Latics legs go again in defeat at Charlton

Despite the defeat there were plenty of positives to be taken from Latics’ display at The Valley yesterday. But when it looked as though Wigan had battled through for a deserved point they were robbed by a wickedly deflected shot on goal during time added on.

Uwe Rosler largely stuck with the lineup he had put out in the previous league game against Reading. But with Emmerson Boyce injured he brought in Ivan Ramis at centre back. Marc-Antoine Fortune was brought in for Martyn Waghorn. In Boyce’s absence, James Perch was surprisingly nominated as captain ahead of James McArthur.

Latics started in a positive manner, playing the kind of football reminiscent of the days of Roberto Martinez. But despite having dominated the possession they fell behind in the 8th minute when their right-footed left winger Jordan Cousins cut inside Perch and blasted the ball home with his natural foot. Latics soon got back to their possession football, with Callum McManaman looking lively on the right. In the 21st minute a glorious long pass from James McArthur eluded left back Rhoys Wiggins for McManaman to control the ball and hit it with his left foot past goalkeeper Stephen Henderson from a narrow angle.

Latics continued to dominate possession, building up patiently out of defence. It was good to see Scott Carson looking to throw the ball, rather than give it his habitual hoof. Oriel Riera and Fortune were alternating between the centre forward and left wing positions, but moves were fizzling out with the two forwards and the midfield seemingly not on the same wavelength. Perch continued to have problems with Cousins, who looked dangerous.

Shaun Maloney came on for Riera at half time, playing on the left wing. Charlton had started to gain more possession, but the Latics midfield trio of Cowie, Huws and McArthur were still lively. Martyn Waghorn replaced Fortune in the centre forward position after 69 minutes. Huws was taking all the set pieces for Wigan but they were not threatening a steady Charlton defence with Ben Haim and Bikey-Amagou in top form.

With both teams resisting the long ball it was a fascinating contest and looked to be heading towards a draw. However, the substitution of Don Cowie after 75 minutes saw Wigan’s energy levels fading and the home side were looking the more lively. Latics’ crosses into the box were invariably cut out by the central defenders or the dominant substitute goalkeeper Nick Pope, who had come on after 67 minutes.

In the final ten minutes, which included five minutes of added-on time, Latics were all at sea. The left hand side of defence had all but folded and Perch and Ramis really had their work cut out holding things together. The midfield was unable to provide the protection it had given earlier. Vetokole broke through for a one on one with Carson but the keeper made a fine save. Perch made an excellent block from Gudmundsson. But even Ramis, who had been excellent up to that point, was looking ragged.

It had looked like a goal was on the cards for Charlton in added time, but it was to come when a shot from Moussa from outside the area was deflected by Kiernan, giving Carson no chance.

The stats showed that Latics enjoyed 55% of the possession with six corners to Charlton’s three. But more revealing was that Charlton had five shots on target to Latics’ one. In fact Wigan only mustered four shots in the whole game.

The Good

The good news is that football has returned to Latics’ play. In fact there was hardly a hoof all afternoon. Until they tired, Ramis and Kiernan were excellent in the centre of defence, reading the play and using the ball effectively.

The midfield trio of Cowie-McArthur-Huws at times looked like a carbon copy of last season’s favoured formation of Watson-McArthur-McCann. Cowie looked comfortable in the Watson role in the centre of the park, in front of the back four. Huws is a fine young player who will get better and better. McArthur was his usual lively self.

McManaman had a good first half, taking his goal superbly, but was heavily marked in the second.

The Bad

Once again Latics could not compete physically for the full 90 minutes. Those final ten minutes were agony as they just did not have the legs to compete on equal footing with the home team.

Despite having the majority of the possession Latics were not creating chances. Maloney came on in the second half but he too was unable to provide that spark that was missing.

It was surprising to see Huws take the set pieces with players like Maloney and Waghorn on the field.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – did all that was asked of him. Distribution much improved.

James Perch: 6 – just did not look himself in the first half but showed the kind of grittiness and determination in the second half that typifies his normal play.

Ivan Ramis: 7.5 – excellent until the closing minutes.

