Match Report: Wigan Athletic 1 Norwich City 1
It is widely accepted that newly promoted teams are at their most dangerous in the first half of the season. Wigan Athletic was not the only club to discover that last year, with Arsenal losing at home to Blackpool and United being humbled at Burnley the year before that. Supporters are out in droves in the stands (the brighter their kits the greater odds of success, apparently), and on the pitch, sheer energy, belief and that winning attitude that comes from promotion, tends to mask inadequacies that so often prove the downfall later in the year.
Yesterday was another example. Though at times sloppy and indecisive, Latics were a league above Norwich in terms of quality and pace, but the newly promoted side gave it all and got their reward. Poor finishing (two Di Santo headers, Sammon), some brave last ditch defending (De Laet from Rodallega and Moses), the Norwich keeper’s right post (denying Watson a sublime strike from the outside of his right boot), and an uncharacteristic blunder from keeper Ali Al-Habsi kept Latics from taking three points in this one, but sometimes you create your luck, and Norwich did just that.
You can read a more traditional match report here, along with Roberto’s post-match comments (more on those later), but for the time being here are the positives, the negatives, and some player ratings:
Lots of goal-scoring chances. Victor Moses must have set a record with the amount of times he went past defenders. He is fantastic to watch and will only get better. Finishing needs work, although he did provide a sublime cross that Di Santo somehow managed to head over the bar. Moses needs to keep a cooler head when stepping into the box. N’Zogbia had that ability to pick out a corner, take his time, curl the ball rather than blast it. Moses tends to snatch at the ball, rushing hit shot. He’s a work in progress, but Norwich certainly couldn’t handle him.
Ben Watson gets better and better. Roberto tipped him for an England call-up this season. He’s an odd player, deceptively skillful; he took his penalty very well, hit the post with a lovely strike in the second half, and almost set up a winner from the left wing after uncharacteristically beating the Norwich right-back for pace and sliding a cross in.
Maynor Figueroa looked lively, bursting forward and delivering two fantastic crosses, one of which Sammon should have done better with. He looked a bit tired toward the end with a few stray passes, but the side will need him joining the attack as he did yesterday. Probably benefited from Norwich’s concern with Victor Moses down that left flank. Theirs should prove an important partnership as the season goes on.
Poor finishing. Di Santo and Sammon both should have put the game to sleep, but Mo Diame also had a golden chance and went for a Hollywood lob from 4o yards out when he could have waltzed in and laid the ball of for Di Santo or finished himself. Moses might have done better with his final pass or shot on several occasions. Rodallega, on as a sub, looked lively, but you wonder if he would have scored at least one of those crosses had he been in the center-forward role rather than out wide.
Adrian Lopez had an absolute nightmare. Out-muscled, out of position and dodgy in possesion, you had to feel sorry for the guy after missing 10 minutes of the first half getting stitches after a collision with Norwich’s Morison, who by the looks of things has a very hard head. I assume, though haven’t confirmed that neither Alcaraz nor Gohouri were fit enough to play, but based on this performance, it might be a better option to play Emmerson Boyce in the center with Caldwell, and give Stam another chance at right back.
Poor Al-Habsi. Bad mistake, cost the team two points. I hope, and doubt, it will happen again.
Al-Habsi: 4 — Didn’t have much to do, but made a fatal mistake and it visibly affected him for the rest of the match.
Boyce: 5 — Solid, but didn’t get forward much. If Jordi Gomez is going to be playing on the right wing, he will need to make overlapping runs, or that side of the pitch will be completely wasted.
Caldwell: 6 — Solid enough as well, can’t fault him for much, though it appeared he and Lopez had met in a bar the night before the match. But he did make some important blocks.
Lopez: 3 — Really dreadful. A liability. Had to get stitches early in the match, but he’d made a mistake before that, in the buildup to the collision. Looked uncomfortable, too slight against battering rams like Holt and Morison, and it was a relief when Martinez finally withdrew him.
Figueroa: 7 — Very positive attacking play. Used his pace well and looked dangerous. Norwich eventually started fouling him. Delivered a couple crosses that should have led to match-winners.
Watson: 7 — Looked a little rusty, but it promises to be a breakthrough season for him. What a shame his shot didn’t bounce in off the post.
