Evatt’s comments rankle, but are Wigan Athletic an over-physical team?

Ian Evatt defends Dapo Afolayan

“I just think that sometimes he has unfairly of having a reputation for diving, but if you’re fouled, you’re fouled. I thought some of the tackles on him today were poor and mistimed and that’s where you need the referees to ignore noise and so-called reputations and give the right decision on a day and I don’t think we got the right decision with McClean’s second yellow in particular.”

Ian Evatt is rarely short of words. The outspoken Bolton boss was right about James McClean’s second yellow for a foul on Dapo Afolayan. It was a reckless action by a player already on a yellow card and it could have ultimately cost Latics all three points. The referee had earlier booked McClean for a foul on Afolayan, that was debatable. Some would say that the Irishman did not even touch the player, but even if he did it was hardly a bookable offence. The referee was surely influenced by the writhing of Afolayan on the ground after his fall.

Wigan were certainly aware of the threat that the 24-year-old Afolayan brings. He is a talented and skilful player who will invariably be heavily marked by League 1 defences. According to the Bolton Evening News he was the most fouled player in the division after the initial 5 matches this season. Given his capabilities it would be a surprise for him to remain at Horwich next season.

This Wigan Athletic side is certainly physical. Over the course of the season, they have outgunned the opposition with their ability to win the second ball, wearing them down by attrition. The stats reflect it with Latics scoring a total of 28 goals in the first half and 40 in the second. It is the fittest Wigan team for many years. Long balls are a feature in Liam Richardson’s style of play. Stats from WhoScored.com show an average of 18% of their passes classed as “long”, compared with Bolton’s average of 11%.

But are Wigan more physical than other teams in League 1? How does their foul and card count compare?

“Wigan had a game plan to come here and stop us playing and when you’ve got a team as experienced, as physical and as well set-up as they are, it makes things difficult.”

So said MK Dons manager, Liam Manning, following Latics’ draw at the MK Stadium in March. The match starts showed the home team having 59% of possession and committing 11 fouls to Wigan’s 16. A draw was a fair result between two teams with contrasting styles. Leam Richardson opted for a backline of three central defenders, with wing backs, matching the formation of the home team. It worked well, the shape and energy of the Wigan team stifling the MK Dons’ usually smooth-flowing football, forcing them into errors.

The Dons are probably the most aesthetically pleasing footballing side in League 1. On average they have committed 8.5 fouls per game, compared with 13.4 by the opposition. Latics and Rotherham can be considered more physical in their style of play and the stats back up the argument. Latics have committed an average of 12.7 fouls per match (11.9 by the opposition) and Rotherham 12.6 (11.5). Wigan’s foul stats, not surprisingly given the difficult circumstances, make better reading than those in the 2020/21 season of 14.7 to 11.7.

Stats courtesy of FootCharts.co.uk

Although Latics and Rotherham come close on foul stats, an examination of those for yellow card stats paints a different picture.  Wigan average 2.1 yellows per game (1.7 by the opposition), whereas Rotherham’s stats are 1.5 to 1.8.

Stats courtesy of FootCharts.co.uk

More than half of Latics’ yellow cards have been accumulated by 4 players: Tendayi Darikwa 13, Callum Lang 11, Max Power 10 and James McClean 8. On the other hand, Jack Whatmough and Tom Naylor who have made so many key tackles and interceptions this season have received 4 and 6 yellows respectively.

The brand of football played by Richardson’s team is certainly akin to that of the Paul Cook era. The stats in Cook’s final season were 13.5 fouls committed per match (13.1 for the opposition), 2.1 yellows per match (1.8 for the opposition).

Style of play notwithstanding, Leam Richardson has done an outstanding job over the last two seasons since Cook left. He kept Latics in League 1 and they are now in with a very good chance of automatic promotion. Moreover, a half the current squad have prior experience of at least 40 matches in the Championship or the Premier League. Should promotion be achieved there would be a strong base to build upon.

Latics may be one of the most physical teams in the division but they are less cynical than many. The standard of refereeing may be near an all time low in League 1, but the officials’ jobs are made so difficult by the diving, shamming of injury, shameless time wasting and mobbing of referees over borderline decisions. The foul and card stats make interesting reading, but do not necessarily paint a full picture.

