The 12th Man Column: 'This is why Wigan Athletic's away form is so poor'
Our 12th man columnists give their thoughts on Latics' poor away form...
Arghhh! That was a hard one to take, of course I’m on about the Derby game, undeniably our best away performance of the season and to come away with nothing is gut wrenching.
The backlash against Cook is in full swing on social media but barring him putting his boots on and putting away one or more of the numerous chances Massey, Moore and Lowe squandered, I don’t see what more he could’ve done. He set up the team with the three across the middle that had everyone gushing with positivity for 90 minutes because it seemed we’ve stumbled across something that might work and, by the way, how good is Williams?
He’s getting better and better and hopefully cut out the rash challenges, alongside McCloud, they’re forming a decent partnership and bringing Morsy worked well.
I know people are calling for Cook’s head because of the result and mainly because of his subs, the Mulgrew one was obviously forced upon him and hopefully it’s nothing too serious because he’s been immense at the back, steadying the ship that was leaking goals to being hard to score against, we looked a lot more vulnerable again when Kipre came on and even Marshall was telling him to calm down and stop panicking.
“We should’ve put Gelhardt on and gone for it,” was a general consensus after the game and in hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, maybe so.
But maybe Cook thought Garner will run his backside off and keep their defence busy, who knows? It’s plain to see the players are still with Cook, as am I and yes, I feel our home form is keeping him in a job but we’ve got to start turning performances into points or I do fear we’ll be looking for a new manager sooner rather than later.
UP THE TICS!
Well another away game, same old story. Cook is still trying to fool fans by saying we don’t change tactics, formation, mentality etc away from home. He still claims not to know why our away form is so different to our home.
Well the reason for this is, he continues to change the way we play away from home.
Out of the six home games, he has played our usual 4-2-3-1 with a recognised No.10/attacking-minded player in five of these games. We haven’t lost any.
The one game he turned to 4-3-3 with three defensive midfielders was our only defeat against Leeds, albeit we did have a man sent off.
Out of the seven away games he has played five at the back on two occasions, both defeats, one against a terrible Middlesbrough team; 4-3-3 on two occasions with three defensive midfielders, again both defeats, one against a bad Derby team.
For the Preston away game following our opening day win, he decided to change the centre-half partnership and also brought the defensive minded Naismith into the team, again another defeat.
Out of the seven away games I would say he has played his usual ‘home’ formation/tactics in two games.
One a draw away at Hull and another a narrow defeat at 3rd-place Sheffield Wednesday.
I’m sick of hearing he doesn’t know why the away form is so different, here is an idea – play the same way we do at home. He isn’t a good enough manager to set a team up to get a draw away from home.
For me all Wigan fans would rather him ‘have a go’ away from home like the Stoke and Aston Villa games from last season.
It is his last chance for me on Sunday, let’s hope he has a go against Bristol and if we are really lucky we might even see a recognised No.10 in an away game or even still, see a Young England captain start a game.
Two international breaks have given the season a stop start feeling. Not many people enjoy these disruptions though it may give an out of form team a chance to regroup and focus on what may be going wrong. Certainly Paul Cook and Latics had a dreadful August and the manager’s role was the subject of debate among our fans.
So maybe someone benefited from this enforced break. Since then our home form has been exceptional with the emergence of Williams in midfield and the steadying influence of Mulgrew at the back. The result and performance against Forest was very pleasing.
Something to build on you might think. During this same period our Jekyll and Hyde home and away form continues to frustrate and even anger some of our support.
Cook says he felt “physically sick” after Derby’s late winner. So did we. He talks about “away form” but sidestepped any scrutiny of his change of tactics, formation and general team shape on the road.
No shots on target at Fulham. A negative approach and defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. A masterclass in how to lose 1-0 at Derby.
He only made two changes from Sunday and one of them was enforced by suspension. However that one change was significant in changing the whole mindset of the team and their approach.
Attacking midfielder Jacobs replaced by holding midfielder Morsy which sets up with THREE holding midfielders. Why does any team in any league need three players protecting a back four?
Who is left to attack?
You could argue that we nearly nicked a point and it nearly worked. That players missing easy chances is not the manager’s fault. It is.
His team selections away from home are predictable as he always changes a winning team and makes it more defensive. Morsy is a great player but McLeod and Williams deserved to start and Sam should have returned on the bench.
Playing all three is far too cautious and gave us limited attacking outlets. The manager is fond of saying that it is an unforgiving league.
