A Bournemouth fan’s view of Shaun McDonald

 

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of 28 year old midfielder Shaun McDonald from Bournemouth on a two year contract.

McDonald is a player little known to Latics supporters, but on recruiting him Gary Caldwell said:

“He is a quality addition to the squad. A terrific pro who understands the way we want to play, a skillful midfielder capable of fitting into our system. He is a a great person too, with a great attitude who has gone through a similar experience at Bournemouth to where we are now, a team coming up from League One to the Championship and playing a certain brand of football.

The 6 ft 1 in McDonald was born in Swansea and joined his home town club, making his debut as a 17 year old in August 2005. From 2009 to 2011 he spent no less than 5 loan spells with Yeovil Town, making 61 league starts and scoring 9 goals.

McDonald signed for Bournemouth in August 2011 for a fee of around £125,000. He since made 70 starts, with 31 appearances off the bench, scoring 7 goals. McDonald has four full international caps for Wales.

In order to learn more about McDonald we contacted Steve J, Supreme Overlord at Tales From the South End @tftse www.thesouthend.co.uk

Here’s over to Steve:

Shaun MacDonald signed back in 2011 when AFC Bournemouth were still in League One. Nicknamed the Welsh Zidane Bournemouth fans didn’t know what to expect, but he proved to be a hard-tackling midfielder with a touch of flair. As a defensive midfielder he rarely ventured too far up field so scoring a goal was a rare treat. He got two in first season.

He was an integral part of the Cherries team that got promoted to the Championship, which cemented his place amongst the fans affections. His future was looking bright, he made 25 appearances in 2013/14, but the emergence of Harry Arter and the signing of Andrew Surman saw his chances restricted. He struggled to get in the side but never let down the team when called upon.

At 28, he is coming into his prime and deserves a chance to prove himself with regular first-team football. It’s catch 22 for MacDonald, when he’s not in the first team he is not getting the minutes needed to improve and prove himself.

We at TFTSE thinks if he gets regular football he will prove to be an invaluable part of the Wigan team. Maybe even good enough to play in the Premier League.

Defensive frailties cost down-but-not-out Wigan

2013-swans

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.

LIVERPOOL-WIGAN ATHLETIC PREVIEW

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                        Wigan Athletic travel to Anfield this afternoon to face a Liverpool team in transition. The statistics tell us that Liverpool have won only 3 of their last 15  matches at home in 2012, a far cry from the days when Anfield was a fortress where teams feared to go. Latics 2-1 win there in April was one of their most notable performances, catalytic in helping maintain their Premier League status. Moreover Wigan have not lost to the Reds in their last five meetings.

The optimistic Liverpool supporter would rightly say that the club comes into this fixture on an unbeaten run of 6 league games, including a 1-1 draw at Chelsea last week. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool are playing better football and have some exciting young talent coming through. The controversial Luis Suarez has been playing really well, scoring 8 league goals so far. Liverpool are clearly on the ascendancy and this is a game they dearly want to win.

Much has been said in the press this week of the confrontation between the two young managers – Rodgers and Martinez – both being lauded for their teams’ style of football. The cynic might say that Rodgers takes undue credit from his success as manager of Swansea, following unimpressive stats in his previous posts at Reading and Watford, where his teams were not renowned for playing good football. Martinez supporters would suggest that it was he, more than Rodgers, who recrafted the brand of football during his era at the Welsh club.

Rodgers still has a lot to do to prove himself on Merseyside, but his insistence on Liverpool playing quality football is to be commended. He has also had the courage to throw a handful of young players in at the deep end. Liverpool still retain players of proven quality to complement their youthful component. Steven Gerrard may be past his best but still has a lot to offer. They might well come into this match with a backline of three central defenders – Skrtel, Agger and Carragher – a rugged and experienced barrier to penetrate.

Wigan Athletic’s season so far has been disappointing, but these days one never knows what they will do next. When they first got into the Premier League a confrontation with Liverpool was one to be feared. Since then Liverpool’s strength has waned and Wigan have shown themselves capable of beating any one of those big clubs on their day. Wigan will go into the match anxious not to concede an early goal. So far this season they have not been able to get a result in a match where they have conceded the first goal.

Latics still have Alcaraz , McArthur and Crusat ruled out by injury. However, Ryo Miyaichi might be fit enough to take a place on the bench. It remains to be seen whether Shaun Maloney will make it after a recent injury. Jordi Gomez would be the most likely replacement. Ben Watson is likely to continue in midfield following his much improved performance against West Bromwich last weekend. Other than the doubt about Maloney the starting lineup is likely to remain unchanged from last week.

