Amigo and social media reaction to a rough night at Milton Keynes

We shuffled the team around to match them up and we did that until half time, but it was a massive downer how the penalty came about to give them their first goal. The injuries aren’t something we need at this moment in time when we’re after results and trying to win games, especially when most of our injuries are to experienced players.

“It’s given other players opportunities and I’ve put a team out that I thought could get something from the game. We’ve had another couple of injuries again tonight, so it’s difficult for us. Viv’s injury is quite a serious one. With one or two of the others they’re being monitored so we’ll just have to see how they are. We’re short on bodies, but I can’t sit here crying, we’ve got to get back to performing and winning football matches.”

John Sheridan’s thoughts after his shuffled-around team struggled at the MK Dons Arena.

Already without Darnell Johnson and Viv Solomon Otabor who left the field early against Plymouth it was a shock to learn that Lee Evans and Kal Naismith were also unavailable due to injury. Sheridan reacted by changing to a 3-5-2 formation, with full back Tom James at the centre of a back three.

Latics looked uncomfortable from the start and Will Keane’s injury forcing him to leave the field of play after 9 minutes complicated things even further. Although he had two central strikers and a natural number 10 on the bench Sheridan elected to bring on winger Ollie Crankshaw is the second striker role.

The Dons were much the better team in the first half and Latics were fortunate to go into the interval with a 0-0 scoreline. But the seemingly inevitable happened in the first ten minutes of the second half with the Dons going ahead thanks to a soft penalty awarded against Tom James and a poor clearance from Curtis Tilt gifting a second.

Thelo Aasgaard came on for a distraught Gavin Massey after 64 minutes and Tilt was replaced by Alex Perry five minutes later. The latter part of the game saw Latics look a little better, with Perry looking calm and composed in front of the defence as the Dons retreated into a less attacking mode.

Given the current state of limbo prevailing at Wigan Athletic the limp performance did not come as a surprise. Sheridan has done his best to meld together a disparate group of players but the undercurrents in the club have surely affected all concerned. Those remaining from last season’s senior squad have seen the departure of so many teammates, their salaries reduced, their immediate futures uncertain. New players have been brought in from outside. Some have come and already gone and none of them have a contract beyond January.

However, there is room for optimism for the future. Earlier yesterday the U17 team beat Manchester United’s U17s in the Premier League Cup. They were invited to participate because Latics’ U18s won the U18 Professional Development League North in 2019-20. The current U18 team is again top of the table with five wins in five games.

The critics will say that there is a massive gap between football at youth level and that of the senior level. Indeed, over the years at Wigan we have seen so many bright young players disappear, many going into non-league football. However, with the upgrading of the academy to category 2 status last season both the U18 and U23 teams are playing against much stronger opposition on a regular basis.

Although they did not win their division the U23 team performed well last season. Eight have them have already played for the senior team this season, largely as a result of the club’s precarious financial situation. In contrast last season only Joe Gelhardt from the U23s appeared in league games.

It is rumoured that the Garrido consortium see the development of homegrown talent as important to the future of the club. Their potential acquisition of Wigan Athletic remains in the hands of the EFL. We can only hope that the process will be completed sooner rather than later. Maybe before the home game with Northampton on Saturday?

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Moonay said:

1st half ……. I’d rather forget.

2nd half, goals aside, we showed a little promise at times. Like Glasgow says, the decline in our line-up from the 1st minute on Saturday to the point tonight when Keane went off shows our plight.

The kids give us hope, but they need confidence. There’s little point at this time comparing ourselves to any other club, regardless of position in the league. What we need to do is to concentrate on playing as a team, working hard, supporting each other, keeping the heads up. As fans, that’s all we can ask of them right now.

You are my sunshine commented:

Yep agree with the fact Jones had a good game as well as Long, especially 1st half, keeping it 0-0 at HT with some decent saves!

For me, I just think Perry is the best suited player to replace Evans, with his ability to get on the ball and keep possession. He is a very neat and tidy player. Whereas Merrie, who can also pick a good pass,is more of a tough tackler. That crunching one in the 1st half was a cracker. Palmer seems more similar to Merrie than Perry. So I’d have Evans or Perry with Palmer or Merrie in the 2 cm slots.

We are desperately lacking an experienced natural number 10 to play just behind Garner. Aasgard is the only one in the entire squad,so it’s good to see him involved recently. The less said about Massey tonight the better. His body language was appalling at times and he seemed frustrated at being so deep. No excuses though,he needs to do much better!

