Talking football: Fine margins going Wigan's way at last
Fine margins are often spouted by players and managers in the aftermath of a narrow defeat.
But never was that cliche more evident than last weekend on a pivotal afternoon in the League One promotion race.
With 90 minutes up at the Bescot, and Walsall pushing for a late winner to cement their own second place, Yanic Wildschut received the ball on the Wigan Athletic left.
One drop of the shoulder and a brilliant finish later, and Latics are up from fourth to second in the table - only four points behind leaders Burton.
The Brewers then go and lose one of their games in hand at Southend on Monday, and all of a sudden the gap could be down to one this weekend.
No-one at Wigan will be taking Bury lightly after the three previous games between the two sides this term.
But, on current form, a home win at the DW seems likely.
Burton, meanwhile, will face a Walsall side still choking on a sense of injustice from last weekend, and anxious to make up some lost ground of their own.
With a third of the campaign still to go, it’s well and truly game on.
While others around them are showing visible signs of faltering, all continues to look rather rosy in the Latics garden at the moment.
An 11-game unbeaten run stretching all the way back to the 2-0 victory at Barnsley on December 20.
That game saw Craig Morgan return to the heart of the defence alongside Jason Pearce, and it’s impossible to ignore the role played in recent weeks by the two defensive rocks.
Both had their injury problems before Christmas, but are now looking like they’ve been playing alongside each other for years such is their understanding.
And let’s not forget Jussi Jaaskelainen behind them, whose introduction to the team in October has also been a massive factor in the tightening up at the back.
Gary Caldwell admitted this week that even he had been taken aback by the impact made by Jaaskelainen, who’d originally been brought in as cover last summer but soon made the No.1 jersey his own.
Despite turning 41 in April, it would be no surprise to see him extend his spell at the DW for another year - certainly based on recent performance levels.
At present, the only side looking capable of stopping the Latics juggernaut is Latics themselves.
And with a number of their players this week - as well as the manager - warning against the dangers of complacency, let’s hope the fine run continues for another 10 weeks or so.
He goes about his business with the minimum of fuss, and much of his work goes under the radar.
But the signing of Sam Morsy during the January transfer window could well turn out to be one of the key moments of the campaign.
While Yanic Wildschut garnered most of the headlines for his last-gasp winner at Walsall, the performance of Morsy in the engine room was
Constantly breaking up Walsall attacks, and throwing himself into timely blocks, the ex-Chesterfield man showed why a number of Championship clubs wanted to land him last month.
And why Latics pulled off a real coup in persuading him to stay in League One - for a few months at least.
It was interesting to hear Arsene Wenger bemoaning the gamesmanship of Barcelona following Arsenal’s 2-0 Champions League defeat in midweek.
“They are tricky,” Wenger said. “Whenever they go down, they shout. They never go down silent, so that influences the referee every time. It’s all of them.”
I don’t know why, but the words “pot”, “kettle” and “black” suddenly suggested themselves at an alarmingly loud volume.
With Wenger only giving his side a ‘5 per cent’ chance of winning the tie, it means all Arsenal’s eggs are in the Premier League basket.
Another FA Cup - even a third in a row - won’t cut it for a club of Arsenal’s size and means.
And passing up the most open title race in history would only give credence to the words of Jose Mourinho, that Wenger - whose last Premier League triumph was a dozen years ago - has become a ‘specialist in failure’.
Michael Owen has certainly accumulated his fair share of critics during his short career in the commentary box.
And he found himself the top trend on social media on Monday night during the Shrewsbury-Manchester United game.
When Owen’s unique assessment of why United’s second goal should have been chalked off prompted this genius reply from @TheMediaTweets:
“Michael Owen just described players as being “3 million per cent offside”. Does anyone know if that’s the most offside anyone has ever been?”