With fair refereeing and a little bit of luck Wigan Athletic can get a good result today. They need to avoid giving away any soft goals – particularly penalties – and Gary Caldwell and his defensive unit need to neutralize the threat of Luis Suarez. It seems like Latics play best when Caldwell is at his best. Let’s hope that today is one of his better days.

JORDI GÓMEZ – A LOOK AT WIGAN ATHLETIC’S ENIGMA

Just over  a year ago I wrote an article on this site about how Wigan Athletic’s new tactical system had helped get better performances from the players. In particular I focused on the improvements in performance of Jordi Gómez and Ronnie Stam.  

Both Stam and Gómez had previously struggled in the Premier League. But then Gómez had scored four goals in five games and Stam was clearly relishing playing in his more natural position of wing back. Latics had come through an horrendous set of fixtures in December with pride intact. It looked like they were going to be moving onward and upward. That proved not to be the case for the next three months until the miraculous recovery started in late March. During that time Stam hardly played and has since become almost a forgotten man as supporters are concerned. Gómez lost his place to Shaun Maloney during the revival run and has since been limited to the odd starting appearance, largely being used as a substitute.

If you were in a room full of Wigan Athletic supporters and asked them to speak up if they thought if Jordi Gómez merited a place in the first choice lineup then you would hear a deadly silence. However, Roberto Martinez continues to have faith in the enigmatic player, Gómez having signed a further extension on his contract at the end of last season. So what is it that Martinez sees in his fellow Catalan? Gómez had revealed his best-ever Latics form in those difficult games last December against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester  United. It looked like he had finally been able to make the transition to the Premier League. Since then his form has been patchy to say the least.

How does Jordi Gómez fit into the current tactical lineup? Martinez likes to play with a front three, with the two big strikers – Di Santo and Kone – combining with the playmaking Shaun Maloney. Nominally Maloney is the third striker, but he tends to be more effective playing behind the big men, threading through the passes. However, Maloney tends to be more based on the left. Having played as a winger he has the ability to beat his man and cross from the by-line. The Latics website categorizes Maloney as a midfielder, but his current role is a bit of a hybrid. If Gómez is to be brought in is it to be as a striker or in that hybrid role?

Jordi Gómez has scored 7 goals in the Premier League in 46 starts and 25 appearances as a substitute. He has had 128 shots on goal, of which around 30% (38 to be precise) have been on target. He has made no assists. As Championship Player of the Year in the 2008-09 season for Swansea he scored 12 goals in 38 starts and 6 substitute appearances. He made 5 assists. Interestingly more than 50% of his 119 shots on goal were on target. The stats reveal the difficulties Gómez has had since making the transition to the Premier League from the Championship. As a creative midfielder he should be providing at least some assists. As a forward he should be scoring more goals.

In the disappointing performance against Bradford last week in the League Cup, Gómez got himself into clear scoring positions on at least four occasions without success.  Rarely for him he also missed a penalty. He has the rare ability to drift in, seemingly unnoticed by the defence. There have been so many times over the last three years when Gómez has done everything right until his final touch has let him down, whether it will be a header, a shot or a defence-splitting pass. He just does not seem to have had the self belief to deliver. This must be as frustrating for the player himself as much as for the supporters. Maybe a spell in the under-21 team would be benefical in helping Gómez find his goalscoring boots?

At times one cannot help but feel sorry for Gómez. He has often been played out of his best position in central midfield. He is the butt of the crowd’s frustrations. Not only is he a poor tackler, but too often he passes the ball backwards when a forward pass is possible. This was particularly evident when he came on as substitute at Swansea a couple of weeks ago. There was a need for urgency and the substitution proved to be ill-judged. However, when he came on as substitute against Tottenham last Saturday, with Latics leading, he looked much more comfortable. Martinez will often use Gómez in such situations. When his defence is under pressure he can hold on to the ball in midfield, often drawing fouls from an opposition desperate to score.

However, whatever shortcomings he might have, there can be no doubting his determination and commitment to the club. Gómez has learned to hassle and harry the opposition, and to cover a large number of yards of the pitch in each game he plays. At Swansea he played in a newly promoted team that was on the up. His role was to orchestrate the midfield and to score goals. When he arrived at Wigan he moved into a stuggling team that was too often unable to get the lion’s share of the possession. Apart from his recent miss against Bradford, Gómez has been an effective taker of penalties. He has an aura of calm that few players have. Gómez is also capable of scoring from free kicks on the edge of the box.

