Amigo and Social Media reaction to Latics’ bubble bursting at Sheffield

February 8, 2022: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Wigan’s unbeaten run of 12 league games has come to an end. An awful penalty decision given against them after 53 minutes proved to be a psychological blow from which they could not recover. Latics had played well in an entertaining first half, holding a strong Wednesday side goalless, but for some reason Leam Richardson saw a need to reshuffle his team half way through.

Switching Tendayi Darikwa from left to right, pushing Max Power into midfield and dragging James McClean backwards to left back had worked well recently against Oxford United. In that game Latics had started poorly and were a goal behind until Richardson made those bold changes. However, the situation at Sheffield was not the same. The result this time was that Latics lost midfield control, with the creative McGrath switched from the number 10 position to the left flank, where he looked lost.

Wigan had created chances in the first half, largely down to the excellence of Callum Lang on the right flank. Their defence had held up well to Wednesday’s probing, led by the classy Barry Bannan. Sadly, Latics regressed to that awful hoofball in the second half which made things so much easier for Wednesday.

The left back position has been problematic for Wigan all season. Joe Bennett’s recuperation from serious injury has been slow. Tom Pearce has signed a new contract but is again injured. Darikwa has done his best to fill in on the left, but it is not his best position. Pushing McClean to left back in the second part of the game meant that Wigan lost much of his attacking thrust. Lang thrives on Max Power’s accurate long passes down the right wing from the full back position. That stopped when Power was pushed into midfield.

Richardson has options for dealing with Bennett and Pearce’s absences without playing Darikwa out of position.

Luke Robinson made 25 appearances in League 1 last season, but has been used just once, being taken off after 56 minutes against Rotherham. There were reports of him being sent out on loan in January, but that did not happen. Although he remains a member of the senior squad his appearances have been limited to cup games.

The manager also has the option of playing with a back three with wing backs. McClean has lots of experience as a left wing back and his attacking flair is not lost. Moreover, Richardson has the option of Power, Darikwa or the more attacking Gavin Massey at right wing back.

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:

King_dezeeuw06 commented:

Performance was the same as we’ve been doing for months only difference is the opposition weren’t so much worse than us that we could pull out a moment of magic and get away with it.

The warning signs have been there for ages that we needed to cut the hoofing out if we were going to get results against the better sides and we just persisted with our Pulis era Stoke tactics – but without the players to make it work.

There’s no excuses for us not learning our lesson especially after the Oxford game. We all know what we are good and bad at and we just constantly play to our weakness.

We have possibly the best player in the division in Lang, then McClean and a very classy looking McGrath – give the ball to their feet in the opposition half and they’ll do damage. But they are reduced to running around chasing the opposition as nearly every ball they are watching flying over their heads to a completely isolated striker who’s got 2 defenders on him every time and zero support or service.

You can’t keep playing badly and expect to win and we’ve not put in a good 90 mins since Plymouth away. We are still in a very good position but we will blow it if we don’t finally learn the lesson that should’ve been learned a long time ago – long ball doesn’t work.

Jeffs right added:

What ever happened to the art of the dribble? Attacking defenders and getting crosses in or shooting?
Allegedly we have players that can do this so why don’t they? Sheffield played on Saturday and we had a rest. We should have been at them from the off. Is that eight shots we have had on target in the last four games? That is diabolical even for bottom of the league never mind promotion challengers.

 Magennis or Humphrys for Saturday. Well it needs to be Humphs. He is younger, stronger, fitter and works harder. One thing though if we carry on the same garbage tactics please don’t expect to win on Saturday. Leam please look at the Jewell tactic book and burn Cook’s book.

FrancosLoveChild opined:

We didn’t deserve to lose according to the happy clapping commentators, worst second half all season, Leam needs to change up his sh.te hoofball without Wyke.

SwedishLatic wrote:

Sadly this is looking more and more like Cook’s tactics, kick and rush and hope for individual brilliance to save the team. Switching to two up front offered no difference either, we don’t have to be Man city with the ball but come on a bit more than this is surely possible?

