Auld Mac getting better and better – a look at James McArthur

 

The Jimmy Macs - McArthur left with McCarthy.  Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

The Jimmy Macs – McArthur (left) with McCarthy.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Record

They were the two Jimmy Macs – James McArthur and James McCarthy – in the engine room of Roberto Martinez’s midfield. It could be difficult guessing Bob’s starting lineups, but the Jimmy Macs always seemed to be there. Together with Shaun Maloney they could compete on an even keel with the likes of  Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes. They were the ones who underpinned Wigan Athletic’s famous victories against giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Both had started at Hamilton Academicals in the second tier of Scottish football. Both Glaswegians and both part of the Accies side that won the Scottish First Division in 2007-08. The younger Jimmy Mac – McCarthy – was first to join Latics in summer of 2009, to be followed by ‘Auld Mac’ a year later. James McCarthy made 120 appearances for Latics before he moved to Everton early this season. James McArthur has made 116 up to this point.

Given his wealth of Premier League experience McArthur was expected to be a major force in the Championship division. His early performances under new manager Owen Coyle were disappointing, his partner McCarthy’s departure not helping. Some even suggested McArthur would never be the same without the younger Mac. But then again not many players reached optimum levels under Coyle’s slack regime. However, Coyle clearly recognized McArthur’s talent and leadership qualities, giving him brief captaincy duties for the first time in the absence of Emmerson Boyce.

The arrival of new manager Uwe Rosler signaled a change in tactical approach. Coyle’s long ball tactics had not suited the skilful McArthur and he soon made an impact upon his new manager. He formed a formidable midfield trio with Chris McCann and Ben Watson that was to prove crucial in Latics’ revival. Sadly both McCann and Watson were to pick up long term injuries and since then McArthur has had a variety of players accompanying him in midfield. Nevertheless he has kept up his excellent form.

However, Auld Mac has become more and more influential in that midfield engine room. He has become the fulcrum around whom things happen, a complete midfield player. Despite already having played 45 games this season he was full of energy and drive in an outstanding display in the draw with champions-elect Leicester City on Wednesday.

McArthur was once described as a tough tackler with creative spark. But he has become much more than that. He has become the midfield general who sets the example to his teammates in terms of his commitment and dedication to the Wigan Athletic cause. He will always be remembered as being part of the team that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup last May. He had a wonderful game as a makeshift wing back.

If there is one area in which McArthur needs to improve it is in scoring more goals. However, when he does get them they tend to be good ones. That rocket shot at Huddersfield last season and the amazing chip over the Northern Ireland goalkeeper are as good as you will see.

Auld Mac is not so old. In fact he is only 26 and still has not reached his peak. He has taken his game to a higher level and many would view the underrated Scot as Latics’ player of the season at this point. It is ironic that when he is showing  possibly the best form of his career he is not making the first choice line-up for his country. Granted he has dropped down a division, but are the current starters for the Scotland team really better than him?

James McArthur is a quality footballer with a great attitude. He can help take Wigan Athletic into the play-offs and beyond.

At 26 he has still not reached his peak. Latics supporters will hope he will stay at the club for years to come.

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Manchester United 4 Wigan Athletic 0 – A disaster rerun

At times the second half of this  match seemed like a rerun of those intermittent disasters that we have witnessed  over the past three years. Playing at Old Trafford after an international break; against a team keen to get revenge after the 1-0 result in April; with a weak referee — all these factors appeared a recipe for disaster. And so it proved.

Antolin Alcaraz had been ruled out of consideration due of injury, so Latics put out the same lineup that played against Stoke two weeks ago — Ramis, Caldwell and Figueroa comprising the back three.

Whenever Wigan Athletic play at Old Trafford one almost expects penalties and red cards to flow. The penalty only took three minutes to come, Welbeck faking contact  as Al Habsi challenged. The Omani keeper made a good save from Hernandez’s penalty, Figueroa doing well to stop Nani taking advantage from the rebound. Latics continued to be put under pressure but managed to make some headway. Ramis headed narrowly wide and a cross from Beausejour found its way to Kone at the far post but he was unable to get his shot on target. It was to be 0-0 at half time and United had begun to look a little frustrated.

As is often the case it was the first goal that changed the match irreversibly. It came in the 51st minute. Nani was put through by a beautiful ball by Carrick, delivering  the kind of  low cross-shot that goalkeepers hate. It was fumbled by Al Habsi, the ball falling to the feet of Scholes who scored easily.

United’s debutant full back, Buttner, seemed to have the freedom of the park on Wigan’s right. He miscued a shot in the 63rd minute but it went straight to Hernandez who put it in. Buttner had been played onside by Boyce, who had failed to get in line with his defence. United’s new signing was to have even more fortune in the 66th minute after he made a determined run past Boyce, McCarthy and Ramis to get to the by line. The normally excellent  Al Habsi will have nightmares over the way he fluffed Buttner’s shot, allowing it to go in from such a tight angle. The rout was to be completed in the 82nd minute when McCarthy made a casual pass across the edge of the penalty box to Ramis, who just did not react. The ball was picked up by the debutant Powell, who had all the time in the world to put in a good shot from outside the box to Al Habsi’s right. On a good day one sensed that the Omani would have saved it.

In the last 3 minutes Welbeck made an appalling “red card’ tackle on Di Santo. Unfortunately, justice was not done and he received a yellow. It was fortunate that the young Argentinian was not seriously injured by the tackle. The Argentine had also been clattered from behind in the box earlier in the second half, but not penalty was given.

The Good

Despite an horrendous penalty decision against them in the first three minutes Latics held firm during the first half. They managed to keep their discipline and spirit despite refereeing that consistently favoured the home side. Some of Paul Scholes’ tackling during the game has subsequently been described as “thunderous” by certain elements of the media. “Dangerous” might be a more appropriate word.

In the end, each team received two yellow cards. One feared worse for Wigan.

The Bad

All four goals were gifts. Once that first goal went in the match was only going to head in one direction. Latics looked tired and bedraggled in the second half.

From a Wigan Athletic supporter’s point of view this was a match best forgotten. Let’s keep the faith and look forward to a fresh start against Fulham at the DW this coming weekend.

Player Ratings

Ali Al Habsi: 5 – a terrific penalty save, but not a good afternoon for the normally excellent keeper.

Emmerson Boyce: 5 – despite a wonderful jinking run and effort in the first half, it was an afternoon to forget for this player who has been a revelation over the past months.

Ivan Ramis: 5 – together with Boyce, was unable to stem the flow of opposition attacks on the right hand side of defence.

Gary Caldwell: 5 – not up to his usual high standard.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 – the best of an overrun backline.

Jean Beausejour: 6 – played some dangerous crosses into the box but did not look fully fit and went off after 69 minutes to be replaced by David Jones.

James McCarthy: 5 – the Jimmy Macs were unable to wrest the midfield initiative from the experienced United trio of Carrick, Giggs and Scholes. Both gave the ball away on occasion a little too casually.

James McArthur – see above.

Shaun Maloney: 5 – taken off after 59 minutes for Jordi Gomez.

Franco Di Santo: 7 – worked hard and never gave up.

Arouna Kone: 5 – his first half chance was not easy, but it would have changed the game if he had taken it.

Substitutes

Jordi Gomez – ineffective.

David Jones – once more failed to impress after coming on for the last 20 minutes.