Jack Byrne –the best of the January 2017 signings?

 

Warren Joyce must have been looking forward to the January transfer window. It presented him with the opportunity to bring in his own men. Joyce had been appointed in early November to take over a squad used to playing possession football under their previous manager. Joyce was determined to change that approach to a more direct style of play.

But by the time the window had opened he had won just one of the nine games he had been in charge. Getting the right players in during the January window was never going to be easy. Clubs are not keen to lose key players in mid-season and the pickings in January tend to be thin.

Joyce went on to contract six new players, plus another seven on loan. He had a fair amount to say about the new arrivals, but his words about Jack Byrne were kept to a minimum:

“Jack is one for the long-term, a really hungry player who we feel can develop here over the next few seasons, a real talent.”

It was almost as if he was playing down Byrne’s signing, although the player had been given a three and a half year contract and had excellent reviews as a young player at Manchester City. The sale of Byrne did not go down well with quite a few City fans, frustrated that another talented young player coming through the ranks had been sold off. The transfer fee was of the “undisclosed” category, but City were unlikely to let the player go for peanuts. They had sold another talented young player to Latics a couple of years earlier. Wigan paid them around £2.5 m for Emyr Huws, who was 20 at the time. City would expect something substantial for Byrne, also 20.

One wonders if Joyce himself was responsible for Byrne’s signing or whether it was someone else within the club. Patrick Vieira, Manchester City youth team coach, had said a year ago that: “If you want to play direct, Jack will be useless but if you want to keep the ball on the floor, and you need someone really creative, Jack will be the player who can do that.” Joyce’s preferred playing style was certainly “direct”.

Byrne did not set foot on the pitch for the senior team during Joyce’s reign which was prematurely terminated in mid-March. But he does seem to feature in Graham Barrow’s thinking, having come on off the bench in the recent wins over Rotherham and Barnsley.

Born in Dublin, Jack Byrne joined Manchester City as a 14 year old. Byrne has played for the Republic of Ireland at U17,U18 and U21 levels. In 2014-15 he was a key player in a  Manchester City team that reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Youth League, scoring 6 goals in 8 appearances, including two against Bayern Munich.

Last season Byrne was sent to Cambuur to play in the Dutch Eredivisie. He made his debut in mid-September against FC Twente after a 6 week layoff due to an ankle injury.

The Irish site SportsJoe spoke to the Chairman of  De Kern van Cambuur (the Cambuur Supporters Club), Kees Elzinga. Referring to Byrne he commented:

Jack reminds me of the Welsh player Gareth Bale but he could probably learn a lot from Wesley Sneijder is mostly playing midfield and is able to give long distance passes to his left and right wing teammates. He also tries to get forward and threaten the goal of the opponent and he tries to score with long distance shots. Jack is well known in our Premier League; Dutch television (mostly FOX Sport) shows quite a lot of his actions and other teams do their best to keep him out of the play.”

 

Byrne went on to play 27 games for the Dutch team, scoring four goals.

Following a successful season in Holland, Byrne was sent on a season-long loan to Blackburn Rovers  last summer. It turned out to be a bad move for him as Owen Coyle so often left him out of the lineup. Byrne’s loan was cut short and he returned to Manchester City in early January.

Wigan Athletic have been desperately short of creativity this season. Jordi Gomez was too often sidelined before leaving in January. Both Nick Powell and Alex Gilbey had long spells out through injury. Byrne appeared late in the 85th minute against Rotherham, but was brought on after 54 minutes against Barnsley. His Wigan Athletic career has now been kick started.

Of all the January signings Byrne was perhaps the least heralded. But given his talent he will surely play a key creative role for Latics over the coming season, if properly nurtured. He has the ability to become a top player. Only time will tell if he proves to be the best of the January 2017 signings.


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Latics fans react to the Ipswich defeat on social media

An hour before kick-off, anxiously waiting for the lineup that Graham Barrow was going to play at Portman Road. The caretaker-manager was severely hamstrung by the loss of both of his mainline strikers, Omar Bogle and Will Grigg. Was he going to put in the raw Mikael Mandron, plucked from non-league football, but nevertheless  a physical presence and goals to his name, albeit at Eastleigh Town? Or was he going to field the same forward line that finished the Newcastle game, short of physical presence?