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 gritty performance against Oxford United

February 1, 2022: Wigan Athletic 1 Oxford United 1

“In the first 15-20 minutes, they shaded it and it was a good goal on their part. After that, I thought we took over the game and the impetus was on us. I thought in the second half, we limited them to certain things around the pitch and the momentum shifted.”

Leam Richardson was certainly right about the momentum shift. Oxford’s superbly worked goal after 23 minutes was the reward for the team that was playing the good football, even if their players can tend to go down easily. It was so different to Wigan’s “hoof and hope” approach. Oxford had controlled the midfield and looked in command.

But the momentum of the game changed when Richardson shuffled his pack around the half hour mark. Max Power was shifted from right back to midfield, with Tom Naylor dropping back in a more defensive role, protecting the centre of defence. The change in shape was to give Latics more midfield control.

Richardson has shown himself to be a wonderful motivator and this team never gives up. They are the fittest team Latics have had for many years and every player will give his all to fight for the cause. However, he can hardly be classed as a flexible, innovative manager. But in this case, he proved us wrong and his reshuffling got so much more out of the players he had on the pitch, the balance of the game switching in Wigan’s favour.

Callum Lang’s expertly taken goal from a superb pass by Max Power in the 35th minute had got Latics level. Although they exerted pressure on Oxford for the remainder of the game the approach remained largely long-ball and creativity at a premium. The stats show that Wigan had 3 shots on target, Oxford one.  

Richardson continues to leave out his most skilful and creative player. Thelo Aasgaard can be frustrating at times, particularly when he loses the ball when going for an over-ambitious option. But what a breath of fresh air he could have brought to this game.

With the signing of Jamie McGrath, a natural number 10, Aasgaard’s opportunities appear even more limited for the remainder of the season. Will Keane’s creativity has been missed, not only when he has been out due to injury, but also when being played further forward, more akin to the role of twin striker. The result has been a gap between holding midfield and the attack, with the ball played over the top. At his best, Keane has played a key role in dropping back to receive the ball and help the holding midfielders, in addition to the goals and assists he has supplied going forward.

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:

FormbyLatic wrote:

What’s with this constant hoof and hope sh.te? Only one team in this so far and it isn’t us.

Daleks.at.the.monaco commented:

Oxford horrible team who fall over a lot but are good at passing.

NorthernSoul noted the tactical changes:

Changed formation to 4-3-3 Max in the centre. Lang right. Darikwa right back. Power pass immediately goal. Edging closer to 3-4-3.  

FrancosLoveChild opined on the visitors’ goal:

Great goal, that’s how football teams should play, deserved for Oxford, hopefully our hoof and hope will somehow get us a result.

He later added:

Think it’s clear we really lack any threat at goal in open play over the course of the game. Thought Naylor was poor and kept giving it away. For all of Lang’s ability his brain is frustrating, so many needless fouls in good positions

Wesleystammer retorted:

I’m really surprised to read that you thought Naylor was poor. First half he wasn’t great but he was the glue holding our shape together second half imho. He was always in the right place at the right time to make the interception and gave a lot of protection in between defence and midfield.

Could have been 3 tonight
tonight but not too disappointed with 1 point after the first 25 mins or so.

King_dezeeuw06 commented:

Hoof ball is when you are continually blasting balls 70 yards for the strikers head despite the fact it’s not working and doing little else. As we did in the first 30 mins.

No one would call the last 60 mins of that game football instead of hoof ball – not because it was the same approach but worked better but because it was a different approach. As you pointed out we mixed it up nicely playing plenty of football that wasn’t attempted in the opening stages.

Kendal Blue summarised:

From 30 minutes on that was a top class performance. Max further forward is a level above. Lang was excellent but his silly little spat ended his threat far too early. I’m not fully convinced that we don’t have better options than Naylor, but that role just in front of the 2 centre backs seemed to suit him perfectly.
They were a really difficult team – they could play and they could sh.thouse. They were like our little brother. In the end a good point but could have had 3 if players could get their foot over a ball on the volley. Even John Pender taught me the importance of getting over the ball!

Edit – Tilt showed why signing him permanently was so important. He knows when he can bring it out and when he should clear his lines better than anyone else we have back there.

Th10 wrote:

Play like we did before the equaliser and we’ll be lucky to make the play offs.