For me, tonight for 70 minutes we didn’t get on the ball no were near enough. Due to the 532 formation, we had no width in the final third, which also resulted in a lack of crosses into the box for Garner to attack.

King _deZeeuw06 opined:

At the end when we had more of the kids on were looked a bit better, granted MK had already got the win and were happy to sit back and hold onto it, but there was a bit more enthusiasm and energy in the way we tried to go at them at least.

Crankshaw really struggled, thought Palmer looked quite good but had very little to work with. Thought Perry and Aasgaard showed more than some of our senior players. Gardner even showed a bit towards the end, but it was too little too late. Massey shouldnt play again even if he is fit – not sure if it’s confidence, attitude or whatever but he has been one of our worst performers, taking zero responsibility and going hiding this season when he should be one of the ones leading the charge.

It seems like our senior players are dropping like flies so i assume the kids will be playing on mass on Saturday – it can’t be any worse. But Sheridan needs to stop mucking about with players out of position and 5 at the back – it’s making a tough job even harder.

C_Latic said:

Still not in the bottom four (somehow). The goal now (other than still having a club) is to get to January without being cut adrift. Do that and we still have a good chance of staying up assuming a takeover has been completed by then and we can bring bodies in.

You are my sunshine also added:

I know we had injuries to key players but we are still better than that disappointing display! IMO Sheridan got it wrong tonight playing that negative 532 formation,with too many players out of position.We were too deep from the start and it set the tone for the rest of the game.

As soon as Perry came on,who can get on the ball and spray it around in our familiar 4231 formation we improved that last 20 minutes.

I’d give Long mom tonight
.

Degsy1 responded:

I agree with you But thought Jamie Jones also played well tonight – I s as Lao agree wrt Alex Perry, in fact from what I can see, Matt Palmer & Chris Merrie can also “get on the ball and spray it around”

My starting midfield would have been Palmer, Merrie & Perry and I would have told Pierce & James to play it through midfield who would then get it up field by means of control & passing rather than the current methodology being employed by Sheridan of hoofing it up and relying on luck !

I also would have subbed Aasgaard for Massey at half time !

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and social media reaction to a narrow loss at Charlton

“We’re playing the twelve men at Old Trafford”.

In the Premier League days one rarely felt that Latics were going to get the balance of refereeing decisions going their way when playing the bigger clubs.

They certainly did not yesterday at The Valley.

John Sheridan had to reshuffle his pack for the game with left back Tom Pearce unavailable through injury. Gavin Massey was moved to right back, with Tom James moved across to the left. Darnell Johnson and Curtis Tilt formed yet another central defensive partnership. Will Keane was employed in a roving role behind Joe Garner. The seven substitutes on Wigan’s bench were graduates of the U23 squad.

I was a tight game ultimately decided by poor goalkeeping. The major refereeing decisions went to the home side, as noted by John Sheridan: “We are unfortunate to go away and get nothing from the game and it’s very disappointing.  We had two stonewall penalties and I will never know why he disallowed the Joe Garner goal; the linesman was 10 or 15 yards away from Will competing for the ball and he doesn’t give a foul but for some reason the referee – who is 40 yards away – gives a free-kick and disallows the goal.

The performance and the way the players went about getting something out of the game was a lot better. Again, we have lost the game and it’s disappointing because the goal is a direct free-kick and leading up to the goal we made ourselves vulnerable. The things we do, the decisions we make and we give too many little free-kicks away in dangerous areas, if you do that you get punished. It’s a shame we didn’t get something from the game because we deserved to.”

Sheridan did not use any of his bench, preferring to use the senior professionals at his disposal for the whole game. Despite the result it was a good performance with some bright spots. Gavin Massey had looked a shadow of his former self in the previous two games. He had a nervy start at right back, but grew into the game, looking more confident and assured. Curtis Tilt made an impressive debut despite not having played competitive football since March. It was good to see Lee Evans playing a more commanding role in the centre of midfield.  

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

The_Pon commented:

Absolutely shocking refereeing today. I’m not normally one to blame a ref. They do have a difficult job to do and I’m usually willing to let a few bad decisions go, especially when they’re are bad decisions that go both ways.

Today though, it was absolutely appalling. Every decision went the same way. Charlton players just hit the deck for free kicks whenever they like, whilst two very strong penalty claims turned down and a perfectly good goal disallowed for us. That’s not to mention the niggly trips and pulls that they got away with almost every time but the ref gave them pretty much every time.