Once the lineup was posted most of any pre-match hopes were doused. Could Latics really go into a crucial match like this without a recognised central striker? They did.

In the event it was defensive errors that handed the three points on a plate to Ipswich. On the other hand did the Wigan Athletic team really have the belief that they could pull off a good result in East Anglia?

After the match Graham Barrow was clearly fuming about the performance and critical of senior professionals for making errors that gifted a 3-0 win to a mediocre Ipswich side. But in our heart of hearts, did we really believe that Latics lineup was going to get a result? Confidence at rock bottom, following the devastation of the Joyce era, was there really any way Barrow could change the mind-set of a group of players who had unlearned the basics of good football?

It has been an awful season, paralleling that of 2014-15. Gary Caldwell certainly made mistakes this season, but was prematurely dismissed. Maybe we assumed the club would put in someone with more experience, who knew the division. But the disastrous outcome was the inept Warren Joyce.

Barrow is not everyone’s favourite to take the helm, but he had a mountain of a task to repair the damage done by Joyce when  he took over.  The players too, had a mountain ahead of them.  Under Caldwell they had played possession football.  But Joyce had them playing hoofball, often with ten men in defence. Joyce killed whatever fire Will Grigg had left by first leaving him out of the lineup, then playing him out of position. Then he brought in Omar Bogle, full of confidence, but destroyed that by isolating the player, devoid of support. Both are injured. Hopefully, with time, both will regain their confidence, but whether that might be at Wigan remains to be seen.

The sad situation is that, under Caldwell in the Championship, Latics were cautious, seemingly in awe of the opposition. As a result the goals were not going  to flow. But under Joyce it got much worse. Some said the defence tightened up under Joyce, although the stats do not reflect that. Many would say that the central defensive partnership of Burn and Buxton looked much more solid, although how much of that is due to the midfield having taking up primarily defensive roles alongside them is open to conjecture.

Although staying up might remain mathematically possible, Latics are practically relegated. According to who you speak to, the outlook of getting back to the Championship is either rosy or bleak. The half-full brigade will say Latics have enough good young players to come back up and become a backbone for the future. Their half-empty counterparts will say that most of the talent will be sold off in summer as Latics adjust to a massive cut in income. Instead of a £15-20 million wage bill in the Championship they will adjust towards the £2-3 million figure typical of so many clubs in League 1. Investment by the Sharpe/Whelan family is the unknown factor. Without it, Latics are unlikely to get out of League 1 for years to come, competing on an even keel with others in the division.

Once again we trawled the social media following another adverse result , with more speculation on the future. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Facebook and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen.  Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below:

WhittleBlue on Latics Speyk commented:

Six games remain, sadly four of these are at home.

With the absence of any strikers (are Grigg and Bogle out for the season – I can’t recall any club communication actually confirming they are injured) the chances of us seeing the ball hit the back of the opposition net is somewhat slim.

The entertainment value is nil at the best of times and God only knows what affect another four goalless games and likely defeats will do to the prospects or retaining anyone other than the long term, hardcore fans next season. I’ve already heard kids on the way out of the DW saying they don’t want to go anymore. We don’t have a manager so it’s difficult to see the vision going forward and we don’t know what the season ticket prices will be next term. If we shift more than 3000 I will be very surprised. We all know it will be all change on the playing front again and only the dross will remain. The powers that be don’t understand the concept of a balanced squad nor do they feel communication with the fans is important. There is little for the casual fan to buy into. The damage being done is long term, not short term and incompetence at boardroom level that has led us here is quite remarkable and shows no sign of abating.

Our performances are pathetic and we have become relatively uncompetitive. We can longer field a centre forward as we only have two that are unfit and so it’s seems pointless taking to the field to see out the campaign. We are an embarrassment to this league. It’s a slow, torturous death and the end cannot come soon enough.

Stephen Warnock23 @StephenWarnock3 tweeted:

I can only apologise for my own performance last night. Simply not up to the standards I try and set myself.Embarrassed is an understatement

Jonny_SuffolkLatic on Latics Speyk commented:

Probably in a minority, but to me the entertainment value has come back a bit. I’ve gone into the past 2 games having accepted relegation, just wanted to see some attacking football and us not frightened to have a go as we were under Joyce, and we’ve done that pretty much. Yesterday was a shambolic display defensively, and unlike Villa and Newcastle we definitely deserved to lose, but at the other end, with no striker, we put in a good shift at least – and could’ve had a couple if it wern’t for Bialkowski being phenomenal. You’re probably right in that nothing but getting a win is going to win over casual fans, but for those who have followed us through the darkness of this season, I would hope there might at least be something to get out of seeing the team go at the opposition for 90 minutes each game until the end of the season.