If we continue playing how we did after the equaliser then I’m confident we’ll win enough games to get promoted. It was so much better to watch once we changed system, we were pressing high up the pitch which stopped them playing. We also passed it better ourselves, won every second ball and had more time on the ball when we won it back. There’s still some room for improvement and I struggle to see how Massey keeps getting in the side. Sykes looked terrific for them, he’d have been a great signing.

ExiledViking added:

1st part of the 1st half was Cheltenham all over again (only with more clinical finishing), ***Note to Leam*** hoofball in windy conditions is rubbish to watch & doesn’t work.

After that, we went back to what we know best, and to be truthful, we was unlucky not to win.

Point gained, but we cannot let this become a habit. Sheffield Wednesday next Tuesday Night will be the real acid test of where we’re up to.

It’s definitely 2 points dropped but I’ll happily sacrifice those 2 points if that’s what it takes to see us finally learn that passing football is the way to go for the rest of the season. If the penny finally drops and we start to do that all the time we’ll make those 2 points up over the season by playing better more often.

Zakky wrote:

I really don’t want to give the impression I am against Leam because I’m not. I have nothing but admiration for what he has done in being loyal to the club in the last 18 months, but he doesn’t get everything right as some folk think. People are saying his tactics have worked all season, well yes they did until we lost Charlie, but can anyone say we have played well since Plymouth away the week we lost him.

Leam has continued to play that long ball, but it has failed to work and the fact we have been winning is down to the resilience and brilliance in some cases of the players, and he needs to get his tactics right from the start. We dropped 2 points last night that could be crucial at the day of reckoning and had we started with the formation the way we finished we may well have won.

You are my sunshine summed up:

Oxford mostly controlled that 1st 30 mins. But as soon as Power went in CM, Lang RW, Darikwa RB, McClean LB the team looked so much better balanced. We then started to get a firm grip on the game as a result and mostly dominated thereafter.

We pressed them higher when Max went in the middle and Shinnie moved a bit further up also. This meant they stopped controlling the middle areas of the pitch, as they had less time and space to play and we were able to get on the ball more ourselves. Lang also looked much more dangerous off the right, with Darikwa more comfortable behind him on his natural side which meant we then had a left footer at LB. All of that unsettled Oxford and we looked much more comfortable ourselves ,so we pushed them back for that last hour.

I must say they have some good footballers, but they are also a team of f…ies who like to go down easily to try and buy free kicks and do a lot of moaning at the ref.

After having by far the better of the last hour,I’m frustrated we didn’t get the win,even though I would’ve took a point at 30 mins.So plenty to be positive about from tonight, against a decent side once Leam changed it.

I’d make lots of changes at Stoke on Saturday to keep the lads that played tonight fresh for Sheff Wed. Even with all those changes, we will still have good options within the squad to be very competitive.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

The transfer deadline day unfolds for Latics’ fans through the social media

We trawled the social media on the 2018 Transfer Deadline Day to get fan reactions on the comings and goings of players at Wigan Athletic.

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

Let’s take a look at how the deadline day unfolded for Latics’ fans:

Adam O’Neill @adamONeillio tweeted:

Dan Burn been a brilliant player for us over last few seasons. Will be a huge miss but deserves a crack at the Premier League. Wish him all the best #wafc

Victor Moses on Latics Speyk commented:

Since we signed Kipre i’m not too fussed about losing Burn. Would rather we gained more money, but i think overall we will have a better player whos more suited to our system with far greater potential. Burn is suited to a deep defensive line that is focused on defending within the box. If we played that way he would be the better choice.

But it seems cook wants to play a high defensive line, which would suit Kipre far more. Dan lacks awareness, also gets caught out up the field with his positioning and lacks strength to dominate aerially. He’s better at attacking the ball with his head with forward momentum rather than being pinned 1v1 vs another player.

With a high defensive line the defenders will be exposed to a lot of 1v1 battles this season. The benefit is that our players will be higher up the pitch with the press and it will improve our general attacking play with players starting off higher up the pitch.

I like Burn, he’s been a quality player for us and wish him all the best, if he’s to come back here on loan i would expect him to be a backup unless an injury to Dunkley or Kipre. Watching Kipre gave me a lot of confidence in him, he stopped 4 or 5 1v1’s with the ball at the opponents feet and dominated a very high % of 1v1 aerial plays against Nuhiu and Joao. Two of the bigger forwards in this league.

