Wigan vs. QPR: Clean sheets unlikely

2012-qpr

Wigan Athletic returns to the DW to face a Harrified QPR with even fewer available players than they left it — some feat! — including all four of the club’s first-choice centre-backs. The injury total now stands at eight senior players.

Word on the street is Roberto Martinez will revert to a more traditional four-man defence featuring Emmerson Boyce and Adrian Lopez as centre-halves — which sounds fine until reminded of Ronnie Stam’s defensive frailties as a traditional right-back, and the lack of a Maynor Figueroa understudy on the left. The idea of Boyce and Lopez being flanked by two wing-backs playing as full-backs — Stam and Beausejour — is not a warm and fuzzy one, not least because the team’s attacking play has largely been built around their ability to get forward and put crosses into the box.

A perhaps more fluid adjustment, if not without its own set of risks, would be the inclusion of promising Spanish youngster Roman Golobart as third centre-half. This would allow Beausejour and Stam to play in their natural positions and the rest of the team could remain unchanged.

Whichever way Martinez decides to go, statistics suggest the rest of us are in for some goals tomorrow. While Southampton lead the goals conceded table with a remarkable 32 — more than 2 per game — Wigan is close behind with 28, followed by QPR on 27. Considering Wigan’s four first choice defenders are unavailable and the goalkeeper is suffering from a bit of a confidence crisis, a clean sheet does not look likely, though stranger things have happened. If reports of Julio Cesar’s fitness struggle are true, we could even be in for another Robert Green appearance at the DW, thus furthering the argument.

Have you ever sat down to write something and realized five paragraphs in that it’s all coming out wrong?

Despite the defensive crisis and unlikeliness of a clean sheet, I am backing Wigan to win this fixture. Harry has already made big improvements at QPR, with the defence tightened up and Sean Wright-Phillips enjoying a second chance. They showed last week that they are quite good at hitting the post, which should sound familiar. But despite the negative results of the last two fixtures, Latics’ form overall has not been okay. If the general play and discipline of the City match can be retained, three points should be up for grabs.

Prediction: Wigan 2 QPR 1, Jordi Gomez style.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 3 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2 – CHAMPAGNE FOOTBALL IN A PARTY ATMOSPHERE

What a pleasant way to end a season – champagne football played by Latics, with an appreciative home crowd lapping it up. How strange that after 8 minutes with the home crowd celebrating an upcoming 8th year in the Premier League, Matt Jarvis should dampen the party atmosphere by scoring a peach of a goal. Receiving a ball from Steven Ward he cut in from the left and put a peach of a shot beyond Ali Al Habsi’s reach.

Latics came back in the 12th minute with an opportunist goal from Franco Di Santo, kicking the ball between the legs of a Wolves defender into the left hand corner, after James McCarthy had dispossessed Stephen Hunt in midfield. The Jimmy Macs and Shaun Maloney were running the midfield and it came as no surprise when Emmerson Boyce scored two minutes later with a towering header from a Jean Beausejour corner. Latics dominated the remainder of the first half with their excellent movement and silky skills, but could not further add to their tally.

Wolves came out with more resolve in the second half and the Wigan defence had to be on its toes. Al Habsi produced an excellent save from Kevin Doyle, but Gary Caldwell was ruling the roost at the back. Wigan continued to produce waves of classy football, with Shaun Maloney orchestrating the play, giving the Wolves defence a torrid time. The lively Albert Crusat came on for Victor Moses after 58 minutes and Hugo Rodallega for Franco Di Santo after 79 minutes. Within the first minute of coming on it was Rodallega who headed the ball for Boyce to hit a screamer of a half volley into the net. Jordi Gomez came on for Shaun Maloney after 82 minutes.  In the 84th minute Boyce went through the Wolves defence with the chance of a hat trick. However, he unselfishly tried to square the ball to Rodallaga and the chance was lost. Steven Fletcher got a consolation goal for Wolves on 86 minutes, after Adrian Lopez – in for the injured Antolin Alcaraz – got caught in possession on the edge of his penalty area. In another sweeping move Rodallaga was unlucky to see his shot hit the post in the final minute of added time. The final whistle signaled a pitch invasion by delighted fans.

The Good

The scoreline did not truly reflect the gulf between the two teams. This was champagne football from Latics, with Shaun Maloney being at the core of practically all of our best attacking moves. The Latics fans have been fantastic over the past few months, in sharp contrast to the doom and gloom that pervaded the earlier part of the season. The belief shown by the fans has galvanised a team previously lacking self confidence.

 It is not only the prospect of an 8th season in the Premier League that makes me look forward to the resumption in August. More than that it is the prospect of Latics playing this brand of football and not being afraid of the rich and bloated clubs who dominate the league. We have to shed the image of “Little Wigan” and move up a notch in our own estimation. If Bob and Dave both stay for a few years longer we will not be perennially looking to avoid relegation, but towards being in the top half of the table, seeking a Europa league place.

The Bad

After being outstanding in recent games Antolin Alcaraz suffered a thigh injury in training. Estimated time of recovery is 6 weeks so let’s hope all will be well for him at the start of next season. He was missed in defence.

Player Ratings


Ali Al Habsi: 8 – Did all he could to keep Wolves out.  A top class ‘keeper.

Emmerson Boyce: 9 – This defensively minded player has become a real attacking option in the right wing back position. Has scored three cracking goals in recent matches.

Adrian Lopez: 6 – Tried hard to impose himself physically, but looked nervy. His lack of match fitness and practice probably contributed to him losing the ball for Wolves’ second goal.

Gary Caldwell: 9 – Superb at the back once again.

Maynor Figueroa: 8 – Excellent yet again.

Jean Beausejour: 8 – Played more of an attacking role than usual. Put in some lovely crosses that might have led to more goals.

James McCarthy: 8 – Excellent yet again.

James McArthur: 8 – Probably our most under rated player. Excellent performance.

Shaun Maloney: 9 – A brilliant performance from the Little Magician.

Victor Moses: 6 – Ineffective, taken off after 58 minutes. Maybe unsettled by transfer talk?

Franco Di Santo: 8 – Must be one of the best in the Premier League in his skilful hold-up play. Scored an opportunist goal.

Substitutes

Albert Crusat: 8 – Made a major impact as a substitute, coming close to scoring on at least three occasions. Promises well for the future.

Hugo Rodallega – Has been a great servant for Wigan Athletic. What shame he was unlucky in the last minute, hitting the post as his Latics career was coming to a close.

Jordi Gomez – Worked hard and put through some nice passes. This has been his best season at the club and he has managed to silence many of his critics.