Donnys page on the Cockney Latic Forum asked the questions:

What’s needed is a time machine to take us back to the end of last season to see what really happened and to why Mr Sharpe let this freefall happen.
Why have we played in such a negative manner all season?
Why Gary was not replaced with an experienced manager.
Why was Yootha allowed to sign players that were unfit?
Why has there been such an emphasis on midfielders all season?
Why have we been so dull to watch all season?
Why has there been no emphasis on attacking football?
Why do players not performing get picked?

Cupwinners on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Whoever made the desision to let Fondre go in the Jan window should be taken down to market square and publicly flogged with a cat n nine tails made up of knotted Tic scarfs.
No club at any level should ever be left with anything less than 3 recognised strikers,but then again its Latics.

Andronicus on Latics Speyk added:

We actually did okay tonight attacking wise and their keeper made some cracking saves although it has to be said Gilks also made some great saves as well ! Defence though was abysmal and pretty much non existant with the central defenders looking like strangers!! Sadly Barrow is not the answer to our problem and we should be bringing someone in now to get his feet under the table for next year! So sad walk back to the hotel now and talking to the Ipswich fans they cannot get over the fact that their own mis firing team were given such an easy game tonight! Get someone in NOW!!

Jeff’s right on Latics Speyk opined:

I would have had Colclough on the right of midfield where he should be. Two youngsters from the development and youth up top. Jacobs (if the worst signing in our history Obertan isnt fit yet fit yet) out left, Gilbey and McDonald in centre midfield and four at the back. Simple. Every player in position.
Tomorrow though Sharpe needs to be down at Euxton and overseeing his shambles. Sack off all the loan players and Obertan and do what he should have done after the Bristol game start preparing for league one.

David Green on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams said:

So league 1 here we come. Lets look at the possitives no negatives because had more than enough of them.

1 cheaper tickets
2 not that many long trips ( exeption of possibly portsmouth ,plymouth and southend ) but wont be bad weekenders unless on a tuesday night .
3 a few more local games/derbies
4 good standard of football
these are only a few things i for one am looking forward to. Up the tics

Vincehill  on the Cockney Latic Forum gave his view:

From what I saw of Rotherham last Saturday in just the highlights footage I’m fully expecting them to drive the final relegation nail in on Saturday.
Let’s be honest the team is just not good Enough for this division which is so frustrating when you look at what Barnsley and Burton have done.
I keep reading deluded posts saying we can still do it but i gave up the ghost after the Bristol city game and with no strikers ( ??????) it’s all over end of .
The rot set in last summer with poor planning and investment and then the sale of wildschut and again no proper investment has left is in a real
Mess that quite frankly will continue next season if a major change in the club isn’t made .
To say it’s a disgrace isn’t doing it justice but they need to make these changes NOW especially with the season tickets sales about to start.
3 relegations in 5 years when only one in the previous 35 suggests the club has a major problem that lies beyond the players and manager and a huge change is needed throughout the club.

King_de_Zeeuw06  on Latics Speyk was far from happy with the performance:

The fact we played 5 at the back with 3 static defensive midfielders in a must win game shows me despite Barrows talk of ‘going for it’ – we simply aren’t. Negative tactics have been a common theme through all 3 managers this season and if it’s not changed by now i can’t see it changing at all until the new boss comes in.

I was really unhappy with last night after seeing that performance, but I’m absolutely seething now i’ve seen how other results went. They all went for us and if we could’ve got a win against a poor Ipswich side who had nothing to play for we’d have been back to 4 points adrift with Rotherham at home next and a ray of hope. But the set up lacked any ambition, there wasn’t enough fight and we might as well scored 3 own goals for them with the appauling mistakes we made trying to suicidally over play from the back under pressue. It was the type of game you expect the team to come out like men possessed and show some bravery and fire and we just completely bottled it. In other games we’ve been poor but at least the lads made the opposition work to earn their points, but last night was the easiest 3-0 win any team will ever get. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose by having a proper go and nearly all of them went missing – utter disgrace.