Matt Jones @WafcMatt3 tweeted:

I absolutely adore Dan Burn and he deserves this move to the prem and I could see it coming but £3.5M surely it should be at least 5 need a replacement in summer considering he’s on loan to us this season #wafc

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

Really puzzled Dan Burn’s loan back. I wonder if he’s going to be out injured until Nov and the loan from #bhafc point of view is that he’ll stay to get fit and playing before a Jan move. From #wafc point of view, we get a player for 2 months or so and the deal calms fan concerns

Studds40 on Latics Speyk added:

It’s a good deal for us. Good fee, good terms, if he returns on loan.

Personally, I don’t think he’s Premier League quality, so don’t understand what Brighton get out of the deal. Unless he’s a back-up for injuries or potential relegation.

Kipre still young and has a lot to prove. But it shows what kind of player you can pick-up around the £1m mark. Be interesting to see what moves we make in the next few hours.

Hindley Blue on the Cockney Latic Forum commented:

Good luck to the lad and I wish him every success as he was great for us and always gave 100%. I’m just really shocked a Prem team wants him, milk turns quicker and imo he’ll get found out.

Chris Stafford on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams commented:

Is it just me that thinks this Dan burn deal is a fantastic deal ?? He’s leaving at end of season anyway by the looks of it so would probably go for nothing but instead we are getting around £4 million for him and he’s being loaned back to us by all accounts ? We can now go and spend a bit of money today if needed

Duncan Holder responded:

 If anyone thinks we can survive financially without selling players each season they need to give their heads a wobble!! Got him on a free and sell him for decent profit.

Peter Millward @PeteMillward79 tweeted:

I’d be gutted if @mp_1825 left us. I really like the lad. Infectious enthusiasm. Seems so important to us he squad #wafc

Alan Farrimond @AlanFarrimond tweeted:

I also like him as a lad and there’s no doubt he likes us, but I do have concerns as to whether he can hack it in Championship. Also we have an abundance of CM players and we can’t keep them all happy, so good luck to the lad.

WillJones89210 on Latics Speyk commented:

I love max he’s my favorite player and I’ll be sad to see him go because of his passion and style of play. That said he has never been a fit for cooks system. His strengths are not as a holding midfielder never will be. He may be good enough for the championship but I don’t think he is in cooks system. With Connolly Gibson Morsy Macdonald and lopes we have pleenty of options 3 of which are probably as good if not better. From a footballing perspective purely it makes sense to sell if we get a decent fee.

Stuart Glover @StuartGlover tweeted:

Don’t forget Power wanted to leave last season and wasn’t all that effective in Championship year before (though few were). McDonald is better and may allow Morsy to get a little further forward.

C_Latic on Latics Speyk commented

Got no problem losing Power if the fee is right. We’ve upgraded in Connolly. The only worry I have is that Max is a great character and I’m guessing a key figure in the dressing room. Very much a Bullard type. It’s vital we don’t lose that togetherness as that group of players who have been with us since around 2015 start to dwindle.

MightyTics on Latics Speyk commented:

WIGAN. SHEFF U. Evans deal is on. Truly stunned by that.

 Martin @_MartinWAFC tweeted:

Very happy with midfield options of Morsy, Gibson, Evans and MacDonald #wafc

KingdeZeeuw06 on Latics Speyk commented:

I’m absolutely made up if we get Evans back – it was a huge mistake to not sign him when he went Sheff U. I’ll be over the moon if we do that deal. Wow!

Not sure who Joe Garner is but reading both the #wafc and #bwfc hashtags he may be about to become my favourite player.

HudWiganFan on Latics Speyk commented:

Kept all but one of the key players (even he’s returning on loan), signed some excellent players for our level and splashed some cash in the process as some had demanded – this window couldn’t have gone much better IMO.

Alan Nixon @reluctantnicko tweeted: 

An Amigo View – Plymouth 1 Wigan Athletic 3 – talking points

 

The trip to Home Park to meet a Plymouth side unbeaten in their last eight matches was not going to be easy. Moreover, the home support had come out in numbers for the Pilgrims’ best crowd of the season of 11,942. But Wigan’s clinical finishing was to enable them to come away with a valuable win that puts them five points ahead of Shrewsbury, who could only draw at home to Doncaster Rovers. In truth, Latics had not played particularly well and the home side’s approach work surely merited a better scoreline than the 1-3 result.

