Five talking points following an excellent display against WBA

Wigan Athletic 1 West Bromwich Albion 1

What a transformation: the long ball approach hardly reared its ugly head. In its place we saw Latics building up moves from the back in the manner of yesteryear. If it had not been for a woeful lack of concentration by keeper Jamie Jones Wigan would have surely won this game against the league leaders. They were the better team throughout.

Paul Cook made seven changes, mostly through injuries. Kal Naismith reverted to the centre of defence and Josh Windass was played at centre forward in preference to Joe Garner.

What caused the transformation?

The style of play was a revelation compared with the awful stuff we have seen so often over these months. Rather than launch long balls the defenders passed the ball to midfielders who made themselves readily available to receive it. Was Cook’s absence from the side-lines through suspension a factor?

The fourth official was possibly relieved to find out that he did not have to listen to Cook’s constant ranting and raving. It is an ugly side of a manager who otherwise behaves with dignity compared to most of his counterparts from other clubs. There is much to be said for a manager’s passion, but one wonders whether Cook’s attention to detail on the pitch has been distracted by a constant need to berate that fourth official.

The big question is whether the return to playing good football was due to Cook’s match strategy or whether it was down to Liam Richardson  directing the team from the side-lines.

Energy levels not a problem

The stats show that Latics had 44% of the possession. Their pass completion rate was 82%, the highest for some time. The players did not look leggy in the closing stages as they so often have this season.

The long ball approach that has been so often used has typically ceded possession, causing Latics players to have to constantly press to get the ball back. Not surprisingly their energy would sap as the games progressed.

The message is clear: Cook must insist that his defenders eschew the easy option of launching long balls. They must take responsibility in building up moves from the back.

Why Windass for Garner?

It was a welcome surprise to see Josh Windass played at centre forward. It was reported that Kieffer Moore was injured but Cook did have an orthodox target man available in Joe Garner. With Windass playing up front, the defenders were less likely to launch long balls. Windass has the pace that Garner and Moore do not have, although he does not have their physicality.

Round pegs in round holes

One of the criticisms of Cook’s management has been his habit of putting round pegs in square holes. Last night we saw Gavin Massey look so much more comfortable playing on the right wing rather than looking like a duck out of water out on the left. Through playing Jamal Lowe at number 10 Cook was able to include both players in positions that suited them.

 What will happen when Dunkley and Moore return?

Chey Dunkley has been one of the mainstays in Cook’s teams since he arrived at Wigan. At his best he is strong in the air and can make stunning last-ditch tackles. However, he is prone to kicking the ball out of play at the merest hint of danger and nobody has launched more long balls than he.

Kieffer Moore’s presence on the pitch almost invites defenders to send long balls in his direction. Sadly, he has rarely been able to do what is more important: getting into right place in the penalty box to score goals. For once he got a good cross when he headed home against Luton. The quality of crossing from the flanks has so often been woeful.

If both are available for Saturday’s game against Huddersfield will they be in the starting eleven? If so, what style of football can we expect?

Stats courtesy of


How social media reacted to a predictable away defeat at QPR

QPR 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Cedric Kipre’s goal in the second minute gave Latics a temporary confidence boost. Although their main attacking strategy was to launch long balls to the 5 ft 10in Joe Garner up against big central defendersWigan’s defence was looking more solid than of late. Latics held out until half time, but the second half was a different story. There was only one team trying to play football: it was not Wigan. The three QPR goals were down to awful defence and Wigan’s long ball tactics posed no threat to the home team.

We on this site were initially pleased to see Paul Cook appointed. He was an excellent player for Latics and had a fine record in management, albeit in the lower leagues. More than anything else he had a reputation for his teams playing good football. But the long ball game that now characterises the team’s approach is reminiscent of the darkest days of Coyle and Mackay.

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

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

Victor Moses on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Only way to describe this – embarrassing. Against two struggling teams we’ve been dominated. For any brave fans who are willing to sacrifice a whole day to watch this s..t, fair play to you all.

Was going to give Cook some praise today. Started the first five minutes with 3 at the back and looked good, we changed shortly after the goal to five at the back. Parking the bus from the fifth minute until the 20th minute. After being dominated for 15 minutes he finally made a good decision, moved Kipre in front of the back four. For the rest of the half it was much more even. Instead of having 6-9 player’s standing around in the defensive third doing nothing, we started to have pressure on the ball making it a game again.

Second half starts and from the off we reverted to five at the back, there’s no word’s for that type of decision making. You could see goal’s going from the off, camped out near our box for the whole second half. Changed nothing just accepted being dominated for the entire second half. 3, should of been 5.