Martinh on the Cockney Latic Forum gave his summary of the season:

There’s no doubt that this has been one of the most depressing seasons in living memory, but can we put our fingers on what exactly went wrong? Below, I’ve listed my thoughts, but please chip in with your own in the hope that someone at the club might read and learn from some of this.

1) Caldwell’s clearout. He should never have let Pearce go, or send Morsy and Colclough out on loan. The team that won the league last year should have been given a chance in the Championship.

2) Going the whole season without a recognised right back. That’s apart from Luke Burke, of course, who impressed over three games or so, then was allowed to go out on loan.

3) Signing so many midfielders. How could the team possibly incorporate Nick Powell, Jordi Gomez, Michael Jacobs, Yanic Wildschutt and Alex Gilbey, or David Perkins, Shaun McDonald and Max Power? The squad was so imbalanced that just about all those players ended up filling in at right back.

4) Certain players not turning up. Alex Bogdan goes without saying, but Power, Grigg and Jacobs were all disappointing.

5) Did we panic and sack Caldwell too early?

6) Hiring Warren Joyce. I think we can all agree this was a mistake. Whatever reputation he had as a coach was undermined by some of the most boring football Wiganers have ever seen. To his credit, though, we did start defending better and he brought Morsy out from the cold.

7) Lack of professionalism.,We’re run by a 20-something chippy manager (or are we?), and Jonathan Jackson has been invisible all season. No manager since Martinez has been allowed to bring in their own backroom staff. Instead, we rely on a network of old boys who, this season, seemed to come and go intermittently (Pollitt, Cribley, Jackson, Atherton, Doolan, Barrow). It’s great to see them back st the club but are they the best people for the job? Joyce’s comments about fitness levels or the number of unexplained long-term injuries recently (Reece James, Donervon Daniels) would suggest not,

Getting rid of the local lads. Chow, Flores, Jennings and Burke may not have been worldbeaters but, in this situation, they may just have tried a little harder for their local team. Furthermore, we might have given them time rather than getting on their backs; local players are good for morale and no seen as mercenaries like Tinnicliffe and Hanson.

9) Too many loan signings, some of whom (Marcus Browne) were moaning as soon as they got here and half of whom were injured anyway.

10) Selling Wildschutt. The price may have been right but he was the only player who provided any surprise bits of magic all season.

So, which is the most important? Or can you add your own thoughts as to where it all went wrong?

 

 

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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.

 

joycestats

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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Fighting for points through set pieces?

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Jake Buxton’s header at QPR brought a great save from Alex Smithies

It almost happened again. A good corner kick from Jamie Hanson and a bullet header from Jake Buxton. It would have put Latics 2-1 up at QPR, but a fine save by Alex Smithies prevented it.

Another header from Buxton from a Max Power corner had given Wigan Athletic an invaluable three points at Wolves a week before. A week earlier and Omar Bogle had headed home a goal against Norwich from corner kick launched by Michael Jacobs. Jacobs had also provided the delivery from the corner for Callum Connolly’s second goal at Burton in mid-January. Has Warren Joyce been placing more focus on set pieces during training?

Barnsley, Cardiff City and Newcastle United have the best record in the Championship division on set pieces in the season so far, each with 17 goals. Leeds United come next with 16 goals, 10 of which came from corners. Wigan only have 8, second worst to Aston Villa with 3. In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of Latics’ play this season has been their performance on corners and free kicks. Too often the delivery from corners has failed to reach the centre of the goalmouth and the players waiting in and around the box have been too passive in their approach.

Latics have an average of 11.4 shots per game, only Blackburn Rovers having a lower average count. The stats show that Latics average a respectable 13.3 shots per game at home, but away from home only 9.6 shots per game, the lowest in the division. Wigan are clearly more disciplined when playing at home, where they have collected 28 yellow cards. They have received 42 away from home, the highest in the division.

West Bromwich Albion lead the Premier League in terms of goals from set pieces. They have 15, 11 of which have come from corners. Under Tony Pulis they have become a compact unit, with a tough defence and a high work rate. They have the lowest average possession rate at 40.7%.

There are arguments to the effect that football teams should not be obsessed with possession. But Roberto Martinez was certainly a believer and by maintaining possession his teams were more able to withstand the physical demands of the Premier League, more often than not playing against teams with technically superior players. In fact the top six teams in the Premier League table also have the top six possession statistics.

