1/4 Season Report Card: Al-Habsi, McCarthy & Maloney the top performers

With eleven matches played, we’ve entered the second quarter of the season. This post takes a look at the performances that have earned us a point a game — on track for safety — but left us rueing missed opportunities for more.

The numbers below were calculated by averaging the performance scores we dole out after every match. They are obviously subjective, but provide some insight on the areas of the team that are — at least in the eyes of the writers on this site — performing to, below or beyond expectation. Ali Al-Habsi is perhaps unsurprisingly our stand-out performer, followed by James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney. The strongest area of the pitch was the centre of midfield partnership of James McCarthy and James McArthur, while the weakest was the centre of defence. Only players who have started more than five matches were included.

By Player

Ali Al Habsi: 7.4 — Mostly 7s and 8s, with a 5 on an off-day and a 9 on a particularly excellent afternoon.

Gary Caldwell: 6.45 — Like Ali, has had one standout 9-worthy performance against Spurs, but a few more off-days.

Ivan Ramis: 6.65 — Nightmare debut, but steady improvement since then.

Maynor Figueroa: 6.55 — One of the more consistent performers. Had a bad day at Swansea post-international break, and a good one at Sunderland. Otherwise 6s and 7s.

Emmerson Boyce: 6.45 — Mr. Reliable, with nothing higher than a 7.5 but rarely letting his team down.

Jean Beausejour: 6.78 — Good performances without reaching his best.

James McCarthy: 7.2 — Very good season so far, has been dominant in midfield. Imagine if he adds goals to his game.

James McArthur: 6.78 — Stop-start campaign with injuries, but has been good when available.

Shaun Maloney: 7.05 — Some high numbers, but lack of finishing is probably losing him points. He makes this team tick, but is starting to be identified as the man to mark.

Arouna Kone: 6.75 — Very good average given these have been his first 11 matches in Premier League football, with a new team and surroundings, and no adaptation period.

Franco Di Santo: 7 — A big number for Franco, who has scored some well-taken goals, continued to put in the hard work, and been rewarded with an Argentina call-up.

By Area

Defence (including Al-Habsi): 6.76

Centre of Defence (without Al-Habsi): 6.55 — weakest

Centre of Midfield: 6.99 — strongest

Wingbacks: 6.61

Attack: 6.93

Moses missed as Latics run out of ideas

The Wigan Athletic revival party was put on hold by an exceptionally well organized and opportunistic West Brom side on Saturday. While Roberto Martinez’s choice of “frustrating” was more than apt, the biggest takeaway appears to be that with Shaun Maloney’s impact reduced by a niggling ankle injury (that has forced him out of the Scotland squad this week), Latics sorely missed a player with the ability to unlock a defence — something Victor Moses used to do with some regularity last season.

In fact, the only memorable moment of dribbling skill resulted in Latics’ best chance of an equaliser, when Franco Di Santo skinned his man down the left hand side before Maloney blazed over. Neither Jean Beausejour nor Ronnie Stam, whose return was pleasing, possess the pace to beat their man for speed. West Brom’s centre halves had a field day clearing hopeful crosses from the box. Ben Watson’s long range strikes were the only other real threat Wigan could muster.

The Good: 

Before West Brom scored, Latics had looked dominant and fluid, if not incisive. Ben Watson was playing some beautiful stuff and was unlucky with his long range strikes. The goal was a good response. Ali Al-Habsi was fantastic. Ronnie Stam was an immediate improvement in the attacking third when he came on, although his crosses were not sharp.

The Bad: 

A lack of imagination on this display. West Brom defended in numbers and Latics could not find a way through. It would have been nice to see Di Santo on the ball more frequently, but he didn’t seem to drop deep enough to get on it. With the amount of possession around the box and Shaun Maloney struggling, Jordi Gomez might have been an option earlier in the game. It also appeared to be an ideal opportunity to give Mauro Boselli a runout, as the attacks appeared to be based on hopeful crosses into the box. He came on very late. Also a shame Ryo Miyaichi and his pace were unavailable through injury.

Conclusions: 

No cause for panic, but this match was crying out for a player willing to run at the WBA defence and force errors. It will go down as a missed opportunity. Players like Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney, usually excellent, have failed to convert scoring opportunities in recent matches. Ronnie Stam’s introduction suggested Emmerson Boyce’s attacking play has been acknowledged as sub-standard in recent outings.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 9 — Despite hurting his shoulder in the warm-up, he was at his very best. One save from Romelu Lukaku in the second half stands out. Top class.

Ivan Ramis: 6 — No errors, but a bit of a wobbly performance after several excellent ones.

Gary Caldwell: 5 — Unlucky with his own goal, but was run ragged by Shane Long and eventually substituted.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 – Almost gave away a goal in the first half with some casual defending. Otherwise, not a bad match.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Offered little in attack. Better when dropped to the back three.

Jean Beausejour: 6 — Nice ball for Koné’s goal. Had a good first half, but his worst second half since joining the club with misplaced passes and a spurned opportunity.

James McCarthy: 7 — Strong in midfield, wish he had been able to get forward more often.

Ben Watson: 8 — Probably the best outfield performance, he was the most positive attempting through balls and shots. Gave the ball away frustratingly a few times, but if anyone deserved a goal it was him.

