LATICS fans hope their trip to Barnsley will end their recent poor run...
LAST weekend was poor – the weather, the performance, the result.
But that is enough about X-factor, what about the Latics!
We were certainly missing the X-factor down at the DW Stadium.
A shocker of a game, no cohesion anywhere in the team, the first decent effort coming on 70-odd minutes when Will Grigg’s drive was tipped over the bar by the Blackpool keeper.
That was as good as it got, too.
The fans let their feelings known at the final whistle with a few boos ringing out, and it capped a very disappointing and frustrating afternoon.
This was the game where we should have got back on track, but football is like that.
You can’t take anything for granted, and the only way out of this mini-slump is hard work – which I am positive will be happening on the training ground.
The home defeat to Burton a couple of weeks back appears to have had an effect on the players.
We have gone from the invincible attitude that an 11-game unbeaten run in the league can bring to one that is a little nervous.
Now it appears the players are afraid to take responsibility but, as previously stated, hard work on the training pitch – coupled with our undoubted quality at this level – and we should turn this around in no time.
We’re off to Barnsley on Saturday, and we may feel we owe them one for knocking us out of the JPT earlier this month.
Despite their lowly position, the Tykes looked a decent outfit to me.
But we have never lost to Barnsley in a league game, and you have to go back to the 1978/79 season for the last time we didn’t take maximum points off them.
Hopefully that run will continue, and we will show our X-factor and get back to winning ways on our visit over the Pennines.
Up The ‘Tics!
LATICS have gone from heroes to zeros in the space of only a few weeks.
And the fans are wondering if the wheels have come off the promotion bus.
Latics travel to Oakwell on Saturday to face a resurgent Barnsley team who ended their hopes of Wembley in the JPT. If they were to lose, they could drop out of the out of the play-off zone.
The pressure is increasing on Gary Caldwell and his team to stop the rot. It is evident the players are under-performing, and the manager needs to review his tactics.
Latics currently lack the creativity to break down the opposition.
The midfield players are not providing the quality ammunition for the forwards.
The build-up play is too slow and predictable, and other teams have found it easy to nullify any attacks.
The team has been relying on the individual brilliance of Yanic Wildschut. If he is well marked, we do not threaten.
Caldwell is also struggling to decide on his best attacking players.
He has rotated his forward players regularly, but he needs to find the right combination and vary his tactical approach to get back to winning ways.
During Latics’ successful period they closed down quickly, won the ball with efficiency and moved the ball forward quickly.
They should now return to this type of play, make better use of the 4-4-2 formation, adopt a pressing game and pose a bigger threat going forward.
They need more creativity from midfield and they need to attack on both flanks.
With Wildschut and Jacobs as the wide men and Grigg and others getting into the box they are capable of scoring more goals.
There is also a strong case for Francisco Junior as a creative option. But whatever the line-up the players need to get back to their previous good habits if they are to combat the current malaise.
The players must take greater responsibility, and the manager has to make some difficult decisions about his team and tactics if they are going to be successful.
IN the space of a month, we’ve gone from being unbeatable at the DW to losing three out of three in front of our fans.
If we’re all brutally honest, such results have been threatening to become reality for a several weeks.
Opponents are finding it too easy to come here and park the bus, frustrate us and then punish us on the counter attack or from set pieces.
Swindon and Shrewsbury came close, but our persistence paid off and we managed to get the one goal in each game to gain six points.
But it was only a matter of time before a team with quality and confidence punished us, and that’s what Burton did.
We couldn’t break them down and they had the quality on the counter attack to nick a winner.
That result wasn’t too worrying, because they are the team to beat in League One – even if Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left for QPR.
However, there was one anomaly.
Struggling Blackpool came here on Saturday, a club that could barely string together a squad at the beginning of the season, and they made us look poor.
They also pinched a goal, although it was from a corner, and took the spoils 1-0.
Now that loss was worrying. In fact, it is worrying.
We need a Plan B at home, a way of turning these types of teams over, or else we can kiss promotion goodbye.