Don’t mind cr.p referees that much when they’re cr.p for both sides, but obvious bias makes my blood boil.

SwindonLatic said:

Poor goal to concede. But we deserved at least a point. If we can get an end product out of Viv he can be as big for us at this level as Yanic was. Get the Palmer lad in, in place of Gardner and we could have the makings of a half decent team. Looked much more solid at the back. Liked the look of Tilt

Tilt was very good, head and shoulders our best player. Having Garner back certainly helped. Evans looked better than he has in recent games in def mid, but really started to look more like his old self after we went behind and it felt like he started to take more responsibility and dictating the play – that is what he is best at and hopefully with Palmer coming in he will be able to do more of it. Keane showed some nice flashes but he doesn’t really seem to be the Kieffer Moore type who can cope with the long balls and needs the ball more on the deck and players running off him. Otabor and Kal could really do some damage but they are so often taking on 3 players by themselves and crowded out – they need some help in the form of some runners and support to pull men away from them or give them options to slide someone in.

Felt that we aren’t really doing ourselves justice. We are not giving ourselves many options on the ball with a lack movement resulting in losing the ball by going long and we haven’t got a Moore to make it work. On the occasions we go up a gear start to up the tempo, show more urgency and commit men forward like we did towards the end we look a much better team. Not sure if the players are showing the opposition too much respect but if that the is the reason they really shouldn’t. Need to start games showing the urgency we show after we go behind.

Omar Bogle is still totally sh­.te – even at this level!

We’ve played about 5 of the likely teams in the promotion hunt this season and they’ve all been utter shte. We have been in turmoil with a team of cast offs yet if we could cut out costly errors to give away the points we could’ve probably won all 5. If we could get our takeover done and get our act together there is no reason we couldn’t fly up the league but we’ve got to do better ourselves.

 

TrueBeliever opined:

Quite an even game for me, Charlton looking to bed players in as were we. The goal was a mistake from Jones but overall he had a decent game and kept us in it when their forward turned Johnson in the first half.

Johnson and Tilt looked comfortable given it was the first game they had played together. Evans looked better running the show from deeper but Gardner is too loose on the ball and tries the flicks too often losing us possession.

Massey was half decent as a full back but still lacks confidence and pace going forward, maybe he is still trying to get his fitness back and will improve with game time. Solomon-Otabor drifts in and out but is dangerous in one on one situations when he gets the ball out of his feet.

I thought both Garner and Keane fought well against a couple of decent CB’s and won their fair share of the ball without actually creating much. No doubt if they get to play together more they will improve and form an understanding.

We should have been given at least one of the two penalty shouts as Evans had his standing foot whipped away as he was about to shoot. The one with Keane was more debateable but his set up for Garner was never a foul and the assistant ref, who had the better view, obviously thought so. Poor decision by the ref.

Overall a decent performance from yet another makeshift side still looking to find some consistency and getting to know each others games.

Onwards to Tuesday and the visit of Peterborough with at least an improvement on last week’s performance.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Five talking points following a gritty victory against Doncaster


Wigan Athletic 1 Doncaster Rovers 0

Who would have thought that a Wigan Athletic team built around the bare remnants of Paul Cook’s squad could be in mid-table after four games played? This win over an in-form Doncaster side who had been unbeaten in their first three games was the result of a well-taken goal by Joe Garner together with no mean amount of grit and determination.

There were surprises in John Sheridan’s opening line-up, with Nathan Cameron on the bench and Danny Fox in discussions with Robbie Fowler, manager of East Bengal, who play in Calcutta. Kal Naismith was moved back into the centre of defence with Darnell Johnson making his debut, on loan from Leicester City.

Darren Moore’s Doncaster looked a useful outfit in the first half, their movement and fluidity constantly challenging Wigan’s defence. But thanks to profligate finishing and fine saves from Jamie Jones the game was goalless at half time. Latics were much better in the second half, buoyed by Garner’s excellent header from Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross after 59 minutes.

Following the game Sheridan commented: “I am very pleased with the result. It was a really tough game, which I expected because they’ve got a very good footballing side and they gave us a lot of problems in the first half. We were probably fortunate to go in level at the break because we didn’t really get going and we were a bit sloppy in the way we started the game. I felt we should have got up the pitch a bit further and got in and around people but what we asked of them at half-time they have gone and done in the second-half and I thought we were magnificent in the second-half; we created problems, got in and around them and played some excellent football ourselves, scoring a great goal to get the three points.”