Wigan Athletic’s current average possession rate of 49.3% is the 13th highest in the division, but has been on a strong downward trend since the departure of Gary Caldwell. The emphasis on passing has been superseded by what is euphemistically called a more “direct approach” under Warren Joyce. Given Joyce’s previous reputation as coach of a Manchester United reserve team that played entertaining, flowing football it is difficult to fathom why he has resorted to such methods. Is Joyce trying to stave off relegation by transitioning to a Pulis-type approach?

However, 45% of West Bromwich’s goals have come from set pieces, compared with 27% for Wigan. Given the lack of flowing football from Joyce’s teams, making goals from open play relatively scarce, it is essential that they improve their conversion rate on set pieces.

In the 2014-15 season when they were to be relegated Wigan Athletic’s average possession was 51.6 %. They had an average of 13.7 shots per game. They scored 15 goals from set pieces, 8 of which were from corners. The previous season when they reached the Championship playoffs they had 52.3% possession and 14.7 shots per game, with 17 goals from set pieces.

Although results are the primary concern for Wigan Athletic fans at this moment in time there are many who would like to see Joyce’s team playing in what David Sharpe once named “The Wigan Way”. What that actually means is open to conjecture. The best quality football that Wigan Athletic have probably ever consistently played was from March to May 2012 under Roberto Martinez, while among the most exciting was the attacking play of the Paul Jewell era.

The football played by the current team is far removed from those halcyon times, closer to that of the days of Malky Mackay. But the very minimum most fans want is for Joyce to send his team out to win, rather than not to lose.

In the meantime, with the shortage of goals from open play and a lack of willingness to throw players forward, it is the set pieces that can prove crucial for Latics’ survival in the Championship division.

What are the chances of a set piece goal against Nottingham Forest tomorrow?

 
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A Hartlepool United fan’s view of Josh Laurent

 

Few players could show as much delight as did Josh Laurent after signing for Wigan Athletic on the transfer window deadline day. The 21 year old, 6ft 2 in tall,  was signed from Hartlepool United for an undisclosed fee.

On signing the player Warren Joyce commented: “Josh is a player the club has been watching all season and we feel he has the potential to shine at a higher level of football, given the right environment and the time in which to develop.  He’s a powerful, ball-playing midfielder and we welcome him to the squad.”

Joshua Ishaele Jacob-Heron Hunt-Laurent was born in Leytonstone. After playing for the Wycombe Wanderers youth team he joined the Queens Park Rangers academy in the summer of 2012.  He went on to make 20 appearances for the QPR youth team that won the Professional Development U18 League 2 title for 2012-13. In February 2014 Laurent was sent on a short term  loan to Conference Premier club Braintree Town. He went on to make 16 appearances before returning to QPR in mid-April.

Other than his spell on loan Laurent had played for the development squad until January 2015 when he signed for Brentford for an undisclosed fee. Laurent’s departure caused a reaction from QPR fans, frustrated by the club’s reluctance to give their young talent a chance. He went on to make one senior appearance for the Bees, in a League Cup game against Oxford United in August 2015. Just eight days later he was on a short term loan at Newport County, making his Football League debut in a home defeat by Leyton Orient. Laurent went on to make three more appearances before being recalled to Brentford in mid-October.

In February 2016 Laurent joined Hartlepool United on a free transfer. He went on to make 24 starts and 9 substitute appearances for the north east club, scoring one goal.

In order to find out more about Laurent’s time at Victoria Park we contacted Hartlepool fan @LordSmythe through Twitter.

Here’s over to Lord:

After a difficult start Josh showed what he was capable of and finally his efforts on the training ground were rewarded with a first team call up putting in some impressive displays which obviously caught the eye from clubs including Wigan Athletic.

Despite limited (league) appearances (28) Josh’s ability to cover ground in a stylish attacking midfielder role, comfortable in possession, a “baller” with potential to score goals made him a favourite with the fans an acquisition to any side.

He has the ability to do well at a higher level and everyone at Hartlepool United I’m sure wish Josh all the best for the future with The Latics …. from one blue & white shirt to another eh?

Certainly Pools loss and Latics gain.

 

Laurent goal after 43 seconds.

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