Rob Kiernan: 6 – clearly not match fit. Played well until the final quarter of the match.

Andrew Taylor: 5 – looked out of touch. Is he fully fit?

Don Cowie: 7 – worked hard, strong in the tackle, rarely wasted the ball.

James McArthur: 7 – a battling performance.

Emyr Huws: 7 – strong in the tackle, with a cultured left foot.

Callum McManaman: 7 – did all he could offensively, but left Perch exposed at times.

Oriel Riera: 5 – made no impact. Taken off at half time.

Marc -Antoine Fortune: 5 – ineffective.

Substitutes:

Shaun Maloney: – ineffective.

Martyn Waghorn: – made no impact.

Roger Espinoza: – not his usual energetic self.

 

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Wigan Athletic 0 QPR 0 – a damp squib

Skybet championship play off semi final, Wigan Athletic v QPR

Gomez latches on to Caldwell’s long pass after 42 minutes.

Seldom will one see a game as sterile as this, with so few chances created. It was a damp squib. A Latics team looking low on confidence had 58% of the possession, but never committed enough men forward to pose problems for the visitors’ packed defence.

Uwe Rosler surprised us by leaving Martyn Waghorn on the bench, playing Marc-Antoine Fortune up front with Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney. Rosler preferred Rob Kiernan to Leon Barnett and he was joined by Emmerson Boyce and Gary Caldwell in a central backline of three. James Perch and Jean Beausejour were the wing backs, with James McArthur and Jordi Gomez in central midfield. Scott Carson continued in goal. Nick Powell did not make the squad.

Harry Redknapp put out a lineup with lots of creative players, but from the onset it was clear that his tactic would be to pack his defence and frustrate Latics. It was a measure of strength of the QPR defence that Wigan’s first decent shot on goal came after 42 minutes when Gomez pulled down a long pass from Caldwell and forced a good save from Rob Green. Carson had been virtually unemployed at the other end. It had been a scrappy, physical affair with McArthur, McManaman and Caldwell joining Richard Dunne in receiving a yellow card.

QPR came out more positively early in the second half with Junior Hoilett looking lively and having a shot go wide. Carson did well to punch away a cross from Hill, and then made a good save from a low shot from Traore.

Latics got back on top of possession and had the chance of the match when Kiernan found Fortune eight yards from goal, but the French Guinean spooned it wide. One was expecting Rosler to make his habitual substitutions around the 60 minute mark, but they were not forthcoming. The game continued to be scrappy, with Latics mainly relying on long balls which were gobbled up by the visiting defence.

The substitutes came after 76 minutes as Martyn Waghorn and Nicky Maynard replaced McManaman and Fortune, but it had little effect. The game reached its predictable conclusion in a dull goalless draw.

The Good

QPR came in to the match in better form than a Latics team that had lost 4 out of their last 6 games. It showed.

Wigan looked solid defensively.

Looking on the bright side Latics are still in with a chance in the return match on Monday.

The Bad

It was more like watching a game of chess rather than a football match. QPR stymied Latics, who had little to offer in the final third of the field. Apart from that first half shot from Gomez, Wigan’s flair players could not provide that telling pass or shot that would make the difference.

What was missing from Latics was tempo. Roger Espinoza is a player who can not only put energy into a game, but has a catalytic effect on his team mates. However, he sat on the bench the whole match. James McClean could also have come on and injected some life into Wigan’s play. He too was shunned.

We did not see Latics playing the Rosler way with high pressing and fast counterattacks. They were insipid and cautious, the wing backs holding back and not enough players getting in the box.

Fortune started the match after not having scored in his last 17 games. It was no surprise when he missed Latics’ best opportunity in the second half. However, that was the only opportunity he had, given the woeful service into the box. Rosler could be criticized for starting Fortune rather than Maynard who had scored two goals in the previous game. However, had Maynard started he would have been on the receiving end of too many long balls, which is not his forte. Fortune once again plugged away, given poor service.

Latics have played QPR three times this season and still not scored a goal.

However, all is not lost. An early goal for Wigan on Monday would provide a big boost for their flagged self-confidence and could see them go through. Stranger things have happened.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 6.5 – did all that was required of him.

