The 12th Man: Comings and goings - but has anything changed?

Wigan Athletic
Wigan Athletic

The defeat against Derby at the DW Stadium on Saturday left me scratching my head.

Just why did we sack Gary Caldwell?

People will obviously point to our league position when he was given the bullet, but not a lot’s changed since he’s left.

At Huddersfield two weeks back we gained a fantastic result, backs-to-the-wall stuff, soaking up the pressure then using Yanic Wildschut’s pace to hit them on the break.

It worked, we may have been fortunate but it worked, and we came away with three valuable points.

But will playing that way on a consistent basis be our means to get out of trouble?

I fear not, and hoped we would set up differently at home to Derby last weekend.

We didn’t, and by half-time we could’ve been three down.

Granted, Warren Joyce changed things round on the hour mark.

He brought on a striker, Will Grigg, and we looked a far better side.

He shuffled the midfield slightly and we started to pose a more attacking threat.

We reverted to Caldwell’s style with a three-pronged forward line – Grigg, Michael Jacobs and Wildschut – and asked questions of Derby’s resolute defence, perhaps unlucky in the end not to level.

But did we deserve one looking at the game as a whole?

Maybe not. That first half was a bit of a shocker.

Only when we reverted to type did we look menacing.

Another worry highlighted in the Derby game was our failure to find the net at home.

No goals scored at the DW since September and, setting up like we did at the start of Saturday’s game, I can see us going another three months without hearing the ripple of the net for a Latics goal.

We need to be braver, at home especially.

So we are now a side that is struggling to score, and we have appointed a manager who has no experience whatsoever in the Championship.

When clubs make the decision to change the manager, the most important aspect isn’t the getting rid of the old guy, but the choice of the new man.

We have been here before, we saw the disaster under Malky Mackay, and that was evident from the off.

That decision took us down.

Are we in the same boat again, sailing for the back waters of League One?

I would hope not.

The reputation of Joyce in the game is quite high, but he does need to start delivering sooner rather than later.

And with games against Aston Villa, Newcastle and Ipswich to come in the next fortnight, that task to deliver has just gotten a little tougher.

I am still scratching my head, but maybe it isn’t about the decision to sack Caldwell.

Maybe it is the decision to bring in an untried, inexperienced, 51-year-old youth-team coach.

I hope my pessimism is totally unfounded. But, at this moment in time, I do worry about the coming months.

BARRY WORTHINGTON

Saturday was doubly disappointing.

Disappointing in the sense of the result, but equally disappointing as, for the first time under Warren Joyce’s tenure, for large parts of the game against Derby we looked the better side.

We played some great football at times but again couldn’t convert that to goals.

The difference between Saturday and the win over Huddersfield was that old adage of not being clinical enough.

One of the main reasons we’re in the position we are in is because we haven’t been able to take our chances anywhere near enough this term.

Which brings us to the formation.

Joyce got it right last Monday night against Huddersfield.

The one-pronged approach of Yanic Wildschut and our counter-attacking tactics were the perfect combat to Huddersfield’s expansive game.

But against a Derby side willing to pack the midfield and defence, I’m not sure Yanic carried the same threat.

Indeed we looked a different side in the second half with Will Grigg and latterly Adam Le Fondre in the side.

Joyce has publicly stated both Grigg and Le Fondre are far from being at the level he requires for players to get a starting place in his side.

But I wonder how much longer we can continue with our leading goalscorer on the bench.

Certainly at home where we need to start putting away those chances.

Otherwise this season could quickly turn in to a full-blown relegation battle.

Before we’ve even reached the New Year.

SEAN LIVESEY

If I were to describe us at this moment in time, I would have to say it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back.

The 1-0 loss against Derby was a bitter pill to swallow.

Especially for our second-half performance, which certainly merited us coming away with at least one point.

However, like so many times this season, we failed to score.

It’s now FOUR home games in a row in which we’ve drawn a blank in front of goal.

I think every fan would be in agreement that when Will Grigg came on in the second half against Derby, we looked miles better as a team.

The tactic to play Yanic Wildschut up front will work away from home, when we can play on the counter-attack.

But home games are completely different altogether.

We need to be the team to dictate play and be on the front foot.

It’s paramount we start winning our home games, or at least scoring for that matter.

It’ll be interesting on Saturday too see who Warren Joyce will start up front.

Whether he’ll go with Yanic or Grigg, or maybe even both!

One thing is for sure, Villa Park was a happy hunting ground back in our Premier League days.

Hopefully we can continue that form tomorrow.

JOE O’NEIL

Latics will come up against ex-boss Steve Bruce when they visit Aston Villa on Saturday.

The well-travelled Geordie has transformed Villa since taking over at the beginning of October.

Having lost only once in eight games they are now in 15th place in the Championship, just six points from the play-off zone.

Villa’s expensively assembled squad – which includes Ross McCormack £12m, Jonathan Kodja £15m and Rudi Gestede £6m – are now expected to be in the top six at the end of the season.