I don’t know how we do it – that’s what the manager Gary Caldwell and his coaching staff are paid for.
Let’s hope they can sort it.
Away from home is not the issue, because teams will take the game to us and we can use our quality on the counter-attack to hurt them. It’s at home where the issue lies.
The style Caldwell wants to play will beat most sides, but it’s the gritty games against the tough teams where we will struggle – and have struggled.
As things stand we’re sitting fairly comfortable in the league and look good value for a play-off spot.
But that is where the good news finishes.
Following successive relegations, it is pleasing to see the Latics lining up in the top half of the table – albeit the League One table.
And it is positive to be clear of a relegation battle for a change.
While a top-six finish does not look beyond us, I feel we are too frail to either challenge for a top two spot, or to have enough to win the play-offs should we secure our spot in there.
The top three sides look a class above and would be the solid bet for promotion.
This was proved by Burton Albion, who came to the DW the other week and ground out a great result.
A squad without big-name players or a big budget, they looked organised and followed their manager’s game plan to the letter as they defeated the Latics.
With the largest budget in the division, it would be easy to have a go at the manager or his 11 charges on the field each week.
But it doesn’t always happen that way.
Manchester City and Chelsea both learned the hard way that success cannot be bought, but rather needs to be built.
We had wholesale changes over the summer, which included not only a new playing staff but also a new manager and even a new chairman.
Home defeats to Blackpool are unexpected and signify the issues in a new squad, as we float from the sublime to the ridiculous each week without rhyme or reason.
The main issue at the moment is our overly defensive outlook on games, particularly at home where we need to command and attack against excessively defensive teams.
To adopt a back three with a defensive midfielder in front of them is over-kill when the opposition line up with just the solitary striker.
This then means were outnumbered at the other end of the field and over-reliant on the impressive runs of Yanic Wildschut.
Promotions are not easy, we know that.
If Gary Caldwell can manage to gel together the current squad, and keep hold of Wildschut and perhaps add a shrewd January addition or two, we could well still step up to being genuine challengers to go back up in to the Championship.
I’m struggling to put into words the correct way to describe our performance against Blackpool last weekend.
I would have said horrendous, dreadful and poor.
But then I took into account the torrid weather conditions.
And I still came up with horrendous, dreadful and poor!
It’s a far stretch from the place we were a few weeks back when we were 11 games unbeaten.
The fact was that Blackpool deserved the victory, and in the end played the conditions better than we did.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fan of Gary Caldwell trying to get the ball down and passing the ball.
But I don’t think Saturday wasn’t the time or place to be playing all out passing football.
The football we did play was slow, and predictable and gave Blackpool the chance to regroup and defend manfully.
In the end, I don’t think we created enough for a team with as much quality as we do in this squad.
Caldwell started the game with Don Cowie, David Perkins and Max Power as a midfield trio.
And it was clear early on that they lacked a creative spark going forward.
All are good footballers in my opinion. But all three you’d say do the same job by sitting in front of the defence and keeping things ticking over.
Cowie was dragged off at half time for Donervon Daniels in an effort to change things, which didn’t work ultimately.
I felt that was the wrong choice when Francisco Junior was sat waiting in the wings.
I’ve also banged on all season in these pieces about how good of a goalscorer Will Grigg is at this level.
Yet I’m starting to feel like it’s pointless us having a player like him when we don’t use him properly.
He spent a lot of time on the right wing, with Craig Davies spending more time through the centre, and I’d be inclined to have it the other way around.
Grigg is at his best in the penalty area and, if we just throw half a chance his way, he’ll probably come up with the goods for us.
It’s the first real time under Caldwell that some fans are now starting to get restless.
But that isn’t the case with me.
It’s easy to forget this is his first job in management, and he’s still learning the trade in a job where everybody expects you to run away with the league.
I’ve been critical above, but it’s only because I know that the team Caldwell has put together are capable of better.
We’ve seen it this season, so here’s hoping a confident performance and three points at Barnsley this weekend put a few worries to bed.