A valiant display by Wigan Athletic, but in the end not enough to share the points. It was heartening to see the amount of fight and conviction shown by the Latics against a team way beyond their league in resources and sheer footballing talent. This was certainly no capitulation: no player could be faulted for effort from my viewpoint.
Latics switched their tactical lineup to the old 4-2-1-3 system, with Albert Crusat coming in on the left wing and James McArthur brought in to play the holding midfield role with James McCarthy. Mohamed Diame was absent on Senegal duty and David Jones out injured. Manchester City played Dzeko and Aguero up front and they were to give the Latics central defenders, Caldwell and Alcaraz, a very testing afternoon.
The first 20 minutes or so were really quite open with Wigan attacking with some verve and City promising, but not quite delivering. There was a warning sign after 10 minutes when a cross from Clichy found Dzeko unmarked, but luckily for Wigan he headed wide. It was therefore no surprise when he scored an opportunist header in the 22nd minute from Silva’s free kick. Neither Caldwell nor Alcaraz were close enough to challenge him in his leap. It was a pity to lose a goal like that because Latics had played some good football and had some half chances. Al Habsi made a great save from the dangerous Aguero as the first half was coming to an end.
The first part of the second half saw increasing City pressure, only the excellence of Al Habsi keeping them out. His double saves from Aguero, then from Silva, were absolutely outstanding. Not long after that Aguero skated through the Wigan defence, but somehow Dzeko got in his way and Wigan were let off the hook. Despite this pressure Wigan had still not thrown in the towel and seemed to grow in confidence. Watson and Di Santo were brought on to replace the tiring McArthur and Crusat and Wigan began to attack with some gusto. Their best effort came when a fine pass by Rodallega put McCarthy through, only for his cross shot to be blocked by Hart’s foot.
In the 88th minute Maynor Figueroa deliberately handled the ball when Aguero would have been clean through. He was fortunate to escape with a yellow card, although much has been made in the press since of Mancini’s cynical waving of the imaginary red card at the refereeing team. Mancini should have no complaints about the refereeing: practically every time City went down they got a foul whereas they were not afraid to stifle any attacking intent from Latics with tactical/professional fouling. City average over 12 fouls per game this season, significantly higher than those other clubs in the top six. The match stats read 17 fouls committed by Wigan and 15 by City, but those figures could have been easily reversed given the number of calls he made for 50-50 challenges, almost all of which went against Latics. Both teams finished with 3 yellow cards.
Martinez showed tactical flexibility in reverting to the old system and the lineup was well balanced. He played with three front players plus Jordi Gomez in the hole behind the centre forward. A bold move against such formidable opposition. Latics played some good football at times and, with luck, could have snatched a result in the last 20 minutes. There was certainly no capitulation and they were taking the game to City in that last quarter of the match. A spirited performance.
The defence looked leaky throughout, despite really gritty efforts from the back four to hold back the floodgates. Having said that Dzeko and Aguero are two of the best strikers in the league and are going to cause problems for any defence. However, failing to challenge Dzeko in the air led to one goal and it was lucky it was not two in the first half.
Ali Al Habsi: 9 – Another superb display. Kept Latics in the game with outstanding saves.
Ronnie Stam: 5 – Has been outstanding in recent games as a wing back, but in this game he had to revert to full back, where he struggles.
Antolin Alcaraz: 4 – The poorest game I have seen him play for Latics. We rely on him to win the ball in the air and he did not do it enough in this match.
Gary Caldwell: 4 – At times looked out of his depth. Tends to really struggle against the quality strikers of the top teams.
Maynor Figueroa: 5 – Not one of his best days, but as always he hung in there and tried his hardest. Lucky not to be sent off.
James McCarthy: 8 – Worked tirelessly in shielding his defence from the City onslaught, showing good skills. Good to see him getting forward, unlucky with his shot on goal in the second half.
James McArthur: 6 – The perennial substitute was given a starting role in the Premier League for only the second time this year. Given his lack of match practice he did a pretty good job. Although he misplaced some passes he did a lot of solid defensive work and put some nice balls forward. Showed his technique with a good snap-shot in the first half.
Jordi Gomez: 7 – Worked hard to try to engineer Latics attacks. Put in some nice touches and covered a lot of ground.
Victor Moses: 5 – Was too greedy in this match, too many times opting to dribble when teammates were in better positions awaiting a pass.
Hugo Rodallega: 7 – Worked tirelessly as the lone centre forward. Gradually regaining his form.
Albert Crusat: 6 – Hardly got the ball. Looked good when he had it. Showing improvement in the defensive side of his game.
Ben Watson: – Surprising to see McArthur preferred to him in the starting line-up. Did a useful job after coming on in the 68th minute.
Franco Di Santo – Tried hard but to no end result after coming on in the 68th minute.
Callum McNamaman – Only came on in the last 10 minutes and had little chance to shine.