Latics fans comment on Blackburn game and Joyce’s tactics on social media

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A couple of years ago to the week Dave Whelan said his goodbyes to the crowd before a home game with Leeds United. The man whose investment of time, money and belief had lifted a struggling club from the fourth tier to unbelievable success was stepping down as chairman. His 23 year old grandson was taking over.

There had been quite a buoyant mood before the match had started as Latics had won their previous two league games. There was some degree of belief that Malky Mackay would be able to salvage the season and pull Latics out of the relegation zone. Sadly it was not to be, Latics lost 1-0 and were nine points adrift of safety at the end of the day. It took another month to sack the hapless Mackay, but by then the rot was truly set in and new manager, Gary Caldwell, was unable to turn things around sufficiently in the handfull of games that remained.

Two years on from those dark days Wigan Athletic find themselves in a similar predicament. Another 1-0 defeat, this time against a poor Blackburn side. Sadly the credibility of the current manager, Warren Joyce, is at rock bottom. His woeful tactics and lack of positivity have taken the standard of football down to levels we have not seen for decades. It is hard to have belief in the manager given his negative approach and his unwillingness to embrace good football. I watched yesterday’s game on a live feed from Germany, where even the German commentator referred to Wigan’s approach as “kick and rush”.

It was sad to see Joyce with his face patched up, present but not giving orders from the front line. The cynics had suggested that the manager’s illness was simply a ruse to avoid attending the fan forum during the week. It was clearly not and we all must wish him a speedy recovery.

David Sharpe will need to make decisions about the manager’s position over the coming week. Last time he left it late to bring in someone new. Latics have only won one game out of the last six and are heading for League 1 unless something drastic happens very soon. Significantly, reports suggest that Dave Whelan was at the game yesterday against his old club. Sharpe and Whelan will surely need to do something about a situation where a manager has not only been struggling with his job but has a seemingly major health problem to cope with too. Should they opt to put Joyce on medical leave until the end of the season they would be helping both the club and the manager himself. In the meantime a temporary appointment could be made within the club to provide the kind of positivity and belief that is lacking at the moment.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Facebook) and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

 

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Stuart Alker @stuartalker tweeted:

Embarrassing day for us. The chairman will surely now be questioning the change of manager. Looks more ridiculous with every game.

Hindleylatic on Latics Speyk said:

He has to go before training on Monday.

Paul Tymon on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

We are set up basically not to lose at all costs which isn’t working and as soon as we go 1-0 we struggle.

He also added:

Everybody knows wat we need to do apart from the manager which is worrying

Adgjlzcbm on Latics Speyk commented:

Didn’t the Blackburn announcer said “Finally Wigan have made a substitution”? Who overruled the sub as we were clapping when we thought Tunnicliffe was coming off?

Paul Kendrick @PKendrickWIG tweeted:

Carnage here. Seemingly a double change for Latics as Jacobs and Bogle replaced by Obertan and Grigg. Boos from the away end as Bogle off…

Dan Thompson  @DanThompson_89  tweeted:

It’s that embarrassing we can’t even make a sub correctly!!!

Dean Chambers on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

I thought it was a well balanced game: both teams were sh.it. Never heard an away following turn on the management before. That substitution could have been in a Carry On film. They’ll get shut with 5 games to go and stick the plumber in charge for the rest of the season. Might as well do it now as were boll..xed. MoM: Burn and Buxton with special mentions to Crackers, Morsy and Bogle

Whittleblue on Latics Speyk commented on the atmosphere at the match:

For those not there it was genuinely that bad, both the performance, effort and the full time reaction from the fans, it went beyond discontent it was pure venom. Rational part of me says it went beyond what was acceptable- in fact it did but on this occasion I can understand why.

Regarding that sub Tunicliffe actually left the pitch – in a strop – before being pushed back on – I’m not sure he should have been allowed back as the sub had been made. Grigg looked bemused, Bogle was not happy when they tried to hook him, fans were going berserk, other players were looking round wondering what was going on, it was an absolute joke.