It will be a big challenge for Latics to get a result against Bruce’s team at Villa Park.

In an attempt to frustrate Villa, I expect Warren Joyce to persist with the formation and tactics of the last three games, with Yanic Wildschut employed as a lone striker.

Joyce’s 4-5- 1 formation meant that Latics rode their luck at both Barnsley and Huddersfield, but it was found wanting at home to Derby County.

Wildschut has worked hard and done well in the last three games but playing one man up front cannot be a strategy for long-term success.

Latics were toothless in attack in the first half against Derby, and it was not until Will Grigg was introduced that they really looked capable of scoring.

Despite rumours to the contrary, Grigg looked sharp and his link-up play was excellent.

Not only is Grigg a top goalscorer, but he is also key to Latics’ best attacking moves.

He is adept with both feet and he gets his fair share of headers and his movement off the ball means that he is always a problem for defenders.

Grigg will score goals as long he gets good service.

He should be central to the manager’s plans and he could well be the catalyst that gets Latics away from the relegation zone.

Joyce is wasting a talented player by leaving him on the sidelines.

If he is not re-introduced into the team, it can only be a matter of time before another club snaps him up in January.

IAN ASPINALL

As I mentioned last week, luck was finally on our side in the 2-1 win at Huddersfield.

However, it ran out again last Saturday during the 1-0 home defeat to Derby County.

In fact, I don’t think Lady Luck has been anywhere near the DW this campaign – it’s probably too cold for her.

The second half against Derby was probably the best we’ve played at home all season, but once again we failed to find the back of the net and suffered another defeat when we definitely deserved one point at the very least.

Max Power hit the bar and Yanic Wildschut continued to be hit and miss in the final third - something he really needs to work on if Warren Joyce wants him to lead the line more often.

Having said that, I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck, and I also believe when we finally score in front of our own fans, we’ll grow in confidence and get a positive result.

In the second half, all the signs were there that we are making progress under Joyce and long may it continue.

Also, I must mention that it was refreshing to see the Derby fans travel in their numbers and back their side, but also how they gave an honest view of the result on social media after the game.

The majority knew that we deserved something.

Anyway instead of dwelling on the past, let’s look forward.

If there’s anything I’ve learned this week, it’s that Will Grigg needs to start up front in the next match, regardless of what the manager has seen in training.

It’s not just his goalscoring threat, it’s the way he holds up the ball and links with the midfield.

In terms of the FA Cup third round draw, well…I think the less said about that the better to be honest.

KIERAN MAKIN

‘The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Booking By D. Perkins.’

Felicitations!

I am Donald Perkins, not to be confused with a certain Wigan Athletic soccerist that happens to share my initial and surname.

But much like my near namesake, I am indeed a master of the fine and ancient martial art known as booking fu.

I have dedicated the past 30 years of my life to crafting the perfect foul, an engaging infringement that thoroughly entertains while inflicting no physical harm on opponents.

As an ‘infraction artist’, I must convince officials my work is worthy of a precious yellow card.

Novice practitioners of this noble and widely celebrated sport may tug at their victim’s shirt sleeve, or perhaps utter an impromptu minced oath over the referee’s shoulder.

Such ‘white belt’ methods are, however, deemed far too straightforward for advanced booking fu, which values humour and creativity.

As an aid to newcomers, here are my top tips for constructing a professional ‘black belt’ foul.

Why not apply them to your Sunday League, back yard or kitchen table game?

(Warning: the following methods are to be employed at your own risk. Use with caution, and do not attempt if there’s a large bloke with meaty fists playing for the other team.)

As the opposition are about to launch a swift counter attack, hurl yourself at the ball with arms flailing wildly.

Make repeated attempts to grab hold of the ball so you resemble a cat trying to perform both the doggy paddle and belly flop simultaneously.

Share a terrible joke about oddly-shaped fruit with the referee as he flashes his card – you must make him grin cheesily for the move to be deemed a success.

If your opponent appears to be outrunning you, firmly grip his shorts pocket and do not let go.

You will not only prevent him from getting away, but also gain possession of any mint balls or chocolate treats that may be contained within.

Furthermore, there is a 35 per cent likelihood your opponent will hit the ground with his shorts around his ankles.

Next pretend to drop the ball seven times as you prepare to take a throw-in.

Be sure to wipe your hands on your shirt repeatedly to sell the illusion that the ball is far too greasy to keep hold of for more than two seconds.

Ultimately you might invite a team-mate, who is wearing gloves just for this occasion, to set up for a long throw before tossing it back to your goalkeeper.

As you might have gathered, many booking fu manoeuvres have significant crossover with the similarly revered art of time wasting fu. It is acceptable to deviate, as long as the end result is a fun vignette that summons the yellow card.

Be inventive and develop your own personal strategies for the perfect booking.

Remember, you must not cause harm, only amusing anecdotes for your coffee table scrapbook and tea mornings at the local cricket club.

DAN FARRIMOND