Five Talking points arising from the performance at Shrewsbury

Will Cook find the best way to employ Grigg’s talents?

The euphoria of recent weeks subsided yesterday when an inspired Shrewsbury Town side overcame Wigan Athletic by a single goal. The Shrews top the League 1 table with a W5 D1 L0 record. Latics now occupy 8th place with a W3 D1 L1 tally, although they have a game in hand on the teams above them.

With the excellent start to the season that Paul Cook’s Wigan side had made, hopes were high for the visit to the New Meadow. But Shrewsbury were an in-form team too, with an impressive record, playing at home. They were always going to be difficult opponents to play.

So it was to be. Latics had started brightly and could well have scored in the first quarter of the game. But the Shrews manager, Paul Hurst, had clearly done his homework and his team were to stifle Wigan’s midfield, with a well organised defence capably coping with the high balls that were coming at them. Their pressing, strong physical approach and possibly systematic tactical fouling had gone on to disrupt Wigan’s game.  Sam Morsy and Lee Evans were to be under siege in central midfield and Nick Powell had to retreat back to get the ball, leaving the lone centre forward isolated. The end result was Latics resorting to long ball tactics reminiscent of last season.

On paper Shrewsbury’s squad does not look particularly impressive, packed with players who have spent their careers in modest clubs. Whether they can maintain such form is questionable, but at the moment they are punching above their weight, inspired by Hurst who had previously done a fine job at Grimsby.

Latics go on to face Charlton Athletic on Tuesday. Their previous record at the Valley has been miserable and the Addicks are now in second place in the division and clearly promotion rivals.

Max Power travelled with the squad yesterday, although he did not make the bench. Power had a difficult time in the Championship last season and his desire for a move back to that division hardly endeared him to the fans. However, Power played a pivotal role in Gary Caldwell’s League 1 title winning side. He has shown himself to be a fine player in the third tier of English football. It would not be a surprise to see him back at Charlton.

But Cook will hope that his players have learned from yesterday’s loss and will regain their momentum. Nevertheless it will be a tall order.

Let’s take a look at some main points arising from yesterday’s game.

Does Paul Cook have a plan B?

In the second half yesterday the game plan certainly was not functioning in the way that the manager would have liked. Would a change in tactical formation have been the catalyst to remove the shackles that the home team had imposed on Latics?

Portsmouth fans will tell you that the lack of tactical flexibility was one of the frustrations in Cook’s tenure there. In this case Cook chose to stick to his 4-2-3-1 system, hoping the players brought on off the bench could provide the missing spark. It did not work and the introduction of Ryan Colclough, Will Grigg and Gary Roberts for Gavin Massey, Ivan Toney and Nick Powell did not produce the desired effect.

Will Grigg is not best employed chasing high balls.

Unless Toney had an injury, his substitution by Grigg on 62 minutes was puzzling. Some had hoped that Grigg would have been brought on alongside Toney to pose a different kind of threat to the Shrews defence. That was not to be. At that time of the match Latics had resorted to more frequent use of the long ball, as their passing movements in midfield were being disrupted. But Grigg is a striker who thrives on movement, who is not as strong in the air as Toney. With time Cook must learn how to use him most effectively.

Lee Evans is an important player for Wigan.

Up to yesterday Evans had not only provided defensive stability, but his concise passing had been a feature of Latics’ build-up play. However, Shrewsbury clearly realized that and disrupted the Welshman’s game with methods sometimes fair, sometimes foul. The end result was less quality passing for the forwards.

Given the inability of Morsy and Evans to dominate a packed midfield, would the introduction of a third central midfielder, such as David Perkins, have helped to restore the equilibrium?

Did postponing the Northampton match have any impact on this one?

The postponement of the home match against the bottom team last weekend did not go down well with supporters.  Granted, Cook would have been without Evans and Morsy on international duty, but wouldn’t a midfield of Perkins and Power been sufficient against a team in such poor form?

The end result was a loss of momentum that might have had an effect on yesterday’s performance.

Red cards are a cause for concern.