He says there are massive iconic clubs in this division. There are. He tells us we are punching above our weight in this league. That is true. It is also the case that we have a natural born goalscorer in Joe Geldhart being used sparingly. Whilst we can’t pin too much responsibility on young shoulders surely if you are good enough you are old enough. Rooney and Giggs, anyone?
Our abysmal away days are no coincidence and there is no mental block. We have a manager who steadfastly refuses to carry attacking home performance and replicate them on the road.
I am not calling for his head but I just wish that he would use his head. Have a go.
If we lose 4-3 or 3-2 it can’t be worse than sitting back and getting hit by a sucker punch which has become the norm.
Away days used to be fun but they are now a chore. Making mistakes is part of life but Cook never seems to learn from his.
If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what have you have always got. In our case nil points on a regular basis. Martinez’s motto was, “Sin Miedo”, or without fear.
Cook pays too much respect to the opponents and the outcome is all too predictable. What’s even more predictable is that he will not change.
He may have his detractors but he’s his own worst enemy.
It’s always difficult to remain objective in the heat of the moment and the morning after the Derby match might still be an example of that, but once again the issue of substitutions (and team selection) for me comes right to the fore.
I haven’t written for a couple of weeks now as I wanted to see what developed and to gain a more rounded view of the mood around the club with the supporters.
Let’s get a couple of things right though, I really like Paul Cook as a person, a character and what he has brought this football club, I think that goes for most fans but I have called for him to go for a long time now and that viewpoint has not changed over these last few weeks.
We need a new direction, we need someone to be brave with team selection and we need something to help change that dreadful away record.
I have never been one to boo or barrack any player that pulls that shirt on for Wigan Athletic – every one of them tries hard every week and every one of them will have their good days and yes, they will have their bad days too. That is just football, but the way they are set up and the jobs they are given doesn’t help them at times and that comes down to the manager.
My biggest gripe at the moment is that we have one of the best young talents in the country sat on the bench, because, well I am not really sure, is it because he is young?
It must be – it can’t be because he is physically weak, the lad’s an absolute tank… he is the captain of the England Under 18s and is scoring for fun. I can’t be any clearer – PLAY HIM EVERY GAME when he is fit and available.
I loved the three lads in midfield at Derby, that worked a treat, an absolute treat – they combined well and gave us lots of energy and effort – Joe Williams is a great prospect, one of our best bits of business (along with Robinson) for a good while.
We seem to have paid £3m-£4m for Moore to use him as a tall bloke to hit 50-yard balls to, not really sure what the idea is there - can’t fault his work rate or effort, but he won’t score this side of Christmas with that set up.
But those subs at Derby, that was the final straw for me and lots of other supporters too.
Derby were shockingly poor on Wednesday evening. On a better day we would have been three or four goals up by the hour mark – we were in total control and the three points were there for the taking, look to the bench and we have Gelhardt, Pilkington and Windass chomping at the bit – and bring on Garner and Naismith.
I could have thrown the television through the front window. Such a negative approach to a golden opportunity and we see it so often. Then wonder why we come away with nothing!
(I need an over-rider in here that I am a fan of both Garner and Naismith but at that point in time we needed a game winner and right now, neither of them are that).
What happens next? I don’t know, but I do know that we need to play Joe Gelhardt as much as we possibly can – he is a rare talent and we need to embrace that, right now!
I’m going to start with a positive. The performance against Derby was promising and if we at least build on this performance throughout the season, our place in this division should be safe.
My personal opinion on this game is that there is blame to be shared.
The substitutions can be blamed, and those who are criticising them are within their right to do so but I think a bigger factor is the amount of good opportunities wasted throughout the game.
This game isn’t the only evidence of this as previous matches have had similar results. Even considering the win over Charlton, we dominated them throughout the game, but if it wasn’t for our centre back scoring at two set-pieces, we could have easily walked away from that game with just a point.
The game against Sheffield Wednesday was also a decent performance but yet we walked away empty handed. This defeat was gut-wrenching as Derby were there for the taking and it took a tremendous strike in the final couple of minutes to put us away. Countless Derby fans commented how they absolutely robbed us of a result, and for good reason. We need to stop being wasteful.
We need to start putting away our chances. Started on a positive and I’m going to end on a positive. We shouldn’t let our heads drop as 89 minutes of that game was solid and as such, we should back the manager while he’s currently our manager. We’ll come good. Keep the faith.