Resistance broken

Roberto Martinez was on the money when he said Wigan Athletic would need to be tactically perfect against defending champions Manchester City — a soft goal halfway through the second half was the difference in this one.

James Milner added a wonder strike two minutes later but probably wouldn’t have gambled on a shot from that far out without the one-nil cushion. It gave City the confidence to attack with verve against a Wigan side that had until that point looked both resilient in defence and composed in attack.

The Good:

The makeshift defence performed admirably. Adrian Lopez was a revelation and is clearly well-suited to a back three. The midfield pairing of James McCarthy and Dave Jones was excellent, as was Franco Di Santo, who skillfully and energetically led a number of breakaways.

All in all, given the injury crisis the club is going through, this was a positive performance against a team full of match-winners. If you’d pulled four starters and several other senior players out of the squad three years ago, it would have guaranteed a hammering. Not so anymore.

The Bad:

A missed opportunity. City were starting to grow frustrated and Wigan were growing in confidence. Al-Habsi’s mistake was his second in two matches. You can get away with it against Reading — just — but not Manchester City. It was effectively game over.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 5 — Though it pains me to say it, but his mistake led to the goal that changed the game.

Emmerson Boyce: 7 — Could have done better after Ali spilled, loses a point for that. But he was otherwise excellent in his old position.

Adrian Lopez: 8 — A revelation in the Gary Caldwell role. No fault in the goals, made numerous timely interceptions and tackles, and distributed well.

Maynor Figueroa: 7 — One near disastrous backwards header aside, he did well alongside unfamiliar defensive partners.

Jean Beausejour: 6 — Played one delicious cross in the second half but otherwise failed to have a strong impact on the game.

Ronnie Stam: 6 — Rusty. Struggled to get his ball into the box. But he shows promise and could be very useful in the right wingback role in weeks to come. Especially as Boyce appears to be set for an extended run at centre-back.

James McCarthy: 8 — Outstanding. Didn’t put a foot wrong all game. Broke up play and started counter-attacks.

David Jones: 7.5 — His best outing for some time. Good passing, strong tackling.

Jordi Gomez: 6 — Better in the first half, although casual at times. Might have had a penalty shout but stayed on his feet and then went down under lesser contact. Faded as the game went on.

Franco Di Santo: 8 — Broke up play, broke with pace, created opportunities, but often found himself alone.

Arouna Koné: 7 — Linked up well but couldn’t put away any of the half-chances he had.


James McArthur: Glad to see him back.

Callum McManaman: Came on with a minute to play for Ronnie Stam. A bit late.

Waiting on a Winger — Transfer Window Diary

As Peter Odemwingie put his name to a contract extension that will see him a West Brom player through the summer of 2014, the curtains closed on Wigan’s latest failed attempt in the transfer window.

There has been plenty to smile about this summer — Al-Habsi’s permanent deal, the release of wage drainers like Jason Koumas and Daniel De Ridder, and the retention of all but one of the club’s crop of talented young players.

But as we approach match day number two, the club appears no closer to the signing of a winger it so desperately needs. Nouha Dicko was apparently quite useful for the “development squad” in their 3-1 win the other day over Fulham, but is clearly one for the future. And Callum McManaman is back from the u-20 World Cup and will hopefully be available in the coming weeks. But it was quite clear against Norwich that while not doing anything wrong (or much of anything at all), Jordi Gomez is not dynamic enough for that position on the right wing. When the opposition wises up and starts kicking Moses on the left side of the pitch, we’ll have a problem.

And so West Brom rejected the Latics offer of 4 million pounds, a weak bid that was never going to tempt them. Odemwingie was a revelation last year, scoring 15 goals. He only cost West Brom 2.5 million, but who in their right mind would sell 15 Premier League goals for a profit of 1.5 million? That’s the difference between mid-table security and relegation.

Meanwhile, Sean Wright-Phillips is apparently close to joining Bolton. Roy Beerens (who?) snubbed Latics for AZ Alkmaar. Carlos Vela joined Real Sociedad on a year-long loan. Everton’s injury-prone forward Yakubu was linked a few days ago but nothing further on that one. Which probably means the best bet at this point is another season-long loan signing, ala Cleverley last year. But who else is there? Milner or Johnson from City would be great but their wages will be prohibitive. Diouf and Macheda of United may be available but haven’t shown too much in previous loan spells. Gio Dos Santos would be a loan possibility but it sounds at though Spurs want to sell. Arsenal don’t really have too much to spare. Maybe Pablo Barrera from West Ham’s bench? Someone from the Spanish market?

Overall, I’m a very happy supporter with Roberto Martinez at the helm. The team is financially stable, he’s building for the future, they’re playing decent football, and he genuinely cares. But one thing Steve Bruce had — and continues to have at Sunderland — is a big enough football name to convince proven Premiership players to join the club. At this stage, it looks like any signings are going to be from weaker leagues, who will take time to settle in and find their feet. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the team can afford to wait too much longer — the relegation six-pointers have already started.