Since Morsy came back, we placed Evans back on the right and he’s been awful there. Morsy has been poor as well. Both of them play better on the opposite sides.

Stoke can’t buy a win yet they beat us comfortably, Middlesbrough in the same position. Today a very poor QPR had the easiest home game they’ll have all season, cup games against non-league teams will have more desire to be attack minded then we do away from home.

FormbyLatic on the Latics Speyk Forum added:

Squad has changed but our tactics away from home haven’t changed one jot.


Jrfatfan on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Never thought I’d say it but agree. Some very strange selections and tactics. First of all he leaves Williams out the squad, wonder if it was to teach him a lesson? If it was it is Mr Cook who has been taught a lesson.

Secondly, plays Marshall and Kipre who have been dire and lacking in confidence. It should have been Jones and Mulgrew to try and stop the leaks. Then he takes Jacobs off and brings Naismith on when Massey is on bench. He is devoid of ideas and has to rely on his backroom staff who have never played or managed higher than Accrington Stanley.

Chris Hooton anybody

LoudmouthBlue on the Latics Speyk Forum stated:

Williams walked out of training yesterday and went home after being told he was not in the squad today, something not right at the club when a new signing does that.

TrueLatic4eva on the Cockney Latic Forum opined:

No manager in Britain would still be in a job with his away record over the last 12 months.

Carson’s kicking – asset or liability?


In the 1960s Latics signed a promising goalkeeper called Gerry Barrett from Fareham Town. According to the Lancashire Evening Post (as it was called then) the young man was renowned in the Hampshire League for his prodigious kicking of a football.

His reputation proved to be justified. Springfield Park had a big pitch but Barrett’s punts would regularly threaten the opposition penalty area. It was an attacking weapon that Latics used to effect.

Sadly Barrett’s other goalkeeping skills did not match up to his kicking. He was unable to firmly establish himself at the club and his career did not take off as was hoped.

Decades later Latics have another ‘keeper who is a powerful kicker of a football. The 29 year old Scott Carson is a highly experienced and capable goalkeeper, with four England caps under his belt.

As a teenager brought up in Whitehaven, Carson was a promising rugby league player, but chose to follow career in football. A Leeds United scout saw him playing for Workington in the FA Youth Cup and Carson was recruited to the Leeds academy. Although only 18 years old and still not having made his debut for the first team, Carson was called into the England under-21 squad. After a couple of years at Leeds he was transferred to Liverpool for of £750,000.

Last year when Latics played at Charlton the big Cumbrian was given a warm round of applause by the home supporters when he came out for the pre-match warm-up. He had been on loan to the London club in 2006-07, putting in a string of fine performances. Sadly on his return to The Valley as he slipped and injured himself in the warm-up, with Lee Nicholls stepping up in his place.

Carson never quite managed to establish himself at Liverpool and that loan at Charlton was squeezed between a previous spell at Sheffield Wednesday, followed by another at Aston Villa. However, he made his England debut against Austria in November 2007, with a clean sheet. A week later he made an error in a crucial European Championship match against Croatia, allowing a long shot from Nico Krancjar to bounce in front of him, then parrying it into the net. England lost 3-2 and manager Steve McClaren resigned the next day.

In January 2008 he joined West Bromwich Albion for a fee of around £3.3m. During a three and a half year stay at the Hawthorns, Carson made 110 appearances for his club and two more for England. In July 2011 he was transferred to Bursaspor for £2m, who were to finish in 8th place in the Turkish league, conceding only 35 goals in 34 games. The following season Carson made 29 appearances as Bursaspor finished 4th and qualified for the Europa League.

With Ali Al-Habsi out with a long term shoulder injury, Owen Coyle signed Carson from Bursaspor for £700,000 in July 2013. Since then Carson has established himself as the first choice goalkeeper, despite competition from Al-Habsi and Lee Nicholls. Few would argue that Carson has not been Wigan’s best player so far this season, even if his form has dipped over the past month like his teammates.

Carson’s supporters would say that he is Latics’ number one goalkeeper and one of the best in the Championship division. His outstanding saves have kept them in the game on so many occasions. His critics would say that he should have stopped the goals scored from narrow angles by Max Clayton of Bolton and Troy Deeney of Watford and should have been in better positions to prevent headed goals by Craig Davies for Bolton and Alex Revell of Rotherham. They will also say that he seems clueless on penalty kicks.

