Watching Wigan Athletic under Warren Joyce constantly feels like one step forward one step back.
After the horror show at Rotherham on Boxing Day, we played extremely well at Derby and could have easily taken all three points if we were more clinical in front of goal.
Instead we ended up with just one, but it was a good point when you consider that before our visit the Rams had won eight of their last nine Championship games and hadn’t conceded at the iPro Stadium since September.
Obviously, we had the quick turnaround to play Huddersfield, another promotion-chasing team, at the DW Stadium.
Again, we put in a solid defensive shift and deserved a point at the very least, but came away with nothing after an uncharacteristic mistake from the most experienced player on the pitch – Jussi Jaaskelainen – and you can’t legislate for individual errors in your preparation on the training ground.
It’s not what the majority of our fans want to see, but I think we have to play against quality teams in such a negative fashion because we simply can’t afford to attack them with free-flowing football because we will be cut to ribbons.
On Monday, we conceded when we lost our shape for the one and only time in the match. The pitch opened up and the Terriers utilised the resulting space to their advantage.
Don’t get me wrong; we can’t play like this all the time because not having a single shot on target at home is scandalous.
If Joyce’s mentality is to play for a point against the high-flyers with the hope we can nick something, then we need to improve our transition from defence to attack.
Also, if we are going to be negative against such teams, then that means we HAVE to be positive against the teams around us.
We need wins and, because the squad doesn’t have the quality to take it to the big guns, we have to take it to teams in the dog fight, because those games seem like the only opportunities we’ll get to pick up maximum points.
It’s a huge month for the club both on and off the pitch.
Off the pitch meaning the transfer window. We need to balance the financial books whilst improving squad as much as possible.
And on the pitch because we need results, starting with the huge away game at Burton Albion in just under two weeks time.
Time for action
It’s a dispiriting time to be a Wigan Athletic fan, with the situation both on and off the pitch looking bleak.
Last season the club appeared to be on a stable path with a young forward thinking manager with clear ideas about the type of football he wanted to play.
A young chairman who backed his manager and talked about a long-term strategy for success.
A group of players who believed in the manager and comfortably won the League One title.
How things have changed this season. The optimism and togetherness of last season has been shattered and the club appears to be heading back to League One at an alarming speed.
The club’s current predicament is ultimately the responsibility of the owner Dave Whelan, chairman David Sharpe and chief executive Jonathan Jackson and it is fair to say that their recent decision-making has been found wanting.
Latics have sacked four managers since the start of the 2012/13 season with only seven other clubs in the Premier League and Football League having a higher turnover of managers.
Dave Whelan has achieved so much for Latics during his time in charge but the club currently lacks coherent leadership.
David Sharpe supported Gary Caldwell during difficult times last season but this season he was very quick to dismiss him and appoint a manager without recent Football League experience.
Warren Joyce was a risky appointment given that he had never managed in the Championship and his last eight years had been spent in charge of the Manchester United reserve team.
It was something of a surprise that Joyce was given a three-and-a-half-year-contract after recent managers had only been on shorter-term rolling contracts.
Joyce has had a torrid time since his appointment and Latics have only won one of his 10 games in charge and they suffered a record sixth-consecutive home defeat against Huddersfield last Monday.
Latics come up against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup tomorrow but next week they will face Burton Albion in what could be a season defining relegation six-pointer.
If Latics were to lose that game the prospects for survival would be very slim indeed.
The Whelan family has some very big decisions to make over the next few weeks.
Do they back Warren Joyce to keep Latics up?
Or do they bring in a new manager?
Do they provide the transfer funds to boost the squad?
Or do they sell their most valuable players, for example, Yanic Wildschut, Will Grigg, etc?
Surely now is the time for the Whelan family to show leadership and do everything in their power to maintain Latics’ hard won Championship status.
We need shots
There will be no ‘Dry January’ for Wigan supporters this year, as heading for the drink maybe the only solution to get over the recent bad performances and results.
Joking aside, we were desperately unlucky not to get a point against Huddersfield on Monday.
But failing to get a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes is pretty poor.
However, January will be a massive month for the club. It’s vital we try and keep the current squad without dismantling the spine of the team.
Two years ago, we were in exactly the same position and on that occasion we sold Adam Forshaw, Callum Mcmanaman, Shaun Maloney and Ben Watson.
This time round we need to keep hold of Yanic Wildschut, Will Grigg and Max Power, who is rumoured to be of some interest from other Championship clubs.