Rob Murphy on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams stated:

16 defeats out of 18 by a single goal must be some kind of record

Craig Aspey @AS_caspey tweeted:

We hammered Blackburn 3-0 earlier in the season. We’re a completely different team to then. Going down with a whimper. Embarrassing

Victor Moses ;)on Latics Speyk was far from happy:

Truly dreadful setup. I don’t think we could play any less effective without trying to lose games. Asking Bogle to run the channels and come back on defense is a complete waste of his ability.

Playing with wide players so deep, looks like 4 fullbacks on the pitch. Their not forward enough to be considered wingbacks. Never a pass available for the ball carrier. Cant describe how bad that is in words.

This is against sides with weaker squads(even at best), this would never work against stronger opposition. It doesn’t work against any opposition. Yet Joyce must think under 20% win ratio is enough. Feels like an amateur vs a professional system, week in week out. 5 defenders in midfield and 4 defensive defenders. Bogle trying to play as a complete solo attack unit. Never going to work over a period of time.

Without doubt Joyces tactics today. This system will relegate us from league 1 next season.

Bernard Ramsdale @BernardTNS said:

Here’s an idea WJ. Why not start every game thinking we are 1-0 down? You can then get rid of the defensive sh.te. #eyeswideshut

Zeb2 on the Cockney Latic Forum summed up the performance:

Can’t argue … “nil” again and no more than we deserved…yet another game where their keeper could have played, sat in a deck chair. A bit of late huff and puff (to no avail) when they finally decided to field the line up they ought to have started with. Simply not enough attacking intent. My first and last away of the season

Charlz54 on Latics Speyk added:

Well, it was the same old same old same today and let’s face it we look like we are going to be relegated now. We keep hearing the same old same excuses but NOtHING changes….the fact is we can’t win football matches and that means relegation and league one again next season…..embarrassing

 Bigroy on the Cockney Latic Forum summed up the season by saying:

With us only scoring a goal every other game this season its been a bloody awful season for supporters and most feel completely despondent I’m sure. Don’t think I’ve witnessed a latics team with such a lack of invention and it’s bloody pitiful to watch. Not one player can beat a player, create a killer pass, shoot well. It’s awful to watch and um surprised more haven’t boycotted what must be the worst Latics team in around 20 years.

Daryl Rogerson @darylrogerson tweeted:

Depending on other teams games in hand, we could be 6pts from safety which is twice the gap when Joyce took over.

Lazysid on Latics Speyk added:

I will take relegation now if it means I don’t have to put up with watching this sh.te every week in trying to survive in a league we don’t deserve to be in.

Truelatic4ever on Latics Speyk was not happy:

Time for Sharpe to admit he screwed up yet again. We are absolute garbage,negative sh.te,we are going down.

Paul Kendrick @PauKendrickWIG commented:

Graham Barrow: “Defence kept us in the game. I think the finger has to be pointed at those further up the pitch who have to do better”

MudhutsMedia @mudhutter responded:

@PKenrickWIG there wasn’t anyone further up the pitch apart from the Bogle, that’s the whole problem

Bickymon on the Cockney Latic Forum commented on the owners’ quietness:

 We started preparing for league one when we sold yanic and brought in those league one type players in January. The owners are very quiet about the whole sorry mess we are in._.But then again its their fault just dont think they are interested anymore

NorthernSoul on Latics Speyk commented on the Wildschut transfer:

 In the season was undoubtedly the sale of Wildschut, just after we’d won back to back league games, started creating chances and scoring and looking like climbing the table, we let our key attacking player leave.

4m upfront with over 1m going to Boro, with 3m in performance related installments, now Norwich have missed out on the play offs and are a total shambles and Yanic can’t get in the team and seems unsettled down in East Anglia, it’s unlikely to see us get anymore than 3m in the end.

Was losing 6/7m or so a season in revenue, with relegation worth this panic sale? Yanic may have been bang out of order but if we’d have kept him and and agreed to sell him in the Summer, it would probably have kept us up. Without his pace and power we have absolutely nothing at all creativity wise. Whoever sanctioned the deal should probably resign.

Donnyspage  on the Cockney Latic Forum urged Dave Whelan to stop the downward spiral:

I for one have such a lot of gratitude for Dave Whelan and the journey we have been on but at the moment the journey seems to be going back to the lower leagues. There are the cynical amongst us who will think Dave has had other reasons than football too, like raising his own personal and business profile and having this profile shown to the world along the way. Who can blame him, the two have gone together. It could have cost a fortune to raise the business profile so much with stadium and shirt sponsorship alone. A huge chunk of money invested. Remember for all the money that he has put in Latics, Dave still owns millions in assets with the stadium and land etc and still the company name is flashed on TV every week.