Roberto Martinez clearly has faith that Jordi Gómez can reach his full potential. One hopes that his best is yet to come. He is now close to his peak at 27 years of age. Only time will tell if Martinez is right.

Swansea City 2 Wigan Athletic 1: That sinking feeling

Without doing a terrible amount wrong, Wigan Athletic has found itself sinking into the all-too-familiar lower depths of the Premier League. We might be telling a very different tale if Arouna Koné’s headed equaliser had not been incorrectly disallowed for offside, but in the end those small margins told and it was another tight loss. There have been several of them in recent weeks against beatable teams — Fulham, Sunderland, and now Swansea — in which the side showed positives but failed to get the result. The good news is that fellow basement dwellers Southampton, Reading, Aston Villa, Norwich City and QPR look a weaker set of competition than last year’s pack.

Of the aforementioned strugglers, Norwich were the only team to secure three points this weekend with a shock 1-0 victory over Arsenal. Chris Hughton’s side deserve full credit for an excellent performance, but it is no coincidence they got the result following an international break. Like Swansea, Norwich looked fresh and full of zip — both squads have few internationals and benefitted from two weeks of focused training. Like Arsenal, a majority of Wigan’s starting XI had played two matches in the previous week, spread across the far corners of the world. Between Al-Habsi, Figueroa, Beausejour, Caldwell, McArthur, McCarthy and Koné (who admittedly did not play but had an eventful week nonetheless) — Latics players covered four continents and hundreds of thousands of miles before this fixture. Thank goodness Barbados wasn’t playing. Maynor Figueroa, whose Honduran national team secured qualification after thumping Canada 8-1, certainly looked like he was in a different time zone.

A detailed analysis of post-international results will follow next time there is an international break. But in the meantime, it seems fair to raise the question why Roberto is not leaning a little more heavily on his squad for these fixtures based on recent post-international break results?

The Good: 

Despite a sharp-looking home performance from Swansea, Latics kept them out in the first half, and looked the more incisive team on the counter. James McArthur showed some touches of real class and vision. Arouna Koné was very good, despite seeing relatively little of the ball. After Latics conceded and bodies were pushed forward, Shaun Maloney was excellent, getting on the ball, making things happen.

The Bad: 

Figueroa had a bad day. The marking for the second goal was non-existent — they appeared to stand still as Michu ran in to score. The team didn’t show real urgency or ambition until it was 2-0. All of which was a shame against a team that demonstrated their attacking threat but were defensively wobbly throughout. Opportunity lost.

Player Ratings: 

Ali Al-Habsi: 7 — Caught flat-footed on the first goal, but there was not much he could do about either. Made one or two decent saves before then.

Ivan Ramis: 6 — Solid until he lost sight of Michu for the second goal.

Gary Caldwell: 6 — Solid until Hernandez got the better of him for the first goal.

Maynor Figueroa: 5 — Not solid. Looked out of sorts, substituted to accomodate an attacking tactical change.

Emmerson Boyce: 6.5 — Brilliant improvised goal, but didn’t have an easy afternoon with Routledge in fine form.

Jean Beausejour: 7 — Cracking cross for Koné, which would have been the equaliser but for an errant offside call. Also played a delightful ball in for Koné, which the Ivorian couldn’t make the best of. Need him to get forward more often.

James McArthur: 7.5 — Some real quality from the Scot, who always puts the miles in defensively but rarely gets a chance to show his skill.

James McCarthy: 6 — Not his strongest performance.

Shaun Maloney: 7 — Always trying to make things happen. But his finishing should have been better with both a first half opportunity and a disappointing second half free-kick.

Franco Di Santo: 6 — Only got one chance and telegraphed it.

Arouna Koné: 7 — Strong performance that deserved a goal. His strength and pace are impressive, but he showed he can dribble and head the ball as well. The complete striker — just needs a bit more service and luck now. Took a heavy touch on a lovely Beausejour cross, mind.

Subs:

Ben Watson: N/A — His introduction saw a formation change, which resulted in more bodies forward and sustained pressure on the Swansea rearguard. It also left Latics’ defense a bit exposed.

Jordi Gomez: N/A — Went backwards too many times, to the support’s frustration. Played so well in the corresponding fixture last year, maybe he should have been brought on sooner — before goals were needed urgently. Urgency is not his strong suit.

Mauro Boselli: N/A — No service, barely touched the ball.