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

Maintaining a style of play

John Sheridan’s appointment was hardly heralded by Latics fans. Most of us had expected Liam Richardson to take over as manager. However, the combination of the two has helped to stabilise things on the field of play.

The starting line-up from this match contained six players from last season’s squad, two who have stepped up from the U23 squad, the remainder being loan players or those on short-term contracts.

However, the style of play developed during Paul Cook’s three-year tenure has remained in place. This is something that has so often not been the case in the past.

Dave Whelan’s mistake of appointing Owen Coyle as successor to Roberto Martinez is the most memorable. A group of players weaned on patient possession football struggled to adapt to a long-ball approach from a new manager.

It is to Sheridan’s credit that has not tampered with the style and method of play that had been previously established.

A captain who leads by example

Sam Morsy’s departure from the club was a bitter blow. Morsy was not only a key player in midfield, but a captain who led by example.

Joe Garner was the obvious choice for the captaincy when Morsy departed, a senior professional, known for his gritty determination to succeed.

With five goals in six games the new captain has been in fine form. For the first time since joining Latics in August 2018 he is now the undisputed first-choice central striker at the club. He is thriving on it.

Garner is a combative figure on the field of play, not afraid to mix things physically with powerful central defenders who tower above him. He clearly relishes playing in the target-man role, but Garner is also capable of making killer passes as we saw yesterday when he put Solomon-Atabor through with a pass that should have led to Latics taking a two goal lead.

Joe Garner is now 32. He has had made more than 470 career appearances at nine clubs. Nevertheless, he retains an enthusiasm that must surely rub off on the less experienced players around him.

A young centre of midfield

Two young Liverpudlians, Chris Merrie and Alex Perry, have certainly caught the eye in recent weeks in establishing themselves as an option in the centre of midfield. Having operated together in the U23 team they know each other’s games and gel as a partnership in that key area.

Chris Merrie is 21 and a product of the Wigan Athletic academy. He joined Latics in 2013 after previously being part of the Everton youth system. Prior to this season his Latics appearances had been limited to cup competitions. In the 2017-18 season he went on loan to both Southport and Altrincham, making a total of 25 appearances. A regular at U23 level Merrie has stepped up to the senior squad. He is strong in the tackle and is an accurate passer with his trusted left foot.

Alex Perry is 22 and a product of the Bolton Wanderers academy. Latics acquired him from as a free agent with Bolton suffering financial difficulties in September 2018. Prior to this season Perry’s only first team experience had been during a month’s loan at Northern Premier League side Sutton Coldfield in November 2017 and a single appearance for Bolton in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Perry was a regular in the Latics U23 team and has made an impressive step-up to the senior level this season. He is an energetic midfielder, strong in the tackle, who shows vision in his passing.

Put Massey on the right

Gavin Massey is now 28. He joined Latics in July 2017. At his best he has used his searing pace to cut apart opposition defences, and he has scored spectacular goals. His partnership with Nathan Byrne on Wigan’s right was a key factor in Latics winning League 1 in the 2017-18 season.

Last season was not Massey’s best. He is an exclusively one-footed player, most effective on his “natural side”, the right. So often last season Cook would frustratingly play him on the left. Massey has always been willing to work hard for the team and does not shirk in his defensive duties. However, playing him on the left wing has hardly helped him be at his incisive best.

When yesterday’s team sheet came out one hoped in vain that Massey would be played on the right with Viv Solomon-Atabor on the left. The latter has shown is ability to play effectively on either wing. Although being predominantly right footed he can use his left to good effect.

Using Massey as a “workhorse” left winger has never got the best out of the player. Being so one-footed means he constantly passes the ball inside or backwards, lacking the option of going on the outside past the full back.

It can only be hoped that Sheridan will see this and employ the player in his most effective role.

Evans must gain more self-belief

Lee Evans is now 26 and should be nearing his peak as a midfield player. Evans is physically strong and possesses a fine technique and the vision to make a killer pass or score goals. With such attributes Evans should be further on in his career than he is.

Last season was tough for the Welshman with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams forming a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield. At times Evans played in the problematic number 10 role, sometimes looking good, but could not establish himself as the first choice for that position.

There is debate among supporters as to Evans’ best position. Before Williams’ arrival he would often partner Sam Morsy in central midfield. Although defensively solid he does not have the tenacity of such as Morsy and Williams, but his ability to launch pinpoint long passes from the centre of the pitch was a useful tool for the team.