I just think it is a shame after taking us up there to be on the slide which could have been prevented with a fraction of investment again rather than perennial fire sales. Someone somewhere should be accountable for this ridiculous and downward spiraling of Latics and let us hope Mr Whelan can find them, stop them and do something about this slide. I hope he is patient because it is looking like he will have to start this process from league 1 and without a parachute payment which will need the right personnel and investment from the off. It will also require the ruthless side of his business life with a full clear out of most players, the chairman and board, the manager, all the coaching staff, all the hanger ons. Let the upward journey begin again Dave.

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High turnover but what’s changed? A perspective on Wigan’s latest window

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Management hates it, the media loves it, fans have little choice but to be glued to it in hope and trepidation. Transfer deadline day is bigger business every year that goes by. It’s one of the ways – the lack of a winter break being the other obvious one – in which the British game likes to make things that bit more complicated (and profitable) than the rest of the world.

For clubs that swapped managers during the first half of the season, the January transfer window has become an opportunity for the new regime to stamp its authority on the squad. Ship out players that don’t fit the tactical model; replace them with players that do; balance the books by shedding big earners and reinvesting in problem positions. It’s a pattern that has become all too familiar at Wigan, with last year’s success in League 1 the notable exception.

There are a couple problems with this approach. First, you have less time in January than in the summer, not only to recruit good players and find a home for high-earning misfits, but just as importantly to provide incomings the tactical and personal adaptation period they need to succeed. On top of that, you have to navigate an inflated market to negotiate fair prices for players, which can be particularly challenging if you appear desperate, as one does in a relegation fight, for example.

Another unpleasant feature of the January transfer window well known to Latics, particularly in the Premier League days, is the risk of losing your most successful players. It tends to be instigated by agents or players themselves, and to materialize in the dying hours of the window, preventing the club from finding an adequate replacement. Sometimes, these decisions become of huge financial importance to the club, and their approval is beyond the manager’s control.

Add to this Wigan’s very limited spending power compared to its Championship competitors – and you realize what a big ask we as fans are making of the manager. It’s worth pausing to put oneself in Warren Joyce’s shoes. There are plenty of arguments claiming the manager should only be judged after a window. I’d take them a step further to suggest that’s still nowhere near enough time. The new players haven’t had a pre-season with him; many will need to adjust to playing at a higher level; all will have to adapt to new surroundings and teammates; and Joyce himself will need to adapt his tactics, having lost his most valuable player.

The counter argument, of course, is that Joyce brought some of these challenges upon himself. Too much turnover is bad for any organization, specially in a short period of time, and the high number of ins and outs will breed instability. Was it really necessary to bring in so many people, so many loanees in particular? Right when the team was gaining some consistency and producing results on the pitch? Plenty to debate. In the meantime, here are some ups and down on another busy window:

Good News: The whopping fee received for Yanic Wildschut (£7.5 million according to Sky,£7 million elsewhere.) It’s hard to take, given his status as Latics’ best attacking threat, with pace and strength to burn, and room to improve. But his finishing was often frustrating, he was inconsistent, and very much rough around the edges. If he had to go, credit is due the club for gaining such a huge profit on their investment.

Bad News: Yanic again. Being gone so late in the window. It’s hard to ignore that Wigan have scored three goals fewer than Rotherham, and yet just sold their most effective attacker.

Good News: In Gabriel Obertan, the club have found as close to a direct replacement as could be expected. We’ll be left to imagine what Joyce’s team might have looked like with two pacey wingers on the pitch. But at least Obertan’s defining attributes are similar to Wildschut’s: pace and strength, some trickery, abundant potential yet inconsistent finishing. He should be entering his peak years, has something to prove, and lots of experience at a higher level. Joyce knows him, he’s apparently a good professional, and they have said encouraging things about each other. The term of contract is short, therefore financial risk is too. All in all, a gamble worth taking.