Diame: 5 — Good on the ball, and went on some trademark mazy runs, but ultimately wasted the ball, and faded out of the match for minutes at a time. So much potential, but needs to keep his focus.
McCarthy: 5 — Clearly bothered by the ankle injury sustained against Villareal, James was very quiet by his standards. Played two very classy balls that could have led to goals, but the team will need him fit and firing this season.
Jordi Gomez: 5 — Not a right winger. You can’t really say he did much wrong, but his lack of pace makes that part of the field a non-threat. I suppose he could have been dangerous on set plays if there had been any, but there weren’t.
Moses: 8 — They didn’t know how to handle him. Just needs to work on his finishing, but constantly went past defenders as though they were training cones.
Di Santo: 6 — An infuriating player. Looked energetic and won the penalty (and then made a meal of what might have been a second penalty at the end of the first half), but showed again his lack of finishing. That said, Latics looked less of a threat when he went off.
Rodallega: 6 — Looked lively and had one decent effort, and another blocked by about five Norwich defenders. But might have won the match if he’d been playing centrally. Why not put Di Santo out on the left for a bit and move Roda inside?
Sammon: 4 — Uncomfortable on the ball, he ran around a lot but squandered his only chance.
Stam: 5 — Not on the pitch too long, he was Ok.
Roberto said after the match that the squad needs two more faces. He also clarified that the recent bid for Peter Odemwingie, West Brom’s excellent striker, was not intended as a replacement for Rodaellega but as an addition. (Phew). Unfortunately, we won’t get him anyway. But assuming at least one of the new arrivals is a decent winger able to play on the left and allowing Rodallega to move inside, I think things look alright. McCarthy will become a key player once his ankle heals. Alcaraz should be back soon, and how he was missed yesterday. Al-Habsi will hopefully bounce back as he did after his only other costly blunder against Man City last year. This should have been three points, but there are enough positives to give hope. And it’s one more point at this stage than last year.
Al-Habsi: 4 – No tuvo mucho que hacer, pero cometió un error fatal que visiblemente lo afectó durante el resto del partido.
Boyce: 5 – Solido, pero no consiguió avanzar mucho por esa banda derecha. Si Jordi Gómez va a jugar de puntero derecho, Boyce tendrá que tomar mas riesgos para evitar que ese pasillo derecho se pierda por completo.
Caldwell: 6 – Tambien solido, cumplio.
López: 3 – Realmente terrible. Incómodo con la pelota, perdio el duelo con el delantero Morison, y casi le regala el segundo a Norwich con un pase inexplicable a Ali Al-Habsi. Tiene que mejorar. Sustuvo un fuerte golpe a la cabeza empezando el partido y volvio a la cancha con diez puntos.
Figueroa: 7 – Muy positivo, se lanzo al ataque con peligro. Mando un par de centros que debieron haber terminado en gol.
Watson: 7 – Este promete ser una gran temporada para él. Cobro su penal con autoridad, y por poco gana el partido con un tremendo derechazo.
Diáme: 5 – Vivo y con buena gambeta, pero desaprovecho una exelente oportunidad en la primera parte intentando un tiro espectacular, y se luego se perdio. Mucho potencial, pero le falta concentracion.
McCarthy: 5 – Un poco callado, probablemente por la lesión en el tobillo que sufrio contra el Villareal. Puso dos pases esplendidos que podrían haber marcardo la diferencia. Pero se espera mas de el.
Jordi Gómez: 5 – No es un puntero derecho. No es que alla hecho algo malo — incluso no perdio la bola ni una sola vez — pero su falta de velocidad significa que por costado no hay amenaza.
Moses: 8 – Un crack. Sólo le falta frialdad a la hora de definir, pero tiene fuerza, velocidad, y un dribbling espectacular. Norwich no pudo con el.
Di Santo: 6 – Un jugador exasperante. Corrio, lucho, se gano el penal, pero mostró de nuevo que no tiene definicion. Pero le hizo falta al equipo cuando lo sustituyeron.
Rodallega: 6 – Peligroso cuando entro, pero es mejor como centro delantero. Sigue siendo el mejor definidor del equipo. Ya recuperado, tiene que ser titular contra Swansea.
Sammon: 4 – Incómodo con la bola a sus pies, corrió y lucho, pero desperdició su única oportunidad.
Stam: 5 – Solo jugo diez minutos.