James Perch: 6 – solid.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 – solid.

Gary Caldwell: 6.5 – solid in defence and put some decent long balls forward.

Rob Kiernan: 6 – looked comfortable in defence. Injured by Clint Hill’s elbow in the first half, unseen by the officials.

Jean Beausejour: 6 – solid in defence, seemed afraid to go too far forward.

James McArthur: 6 – worked hard to maintain possession.

Jordi Gomez: 6 – worked hard but could not put his stamp on the game.

Callum McManaman: 6 – could not find a way through a massed defence.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 5.5 – spurned his only opportunity of the game.

Shaun Maloney: 6 – not at his best yet after a long time out injured.

Substitutes

Martyn Waghorn, Nicky Maynard: – came on after 76 minutes, but could not make the difference.

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Watford and beyond – Latics and promotion

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At half time during the Ipswich match last Saturday the Wigan Athletic substitutes came on the pitch to play ‘Piggy in the Middle’. Latics had gone into half time 2-1 ahead  after James McClean’s well taken equalizer and Leon Barnett’s header .

The quality of players in that group was impressive . Carson, Crainey, Kiernan, McEachran, Maynard, McManaman, Powell – a strong bench that most Championship clubs would envy. But it was more than that – there was an almost tangible atmosphere of camaraderie among those players. Football clubs these days are experts in telling fans that there is a team spirit among their players. In fact even Owen Coyle would tell us the same thing, although one seriously doubted that was the case.

However, there can be no doubt that Uwe Rosler has built up a strong team spirit at Wigan. The German’s preferred style of football is as physically demanding as it could possibly be for the players. But the players have adjusted and since his arrival fitness levels have improved.

Rosler made five changes for the midweek match against Yeovil, but the team spirit was still there when they were 2-1 down five minutes from the end. It led to two goals before the end of regular time and it reminded one of that late comeback against Charlton when the three points seemed to be lost. However, this time it was not to be as Yeovil got a scrambled equaliser in the last minute of added time.

Over the last couple of weekends Latics had been full of running and energy in victories at Manchester City and Ipswich. However, in the midweek games against Sheffield Wednesday and Yeovil they have looked jaded and lethargic. Which Wigan Athletic will we see against Watford tomorrow?

In the next six weeks Wigan Athletic have to play twelve matches. That kind of schedule needs a strong squad with a rotation policy that involves adjustments, rather than wholesale changes. Much of Latics’ defensive stability in recent weeks has been underpinned by the presence of James Perch on the right, with various combinations of Leon Barnett, Emmerson Boyce and Ivan Ramis in the centre of defence. The mutual understanding among those players has helped to them to play as a very solid unit.

When Perch went off injured after 27 minutes on Tuesday it caused a disruption to that smooth running unit. With no recognized right back on the bench Rosler was forced to move Boyce across. Thomas Rogne, who had not played since December, paired up with Ivan Ramis in their first game as a central defensive partnership. Rogne is a fine young player and Ramis possibly the best central defender in the division, but Yeovil centre forward Ishmael Miller proved too much for them on the night, scoring two well taken goals and missing an easier chance before that.

Even if Perch is available tomorrow Rosler will have to think hard about playing Boyce. Although 34 years old the captain has already played 46 matches this season, more than any other player. Boyce is a key player for Rosler and has been in great form, but badly needs a rest. Playing too many matches in a condensed period of time puts the player at higher risk of receiving an injury, let alone burnout.

Rosler has been unlucky with long term injuries to Ben Watson and Chris McCann, who were part of the nucleus around which his team was built. Moreover the consistent and reliable Leon Barnett is out with a hamstring injury, hopefully for not too long.

A strong defence has been the key to Wigan Athletic’s surge under Rosler. He now has to shuffle his pack and some coherence in defence will be lost. Thomas Rogne and Markus Holgersson will probably have a part to play over the coming weeks. Jean Beausejour continues to play at left back, not his natural position, but outstanding in attack.