Bad news: The squad feels unbalanced and bloated. There are a lot of midfielders, but few wingers or attacking playmakers given Nick Powell’s absence. With Obertan almost certain to start, it’s likely Michael Jacobs (in desperate need of a goal) on the other wing, with Colclough, Weir and Browne all unproven backups. Meanwhile, in the centre of midfield, Joyce has Power, Morsy, Perkins, MacDonald, Gilbey, Tunnicliffe, Hanson, Byrne, and Laurent to keep happy. Perhaps some of these players will be used in different positions (Hanson as defensive cover, etc.), but it’s a bloated, uneven squad that Joyce may have a hard time keeping happy.

Good News: Welcome Omar Bogle! He may need time to adapt. But the club beat out competitors to get him, and on paper, he has everything he needs to succeed at Championship level. A lot of hope is resting on his inexperienced shoulders, but if his teammates can provide him service, there is reason to believe. The option of a little-and-large Grigg and Bogle parternship is also intriguing. He’s left-footed, too.

Bad News: Banking on lower division signings is playing with fire. If Grigg is to become injured, Latics are left with Bogle, and Mikael Mandron to lead the line. Both have potential, but their success has come in League 2 and the Conference, respectively. They are completely unproven at this level, and playing with new teammates.

Good News: Alex Bruce appears an astute short-term signing, with potential for a longer stay. Dan Burn and Jake Buxton have developed a useful partnership in recent games, but Bruce is a dependable and experienced head to provide backup, who should also be good to have around the place.

Bad News: He hasn’t played all season due to an Achilles injury.

Good News: Keeping Sam Morsy and Max Power. Much of the attention has been on keeping Morsy, who has performed very well since his return. Power may not have started strongly, but has been steadily improving and remains a player of undoubted potential. Had rumours of his departure materialised, Latics would have lost an opportunity to reap the rewards of blooding him at this level. Good things should come of establishing Power and Morsy as a partnership.

Bad News: Too many loanees. In order to secure loan signings, managers often have to pledge a certain number of game time to the players’ parent clubs. Given the maximum of five loan signings per match-day squad, it looks an impossibility Latics’ recent loan signings will all get their wish to show what they can do. Jakob Haugaard may find himself sacrificed given the arrival of Matt Gilks. Callum Connolly is certain to play. That leaves Jamie Hanson, Marcus Browne, James Weir, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Bruce and Haugaard to vie for the other berths. Presumably, borrowing players and not giving them a game reduces the chances of players being borrowed from the same clubs in the future. Given many of these players are expected to be fringe players anyway, might Latics have been better off without a few of them?

Good News: Joyce appears to have both a short-term, and long-term plan. Signings like Gilks, Bruce and Obertan point to survival needs, while the signings of Jack Byrne, Mandron, and Josh Laurent show a continued desire to invest in youth and capitalize on Joyce’s wealth of experience in the area of player development. Byrne, in particular, was highly rated at City and appears a good long-term signing.

Verdict

Despite the high turnover, it doesn’t appear likely there will be immediate, dramatic changes to the starting lineup – Obertan in for Wildschut, perhaps the goalkeeper, and a new striking option in Bogle off the bench. This should prove a blessing, given the progress made in recent weeks. But it also calls into question the need for such a high number of incomings and outgoings. Joyce would do well to resist the urge of upsetting the players who have recently given him good commitment and results.

As supporters, patience is going to be important. Demanding instant impact from players adapting to a higher level is unfair, as is demanding instant adjustment from a team that became dependent on Wildschut to create for it. But if the new signings can add to the promising form shown of late and provide cover for injuries, we can be cautiously optimistic that, with a new crew of Joyce-loyal players and relative stability in the starting XI, we’re better off than before the window.

Full squad can be seen here

Proud Wigan slip away

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The week that brought Wigan Athletic its greatest moment in football has ended in sadness as the club’s eight-year Premier League history has been placed in the to-be-continued pile along with so many others.

Few Wigan supporters will feel anything but overwhelming pride tonight despite being relegated, as an injury-plagued and thoroughly exhausted squad gave Arsenal a real scare amidst rainy scenes at the Emirates. With the scores equal in the second half, it was Wigan playing the better football, narrowly failing to take the lead on several occasions before an Arsenal counter-attack swung the match and ultimately put Latics down.

