Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a low-quality draw with Ipswich

December 11, 2021: Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 1

It was a frustrating afternoon with another woeful refereeing performance in a game largely devoid of good football. With Latics a goal up Will Keane was adjudged offside when he put the ball in the back of the net. It was the tightest of decisions signalled by the linesman. If the goal had been allowed Wigan would surely have gathered the three points. As Paul Cook would say: it is a game of fine margins.

Leam Richardson continued to play Callum Lang at centre forward, leaving specialist central striker Stephen Humphrys on the bench. He brought in Tom Pearce for Joe Bennett, Gwion Edwards for Gavin Massey, Max Power for Jordan Cousins. There was no place for Thelo Aasgaard, arguably the MOM in midweek.

We had seen the “playing it long” (aka hoofball in this case) tactic in midweek and Latics got away with it against Shrewsbury through a spectacular late goal from Thelo Aasgaard. It reared its ugly head throughout this game.

After a mediocre first half Ipswich used their bench in the second period to provide more options. Latics continued to play the same long ball game and Ipswich got their reward in the 78th minute when substitute Norwood picked up a loose ball following a well flighted free kick from Lee Evans. Many of us were hoping that Richardson would utilise the flair of Thelo Aasgaard and maybe even change the shape, but his riposte was to make a like-for-like change, bringing on Gavin Massey for Gwion Edwards after 80 minutes. The out of favour Humphrys was brought on after 90 minutes for Tom Pearce.

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media. Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

Jeff’s right commented:

An additional stat. 3 shots on target in 90 minutes.
We have the players so why not go with three at the back and the two strikers at least for home games. Edwards ahead of Humphys. Just can not weigh this up when it’s glaringly obvious that this formation/style of football besides being awful on the eye is just not working at home. Is Cook still pulling some strings as we play the stuff he played.

Victor Moses stated:

With the game waiting for some luck/mistake or a piece of quality to win the game. Really not performing anywhere near their peak. Its so rigid slow and lacking in ambition, it’s what you’d expect from a team low on confidence.

NorthernSoul opined:

Our players can’t play 4 at the back at home. Too rigid and we create nothing and it’s been like that all season. We have scraped a lot of 1 goal wins through individual play.

Away from home when teams attack it works as you have more space to exploit.

At home, teams just sit in and we do little aside from set pieces. We are set up to try and draw at home and may as well start every game with 10 men. Away from home we are the tank out team in the division.

Change to 3 at the back at home and the fortunes will change straight away.

FrancosLoveChild wrote:

I agree but sadly it does not change the needless hoofball that is so ineffective, we rely a lot on individuals brilliance like you said and let’s be honest, we have played poorly home and away for a few weeks now, late goals have papered over the cracks of late.

Bodies are really needed in January, need some creative central players, Keane is absolutely anonymous most of times, and I think he would help stop the hoofball if he played right up too with Thelo behind. But Leam is choosing hoofball, hopefully until he identifies players we need to be more dominant in games.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Five talking points following a drab display at home to Ipswich

Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 1

We might have expected Wigan Athletic to come racing out of the blocks following their warm weather trip to Dubai. But it was not to be. A pedestrian Latics side failed to capitalise on Jonas Knudsen’s red card after 25 minutes, going behind five minutes later after a soft penalty was conceded by Chey Dunkley. It took a 91st equaliser from substitute Joe Garner to level the scores.

Paul Cook made two changes from the previous league game with Stoke. Lee Evans returned in central midfield with Reece James being moved to right back in place of Nathan Byrne. Danny Fox came back from injury to replace Cedric Kipre in the centre of defence.

Paul Cook commented: “It has to be a point gained, it has to be – for sure. You’d have to say it’s a feeling of relief, from the situation we found ourselves in. I thought Ipswich started the game well, they came with quite an attacking intent. The sending-off has a large bearing on the game, and you think the likelihood is we should go on and win the game. Ipswich then get a goal pretty quickly, and it’s set up then where they defend very deep and narrow – and rightly so. They frustrated us for long periods, and I didn’t feel we really looked like scoring, to be truthful. At the end of the day it’s a point, it’s not what we wanted, but the relief at the end was there for all to see.”

Let’s look at some points arising:

Another disappointing result against a side in the relegation zone

Latics have won only 1 game out of 7 against the five teams below them in the Championship table, that being a 1-0 win over Rotherham at the DW Stadium at the beginning of September. They lost at Ipswich and Millwall.