In the absence of Watson and McCann in midfield much of the pressure will be on the admirable James McArthur. A midfield without the Scot is hardly worth contemplating, as like Boyce in defence, he is a lynchpin of the team.

Jordi Gomez has been excellent in recent matches and deserves his place. He has adjusted to Rosler’s style of play. Josh McEachran is a quality player, but has struggled to meet the physical demands of Rosler’s pressing style over 90 minutes. But watch out for him in the coming weeks. Ryan Tunniciffe has struggled to adjust to that system, but has high ratings from Ipswich fans from his time there. He is clearly not short of confidence and should get better. New loan signing Jack Collison could have a major part to play, although playing  multiple games in a week is probably beyond what his knee can withstand.

Rosler has a wealth of players available to him upfront, although he lacks a natural goalscorer. Both Marc-Antoine Fortune and Nicky Maynard are capable centre forwards, of differing styles. Callum McManaman remains a potential match winner, despite his indifferent form so far. Martyn Waghorn has a great left foot, is excellent in the delivery of corner kicks, and a team player who complies at both ends of the pitch. James McClean is a much better player under Rosler. He is now lifting his head at key moments and becoming a more mature player. If he continues in his current vein of form he will attract interest from the big clubs. Nick Powell remains a wild card, the position in which he will play being uncertain. Being played wide is not his best position, but Rosler has the option to play him at centre forward or in the hole in midfield, which might be his best position.

Latics have the luxury of quality goalkeepers with not only the excellent Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson, but the exciting young Lee Nicholls waiting for another chance. Al-Habsi and Carson can be expected to rotate over coming weeks.

Given the injuries and the hectic schedule, Latics are likely to experience some ups and downs before the end of the season. It will be hard to maintain the level already established by the German.

Rosler has built up a fine team spirit and a strong squad. The aim is for Latics to be in the top six at the end of the season. If they can do that they have the players to take them back to the Premier League.

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Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2 – the dream is coming true again

James Perch gets Latics'second

James Perch gets Latics’second

Wigan Athletic defied the odds once more with a remarkable victory at the Etihad. They now face Arsenal in the semi-final at Wembley.  The dream simply refuses to die.

Latics went into the game on the top of a run of good results, but were facing a side that had won 12 of its 13 home games in the Premier League and had already beaten them 5-0 in the League Cup. However, Uwe Rosler’s team were by no means overawed by their star-studded opponents and played with great spirit and organization and with no mean level of skill.

As expected Rosler fielded three central defenders, pushing back Chris McCann to the left side, with Emmerson Boyce on the right and Ivan Ramis in the centre. Scott Carson made a return in goal and Josh McEachran took over the Ben Watson role in midfield. Marc-Antoine Fortune and Callum McManaman played upfront with Jordi Gomez playing behind them in a forward midfield role.

Latics had started brightly, showing no fear, taking the game to the home team. In the 27th minute Marc-Antoine Fortune turned past Martin Dimichaelis near the byline for the Argentinian to make a clumsy challenge within the penalty box. Jordi Gomez was coolness personified as he slotted home the penalty. Latics continued to play the better football and City had not tested Carson as the half time whistle sounded.  Latics high pressing tactic had stemmed the flow of City moves and they deservedly went in ahead.

The second half saw a change for Latics with Leon Barnett coming on for Chris McCann. The Irishman had been outstanding, solid in defence, building up play from the back via his cultured left foot. He had been injured in the 40th minute following a powerhouse tackle on Micah Richards.

The question was whether Latics would have the energy  to continue to operate their high pressing game, boldly leaving two players up front even when under pressure.

Incredibly Latics went 2-0 up just two minutes into the second half. Lethargic defence by the home team saw James McArthur receive the ball outside the penalty area. The Scot ran through the defence before putting in a superb low cross from the left. It looked like Gael Clichy was going to clear it, but somehow James Perch got a foot to it between the Frenchman’s legs to put the ball in the net.

Manuel Pellegrini took a calculated risk after 53 minutes, using his substitute allotment by bringing on James Milner, David Silva and Edin Dzeko.  Soon after Dzeko was unlucky to head against the post and Latics were on the back foot. City scored a controversial goal after 68 minutes when Samir Nasri  shot from outside the box with Joleon Lescott trying to connect, but the ball passing between his legs to beat Carson.