Like Barrett, so many decades before him, Carson has a very powerful kick. Years ago playing in the Cheshire League Latics would use Barrett’s kicks to attack the opposition defence. It was non-league football and the ball was often in the air. Compared with many of the teams they faced Latics played quite sophisticated football and their supporters would brand the styles of the opposing teams as “big boot” or “kick and rush”. But on the sticky pitches of the time a long ball game was often essential and Barrett’s kicking was a real asset.

These days Latics are playing at a much higher level and the pitches they are playing on are far superior. Moreover possession of the ball has become paramount in the upper echelons of English football. Nevertheless the long ball has come back into play following the exit of Roberto Martinez.

With Owen Coyle in charge, Carson would regularly spear long balls up front. Even Uwe Rosler, whose preferred football style was opposed to the tactic, allowed or encouraged Carson to do the same. Usually Marc-Antoine Fortune was the target, but James McClean too would be expected to head the ball from the touchline. Fortune is not the best of centre forwards in terms of goalscoring, but he found a place in Rosler’s teams through his ability to make something out of Carson’s long clearances.

Sadly Carson’s long balls have become a feature of Malky Mackay’s tactics. So often defenders who have been unable or unwilling to play the ball out of defence have passed the ball back to the big ‘keeper. The end result has been the central defenders of the opposition having a field day. The corpulent centre halves of the Championship are ill at ease with forwards who run at them, but long balls are their bread and butter.

Is Mackay encouraging Carson to make those long kicks? Is it part of his footballing philosophy?

Having said that he is the third Latics manager for whom the goalkeeper has performed in that way.

In the days of Martinez that kind of distribution from a goalkeeper was anathema. His goalkeepers were expected to conserve possession. A short or long throw from the goalkeeper was the norm. Defenders were encouraged to play the ball out of defence, even if on occasions things went awry.

The football currently played by Wigan Athletic under Mackay is close to that which was played under Coyle. The difference was that Coyle had flair players like Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Nick Powell who made the difference.

Carson is a fine goalkeeper, but his distribution is dire. Rarely does he make a long throw to find an unmarked teammate. So often he launches the long ball that rarely proves successful in moving the team forward.

However, a goalkeeper is dependent on players moving into good positions in order for him to find them accurately with a pass. In a struggling side that is often not the case.

Mackay’s sides have not been known for their flowing, attacking football. However, that does not mean to say that he encourages a route one approach.

Central strikers like Andy Delort and Oriol Riera have struggled with the service they have received since joining the club. It has consisted mostly of long hooves from either the back four or the goalkeeper. One wonders if they would ever have joined the club if they had known that was going to be the norm.

Scott Carson is a quality goalkeeper. However, his distribution of the ball needs to be seriously addressed. So does the low quality distribution he all too often receives from defenders who find it all too easy to pass the ball backwards rather than take the responsibility of building up from the back. Moreover there needs to be more off the ball movement from players willing to accept the burden of possession from a goalkeeper’s pass.

Let’s not put the clock back to Gerry Barrett’s day when Latics were a non-league team. There is no excuse for an excessive use of the long ball in high level football in this day and age.

Malky Mackay please note.

Bolton Wanderers 1 Wigan Athletic 1 – woeful Latics almost steal it


Rosler consoles Gomez after penalty miss.  Thanks to Latics Officlal for the photo.

Rosler consoles Gomez after penalty miss.
Thanks to Latics Officlal for the photo.

Adam Bogdan prevented Latics going away with an undeserved three points with a penalty save in the last minute of added time. Bolton’s Hungarian goalkeeper moved superbly to his right to parry Jordi Gomez’s shot.

Uwe  Rosler made seven changes to his side, with Leon Barnett making a surprise return to the centre of defence, where he was to partner Emmerson Boyce. James Perch and Jean Beausejour lined up in the full back positions. James McArthur, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jordi Gomez made up the midfield, with a front three of Martyn Waghorn, Marc Antoine Fortune and James McClean.

The match was to prove one-sided. Latics were up against an enthusiastic Bolton side, keen to beat their near neighbours. Bolton are in a fairly safe position in the table, with no chance of reaching the play-offs and this was a big game for them.

Wigan were lucky it took as much as 31 minutes for Bolton to score when lone striker Lukas Jutkiewicz stretched to get a toe to an inswinging free kick from Rob Hall on the right. Al-Habsi could not prevent it reaching the net.

The home team had dominated the match, their wide players Lee and Hall preventing Wigan’s full backs from overlapping and their direct approach causing Latics problems. Bogdan had little to do in the Bolton goal.

The match continued in this pattern for the first hour, with Latics having to rely on the fine goalkeeping of Al-Habsi to keep them in the game. Callum McManaman had been brought on at half time to replace the ineffective McClean. However, Wigan’s main tactical ploy was for the defenders to send in high balls to lone centre forward Fortune who must have been bruised and battered at the end of the match in his efforts to win the ball against the giants in the Bolton defence. In fact the whole display up to that point reminded one of the Coyle era at Wigan.

