Five talking points arising from a hard-fought win against Hull

Wigan Athletic 2 Hull City 1

 

It was by no means a classic, but the three points gained have put Wigan Athletic in the top half of the Championship table. Hull City had given the Latics defence some early problems, but well taken goals from Sam Morsy and Josh Windass put Wigan two goals up before Jarod Bowen scored for the visitors in the 42nd minute. The second half saw Latics mount a largely rear-guard action, although they still managed to threaten the visitors’ goal in spells.

Although it is early in the campaign Paul Cook’s Latics have already shown that they have the confidence and ability to hold their own in the second tier of English football. After the first 8 games their record is W4 D1 L3. At this stage a couple of seasons ago Gary Caldwell’s team were sitting in 22nd place, with a record of the W1 D2 L5.

Let’s take a look at some points arising from last night’s match:

Nouha Dicko causes problems for Wigan’s defence

Dicko was signed from Strasbourg by Roberto Martinez as a 19-year-old in 2011. After three loan spells for Blackpool, Rotherham and Wolves he signed for Wolves in January 2014. His appearances at Wigan had been confined to cup games. He has now made 172 league appearances, scoring 50 goals.

Dicko’s pace and aggression caused problems for the centre of Wigan’s defence and with a little more poise he might have scored. He remains a force at Championship level. Fortunately for Dunkley and Kipre he was taken off after 61 minutes, his team resorting to long crosses with which the two big centre backs looked much more comfortable.

Cook gets it right

Paul Cook had come under criticism for his team selection at Brentford, having left Will Grigg on the bench and played without a recognised right winger. He later reacted to the criticism, stating “There were key decisions made in terms of selection on Saturday that were always being made with Tuesday and Friday in mind, and I’m excited at the calibre of players we have waiting to come in.”

In the event the calibre players coming in were to be Grigg and Michael Jacobs. Although closely marked Grigg worked hard and it was his unselfish play that led up to Morsy’s goal. Jacobs’ enterprise and flair had been sorely absent at Griffin Park, but it was certainly evident last night. The line-up certainly had a more balanced look.

Following the Brentford game Cook had intimated that Latics might appeal Morsy’s red card. He will be glad he did so because the captain was back on form last night, not only scoring a cracking goal, but showing the kind of industry in midfield that we have come to expect from him.

Cook’s substitutions proved to be effective last night. He took Grigg off after 65 minutes, pushing Nick Powell forward, with Darron Gibson coming on to strengthen the central midfield. Kal Naismith was brought on to replace Windass after 82 minutes and he put Jacobs through on goal five minutes later with a fine run and pass. Powell proved a handful for the Hull defence at centre forward until he went off in the 89th minute.

Gibson’s calm makes a difference

Hull had stepped up the pressure in the second half and Latics had been pushed back into defence. The midfield was being overrun and Wigan just could not seem to hold on to the ball. The introduction of Gibson certainly helped.

Gibson has an aura of calm about his play that can influence those around him. He is resolute in defence and rarely wastes the ball.

Providing Gibson can steer clear of further injury he has the class to be a major player for Latics.

A role for Josh Windass

Josh Windass made his goal in the 37th minute look easy, but how many of his teammates would have taken the opportunity like he did? It was reminiscent of one he almost scored in his debut at Villa Park. A cross into space at the far post from Lee Evans. First time around Windass got his head to the ball, but it went narrowly wide. But guessing what Evans was going to do last night, Windass got into space and firmly headed into an empty net. At first glance it looked like it might have been offside, but the timing of his run was just right.

Windass is not a winger in the orthodox sense. He does not have the dribbling skills of Michael Jacobs, not the searing pace of Gavin Massey, yet Cook plays him in a nominally wide position. In times gone by Windass might have been employed as a twin striker in a 4-4-2 system. However, most managers these days prefer a lone central striker with support from the flanks and central midfield.

The goal will boost the player’s confidence, as he continues to adjust to the style of play that Cook espouses. In his post-match interview Latics’ coach Anthony Barry stated: “Josh’s goal has been coming; we know what a player and what a talent Josh is and his numbers up in Scotland suggest he will score goals. We have seen him in training and he is taking chances on a regular basis, so we are relaxed about Josh and the goals he will score for us.”

In Latics’ Premier League days Roberto Martinez experimented by putting centre forward Hugo Rodallega on the left wing. It did not work for Rodallega, nor Mauro Boselli who was starved of service in the centre.

However, in this new era wingers are more than ever expected to cut in and shoot. Windass is used to playing wide and with Garner, Grigg and Vaughan competing for the centre forward spot Cook clearly signed Windass to play a wide role.

Latics have so often this season put teasing crosses into the box with no end result. Windass could play a key role in converting them into goals, ghosting inside from a wide position.