Warren Joyce has already identified bringing in a goalkeeper as his main target in this transfer window. With any luck his other targets can really bolster our squad with helping us get out of the relegation zone.
With a possible transfer in the pipeline for Ravel Morrison, who’s meant to be training with us, it seems he could just be the attacking spark that we need.
Three/four years ago, Ravel was meant to be the next big star in the game. But he’s never shown his true potential.
In my opinion he’s like Nick Powell, on his day he’s better than anyone but sometimes what he does off the field and his attitude lets himself down.
Hopefully the ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ can help us in tomorrow’s tie against Nottingham Forest. We should be looking to win at all costs to try and gain some momentum. Also the players and supporters need that feeling back of what it’s like to win a game again.
Following the defeat against Ipswich last month I stated my belief that Latics needed at least four points from the games against Rotherham and Derby. They took one point and as excellent a point as it was against Derby we needed so much more - especially after Monday’s defeat to Huddersfield. Warren Joyce was right when he said we contained one of the better sides in the league for long periods on Monday but I have to disagree when he says he thought we played well. We played ok, nothing more, nothing better than just ok. If we had played as well as the manager seems to think we would have had a shot on target.
The fact we once again went through a game without any sort of attacking intent or idea on how to break down a stubborn defence is a massive area of concern, especially when you have all of your best attacking threats on the pitch at the same time. We had a five man forward line during the last five minutes of Monday’s match and we still couldn’t get anywhere near Huddersfield’s area. Not one shot against a side who had made seven changes from their previous match. That is what’s really hurting us and costing games, not a mistake from Jussi Jaaskelainen as the manager insinuated in his post match interviews.
Relegation is looking more a matter of when than if at the moment. I did a bit of calculating after the Huddersfield match and basing what we need on what Rotherham achieved last season in finishing fourth from bottom. We need around another 30 points minimum. So that’s 10 wins - Warren Joyce has taken five points from his first 30 available.
It’s going to take a massive turnaround in fortunes to even get close to that, the parallels with our last season in the Championship couldn’t be more stark. Virtually the same points total at this stage as we had when Malky Mackay entered January and already talk of a fire sale of our more valuable assets. It’s as though everything we did and everything we achieved last season was for nothing. Maybe fresh blood coming in this month can help to galvanise us but it rarely works like that as we found out to our cost last time we were at this level.
It’s Nottingham Forest and the FA Cup this weekend, after our history with the tournament no Wigan supporter should ever dismiss the competition but it does feel a distraction from the important matter of staying in the Championship this year - who knows maybe a win against fellow Championship opposition could help to trigger something in our league form.
One can only hope.
Welcome to this week’s episode of The Blame Game! Please press the red button to interact and get the list of options to vote for your chosen scapegoat this week. Don’t forget to text 110513 followed by a number of your choice to cast your vote.
Vote one for Jussi, vote two for Joyce, vote three for Caldwell, vote four for the whole board, vote five for Barrow and of course – ever popular – vote six for Roberto Martinez, because all roads eventually lead back to him don’t they? Please ask an adult first if you are not responsible for paying the bill.
I jest but the fact is that there is more finger pointing going on amongst Latics fans than at a Saturday Night Fever reunion gig. I have my own theories, yet being someone who is always willing to read and take on board contrary opinions, it’s clear that there are some fairly complex issues which have led us to the dismal outlook we find ourselves with now.
The simple facts are that results haven’t been good enough. Gary Caldwell was sacked after losing seven out of 14 games. Warren Joyce has now lost seven in 10 games. In my opinion – and it has now become mandatory to include those three words in any piece of this nature despite it saying my name at the bottom – we looked a lot closer to getting it right under Caldwell than we are now.
However, Joyce has now got a transfer window to try and mix things up a bit and rectify purported recruitment errors made in the summer – another big bugbear of the club and the fans, resulting in our head of recruitment getting potted at the same time as Gary Caldwell.
The players as a collective have also attracted their fair share of blame. For me (IMO) they seemed happier, more purposeful under Caldwell – and have bordered on rebellion at times under Joyce; if indeed you can have such a thing as a half-hearted rebellion. Player power (no pun intended) is never a good thing but unfortunately is a key factor, which has caused serious distress to Wigan Athletic as little as two years ago.
The argument that they are not good enough simply doesn’t stack up, given nearly every one of them has prior experience at Championship level, indeed half a dozen or so have played in the Premier League, and the only regular player who hasn’t is currently attracting attention from other Championship clubs.