The introduction of Jack Collison for Tunnicliffe after 58 minutes signaled a slight upturn in the quality of football played by the visitors. The jaded McArthur was finally substituted after 70 minutes, with Nick Powell coming on, but being deployed on the left wing. Wigan had survived a scare early in the second half when Barnett fouled Liam Trotter just outside the penalty box. The Latics defender was lucky to receive a yellow card, rather than a red.

Thanks to the heroics of their goalkeeper Latics somehow survived until the 88th minute when Powell scored a fine opportunist goal from Waghorn’s cross. The tide then turned and it was Wigan who now looked the more dangerous, with McManaman testing left back Tim Ream, normally a central defender. Latics’ pressure continued and it was no surprise when McManaman was pulled down by substitute Alex Baptiste in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Jordi Gomez’s penalty was by no means a bad one, but in this case the goalkeeper guessed right and made a superb save. It contrasted with the penalty missed by Gomez against Yeovil when the goalkeeper was well off his line in making the save.

The Good

The flair of Powell and McManaman almost won the game for Latics. There were signs of better football from Wigan in the final stages, despite them looking lethargic and jaded for the majority of the time.

Collison continues to look the part in midfield. Providing his knee can withstand the pressure he could prove to be a key player over the coming weeks.

The Bad

The long ball has been rearing its ugly head in Latics’ play in recent matches. Against Watford they utilized it, but on that occasion Latics pushed up to five men forward in attack. However, putting long balls forward to an unsupported lone centre forward smacks of desperation.

All of Bolton’s back four were over six feet tall, with central defenders Zat Knight at 6’6” and David Wheater at 6’5”. The way to get past them was to play the ball on the ground, not give them food and drink by launching aerial passes.

Although Rosler had made seven changes to his lineup, the players still looked jaded. It is the worst game McArthur has played for a long time, but he clearly needs a rest and there is no obvious replacement for him. It is remarkable that he had been able to keep his momentum going until this match, playing so many games without a break.

Sadly Tunnicliffe still does not appear to have the quality Latics need in central midfield. He has been given chances but has not delivered.

The injuries to Ben Watson, Chris McCann and Roger Espinoza and the lack of emergence of Tunnicliffe mean that Rosler has few options available in midfield. The classy Josh McEachran still lacks full fitness and was not even on the bench at the Reebok. However, if Latics can make it through to the playoffs they are going to need players of his quality firing on all cylinders.

In the meantime Rosler might have to continue with Tunnicliffe, assuming that Fraser Fyvie remains out of consideration.

Player Ratings

Ali Al-Habsi: 9 – a superb display.

James Perch: 6 – solid in defence.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 – not at his best, but played with his usual mixture of technique and application.

Leon Barnett: 6 – brave in defence. Woeful in his passing of the ball.

Jean Beausejour: 6 – pressed back into defence by the dangerous Korean winger, Lee.

James McArthur: 5 – poor. Taken off after 70 minutes.

Ryan Tunnicliffe: 4 – poor. Taken off after 58 minutes.

Jordi Gomez: 6 – the main creative outlet and worked hard. A shame he could not convert the penalty.

Martyn Waghorn: 6 – hardworking as always.

Marc Antoine Fortune: 5 – received woeful service, having to fight for high balls most of the time. Wastefully fired wide near the end when a goal was on the cards, but probably exhausted by that stage.

James McClean: 5 – not in the game. Taken off at half time.


Callum McManaman: – came on after half time. Looked dangerous when switched to the right and caused panic in the Bolton defence.

Jack Collison: – keeps the game simple, but makes himself available to receive the pass. A quality player at this level.

Nick Powell: – isolated on the left wing but showed his quality with a superb opportunist equalizer.

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Rubin Kazan 1 Wigan Athletic 0 – route one Latics go down

Central Stadium, Kazan

The Central Stadium with the impressive Kazan Kremlin as its backdrop.

Some 150 Latics supporters made the long and expensive journey to Kazan. They deserved something better than this.

There have been worse performances by Latics in recent years and a 1-0 loss away to a team with a strong European pedigree does not look so bad. But it was so depressing to see Wigan Athletic playing a brand of football that has been the hallmark of teams like Bolton and Stoke.