Ryan Colclough’s red card at the closing of the match was the third shown to a Wigan Athletic player in just five league games so far. Although the dismissal of Callum Elder at MK Dons could be deemed unfortunate, the dismissals of both Chey Dunkley against Portsmouth and Colclough yesterday do not fall into that category.

It remains to be seen whether Cook will be taking any disciplinary action against Colclough for what happened yesterday. But what is clear is that the current tally of red cards is a cause for concern and needs to be addressed by the manager.

 

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Being candid – a look at Cardiff (H)

 

 “I think, if I’m honest, they thought they were already down. That’s how I looked at the game. It was almost a case of frustration for them, this. This game’s not the one that’s got them relegated, is it? And I thought the crowd accepted it as well.”

Neil Warnock’s post-match remarks were not appreciated by some. The blunt Yorkshireman had gained an away point, after putting out a weakened lineup. He really did not have to say such things. But was there any truth in his assertions that both the players and the crowd thought Latics were already down?

I had gone to the match feeling that Latics had the slimmist of outside chances of staying up. If it was going to happen then a win over Cardiff was paramount. But Graham Barrow doused any fire that we might have had by naming yet another lineup packed with four central midfielders. The tactic was similar to that at Brighton five days earlier: keep things on hold until the final quarter when Nick Powell could come on to save the game.

Latics had 61% of the possession in the first half, but their lack of conviction had led one fan to suggest that they would not score if they played until next Christmas. Barrow had pushed Michael Jacobs further forward than he did at Brighton, but despite his energy, the final pass always seemed to be lacking. Not surprisingly the central midfield trio of Hanson, MacDonald and Perkins lacked creativity. Even a conservative manager might have played two of the three, leaving a space for a creative midfield player. If it were politics Barrow’s lineup could have been described as far right.

At half time a fan close to me said that he thought Latics were simply going through the motions and that both teams maybe thought they were on the training ground. Moreover the crowd had been so muted, not surprising given that they had already suffered thirteen home games when their team had not scored. It was a familiar pattern, Latics looking solid, but uninspired, as they have in so many games this season. Indeed Latics have so often played at least as well as their opponents but been let down by giving away a soft goal. It had almost happened again just before half time as Perkins somehow miscued the ball straight to Craig Noone in a good position. Luckily for Latics his shot hit the crossbar.

Sadly for Barrow, the introduction of Nick Powell in the second half did not produce the  desired effect, the Cardiff defence having appeared prepared for his arrival. In desperation Barrow brought on Alex Bruce for his debut, pushing Dan Burn up front, but apart from a prolonged bout of head tennis Latics still did not look like scoring. They didn’t and neither did Cardiff.

Once again the rumours were flying after the game. The latest one suggested that second half substitutes, Ryan Colclough and Sam Morsy, did not start the game because of appearance money clauses in their contracts. Following the Haugaard issue and the recent lack of game time for Morsy in particular one wonders as to the veracity of the rumours. Loan conditions and players’ contracts can be complicated matters these days. There were three loan players in the starting lineup on Saturday, including two in midfield. Were any of them there because of loan stipulations?

Barrow’s tactics and team selections over recent weeks have been reminiscent of his predecessor, Warren Joyce. Joyce never seemed to believe his players were capable of winning by putting out a balanced lineup. His emphasis was on massed defence and stopping the other team scoring. His ultra-defensive, fightball approach rarely worked. In contrast, under  Barrow, Latics have at least tried to serve up a decent level of football, even if they have been found wanting.

Near the end of the game a fan gave his view that, over the course of the season, Latics signed players who had not been making the starting lineups at their previous clubs. Moreover so many key players from last season’s League 1 title winning side have struggled in the higher division. Added to that were long-term injuries that forced the club to bring in more loan players than they might have done.

Given the stringent budget cuts the club will be making to cope with vastly decreased revenues in League 1 next season, we can expect that most of the players who graced the pitch on Saturday will be gone over the summer. It will be interesting to see how many of those who were previously successful in League 1 will remain.