Ensuing weeks will address questions about who will stay and who will go. For the time being, it is safe to say that the work of Roberto Martinez’s staff has ensured that Wigan is in very strong shape to bounce back in short order. When the club was first promoted in 2005 there was little in the way of youth development or reserves. Times are different — so much Latics progressed through the FA Cup using squad and youth players and, despite a number of injuries to key players, won the bloody thing.

Many have been mystified by Martinez’s Wigan. Capable of beating absolutely anyone on their day — often in style — they have found themselves embroiled in relegation battles more times than not in the Premier League years. Why wait until the final stretch to get going? The yearly process of replacing first team players lost in the summer window plays a key role and certainly did this season. Not until the rise of Callum McManaman a couple months ago were Wigan able to replace the direct and skillful Victor Moses. But the funds raised from the Moses sale are exactly what have aided the rise of young players like McManaman and the purchases and development of talents such as Roman Golobart, Nouha Dicko and others that may become key players in the Championship next year. Those sales and that period of rebuilding were necessary for the model. Wigan have taken a gamble with said strategy for the past number of years and it has paid off, allowing the club to maintain Premier League status while building behind the scenes. This year, they lost the gamble with Premier League salvation, but Wigan won the FA Cup and qualified for European football for the first time in the club’s history, a stunning achievement. True to form, Wigan Athletic have been relegated in what is arguably the club’s most successful season ever.

On the pitch, the obvious deficiencies this season were defensive. Last year’s player of the season and club captain Gary Caldwell was dogged by a troublesome hip injury from beginning to end, the excellent Antolin Alcaraz missed more than two thirds of the campaign, new signing Ivan Ramis has been out since January, while Maynor Figueroa, Jean Beausejour and Ronnie Stam were all injured in the crucial final stretch. Ali Al-Habsi, so influential in previous seasons, made several high profile mistakes and was dropped. Fixture congestion — with the FA Cup final played only three days before today’s match — certainly didn’t help. When yet another influential player, McManaman, went off injured in today’s match, you got the sense it was the final straw for Martinez’s ailing squad.

So an end has come to Wigan’s memorable maiden Premier League voyage. Detailed analysis will follow but the lingering feeling remains that of pride in the achievements of a small town club that has graced the Premier League with unpredictable, exciting football over the past decade, climaxing at Wembley last Saturday. Today is a sad day, but keep an eye on those plucky Latics and their unique brand of underdog football — they’ll be back.

Proud day for Wigan as the fairy tale rolls into Wembley

Latics' team for their debut match against Port Vale Reserves,  Thanks to Ron Hunt and WiganWorld for photo.

Latics’ team for their debut match against Port Vale Reserves,
With thanks to Ron Hunt and WiganWorld for photo.

* this post was co-written by the father and son writing team, from the perspective of the Jakarta Jack, the father. 

My father loved Wigan Athletic Football Club. Hardly a minute would go by after the final whistle before he would launch into talk about the next match. Conversations – and in some cases, monologues – about line-ups, tactics and referees were a feature of my life as long as I can remember.

His love affair with the Latics began the year the club was formed in 1932, and never wavered until his passing in 2005. His devotion to such a modest club was difficult for others to understand in a region saturated with prestigious football clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton. It was especially difficult to understand for the rugby fans in the area.

But my dad wasn’t too perturbed by that. In his 73 years as a supporter, he witnessed the transition from non-league to Division 4, all the way up to the Championship, or second division as it was known for most of his time. Wigan were second in the Championship under the leadership of Paul Jewell, propelled by the dazzling strike partnership of Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts, when he passed away. The Latics were promoted to the Premier League four months later. They have remained there ever since.

Were you to tell my father that his Wigan Athletic would go on to spend eight consecutive years in the Premier League and reach both the League Cup and FA Cup finals during that period – he almost certainly would not have believed you. He would have beamed with pride.

Thankfully, pride is something that is passed down. My son and co-writer, Ned, once told me that,  while the inspiration for the name of this fan site was a tip of the hat to the symbolic arrival of Wigan’s Three Amigos from Spain –  a pivotal moment in Wigan’s rise up the tables and Whelan’s revolution – it also on a more personal level represented the relationship between himself, his dad and grandad, who all shared that same passion for the club.