We know that Evans can be an effective holding midfielder in League 1, but Sheridan has given him the chance to show what he can do as a number 10. In the opening games of the season he was somewhat anonymous, possibly shell-shocked like many others by what was happening off the field of play at the club. He has since improved.

Evans has the ability to be among the top midfield players in the third tier. But too often he makes the square pass rather taking the more incisive option which he is capable of. Moreover, he has scored spectacular goals in the past, but does not shoot often enough.

With belief Lee Evans can be a top player. He has the attributes necessary to be so. If Sheridan and his staff can continue to give him a good run of games and help instil more self-belief in the player, he could be key to Latics’ success in the near future.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Latics fans react on Social Media to a defeat at Forest

Nottingham Forest 1 Wigan Athletic 0

 

Latics’ forwards low on synergy

It was a spirited performance from Latics who made Nottingham Forest look distinctly ordinary. It could be said that Wigan deserved to win after dominating the match. But in reality, it was a familiar tale: a woeful lack of finishing and slack defending leading to a headed goal from a corner. Somehow it looked like Latics would not score, no matter how many chances they had.

Paul Cook has done well in changing the approach from hoofball to real football. But although the tactics are so much better his team selections remain poor. Seeing the team list beforehand we saw once again that Gavin Massey would be deployed on the left wing, where he has previously been ineffective.  Cook persisted with Jamal Lowe who was surely due for some time on the bench after so many ineffectual performances. Rather than play Josh Windass in his best position at number 10 he played him at centre forward. He also decided to employ his three key defensive midfielders, but rather than play them side by side he pushed Joe Williams forward to the number 10 position.

Once again, we saw either square pegs in round holes or players on the field who were not in the best of form. The end result was an energetic performance, interspersed with good football, but with no cutting edge. The attacking players continue to lack not only form, but synergy. The whole was much less than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Studs88 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Doesn’t even have the good grace to mention Gelhardt’s performance. I’m sorry Paul, you’ve done a lot of good for this club. But by not walking away a few months ago you’re ruining any remaining goodwill.

It feels like you’re staying on for a big payday. Not making the best decision for the club.

BigRoy on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Superb again. Can’t score. Gelhardt very good when he came on. Guess you haven’t seen game. So obvious we have no striker. Forest fans saying best team they’ve seen this season. Team playing for Manager and this run of us playing so well and losing can’t carry on forever.

Donny’sPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Playing well… Part of the playing well is scoring goals or at least putting shots on target which could help if we started with a striker on the field or bring him on before the eighty odd minute mark.

He added:

Cook must have thought Gary Roberts was going to be a game changer. That says enough with Joffy and Big Joe warming the bench. What an absolutely idiotic substitution.

FrancosLoveChild on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Reality is, no win in 13, 1 win away for well over a year. A change was needed months ago, and today demonstrated that no matter how well we play we still lose. It is a results business and Cook is not getting them. He is a very fortunate person to even still be at the club. Anywhere else he would have been sacked months ago at the latest.

As for the match, nothing needs to be said, Massey, Lowe, Roberts, and Windass got taught a football lesson by a 17-year-old player who when he came on did more than all of them combined all game. Our attacking players are nowhere near championship quality. Their goal was again from a corner. Meanwhile the corners we took lead to absolutely nothing.

The defence was good, the midfield did their jobs, but as soon as the ball went into the final third, nothing at all, I mean all our good plays actually came from Byrne and Robinson. Massey, Lowe was horrendous, may as well played with nine men.

As for Windass, as soon as he stepped up, it was missed, I have no idea why he takes the penalties. 4 misses in a row now?

I will say the players only have themselves to blame today. I expect Gelhardt to start every game from now on as we need results and he is our only good attacking player. But Cook has had a generous amount of time now, it’s not going to improve, he needs to be ridden before the new year. Royles show some spine and do the right thing by the club. It is when you play well and lose which is the big worry.

Naismith, Gelhardt and Robinson had good games today.

HuddWiganFan on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

 For the first time in my Tics supporting life, I honestly don’t even care anymore. Not bothered in the slightest – same old, same old.

This will continue to happen – week in, week out – until we are relegated/a managerial change is made. End of story.

Some talking points following Joe Gelhardt’s sensational equaliser at Hull

Hull City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

 

A moment of inspiration from the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt helped Wigan Athletic share the points. It had been a scrappy game between two mediocre teams.

