Quite how Fulham beat us on Saturday is beyond me. Nine corners for Wigan, none for Fulham. Nineteen goal attempts Latics, Cottagers six. We have yet again been punished for the failure to convert our chances. But how many more games will go by in which the law of averages does not apply? How many times more can we possibly hit the post without it bouncing in, taking a slight deflection, or falling to one of our strikers to tap in. How many more corners until we get a lucky bounce? How many more bone-crunching tackles from the opposition before the referee sends one of them off?
We just can’t buy a goal. Victor Moses has to go down in history as one the most unfortunate attackers to set foot in the league. Sure, he is a raw young talent, an erratic finisher who would benefit from a cooler head. But he alone has hit the post 4-5 times already. Time and time again, he gets past his marker with such power and pace, but is denied against all odds by a lunging defender, an inspired keeper, or the woodwork. He was scoring for fun in pre-season. The Gods of the Premier League just aren’t smiling on him. Surely his reward will come soon?
Then there’s Roberto. I thought he made the right decision in sticking with the XI who performed so admirably against Newcastle. He was forced to substitute his most talented midfielder in the first five minutes after some cynical and targeted tackling, particularly that of Steve Sidwell, which typically went unpunished. He eventually brought Di Santo on for Crusat, who was probably tiring. But with one substitute left, still trailing by a goal, the Stam-for-Boyce substitution is infuriating. It’s not that Stam is a bad player, but he had Shaun Maloney and Conor Sammon on the bench. If you don’t throw them on in that situation, when do you?
That said, I don’t blame Roberto’s tactics for this loss, or the one at Newcastle, or so many others. If either of the shots that hit the post had gone in, we would have probably gone on to win. We were after all, the better side.
I suppose it is better to go on an 8-match losing streak in the beginning of the season than towards the end. But if it doesn’t stop in these next couple fixtures, we will have a serious mountain to climb. December and January look to be cruel months on the fixture list. If we go into them in the bottom three, I can’t see us getting out. November is a big, big month.
I’m keeping the faith. Confidence breeds luck, and we have neither at the moment. But if we get a bit of it, everything else is in place for a decent run of results against Wolves, Blackburn and Sunderland. Seven points from those three would propel us into mid-table. And the bottom half of the table is weak. Bolton and Blackburn have continued their mediocrity. Wolves look frail, Swansea and Norwich are doing okay but will find the second half of the season challenging. Sunderland probably have too much quality to get stuck down there, but do look dodgy. Lets go win at Wolves.
A Neutral Would Say
Wigan dominated but got hit on the break. Twice.
Al Al-Habsi: 6 — Might have done better with the second goal. Everyone, including him, assumed Dembele would pass wide to Dempsey rather than shoot.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 — Caught out of position for the first goal by a very good Danny Murphy pass. Couldn’t catch Dembele. Showed some good interplay with Victor Moses down right flank.
Gary Caldwell: 6 — Latics didn’t need to do much defending, but still conceded two goals, so it’s hard to give him anything more than a six. Will miss the next match due to accumulation of yellow cards.
Antolin Alcaraz: 6 — Outrun by Dempsey for the first goal. Otherwise solid.
Maynor Figueroa: 7 — Tricky to grade him. Had his best attacking game in a long time, with some mazy runs and a tremendous left-footed shot that struck the post. But should have cleared in the build-up to the second goal instead of trying to pass his way out of trouble.
Ben Watson: 7 — Decent match for Wigan’s quarterback. So unlucky with an excellent volleyed effort in the first half, tipped over the bar by Schwarzer. Latics controlled possession, which was largely down to his distribution.
Mo Diame: N/A — What a shame. Only on the pitch for the opening minutes after two bad tackles ended his afternoon. Sidwell should have been cautioned. Lets hope it’s a speedy recovery as he is the only Wigan player to have scored a non-deflected goal, or a penalty, this season.
David Jones: 7 — Decent passing from midfield, another good shift. Lots of room for improvement on set pieces though.
Albert Crusat: 7 — Really lively and positive, delivered a range of crosses before making way for Di Santo.
Victor Moses: 8 — Outstanding performance full of invention and running. Saw a gorgeous volley crash off the crossbar in the second half. Was involved in all Wigan’s attacking play.
Hugo Rodallega: 6 — No real chances for Hugo in this one.
James McArthur: 6 — Came on for Diame and worked hard, with some neat passing, but did not offer the penetration Diame is capable of.
Franco Di Santo: 6 — Came on in centre-forward role but did not make a big impact.
Ronnie Stam: 6 — Joined the attack as instructed, but his crosses were generally cleared without complication.