FormbyLatic commented:

The thing that really worries me is our inability to keep the ball on the ground and to play it forward to feet. I cannot recall a single shot on their goal in the entire second half. Leam needs to change things and fast.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a low-quality draw with Ipswich

December 11, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 1

It was a frustrating afternoon with another woeful refereeing performance in a game largely devoid of good football. With Latics a goal up Will Keane was adjudged offside when he put the ball in the back of the net. It was the tightest of decisions signalled by the linesman. If the goal had been allowed Wigan would surely have gathered the three points. As Paul Cook would say: it is a game of fine margins.

Leam Richardson continued to play Callum Lang at centre forward, leaving specialist central striker Stephen Humphrys on the bench. He brought in Tom Pearce for Joe Bennett, Gwion Edwards for Gavin Massey, Max Power for Jordan Cousins. There was no place for Thelo Aasgaard, arguably the MOM in midweek.

We had seen the “playing it long” (aka hoofball in this case) tactic in midweek and Latics got away with it against Shrewsbury through a spectacular late goal from Thelo Aasgaard. It reared its ugly head throughout this game.

After a mediocre first half Ipswich used their bench in the second period to provide more options. Latics continued to play the same long ball game and Ipswich got their reward in the 78th minute when substitute Norwood picked up a loose ball following a well flighted free kick from Lee Evans. Many of us were hoping that Richardson would utilise the flair of Thelo Aasgaard and maybe even change the shape, but his riposte was to make a like-for-like change, bringing on Gavin Massey for Gwion Edwards after 80 minutes. The out of favour Humphrys was brought on after 90 minutes for Tom Pearce.

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:

Jeff’s right commented:

An additional stat. 3 shots on target in 90 minutes.
We have the players so why not go with three at the back and the two strikers at least for home games. Edwards ahead of Humphys. Just can not weigh this up when it’s glaringly obvious that this formation/style of football besides being awful on the eye is just not working at home. Is Cook still pulling some strings as we play the stuff he played.

Victor Moses stated:

With the game waiting for some luck/mistake or a piece of quality to win the game. Really not performing anywhere near their peak. Its so rigid slow and lacking in ambition, it’s what you’d expect from a team low on confidence.

NorthernSoul opined:

Our players can’t play 4 at the back at home. Too rigid and we create nothing and it’s been like that all season. We have scraped a lot of 1 goal wins through individual play.

Away from home when teams attack it works as you have more space to exploit.

At home, teams just sit in and we do little aside from set pieces. We are set up to try and draw at home and may as well start every game with 10 men. Away from home we are the tank out team in the division.

Change to 3 at the back at home and the fortunes will change straight away.

FrancosLoveChild wrote:

I agree but sadly it does not change the needless hoofball that is so ineffective, we rely a lot on individuals brilliance like you said and let’s be honest, we have played poorly home and away for a few weeks now, late goals have papered over the cracks of late.

Bodies are really needed in January, need some creative central players, Keane is absolutely anonymous most of times, and I think he would help stop the hoofball if he played right up too with Thelo behind. But Leam is choosing hoofball, hopefully until he identifies players we need to be more dominant in games.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a well-earned point at Fleetwood

Fleetwood Town 1 Wigan Athletic 1

A spirited performance saw Latics share the points in a scrappy game played at a windy Fleetwood. Jamie Jones conceded another goal to a long shot: this time from Fleetwood’s Danny Andrew, but redeemed himself with a brilliant save at the death when Paddy Madden ran through the Wigan defence following an error from Tom James. Moments before Ollie Crankshaw had equalised in the 91st minute after Will Keane’s effort had been parried by Fleetwood’s Swiss/Canadian keeper Jayson Leutwiler.

We had a message on the Wigan Athletic site before the game started that we would not be able to get the usual commentary of Ashley Houghton and Tommy Gore due to technical issues at the Highbury Stadium. In the event Gore did materialise but together with a Fleetwood commentator who had difficulties in recognising the Wigan players and in pronouncing some of their names.

Latics had held their own defensively until the long shot went in after 28 minutes. Fleetwood continued to press but Wigan held them back. However, Wigan’s attacking intent was largely limited to hopeful long balls that were gobbled up by the home defence. Put simply, they did not look like scoring.