There was news from the club yesterday that seven development squad players have been released. James Barrigan and Owen Evans were offered new contracts for another year, Josh Gregory and Luke Burke had already signed theirs. Those released include Sam Cosgrove, together with players who were instrumental in the record-breaking youth team of 2015-16. The cynics will say that once again the club is penny-pinching and ask why almost all of the young players coming through the youth ranks just do not make the grade.

The final two matches of the season offer the chance to give some of the club’s home-grown talent a first team opportunity.

Let’s hope that loan stipulations involving young players from other clubs do not impede this happening.

 
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A Crewe fan’s view of Ryan Colclough

Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of 21 year old Ryan Colclough from Crewe Alexandra. Although the fee is undisclosed it appears that the basic amount could be topped up, based on appearances, with Crewe receiving a proportion of any future transfer fee.

Given the torn calf injury suffered by Michael Jacobs, Colclough would seem an almost ideal replacement, nominally a winger but scoring his goals from more central positions behind the central striker.

On signing for Latics he told the club’s official site that “I will play anywhere across the front three.  I like to get on the ball, go one v one against a defender and I also like to have a shot and score a goal as well.” Colclough has already scored 8 goals this season in a struggling side.

Gary Caldwell, like many Latics fans, will have been impressed by Colclough’s displays against his club this season.  He is clearly a talented young player with much to offer.

The 6 ft tall Colclough was born in Burslem in the City of Stoke on Trent. He joined the Crewe set up at the age of 7 and progressed through their renowned academy, signing his first professional contract as a 17 year old. He made his senior debut as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient in September 2012 soon after.

However, Colclough’s career was to be upset by injury. He spent 16 months out of action with a groin injury.

In October 2014 he had told the Stoke Sentinel that:  “It’s been really hard, it played on my mind a lot and I’ve had a lot of down days, but I’m just happy to be back training. Obviously I have got dreams and want to get back to playing, and when I do I’m sure I’ll get back to doing what I was doing before, if not even better. “I’ve overcome my injury now, it’s just a matter of getting fit and I will prove myself, it’s not a matter of if, I will.”

In March 2015 he made his return for the under 21 side, when he won and scored a penalty against Colchester United.

Last summer Colclough had a trial at Wolves, but he went on to sign a two year contract for the Railwaymen. This season he has put the injury worries behind him and been a star performer for Alexandra. He made 40 starts at Crewe, with 28 appearances off the bench, scoring 13 goals.

In order to learn more about Colclough we reached out to Crewe fans on Twitter.

TimT (@Tants_88) comments that:

Wigan have bought a player with great potential in Ryan Colclough. Unfortunately for Crewe Alex fans we haven’t seen as much of him as we liked due to some serious injuries that he’s done very well to overcome.

Colclough can play on either wing or very effectively as a front man and enjoys taking players on and using his skill and pace to beat them. He’s capable of some stunning strikes but as with all younger players learning their trade, be prepared for some shots to be way off the mark when passing could have been the better choice.

I’m inclined to say you’ve got a bargain as the fee is undisclosed. This usually means one party has overpaid or sold too low, in this instance I think Wigan have approached Crewe at the right time but hopefully we’ll benefit from a sell on when he does well for you. He has had some off the field incidents in his life but hopefully those, along with his injuries are behind him now. All in all you’ve bought a good all round attacking player that will only get better with time.

James Tait )

Ryan Colclough. Call him Coco. A few close run-ins with the law involving an assault and a taser. On the pitch, he is inconsistent, raw and frustrating, but he’s also maturing every game and cooling his head.

He’s selfish, but a good kind of selfish, excellent dribbling, pretty quick and I’d always back him score in any game. Injuries have been a concern but he seems past that now. He really has carried us (Crewe) all season and is the only reason we aren’t already relegated.

DavidM (@David Morris26) says:

Ryan has the ability and skill to be a match winner.

Has a good eye for a goal and the pace and tricks to worry defenders. Decision making can be a little wayward and sometimes forgets his defensive duties.He will certainly be a good asset to your team wish him and Wigan all the best for the rest of the season.

This article from the Stoke Sentinel taks about Colclough leaving Crewe.