goal came from wide and was very high, in the air a long time and travelled along the six yard box, any decent keeper, especially one that is 6ft 7in would have come for that.

Hindleymonwafc  on Latics Speyk questioned the case:

The cross was excellent….how can you blame any keeper for being in two minds about that .

 MightyBongsmon on Latics Speyk added:

That cross was too high & deep for any keeper to come out for. If you want to look at blame for the 1st & 2nd goals blame the players who didn’t put pressure on the guy who crossed it & the full backs for getting out muscled & outjumped. Mind you that’s nit picking. I looked at taking 4-0 before kick off but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I also thought that in the 1st half Latics were the better side but that Jacobs miss & their goal killed us

Northern Soul on Latics Speyk thought Connolly had been fouled:

Outmuscled? I’d hardly calling getting elbowed in the face outmuscled. Since when is that anything other than a foul?

Piemon on Latics Speyk questioned the consistency of the refereeing:

Completely sour grapes from me here but …If Fellani commits two professional fouls and isn’t booked for either, and then Burn is booked for one similar foul . . . how was Fellaini still on the pitch to score the opener? At the end we just ran out of steam after a stonking first half performance

 Noel Wards Leg on Latics Speyk summed up by saying:

Lots of plus points aside from the result. For me the biggest was that we created chances – something we failed to do against very ordinary opposition until quite recently. The players are fitter and working hard.

Several players who did not look up to the task earlier in the season are now looking very, very good players. I thought Max Power looked our classiest player today but I’m just in awe of Perks for his ability to break up play and run all day at an age when others are retiring.

I liked Gary Caldwell and am grateful for what he did for us but even last season I was never overly convinced of his style of play. For me he erred too much on the side of patience and not enough on the side of urgency. Warren Joyce is beginning to have success at instructing players to look for the forward pass and to have players looking for space between the lines. It provides for more entertaining football I feel and we saw evidence of that today even against the richest club in the world.

I’m desperately hoping that we get a new striker in in the next couple of days but I would imagine that whoever it is will only be there providing support to Will Grigg and not necessarily improving the team.
yanictwitter

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Can brave Latics beat City again?


Wigan Athletic have been drawn away to Manchester City in the sixth round of the FA Cup.

So it is the cup holders against the cup runners-up.

City have been in electrifying form at home all season and have already beaten Latics 5-0 in the League Cup at the Etihad Stadium in September. They will also be keen to avenge the defeat at Wembley last May.

As is often the case the odds are stacked heavily against Latics.

But then again Latics have defied the odds before and come through triumphant.

The match is due to be played on March 8th/9th.

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Season in review: One step back but a giant leap forward

Wigan celebrate FA Cup win with parade shortly after Premier League relegation - video

No sooner had the dust settled on Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup semifinal success over Millwall a month ago than a notion started circulating that the Latics could become the first club to win the FA Cup and suffer relegation during the same season.

Deep in their hearts, most Wigan supporters suspected that the combination of defensive injuries and late season fixture congestion would probably make the dream double of survival and FA Cup a step too far. By the time a ball was kicked in the FA Cup final, just about every Latics supporter in the world had been asked what they would prefer: stay up or win the cup?

Though a complicated question, the answer was never really in doubt. Thirty thousand people — three eighths the town’s population — coloured the town of Wigan blue for yesterday’s FA Cup victory parade, emphatically putting ignorant and outdated “rugby town” stereotypes to bed. They sang and cheered, and even drowned out their manager, on-stage with a microphone, with chants “Roberto Martinez, we want you to stay.” There was not a boo or a negative word to be heard — not at the parade, nor at the Emirates last Tuesday when the team was consigned to relegation. The enduring sentiment was and is one of sheer pride.

This is not to say that relegation doesn’t hurt. Football, and the Premier League in particular, is a game of fine margins. Matches turn on a single incident, and there were a host of them this season, that if reversed, probably would have kept Wigan up. James McArthur’s missed opportunity to seal the game against Swansea, Tottenham’s incredibly fortunate last-gasp equaliser at the DW, Joe Hart’s unbelievable save to deny Franco Di Santo — all recent — stick in the memory.

But relegation from the league was always a possibility — no, a probability — and has been for years. Sunderland, who finished three points above Wigan, signed Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson, Alfred N Diaye and Danny Graham within the past year alone for a total of 30 million pounds. Fellow relegation rivals Aston Villa, for context, signed Wigan’s best player two seasons ago for 9.5 million and kept him on the bench for most of the campaign — next to 18 million Darren Bent. They could afford to leave them out because they’d signed a gem of a player in Christian Benteke for 10 million pounds the previous summer. Newcastle spent more than 25 million this season. Southampton almost 33. Wigan’s total spending amounted to 9 million on four players, all of which were covered by the sale of Victor Moses to Chelsea. Conor Sammon’s 1.2 million deal to Sheffield Wednesday earned the club a net profit on transfers, something none of the aforementioned achieved. (Source: http://www.transferleague.co.uk/)

The good news when it comes to league status, as Martinez has said, is that it can be rectified. Not many teams bounce back up to the Premier League immediately following relegation. But not many teams that go down were living within their means during their Premier League stays like Wigan was. How many clubs have we seen promoted, overspend, get relegated and disband upon the realization that they cannot afford to keep paying the players they overspent on?

Sure, Latics will lose some of their stars — and those players deserve the chance to move to a top flight club. They were brought to Wigan on the promise that they would be allowed to move to a bigger club when the time was right for both parties. The stable financial footing Dave Whelan and Martinez have guided Wigan Athletic to means that they are not obligated to sell any of their players. They will, but only because it is beneficial to the club’s future. For every N’Zogbia or Moses — or this year probably McCarthy — that goes, four or five young talents are signed. Four such youngsters — Roman Golobart, Eduard Campabadal, Nouha Dicko, Fraser Fyvie — are likely to play big roles next season and cost Whelan very, very little.

A popular claim at the moment says that league status is temporary while trophies are forever. While certainly true, it does not quite sum up Wigan’s emotional season, or explain the absoluteness of their fans’ pride. If it had been QPR that had won the FA Cup but been relegated, it is highly doubtful that the overwhelming feeling at their parade would have been one of pride and progress. Their team has been messily run since being promoted two years ago, thrown money — a lots of it — at the problems and assembled an overpaid, overrated team of opportunists who will likely be sold off auction-style during the summer as they try to slash the astronomical wage bill they’ve created for themselves.

With apologies for harsh words to supporters of QPR, the point is that celebrations at yesterday’s parade were not solely focused on the amazing, unimaginable fairy-tale story of little Wigan spectacularly toppling the richest team in the land and defending league champions to lift the oldest football competition in the world. They were an acknowledgement of how far Wigan Athletic has come as an institution and the work of the last decade. The team will play in the Charity Shield and Europa League for the first time next season. A product of the youth and reserve squads was named man of the match in the FA Cup final. The New York Times has featured the Latics three times in the past month. Thirty thousand people came out to support the team. State of the art training facilities are on the horizon. Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup. Wigan won the FA Cup. The Latics won the bloody cup!

Relegation may be a step back, but the infrastructure is in place to keep this club in the Premier League or thereabouts for years to come. Of course, much hinges on the future of the iconic hero of this Wigan revolution, from player in the lower divisions to the manager who lifted the FA Cup, Roberto Martinez. But for now, it is safe to say that despite going down, Wigan Athletic is on the up.

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