But Latics came out for the second half with more attacking intent and although the long ball tactic did not disappear it was interspersed with good football. After looking so confident in the first half Fleetwood dropped back in defence as Latics took the game to them. The late equaliser was a just reward for the sheer effort Latics had made to get a share of the points.

The point keeps Wigan off the bottom and within reach of safety from the relegation zone.

Following the game Leam Richardson commented:

“I thought the energy and endeavour – certainly in the second-half – was fantastic to see; we were playing on the front foot a lot more. The weather played a part but at half-time I said to the lads that I wanted to see them play with more belief because on the back of Tuesday’s result I think they were a little bit reserved and on the back foot, which I don’t accept.

Second half we played with a lot more freedom to get into their final third and make things happen. We thoroughly deserved the result.”

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

Jeffs right wrote:

One shot on target one goal. Could make a difference with four relegation places to avoid. Well done Latics.

Degsy stated:

I don’t understand why we have a midfield, they don’t win second ball and must have sore necks watching the ball soar over them every time the keeper or back four get hold of the ball.”

Hoofing the ball up the pitch is on instruction of manager and not the fault of the players !

I agree it’s stupid in such conditions and should be kept with the players on the ground !

When played through midfield, I thought Perry & Merry controlled it well and I don’t think you can fault Merrie in his commitment and success in tacking, winning the ball more often than losing it !

SwindonLatic added:

Barton will be fuming but his team did eff all in the second half apart from time waste. Well done to the boys for sticking at it even if we did lack quality in the final third.

True Believer commented:

Worst commentary I have ever heard on a game. You would have thought he would have learnt the players names and he couldn’t even pronounce Tommy Gores name correctly.

All that said the first half we looked completely out of it and I feared we were in for a pasting after the goal. We never got going and kept hitting the ball high into the wind without anyone of height to try and get on to it. I don’t understand why we have a midfield, they don’t win second ball and must have sore necks watching the ball soar over them every time the keeper or back four get hold of the ball.

Second half with the wind at our backs we persisted with kicking it long for most of the third quarter only to see it catch on the wind and fly through to their keeper whilst our forwards failed to press the centre backs. When we did start to get the ball down and play through the midfield we started to get on top and the possession stats started to even out and we looked more in control of the game.

Their keeper made a terrific save only to see it parried out to “Cronksoe”, or whatever name he called him, to head the ball in after following the shot in. Well done Ollie.

Not a game for the purist but in the scheme of things a valuable point, a much improved performance on midweek, and despite some of the miserable posters on here we are still only three points off safety with a new owner and transfer window to come.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Another away defeat: can Cook stop the hoofball?

Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 0

“We won’t sit off Fulham in any way, shape or form.”

So said Paul Cook before the match.

The manager’s statement of intent had a degree of credibility in the opening minutes when Latics attacked the home team. But Fulham were soon to take over the running of the game as any initial attempt to play football from Wigan was nullified as they resorted to the hoofball that has been all too typical in away games under Cook’s management. When Latics won the ball they so often gave it back to the home team by launching speculative long balls.

Wigan’s beleaguered defence did well to keep the home team at bay in the first half, despite Fulham’s dominance of possession. The game was goalless at half time, although it had looked like it was going to be a matter of time until Fulham scored. The London team had had twelve shots to Wigan’s one in that first half. Could Cook make some changes for the second half to nullify the home team’s dominance?

The manager did surprise us by making an immediate substitution. Michael Jacobs had once again been ineffective under the regime of hoofball and he was replaced by Kal Naismith.  But within a couple of minutes the seemingly inevitable happened, with Joe Bryan opening the scoring for Fulham.

Needing a goal Latics did at least try to play some football, although they did not convince, with Fulham still looking dangerous. Tom Cairney’s fine goal in the 83rd minute finished it off.

Few of us expected anything other than a defeat at Craven Cottage, given Latics’ miserable record there, facing a Fulham side full of players who played in the Premier League last season. There have been far worse away performances than this over the past twelve months. Neither of the Fulham goals was “soft”; the referee was weak and easily convinced by the home team’s writhing in apparent agony after tackles and he allowed himself to be mobbed by Fulham players pleading their case; the Wigan defence did not crumble and there was no capitulation.