Latics had brought on James McClean for McManaman after 58 minutes and Roger Espinoza for McEachran after 66 minutes. Following their goal City continued to bombard the Wigan defence, but somehow it held firm. Boyce made an amazing block to prevent Dzeko from scoring, but it was not to be City’s day. A breakaway saw Fortune wastefully blazing the ball over the bar from distance when a simple pass would have seen McClean put through on a direct route to goal.

Sheer resilience saw Latics through five minutes of added time to gain a win that was richly deserved.

The Good

Uwe Rosler had clearly done his homework and his tactics were spot-on.  In the first half the three central defenders passed the ball out of defence with composure and snuffed out the danger of strikers Aguero and Negredo. The combination of McCann and Crainey proved too much for the flying winger Navas, who was taken off after 53 minutes.  Crainey was to have his best game yet in a Latics shirt in the left wing back position. At right wing back, James Perch was as solid as ever and capped his display with an opportunist goal. It is an indication of the type of attacking approach that Rosler encourages when a wing back gets into that kind of scoring position.

Boyce gave an inspirational display. His performance in the FA Cup Final was huge, but this one might have been even better.  He forms a fine partnership with the intelligent Ramis. Barnett once again gave his all for the cause.

McArthur was his usual tireless self in midfield and made an assist for the second goal. Apart from one sloppy pass that put his defence in danger McEachran played his part until going off after 66 minutes. Gomez played well, linking up the play in the first half, putting in a lot of hard graft. Who else do Latics have who could take a penalty with such aplomb, despite the huge pressure?

Fortune gave Dimichaelis a match to forget, playing the target man role. City had clearly recognized McManaman as a danger man and although he came in for rough treatment, he made a valuable contribution.

The Bad

One wonders what might have happened had the referee, Antony Taylor, correctly disallowed City’s goal for offside.  As one might expect City did have some shouts for penalties but Taylor rightly ignored them.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – a welcome return from the excellent ‘keeper. Did all that could be expected of him.

Emmerson Boyce: 9.5 – has he ever played a better game for Latics? Superb.

Ivan Ramis: 8 – another fine defensive performance from a quality central defender. His anticipation is a real advantage to his team mates.

Chris McCann: 8 – excellent. Let’s hope the injury is not serious. He has become a key player for Latics.

James Perch: 8 – excellent in defence and we will remember his goal for years to come.

Stephen Crainey: 8 – it has taken the Scot some time to adjust to the quality passing game that Latics favour. Today he was solid in defence and his use of the ball good.

James McArthur: 8- a midfield dynamo.

Josh McEachran: 7 – still lacking match fitness, but could become a key player over the coming weeks.

Jordi Gomez: 8 – a tireless display, capped by his goal.

Callum McManaman: 7.5 – looked useful.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 8 – a fine performance as the central striker.

Substitutes:

Leon Barnett:-  came on after half time.  Solid and committed.

James McClean: – high on endeavour, but his control lets him down when switching over to the right.

Roger Espinoza: – tried hard to stem the tide of City attacks.

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“He should have done better”– striking questions at Wigan

scorers

Includes league and cup games. Thanks to ESPN for the raw stats.

“He should have scored.”   “He should have done better.”

How many times have we heard comments like that coming from our television football match commentaries?

Typically it is the ‘expert’ who makes the comment, an ex-player who through his prior experience is assumed to have a grasp of the tactical and analytical side of the game.

Obviously the more shots a player has on goal, the more chance he has to score. But then again it depends on which part of the pitch the player is shooting from.

BSports tells us that, so far this season in the Premier League, Sergio Aguero leads the field in converting shots to goals, with an exceptional conversion rate of 3.43 shots per goal scored. Loic Remy (3.60) and Luis Suarez (3.83) come close behind. However, even players of the calibre of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have needed an average of more than 6 shots for each goal.

shotsgraphicnew1

Courtesy of differentgame

An excellent piece of research from different game reveals the average number of shots needed to score from the different areas. Their study involves more than 30,000 shots over more than three seasons in the Premier League. The diagram shows what one would expect – that it is easier to score from the green inner zone – with an average of 6 shots producing a goal.