Will Grigg had a good opportunity as early as the 6th minute, but could not show the sharpness needed to put the ball away. Chey Dunkley’s ill-judged tackle Plymouth’s on Graham Carey on 27 minutes led to a home team penalty that the same player converted. But Latics equalised a couple of minutes later when Grigg this time showed the sharpness required to deflect home Nick Powell’s sublime cross. A superb counterattack saw Gavin Massey grab the second on 45 minutes. Although Plymouth continued to threaten Dan Burn’s header was deflected into his own net by a Plymouth defender on 69 minutes. Wigan’s two goal lead was to prove a mountain that the home side could not overcome.

Paul Cook so often displays a refreshing kind of fairness and openness, rare among football managers, in his post-match comments. He was spot-on in his depiction of this match:

I thought it was a very difficult game; Plymouth were excellent in the game, they kept knocking on the door and started well. We never got into our rhythm like we normally do away from home and didn’t dominate the ball and Ryan Taylor caused us a lot of problems.

I felt the second goal came at such a crucial time because we weren’t the better team on the pitch and, makes no bones about it, Plymouth were the more aggressive team and caused us problems but for them the third goal was a hammer blow and they definitely didn’t deserve that on the day. That’s football, though, the lads had to dig in today, which they did, show a lot of character after a tough game on Wednesday and it was great to come down here and go back with the three points.”

Let’s take a look at some talking points arising from the game:

Latics showed physicality

Being unable to impose their customary midfield control, Latics had to fight for possession and to keep Plymouth out of the danger areas. The way they did this did not go down too well with the Home Park crowd, who were unhappy with their physical approach. However, the home team certainly fuelled the crowd’s anger by going down on occasions as if poleaxed, followed by teammates pressurising the referee. It was a difficult game for the official, but although he booked four Latics players to Plymouth’s none, it could have been much worse if he had buckled to the roaring of the crowd.

Latics had that extra quality

Although this was by no means a top performance from Latics, there can be no doubting the team’s willingness to work hard to get a result. But added to that were flashes of real quality that were to prove the difference between the two teams.

Nick Powell had a good game and his pass using the outside of his foot for Grigg’s goal was a pleasure to behold. He also had a hand in the second, winning a tackle around the half way line to pass inside for Max Power who ran forward to put in a slide-rule pass for Gavin Massey to neatly score.

Power is becoming a better player under Cook. Too often in the past he has looked for sideways or backwards passes, but now his play has more emphasis on going forward and he has the technique to thread through quality passes. Moreover, his crossing, from open play and set pieces, has been a joy to behold in recent weeks.

Graham Carey – worth considering

Playmaker, Graham Carey, has been inspirational in Plymouth’s rise up the table. On Saturday he caused problems for the right side of the Latics defence, with his close control and ability to dribble past the opposition. Fortunately for Latics he was moved to the rother flank in the second half where he was less effective, although he was still able to whip in some quality balls with his cultured left foot.

Carey is a 28 year old Irishman who spent four years in Scotland with St Mirren and Ross County before joining Plymouth in 2015, where he has scored 32 goals in 110 appearances. Carey’s best position is in the Nick Powell role, behind the centre forward, but he is often played out wide. Saturday’s goal put him on a total of 11 for the season, the same as Nick Powell.

Paul Cook recognised Carey’s performance by saying: “Credit to Graham Carey, though, he is an excellent player, he is a constant threat and he will cause problems.”

Would Cook consider an approach for the player in the transfer market?

Reverting to three central defenders

Alex Bruce was brought on for Nick Powell after 78  minutes, Cook once again opting for a back line of three central defenders plus wing backs. It could be argued that it was primarily a defensive tactic, but the presence of a third central defender gives the full backs more scope to attack, as we saw in the days of Roberto Martinez.

The manager has been criticised in the past for a lack of tactical flexibility, but this is a  very viable option that he has decided to employ. Bruce might lack the pace of his younger days, but in the centre of a back line of three central defenders, he has the kind of positional sense and reading of the game that can make him a major asset.

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