But what is depressing is that Cook, his coaches and his players have still not learned that you cannot play hoofball in the Championship and get away with it for very long. It is “an unforgiving league” in that respect.

There has been a scarcity of discipline in Wigan’s play away from home, together with a lack of tactical awareness on the part of the manager and his coaches. Latics are one of the most physical sides in the division and the home teams are prepared for that. Combative players like Sam Morsy and Joe Williams can expect the referees to be looking out for them. This is not to say that it is right, but it is a reality. Such players need to show self-discipline, or they will soon find their way into the book.

The hoofball that we typically witness away from home is surely not something the manager instructs his players to do. It is more likely down to the lack of a footballing philosophy at the club. It is not only the player who hoofs the ball forward but those who should be helping him when under pressure by getting into positions to receive the ball.

The manager has his tried and tested playing formations and they can work well when the players are showing the kind of discipline required.

How much longer will this continue? We had hoped that the manager and his staff would have addressed these issues by now, but the kind of stuff we saw in the first half at Fulham would have been embarrassing for us when we were a non-league team, pre-1978.

It is simply not good enough for a team in the second tier of English football.

 

 

 

 

 

27 passes towards improvement

There are Wigan Athletic fans who were never fans of Roberto Martinez, despite his massive impact on the club’s history. The tiki-taka drove them crazy and they craved a return to the more direct football of the Paul Jewell era.

Martinez’ teams did their best to keep possession, facing opposition which was so often superior in technical ability. Playing against superior opponents means that your players must do a huge amount of running. So often the elite teams in English football will get crucial goals in the closing stages, when the underdogs’ legs are heavy. For Martinez possession was key to maintaining his team’s collective energy to keep a game under control. It could be frustrating to watch, the ball often being passed sideways and backwards, but Martinez always had a plan and a belief in his players that helped his team punch above its weight.

Paul Cook had a plan when he took over to get the club out of League 1. He was a very successful lower league manager with a reputation as a good motivator, whose teams tried to play good football. He brought in his 4-2-3-1 formation, which worked a treat in the third tier. The football was so often good to watch, and his team not only won the League 1 title but had a brilliant FA Cup run.

Cook also looked good in the opening games of last season. Latics were perhaps defensively naive, but they played entertaining football. Over the next six months the standard of football fell, particularly away from home when it was simply awful at times. We had seen Cook’s plan B on occasions in League 1: lumping the ball forward, looking for headers and deflections. It practically became the norm away from home for most of last season.

Following more dire away performances this season, the hoof too prevalent, the performance at Hull last week was a welcome surprise. The players were not on top form, but there seemed to at least be a philosophy developing on how to approach the game. There was less of the hoof and more effort made to retain possession and build up moves from the back.

If someone had told me before the game that Joe Gelhardt’s equaliser came after Wigan had made 27 consecutive passes, I would not have believed it.

It was not like watching Barcelona in their pomp, but what a welcome change from the mindless lumping the ball forward that had become the norm in Latics’ play away from home. What did Cook (or his coaches) say to the players about eschewing the hoof and trying to play constructive football? Whatever it was it brought a change in their mindset.

The hoof was anathema to Martinez. He was never going to accept that unless it was under severe circumstances. Cook had allowed his players to negate their responsibilities for too long, giving them too much leeway in their use of the ball. It had got to the point where some fans were labelling him a long-ball manager.

We knew Cook (and his coaches) were excellent in the third and fourth tiers of English football and that last season was a tough one in what has been so often quoted by them as “an unforgiving league”.  The Championship is certainly a division that is a gulf apart from that of League 1. But what had been worrying for us is that the manager and his coaches had not seemingly learned from their mistakes.

One swallow doth not a summer make. However, those 27 passes stick in the mind, no matter how mediocre the game was.

Have Cook and his aides have turned the corner and insisted that a “hoofball” approach is not only unacceptable for paying spectators, but not a valid tactic in a more sophisticated level of football?

The 27 passes suggest that Cook and Latics are turning the corner.

One can only hope this is the case.