Neither Ned nor I were at that very first Wigan Athletic match back against Port Vale Reserves back in 1932, but we each remember our first Latics experience and know the previous history thanks to my dad. We know where the club came from, and we know we are living the Wigan Athletic dream.

No matter what the result is on Cup Final Saturday, or the outcome of the relegation fight in the Premier League, Wigan Athletic have confounded people with their achievements. The club has come farther than any of us imagined in our wildest dreams, and their achievements will leave an indelible memory.

What’s more – the work that Roberto Martinez has done in his return as manager of the club has been transformative. Rather than playing the role of the little fish up for a Premier League cameo, his plan has been one of consolidation.

While Steve Bruce did a job in keeping the club in the top flight, the money he spent on players and their wages was hardly sustainable if Latics were to suffer a bad season and go down. There was no investment in youth development or infrastructure.

Martinez’s work to cut operating budgets, sell the top players in order to fund long-term growth sets the club up to survive for years to come. Sure – relegation is a threat each year and is to many clubs with more money, more fans and so on — but the club and its support are rapidly growing behind the scenes with every year that passes.

It is somewhat fitting, then, that Wigan’s rival in the final is Manchester City – not only a club with massive support, but also the beneficiary of the largest cash injection in world football thanks to their billionaire owner. In comparison with Wigan Athletic and Manchester City even David and Goliath seem evenly matched!

Only a deluded romantic would expect a Wigan Athletic squad depleted by injury, mentally worn-down, in the middle of the most intense Premier League survival fight to date, to beat Manchester City on Saturday. But if the club’s history is anything to go by, the seemingly  impossible can happen. The supporters of this club believe anything is possible because they are continuing to live it.

The Wigan Athletic story is far from over. Three matches in less than 10 days will determine whether the 2012-2013 season goes down in history as the year Wigan conquered the FA Cup, or survived for a ninth consecutive Premier League season against all odds.

But even if neither materialises, we could not be more proud of our club which takes pride in doing things in a sensible way and never gives up. Just to be in the FA Cup final, with the guarantee of Europa League football next season boggles the mind. A win on Saturday would just be icing on the cake.

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Defensive frailties cost down-but-not-out Wigan

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The defensive lapses that got Wigan in trouble in the first place resurfaced at the worst possible time to sink them into the deepest waters yet as Swansea ran out unlikely 3-2 winners at the DW.

Despite twice taking the lead and appearing in control against an organized but relaxed Swansea side enjoying the comforts of mid-table football, Roberto Martinez’s team now finds itself three points behind the pack, with two games to go.

An incident following a late double substitution summed up the ill-fortune Wigan have suffered over the course of the season with respect to injuries, as Ronnie Stam lasted a mere 10 seconds before hobbling off with a suspected broken leg — leaving his team to play the final 15 minutes a man down.

One need only to look at Wigan’s win-rate with Antolin Alcaraz in the team versus without him to know what an important player he is at the centre of Wigan’s defence. His three years at the club have been blighted by injury, but his return to the team in each of those seasons has coincided with an upturn in fortunes. This year was no exception — the defence has shipped an average of two goals a game since his most recent injury at West Ham.

Add to that the long-term injury of Ivan Ramis, the recent losses of Maynor Figueroa and Jean Beausejour, and captain Gary Caldwell’s ongoing struggles with a hip injury that have sidelined him for much of 2013 — and you have yourself a crisis.

And lets not forget that Ben Watson — the team’s most specialised defensive midfielder — has just returned from a broken leg that kept him out for five months. Now Wigan have to cope without Stam. There aren’t many left.

It was ironic then, that Roger Espinoza, a holding midfielder standing in for Jean Beausejour and Maynor Figueroa at left wingback, put Wigan ahead with a well-taken volley late in the first half. He was later caught napping by Angel Rangel’s strike early in the second half, before James McCarthy scored to put Latics back in the driver’s seat.

Then came the capitulation. Returning captain Gary Caldwell, who had passed the ball very well indeed up until that point, left his defence totally exposed with an awful pass, from which Swansea would score via a fortuitous deflected finish. Minutes later, an overhit cross by Pablo Hernandez was met by Shaun Maloney’s chest as James McArthur approached, but instead of clearing the ball the pair froze, allowing a scrappy effort to bounce over the line.