Young Lee Nicholls continued in goal in place of the injured Scott Carson. Coyle brought back Thomas Rogne at centre back, with Ryan Shotton moving over to right back in place of Emmerson Boyce. Stephen Crainey came in at left back for James Perch, who moved in to midfield. At long last Roger Espinoza was given a start lining up, with captain for the night, James McArthur, to complete a central midfield trio. Callum McManaman and James McClean played wide, with Grant Holt being recalled at centre forward.

Latics started cautiously, with hopeful balls forward their only weapon. It looked like they were looking for a goalless draw. However, after 22 minutes that possibility evaporated.

In one of the few quality moves in the whole match Rubin’s Israeli midfield player Bibras Natkho put a lovely pass over Stephen Crainey’s head. Full back Oleg Kuzmin raced through and put in a powerful shot that went straight through rookie keeper Lee Nicholls and into the net.

Apart from putting the big men up for set pieces Latics posed little threat. The only quality move of note was when Espinoza put in a superb long cross from the left wing. Holt rose well but was not able to keep the header down and it went over the crossbar. The rest of Latics football in the first half was forgettable, with Rubin not much better.

Wigan came out in the second half with more resolve and started to take the game to Rubin. The approach was ‘Route One’. It looked like we were watching Sam Allardyce’s Bolton, but then were echoes of Stoke as Shotton put a series of long throw-ins into the penalty box.

Using this method Latics were able to put pressure on the home defence, without creating clear-cut chances. Coyle took off the hapless Perch after 60 minutes and Nick Powell came on. The youngster soon went on a mazy run before unleashing a good shot from 30 yards that went just wide. For the remaining 30 minutes the talented teenager was to see the ball go over his head most of the time.

Coyle brought on Marc Antoine Fortune for the cumbersome Holt after 71 minutes, then Jordi Gomez for McManaman three minutes later.  Soon after another superb cross from Espinoza was met by Rogne, whose header hit the crossbar.

In the end an out of form Rubin team gained a victory that practically puts them through to the knockout stages.

The Good

Latics played with spirit and commitment.

Roger Espinoza made a successful return, his energy and work rate being second to none. Moreover he provided moments of quality together with his incisive running.  The crosses he put in for Holt and Rogne were inch perfect.

The Bad

Once again Coyle showed a lack of tactical awareness.

He sent out a cautious lineup with three holding midfielders. For the second time this season Coyle put James Perch into a midfield role. He must have realized his mistake when he took Perch off on the hour. I might run the risk of repeating myself, but Coyle has an abundance of quality midfield players at his disposal. To put someone as technically limited as Perch in that position is hard to understand.

Holt was not the right man to start at centre forward in this match. He looked slow and out of touch. The more mobile Fortune would have been a better choice, but maybe Coyle had Sunday’s game at Yeovil on his mind. The French Guyanan is not particularly effective at jumping for the high balls which were the mode of operation for Latics in the second half.

The wide players, McManaman and McClean, were not able to get into the game. On the few occasions McManaman did run at the defence he was fouled. Latics wide play is just not getting the results it should.  Without Boyce on the right of defence McManaman was starved of decent passes. The Route One approach did not help in this game.

It seems to be ingrained in this Latics team that the long ball is the tactic in the second half. The quality players in midfield and on the wings become marginalized as defenders hoof the ball forward.

The back four in this match were all Coyle signings.They were either incapable or unwilling to play the ball out of defence in the way that the likes of Caldwell, Scharner and Alcaraz would. Or were they putting through those hopeful long passes under the manager’s instructions?

Player Ratings

Lee Nicholls: 5 – a tough European baptism for the young keeper.

Ryan Shotton: 5 – defensively solid, but his distribution was awful.

Thomas Rogne: 6 – solid in defence and unlucky to hit the woodwork yet again. Needs to work on his passing.

Leon Barnett: 6 – solid in defence, but poor in distribution.

Stephen Crainey: 5 – just does not look the part although used the ball more effectively than on previous occasions.

James Perch: 4 – poor. Taken off after 60 minutes.

James McArthur: 5 – could not put his stamp on the game.

Roger Espinoza: 7 – made some errors in his passing, but his energy and creativity were a real asset.

Callum McManaman: 5 – systematically fouled and heavily marked. Came off after 74 minutes.

Grant Holt: 4 – out of touch. Taken off after 71 minutes.

James McClean: 5 – the fingers pointed at him for not marking his full back when Rubin scored. An enigma – full of promise but does not deliver.


Nick Powell: – did what he could, but the style of play did not suit him. What a player he might have been had he come to Wigan a year earlier!

Jordi Gomez: – hardly saw the ball.

Marc Antoine Fortune: – heavily marked except on one occasion when he shot into the side netting with unmarked players waiting for the ball in the box.

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