James and Robinson to the fore

Once again one wondered if Cook would give the young full backs, Reece James and Antonee Robinson, a rest. But the manager resisted those options, and both were excellent last night. Robinson was back to his more energetic self in supporting attacks down the left, putting in a solid defensive shift. James is such an accomplished player at just 18 years of age that it would seem a matter of when, rather than if, he will make a full international debut for England. He was outstanding last night, judicious in defence and inventive in attack.

What a pity that neither player belongs to Latics!

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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Macclesfield Town 0 Wigan Athletic 1 – Professional display sees off non-leaguers

Jordi Gomez puts Wigan 1-0 up.

Jordi Gomez puts Wigan 1-0 up.

Wigan Athletic’s second string put them into the  5th round of the FA Cup for only the second time since the club was formed in 1932. A professional performance saw them grind out a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Jordi Gomez penalty after Callum McManaman had been clumsily scythed down in the box.

The crowd of 5,849 packed Macclesfield’s small Moss Rose ground to the rafters, reminiscent of a bygone era when the clubs were adversaries in the Cheshire League. How times have changed since those epic tussles between those two well-matched clubs in the 1960s. Curiously the football played by the non-league side yesterday more than matched that of Premier League opponents, ranked 82 places above them. Wigan had to hang in there with resolute defending as the Silkmen launched their second half assault.

The second string have been fascinating to watch in cup matches this season. On previous occasions they have been reinforced with a smattering of first choice players, but only Maynor Figueroa was in the starting lineup this time around. The  pragmatic approach of the second string has contrasted sharply with that of the Premier League XI. In this match there was an absence of the flowing football that characterises the senior team. Although it made for a drab spectacle Wigan looked defensively strong and resolutely defended their lead for 83 minutes after the penalty had put them in front.

This time they did not have Mauro Boselli to score goals for them, the Argentinian seemingly going on another loan move to Italy. He was replaced by Nouha Dicko who almost scored in the second half, after being put through by an incisive pass by Gomez, the goalkeeper making a good save.

A word of mention for Maynor Figueroa. The admirable Honduran has not had a rest from football for some 18 months. He played with his national  team in the Olympics over the summer and has started in all but one of Wigan’s Premier League games this season. It was no surprise that he was the senior professional who stepped forward to lend a hand in this match.  Captain for the night, he looked a class above anyone else on the pitch.

The Good

A win is a win, albeit against non-league opponents. This match was a potential banana skin, but the players worked hard to make sure the unthinkable did not happen.

Roberto Martinez views cup matches as an opportunity for players to stake a claim in the senior squad. Once again Callum McManaman looked the part. Although he rarely plays more than a few minutes as a substitute in the Premier League he has recently signed a new three year contract. One wonders when Martinez will jump in at the deep end and start the young forward in a league match. Roman Golobart teamed up well with Maynor Figueroa in the centre of defence and looks a powerful presence. If Martinez does not get an experienced central defender in what remains of the transfer window then Golobart will push for a first team spot, together with Adrian Lopez who made a welcome return from injury.

Fraser Fyvie is gradually making his mark, after being given a settling in period. The 19 year old is not without experience, having played 58 games  in the SPL for Aberdeen prior to joining Wigan in summer.  It was a pity an injury caused him to go off after 53 minutes. Roger Espinoza made a promising Premier League debut against Sunderland last weekend, but was unable to really stamp his mark on this match. It was good to take a first look at the big Spanish goalkeeper, Joel Robles, on-loan from Atletico Madrid.

 The Bad

More injuries for Wigan with Fraser Fyvie and Nouha Dicko going off in the second half.

 Player Ratings 

Joel Robles: 6 – looked comfortable, though Macc’s poor finishing rarely tested him.

Ronnie Stam: 6 – clearly worked hard on the defensive side of his game, following recent criticism.

Roman Golobart: 7 – teamed up well with Figueroa in the centre of defence.

Maynor Figueroa: 8 – a captain’s display.

Jordan Mustoe: 5 – a rare start for the young defender. Was kept busy by attackers on his side of the pitch, but hung in there.

Fraser Fyvie: 6 – starting to look like the player who had so much hype in Scotland. Clearly one for the future.

Roger Espinoza: 5 – disappointing after his exciting first team debut last week.

Jordi Gomez: 6 – put through the pass that led to the early penalty that he converted. Nicely set up Dicko at the beginning of the second half.

Nouha Dicko: 6 – looked lively. A pity he had to go off injured when he was establishing himself in the game.

Angelo Henriquez: 6 – showed some nice touches, but must have learned how hard it can be being the lone centre forward in the Martinez system.

Callum McManaman: 7 – looked dangerous in the first half.

Substitutes:

David Jones – a capable replacement for Fyvie after 53 minutes.

Adrian Lopez – made a welcome from injury, coming on for  Dicko after 66 minutes.

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