No on-field action this weekend for our panel of Latics experts to discuss - but no shortage of talking points as ever!
Stuart Glover: Four losses in a row, and we’re going down the table faster than a union flag on a ship’s slippery flag pole.
However there are reasons to be cheerful and certainly not to panic.
While the Millwall game was very disappointing in terms of the performance, result and the fact that we didn’t build on the West Brom game. Since then we have lost to three very good teams. Sheffield United, Leeds and Middlesbrough are all currently in the top four. Absolutely no one expected us to be in the top four at any stage this season, and so while that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t win those games, it does mean that we were never favourites and that the games simply went to form.
None of those teams beat us by more than two goals. None of them blew us out. In fact in the Leeds and Boro games, it seems to have been silly mistakes that were our undoing. Hopefully mistakes like that can be eliminated quickly.
I know that it is an obvious excuse but we have had some unfortunate injuries. Will Grigg is the main man that we miss. He has developed into such a good striker, such a good focal point for our attack, that we are not the same team without him. And do not underestimate the impact that his presence on the pitch has on the opposition. They need to pay specific attention to Grigg, which can leave space and opportunities for others.
However, we still seem to be giving games a real go and attacking teams – Sheffield United fans were quite complimentary about us following the game with them – and we have still been able to find the net during Grigg’s absence.
The problem is that while we are only averaging one goal a game over the last few matches, we are making too many basic errors which are leading to conceding more goals than we score!
Our schedule will also get easier. Our next two games are Reading and Blackburn at home. And we should be able to beat Bolton anywhere! Not long after that we will play Ipswich. A few good results from those games and things will start to feel a lot better.
But the main reason not to panic is Paul Cook. I said at the start of the season that the gaffer will be the key to our success this term. He is so optimistic and jolly. He is an infectious character. The players undoubtedly like him and they will continue to play for him. I am convinced that if anyone can keep the squad focused and return us to form, it is him.
Which is why, even a couple of unsubstantiated rumours about his future potentially being in doubt are totally unwelcome. It is a fact of football that in the vast majority of circumstances a takeover is followed by a change of manager. Latics fans broadly welcome IEC’s purchase of the club because it is hoped that it will bring some needed stability following Dave Whelan’s decision to sell the club. But very few, if any, will welcome Paul Cook being shown the door at any stage this season.
The Royle family who now rule at Wigan have said that this season will be one of consolidation. Well you don’t consolidate by creating upheaval through sacking a popular and successful manager.
And anyway. Be happy. We’re still above Bolton. And we’re still above Preston. As long as we’re above someone else as well, we’d take that at the end of the season.
Kieran Makin: Sometimes timing can be everything. Speaking of which, I don’t think this international break could have come at a better time for us.
We’ve had a tough run of fixtures where we’ve learned some harsh, ruthless truths about Championship football. Hard games against promotion hopefuls such as Sheffield United, Leeds and Middlesbrough have ensured the honeymoon period of this season is well and truly over.
Having said that, we have been missing some key players which explains our lack of creativity going forward. Hopefully we’ll see the likes of Will Grigg return after this break, while Nick Powell will be 100 per cent and Gavin Massey and Michael Jacobs edge closer to fitness.
Despite recent results, we haven’t necessarily been blown away in any games. Yes, teams have been better than us, I have no problems with that, but the main positive is that we know we can compete at this level.
What we need to do now is take points from teams around us, starting with Reading at home - our next game. If we lose that and fail to pick up a result at Bolton, then we can start to be worried.
However, if we get two positive results then the Christmas period will look a lot better from where we’ll be sitting.
Let’s just not lose at Bolton and not lose faith in Paul Cook.
Joe O’Neill: Normally the international break is a part in the season which every football fan dreads. However, for us it could well be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully the next time we play in the league, Will Grigg and Gavin Massey will be pushing for a start, as we’re in desperate need of first team regulars back in the side.
The injury crisis as you may call it has alarmed probably just not the supporters but Paul Cook himself that maybe the fringe players in the squad, aren’t quite good enough to compete in the Championship. It is slightly worrying just the number of players who’re injured at the moment, with Antonee Robinson being the latest sidelined and with no real cover in the left-back spot, it will be interesting to see who operates in that position against Reading. Dan Burn has stepped into the role on a couple of occasion, so that may be an avenue Cook might want to go down once again.
The next month or so it seems will demonstrate where we will be competing in this league until May. With Reading, Blackburn, Bolton, Birmingham and Ipswich mixed in between Derby, we’ve got to looking at them as ‘winnable’ and there is no reason why we couldn’t be picking up points with them teams being around us.