It is much more difficult to score from the amber zone where it takes an average of 18 shots per goal. In fact the stats show that Luis Suarez has had more than double the shots of Sergio Aguero from that area. Wigan Athletic’s Arouna Kone was the most successful in the Premier League last year in terms of turning his shots into goals from the amber zone.

So far this season Latics have scored 72% of their goals within the green zone, 8% in the amber zone and 20% in the red zone. The three amber zone goals came from Jean Beausejour at Derby, Jordi Gomez at home to MK Dons and Marc-Antoine Fortune at home to Bournemouth.

Latics have scored a paltry 30 goals from 27 league games. The ratio of goals per game is actually on a par with that of last season (47 goals from 38 games), although that was against far superior opposition.

There were hopes among supporters that Dave Whelan would open up his wallet during the transfer window and sign an experienced striker with a proven goal scoring pedigree. In the event Latics let Grant Holt go on loan to Aston Villa and signed Nicky Maynard on loan.

Both Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler have been frustrated by players not taking enough advantage of goal scoring opportunities this season. It could be argued that there have not been enough genuine chances created and this is something Rosler will be working on.

Rosler is also keen for the midfield players to support attacks by getting into the penalty box.  They really need to get into that green inner zone more often. Ben Watson scored two crackers – a header against Maribor and a shot in the recent Crystal Palace cup tie  – by doing so. Watson is the leading goalscorer from holding midfield with four goals. McArthur and Espinoza each have one scored from outside the box. McCann has one scored in the green zone.

The current shots per goal ratio up to this point in the season makes interesting reading. Of the forward players Jordi Gomez has the best record with an average of a goal every 4.8 shots (6 from 29). He is followed by Nick Powell at 7.6 (10 from 76), Marc-Antoine Fortune at 7.3 (4 from 29), Grant Holt at 14.5 (2 from 29), Callum McManaman 26.0  (1 from 26) and James McClean 52.0 (1 from 52).

The table at the top of the page gives the ratio of goals scored to the number games in which a player started for Wigan Athletic forwards over the past decade. It includes league and cup games. There are some spectacular returns there.

It is no surprise to see that wonderful scoring duo Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts up there, with Henri Camara and Amr Zaki. Comparisons are difficult with Ellington never having played in the Premier League for Latics, Roberts only playing for one year. The Latics careers of Camara and Zaki were controversial and short-lived, but when they were playing they were the best goal scorers Latics have had in the Premier League.

Up to this point in the season Powell leads with a conversion ratio of 40% (10 from 25), followed by Gomez 35% (6 from 17), Fortune 33% (4 from 12), Holt 15% (2 from 13), McManaman 11% (2 from 19) and McClean 5% (1 from 19).

Listening to a television commentary on a Latics game we would surely hear comments such as “He should have scored” or “He should have done better.” The stats show that it is not as easy to score as some experts might think.

The stats on Gomez make interesting reading. Three of his goals have come from the red zone (including two free kicks), two from the amber zone and two from the green zone (one being a penalty). However, he tends not to shoot as much as some. Within roughly the same amount of playing time as Gomez, McClean has had almost twice as many shots.

Of Powell’s 10 goals so far, 5 were scored in cup competitions. All but one was scored within the green zone, with his goal from just outside the box against Rubin being the exception.

Many of the names in the table at the top of the page are strikers who are Wigan Athletic legends. But if Powell continues to score at his present rate his goal scoring statistics will be right up there with them by the end of the season.

With three of his four goals scored in the last five games, Fortune’s stats are looking better than they would have before. In three years  at West Bromwich his conversion rate was around 10%, although he was sometimes played in wide positions. Moreover Fortune is a good footballing centre forward – he holds the ball up well and brings others into play. He leads in assists, with four to his credit.

The stats suggest that – providing they get regular playing time, keep up their previous form and get in sufficient shots  – the trio of Gomez, Powell and Fortune are the best bet for goals in what remains of the season.

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