The displays against those teams in danger of relegation have been largely characterised by lethargic build-up play and ineffective finishing. Yesterday’s game simply fitted into a pattern we had seen before.

The remaining “6 pointers” are Reading (A) on March 9, Bolton (H) on March 16 and Millwall (H) on May 5, the last day of the season.

Why it is that Wigan have seemingly played without much ambition in those games is hard to fathom, although last season their results against the top teams in League 1 were not impressive. They won only 1 out of 6 against the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed teams. Is there something in the planning for these encounters that emphasises caution? Or is it a mere coincidence that the players have not been at their best in those games?

What has happened to Leon Clarke?

His return to Wigan was never going to be easy for Leon Clarke. In his previous spell in the second half of the 2014-15 season he had failed to impress, scoring one goal in ten games. Fans queried his appetite for playing the role of the lone centre forward. Clarke impressed in his first game back, scoring a goal and making an assist against QPR. But in the following three games he has been less effective, looking more like the player of the unfortunate era of Malky Mackay.

Clarke is at Wigan on loan from Sheffield United until the end of the season. Last season he scored 19 goals in 39 appearances in the Championship. However, with the loan signing of Gary Madine and at 34 years of age, Clarke was allowed to leave the Blades in January.

With Sheffield United favouring twin strikers Clarke played well last season, his partnership with Billy Sharp being fruitful. At Wigan he has played as the main central striker with Josh Windass behind him.

Is Clarke better in a twin striker role or is it that he is now playing in a struggling team, not getting the kind of service he did at Bramall Lane?

Only time will tell if Clarke’s return to the DW is successful.

Antonee Robinson absent from the team sheet

Robinson’s last league appearance was on November 10th at Middlesbrough. In Robinson’s absence through injury Kal Naismith has established himself as the regular starter at left back, despite his previous lack of experience in that position.

Most of us expected Cook to sign a new left back over the January window but nothing materialised. Naismith has not had an easy time in that position but has improved as time has passed. At times he has looked all at sea and vulnerable to runs from speedy wingers. But he has also made some outstanding blocks and tackles in and around the penalty box. Cook expects his full backs to push far forward and the Scot has shown skill and determination down the flanks, with an ability to launch pinpoint crosses into the box. Although often under pressure from elements in the crowd Naismith has often shown initiative in a side that has been short on such qualities during a dismal run of results in recent months.

In a recent interview Naismith talked about his adjustment to playing at left back: “I’m learning all of the time, I’m happy to be playing in that new role and delighted to be playing in this league and just learning every day. I go back after the game and watch it, I take little bits from it. It’s funny because I feel like my crossing hasn’t been great as it’s my best asset, but my defending is getting better every week. I take the positives from that, I just want to keep learning as a player and keep improving.”

Robinson played the first 62 minutes against Shanghai SIPC in Dubai, being replaced by Naismith. Robinson too has faced criticism from fans on the defensive part of his game, although he can excel when going forward, possessing real pace.

It was a surprise that Robinson did not appear on the team sheet yesterday. Was he suffering a reaction from the game in Dubai?

McManaman preferred to Massey

After a frustrating first half with Latics woefully short of creativity one hoped, in vain, that Cook would make an immediate substitution in the second half to freshen things up. He had been employing two holding midfielders in Evans and Morsy, both sitting deep against a side with ten men. But we had to wait until after the hour mark for Callum McManaman and Nick Powell to come on for Chey Dunkley and Anthony Pilkington. Although Dunkley’s departure was a shock, Morsy being pushed back into the back four, the arrival of McManaman that was a surprise with Gavin Massey staying on the bench.

Powell looked decidedly rusty after such little football over these months but will clearly be a key player in Cook’s plans when fully fit. McManaman looked lively, if well policed by the Ipswich defence.

The manager’s treatment of McManaman has been unpopular with a lot of the fans. Is this an indication that the player will at last be given a genuine opportunity to prove himself over the games that remain?

Can Latics avoid relegation?

Again, the results for the other teams in the relegation went largely in Wigan’s favour. Bolton lost at Leeds, Millwall were defeated at home by Preston, Reading and Rotherham shared the points.

But Latics have been living precariously for weeks. The optimists will say that they are undefeated in their last four matches, but critics will say that three of those were draws when Wigan were happy to stick with a point.

Should just two of those teams have a run of form over the upcoming games then Latics could be in real trouble unless they too start winning matches. Being satisfied with a point rather than seriously trying for the three points might not be enough.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com