Paul Cook had named an unchanged side from the one that had started in a goalless draw with Barnsley.

Chey Dunkley put Latics ahead after 7 minutes after Hull keeper, George Long, had spilled Kieffer Moore’s header. But that early lead was thrown away within a couple of minutes by inept defending with Jarrod Bowen slotting home. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki had been causing Latics problems on the right side of their defence and it was he who scored a fine goal from a free kick after 20 minutes. Wigan went into the half-time interval trailing by a 2-1 margin.

Grosicki had another excellent free kick hit the post as Hull were getting on top. Wigan’s attacking was far from convincing and the game seemed to be heading towards a home win. But Joe Gelhardt was brought on after 72 minutes, playing in a more central role this time. After 75 minutes he turned past a defender in the penalty box and scored at the near post with Long rooted to the spot.

The point gained takes Latics to 5 points from 7 matches, third from bottom.

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

A goal for Dunkley – at last

Chey Dunkley is in his third season at Wigan. In his first, in League1, he was part of a formidable centre of defence with Dan Burn. Not only was Dunkley defensively solid, but he also scored 7 goals over the course of the season.

The transition to the Championship was difficult for a player who had not played at that level before. Like so many other players last season he certainly had his ups and downs, one minute making a superb last-ditch tackle, the next losing concentration. His goals also dried up. So many times, he seemed likely to score, getting himself in good positions, but he just could not put the ball home.

Dunkley’s goal yesterday will do his confidence the world of good. Now he has broken his duck in the Championship we can expect more goals from the big man.

Can Gelhardt seize the number 10 role?

Replacing Nick Powell was never going to be easy for Paul Cook. Lee Evans and Josh Windass have both stepped in with mixed results. Yesterday Cook played Jamal Lowe in a more central role in the advanced midfield trio. Lowe did not do badly but was not particularly convincing.

Powell usually played a classical number 10 role, receiving the ball in deep midfield, linking up with the forwards and overlapping full backs. But sometimes he would be pushed further forward, playing as a second central striker.

Joe Gelhardt certainly has an eye for goal, and he is not deterred by playing at this level. Not only does he have a great left foot, but he also has an eye for a pass. Will Cook be tempted to put the young player in the starting line-up against Charlton, playing behind the central striker?

Is football returning away from home?

Wigan Athletic’s poor away performances over the past twelve months have been typified by a reliance on the long ball. Moreover, signing a 6ft 5in centre forward has further invited under-pressure defenders and midfielders to lump the ball forward.

However, at Hull we saw signs of football returning, albeit riddled with errors. The possession stats showed Wigan at 58.3% and Hull 41.7%. Moreover 74% of Wigan’s passes were successful compared with 65% for the home team. In the previous game against Barnsley Latics’ successful pass stat stood at 64%.

The long-ball approach away from home has been woefully unsuccessful and we can only hope that the manager will insist that his defenders and midfielders minimise their use of the long ball. Nevertheless, it will take courage from players to play the ball out from the back, who have so often taken the easy way out.

The Byrne-Massey axis

The attacking play of Nathan Byrne and Gavin Massey was crucial to Latics’ winning the League 1 title in 2017. Indeed, Byrne went on to be voted Player of the Year. Last season was a difficult year for each of them, with Byrne losing his place to Reece James and Massey having a lot of time out injured. However, with James later being moved to midfield Byrne was able to reclaim the right back position. Massey’s return to the team saw him renew the link-up with Byrne, the two players knowing each other’s games so well.

The Byrne-Massey partnership has had a difficult start to the current season. Neither player has been at his best up to this point. Much of the opposition threat has come from their side of the pitch and their build-up work has not been at its best.

Recovering from injury Massey missed pre-season and still does not look like he is firing on all cylinders.

None of the wingers in Cook’s squad has shown real consistency this season. Michael Jacobs has blown hot and cold, Jamal Lowe has looked out of place on the left, Anthony Pilkington continues to be bogged by injury and Kal Naismith has been used sparingly.

Given the physical demands on the wingers, being expected to track back to help the full backs but also to go sprinting forward, Cook might be well advised to rotate them on a regular basis. With either Massey or Lowe on the right and Jacobs or Naismith on the left he has good options.

In the meantime, Cook will have to decide whether to stick with a below-par Byrne, in the hope that he will regain form, or bring in the young Chelsea loan player, Dujon Sterling, who has not even been appearing on the bench.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com