Stam calls for rigid rearguard

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RONNIE Stam has called for Wigan Athletic’s rearguard to remain rigid ahead of a massive month of Premier League action.

This weekend’s visit of Arsenal kicks off a daunting-looking December programme for Latics, who also face West Brom, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Stoke before 2011 is out.

Stam, though, believes a continuation of the defensive solidity that has laid the foundations for their recent resurgence can help Latics pick up enough points during the next month to move up the table.

“It’s important we remain tight at the back, because that will be important with some big games coming up,” Stam told the Evening Post.

“The defence was solid throughout the Sunderland game, which helped us to get the win. And to be honest it was the same against Blackburn, after we conceded that first goal.

“The other goals we conceded were to a penalty and a corner, we didn’t give much else away.

“We knew if we could continue in that vein we could do something at Sunderland, and that goes for Arsenal too.

“At home we don’t fear anyone, and we can give Arsenal a real game if we keep up our performance levels.”

Stam also denied that the victory at Sunderland would act as a watershed for Wigan’s season – because he feels the turning-point came the previous weekend.

“This isn’t the start of our season, that was the Blackburn game,” Stam insisted.

“We scored three great goals, they scored three not-so-great goals, and I still don’t know how we didn’t win.

“The thing was, our whole performance was good – the defence was solid, the attack created loads of chances – and that gave us the platform to go to Sunderland and believe we could win.

“Something in me told me we were going to win the game at the end, I just knew it. I don’t know where it came from, but I always have feelings about things like that and I felt it was going to happen.

“We had to be strong, particularly in that first half, but everybody was solid, we were all happy with the system and it worked well for us.

“The manager has been working so hard to turn things around and that victory was for him.”