Surely it is the job of a manager and/or coach to get the best out of them rather than complaining of a bad hand? Surely those 10 days in which Warren Joyce and the club were deliberating, he must have had a look at the squad, done research and if he thought it was no good, then withdrawn his barge pole and sailed his boat back down the Leeds and Liverpool canal?
It looks increasingly like a repeat of two years ago where a series of either purposeful or accidental decisions are leading us to prepare ourselves for League One. There is no positivity around the club, only silence and the occasional hard luck story. If we are to stand any chance at all of staying up, something needs to change soon.
Maybe a morale boosting cup run would help?
In the calendar year of 2016 there was a first for Wigan Athletic, it was the first year since we played Great Harwood in 1933 in our first ever game in the competition that we didn’t compete in the FA cup.
Having lost 4-0 away at Bury in the first round on November 7, 2015 and then promoted to the Championship, subsequently not entering the competition until the third round stage this season, 2016 didn’t see the Latics participate in the cup, now I for one have missed it.
For a couple of seasons we felt invincible in what is the world’s greatest cup competition, 2013 was of course a great year in the annals of the club, the win away at Everton in the sixth round was a demonstration of just how good we should have been throughout that season, the final on May 11 was one of, if not the greatest, days in the club’s history.
Going to Man City in the quarter-finals a season later and the memories that game had take some beating, a cool Gomez penalty after Fortune had been upended, Perch putting us two up shortly after half-time and Boycey’s world class block on Dzeko when he looked destined to score.
The semi-final against Arsenal was bittersweet, we were out but didn’t lose, what a rollercoaster game that was.
Great memories that still linger from seasons with huge disappointments, that’s what a cup run can do, that is why we follow our clubs and love the cup so much, the uplifting emotions live longer than the downs.
Forest at home on Saturday gives us an opportunity to put in a good performance away from the pressure of a relegation battle. I am looking forward to an open and entertaining game and some goals. Maybe we can go on a cup run, give some confidence to the players and belief that they can win games under the new manager and give the fans something to shout about rather than the negative vibes that we are feeling at the moment.
The FA cup can change your season. We won’t win it, mind you I thought that right up until the 91st minute at Wembley in 2013, but it can give you belief, confidence, the winning mentality that we will need in the coming months, and it can galvanise the supporters behind the club. Let’s give it a go.
Up the ‘tics!
A New Year’s article written by the Internet
Happy New Week, Latisticians. Because I’m a poor writer and can’t generate 400 words of original content without resorting to random sentence generation software, here is a selection of New Year’s messages stolen from social networking Internet website trollfacebook.com.
At 12:01AM on 1 January 2017, LatikAsthmatic wrote:
”Happy New Ye- hey, why hasn’t Warren signed anyone yet? Get to work you sl”
(Ed.: Presumably that last part was sliced off by a restrictive character limit or automatic censorship algorithm. However, I’m fairly sure the final words would have been ‘slick operator’.)
At 12:33AM on 1 January 2017, DavidQSharpmeister (verified account) wrote:
“Should all car painters, beef or cotton, never brought to mine… HIC! Hippy Nude Beer, burble.”
(Ed.: This message was deleted five minutes later along with a second post claiming that Manchester United had made a £3,000,000 bid for Will Grigg. Also attached to the latter was a photograph of a white bull terrier wearing a Santa hat. Er… allegedly.)
At 12:45AM on 1 January 2017, Panicked Wildshots wrote:
”Wigan Athletic still unbeaten this calendar year! Also: I still haven’t taken a bath this year.”
At 1:23PM on 1 January 2017, GarethOurColdwall wrote:
(Ed.: That wasn’t me, but Gareth’s own editor removing the words ‘I still could have done a better job’. And I have no idea who this mysterious Gaz Coldwall dude/dudette might actually be.)
At 4:17PM on 1 January 2017, Raphael Mutant-Turtlezz wrote:
“Me and what army? Me and Diame – Momo Diame. Fact.”
(Ed.: This was in response to Brighton fans questioning Newcastle’s ability to win the Championship title this year. Well, I thought it was funny.)
Well, that was the easiest 12th Man I’ll ever ‘write’. Keep on being obnoxious, Trollfacebook – it saves me a job. Now clear off while I nurse this lemonade and diet cola hangover with liquidised carrots and extra cripsy baconated cheese.