Shaun Maloney: 6 — Quietest performance in a while. West Brom identified him as the main man and marked him heavily, but he was also apparently carrying an injury.

Franco Di Santo: 6 — Also quiet. Only really got on the ball to good effect once or twice. No shots or goal attempts.

Arouna Koné: 6.5 — Did well to stay onside for his goal. Held the ball up well but had little space to operate in, and not much service either.

Subs:

Ronnie Stam: Saw a lot of the ball and put several crosses in, all well defended. A welcome return.

Jordi Gomez: Not enough time to make an impact.

Mauro Boselli: Came on for the last 8 or so minutes, by which point Latics had lost the bulk of possession and were restricted to hopeful crosses — none of which reached him.

Missed chances rued as Webb steals the show

When I was younger my father used to say the benchmark of a good referee is how little you notice them, and yet whenever the World Cup Final referee Howard Webb is on the pitch, he appears to seek the exact opposite. You get the sense he enjoys the jeers from the terraces because they acknowledge his role as a protagonist. Indeed Sunderland fans spent much of the first half booing him after he correctly awarded a series of non-consequential professional fouls Wigan’s way. And he repaid them, true to form, by harshly dismissing Jordi Gomez and then ignoring worse tackles the other way.

Saturday’s 1-0 loss was a familiar story for Wigan Athletic, left to rue their excellent early chances after Webb’s decision-making effectively killed off the match. Roberto Martinez, a diplomat and gentleman not noted for vocal dissent, has now raised his voice twice in the last three league fixtures. In this instance, it was the sending off of Jordi Gomez — the least likely player on the pitch to deliberately injure another — that swung the game. It was a clumsy challenge, albeit studs up and therefore a defendable dismissal by the letter of the law. The chief complaint is not about the red card itself, but the double-standard when Seb Larsson and James McLean tried their hardest to join Gomez later in the match — with a nastier tackle and string of yellow card infractions respectively.

The Good:

Latics deserved to be up at half-time. James McCarthy’s early burst into the box resulted in a one-on-one that Mignolet somehow kept out. Jean Beausejour’s sensational skill and cross for Arouna Koné should have made it two. McCarthy was again unlucky with a viscious drive later in the half. Meanwhile, Sunderland were limited to set pieces and couldn’t find a way to break the defence down.

McCarthy’s performance was exceptional. He has been given license to venture forward in the last couple fixtures, and has the fitness to do so without neglecting his defensive duties. His technique is wonderful, and if he gets in shooting positions two or three times per match, the goals will come.

Maynor Figueroa’s first half passing stands out, despite the windy conditions. Despite being reduced to 10 men for half the match, Latics had the same number of shots, an equal amount of possession as their opponents, and the most clear-cut chances. The first half overall, was very heartening.

The Bad: 

This is the second game in a row where excellent chances have been created not been converted. Koné is getting in decent positions, but failing with his final shot. You do get the sense he is a confident finisher and will come good. But Mauro Boselli must have been frustrated to see those early chances go to waste after his brace at West Ham earlier in the week.

The substitutions came too late. It had been clear for much of the second half that Latics were not getting anywhere with 10 men, even after Di Santo came on. When McManaman and Miyaichi were finally introduced, there was an immediate injection of energy and urgency, if not any actual clear cut chances.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 7 — A little wobbly on a windy day and Seb Larsson’s dangerous crossing. But kept the ball out and can’t be faulted for the goal.

Ivan Ramis: 6 — Gets better every match, although he did get beaten for pace on a couple occasions.

Gary Caldwell: 6 — Resorted to hoofing the ball in the second half, which is unlike him and suggests desperation.

Maynor Figueroa: 6.5 — Some fantastic passing in the first half, but the cross for the goal came down his side.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Solid but not as much attacking thrust as Jean Beausejour on the other side. Having said that, more goals against seem to originate on the left, which is testament to the defensive solidity Boyce adds on the right.

Jean Beausejour: 7 — If Koné had managed to beat Mignolet with the far post tap in, Beausejour’s piece of skill that provided the chance would have gone down as the assist of the season. Faded as the game went on though.

James McArthur: 6 — Solid if unspectacular, occasionally rusty.

James McCarthy: 8 — Imposing performance by a player who is coming into his own. Has been unlucky not to score in the last couple matches. If he adds goals to his game he will be complete, and unfortunately probably gone to a top four club not too long after.

Shaun Maloney: 6 — A few useful touches in the first half, but unable to impact the match as he has in the past. Substituted after Jordi’s red card.

Jordi Gomez: 5 — Of the two playmakers, he was actually having the better day, drifting in and out of dangerous positions and playing a lovely dinked through ball for Koné in the first half. But his lunge was unnecessary and the red card that ensued essentially lost us the match.

Arouna Koné: 5 — Didn’t have a tremendous amount of service, but fluffed his lines with the chances he had. Credit to Mignolet for an astonishing save, but we need our strikers to bury those chances. His opposite number, Steven Fletcher, only got on chance, a difficult one at that, but won them the match.

Subs:

Franco Di Santo: Unable to get on the ball and influence the match.

Callum McManaman: Energetic and positive.

Ryo Miyaichi: When he comes on, he sees a lot of the ball. Which means he wants it and is asking for it, but also that his teammates believe he can make something happen.