Wigan went in search of an equalizer — but reduced to 10 men and with signs of exhaustion showing — could not find it.

The Good:

Our collective hearts sank yesterday, but hope is not lost. Two years ago, Wigan were 2-0 down to West Ham at half-time on the second-to-last match of the season, needing not only to overcome the deficit in the next 45 minutes but then travel to loudest stadium in England and beat Stoke City to stay up. They did it amidst unforgettable scenes.

This time, the club needs a little luck from results elsewhere, but both Newcastle and Norwich are within touching distance. Wigan’s presence in the Cup final provides the advantage of knowing how the Ns fare in their penultimate fixtures before we take the field against Arsenal. Goal difference could be crucial when all things are said and done — knowing what is needed could be important before the trip to the Emirates.

The Bad:

The defence is a mess. It was against West Brom, but the attack compensated for it. Too many injuries, too many players out of position, too many people being rushed back from injury to fill gaps. They can’t go on conceding two goals a game. It’s too much to ask from an attack that has performed very, very well to give the team a fighting chance.

Having to rely on favours from QPR, already relegated, and West Brom, safe in mid-table, is not ideal. But both Norwich and Newcastle are in very poor form. They could slip in their weekend fixtures against West Brom and QPR respectively, just as we did yesterday. Their final matches of the season are against Man City and Arsenal — causes for optimism.

Another defensive injury, this time to Stam. This forces Martinez to play Boyce wide, which in turn forces him to pick between Caldwell or the young Roman Golobart to partner Paul Scharner in defence.

Fatigue is setting in. The team now has three crucial games in the space of ten days, and a number of injuries to contend with. Does Martinez prioritize cup glory and field his strongest line-up, or field a mixed team with all three matches in mind?

The League Table:

There are three possible scenarios for salvation. The first and least likely is victory over both Arsenal and Villa. The second is a draw against Arsenal, victory over Villa, and either Norwich or Newcastle failing to gain more than one point from their final two games. The final and least likely — though not impossible — is that Norwich or Newcastle lose both their matches, and Wigan beats Villa. This scenario will hinge on goal difference.

Player Ratings:

Joel Robles: 6 — Not at fault for any of the goals though you get the sense he might have done better. He did, however, make a couple excellent saves and spared a -2 goal difference in the last minute which could be crucial.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 — One of the better performers at the back with some good tackles.

Gary Caldwell: 5 — Has been vilified for his mistake, and there is no denying it was a costly one. But his passing up until that point had been outstanding and he’d made some good interceptions.

Paul Scharner: 6 — Not at fault for any of the goals but his partnership with Caldwell, and Watson, was always stretched and vulnerable.

Roger Espinoza: 6 — Asked to play out of position for the benefit of the team, he did as well as could be expected. Some nervy passing at the beginning of the match that put his defending under pressure, but he grew into the game and contributed a very well-taken goal. Caught for the equaliser but chased and worked, and should retain his place.

Ben Watson: 6 — Doesn’t have the pace to play in two positions at once, which is what was asked of him. Didn’t do much wrong, but could be more adventurous with his passing. The one time he put the ball into the box from open play, Wigan scored.

James McArthur: 6 — A very mixed game. He was at times excellent with very skillful midfield play and a real drive. But he missed a glorious chance that would have killed the game in Wigan’s favour, and was then involved in the mix-up that led to Swansea’s winner.

James McCarthy: 7 — Wigan’s best performer. An exceptional talent with the work-rate to match. Scored a well-taken goal. One hopes it will give him the confidence to get forward like that more often.

Shaun Maloney: 6 — Not his day. Had clearly been asked to put in extra defensive miles to aid Espinoza on the left, but it left him too tired to create at the other end. It was his defensive mistake that led to the Swansea winner, but he should’t have had to have been there helping out in the first place.

Callum McManaman: 6 — A little overconfident perhaps, he tormented left-back Ben Davies with his dribbling but produced no end result. Quiet second half before his substitution.

Arouna Koné: 7 — Went close on three occasions with very little service.

Subs:

Franco Di Santo: 5 — Unable to affect the game from his left-wing position.

Jordi Gomez: Some nice touches.

Ronnie Stam: Injured before he could say Doei.