Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man

Our 12th man columnists discuss Latics' form and the Christmas schedule...

Friday, 21st December 2018, 10:26 am
Updated Friday, 21st December 2018, 11:28 am
Sam Morsy

PAUL MIDDLETON: By the time Saturday is over, we’ll be right at the halfway point of the season.

Despite our disappointing away form, and lack of goals on a consistent basis, I’m okay with how things are.

We’re 16th in the league at Christmas, which we’d all have taken in August – six points clear of the drop zone.

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Plus, Bolton are in chaotic freefall, which is better than getting your two front teeth as a present.

Look, anybody who thought this league was going to be an easy ride is delusional.

If you think there is a gap between the Premier League and the Championship, you need to triple it between the Championship and League One.

In the Championship, we have former winners of the league, former FA Cup winners and former European Cup winners.

In League One, we have Shrewsbury Town and Wycombe Wanderers.

That we are even remotely competitive in our present league is remarkable.

Those who think otherwise must have short memories.

Last time we were here, we were miles out of our depth.

Now, we’re treading water, at least, so it’s a huge improvement.

But enough of that, it’s Christmas and I promised to be festive for this last 12th Man contribution before the sprouts kick in.

I love Christmas football, I really do.

Even as a kid, I could imagine nothing better than presents on one day, and football on the next.

And all in the middle of a couple of weeks when school wasn’t given a second thought.

There was always a different atmosphere, especially at the Boxing Day matches, which the rest of the season just can’t live with.

Things have changed a little, unfortunately, with no guarantee of a 3pm kick-off any more.

The fixture planners also don’t care about how far fans have to travel.

Not that they ever really did, but tickets and transport used to be cheap.

Now, it’s a major outlay of cash at the most expensive time of the year.

You won’t often hear me praising the rugby league, but they get it exactly right. I know few games involve any kind of real distance, but Bank Holiday games are almost always local derbies.

This means big crowds and lots of rivalry.

With the greatest respect to West Brom, it’s not the Boxing Day fixture anybody was praying for.

But, alas, it is what it is.

So enjoy your Christmas, enjoy your New Year, and enjoy Latics scoring an away goal.

I know it’ll happen because I’m on Santa’s nice list.

SEAN LIVESEY: Wigan Athletic do make it hard for us don’t they?

Another away day, another loss and another Saturday evening left scratching our heads wondering how we lost that.

I mentioned last week that we had to guard against going to Portman Road expecting Ipswich would roll over for us.

Their terrible home record looked like the perfect opportunity for Latics to get back to winning ways on the road.

But as we’ve seen countless times this season, what looks a given on paper doesn’t actually translate to the pitch.

If you look at the stats from Saturday, many will ask just how Latics managed to lose the match but lose it they did, giving Ipswich their first home win of the season – well it is the season of goodwill to all men I suppose.

Saturday’s match followed that well-worn path of Latics having all the play but taking none of their chances.

Something is clearly wrong on the road, especially when you look at the stats of the match, and it’s a psychological block that Paul Cook and the players simply must get over as it’s beginning to affect our season.

As with Preston, Millwall and QPR earlier in the season, Latics arrived at Portman Road clear favourites against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table.

And as with Preston, Millwall and QPR, Latics came away empty-handed thanks to a defensive lapse and a lack of cutting edge up front.

I suppose if we had beatensides like Ipswich, Millwall and Preston, yet lost to Stoke and West Brom, people wouldn’t be as concerned about our form.

As it is, we’ve beaten sides we weren’t expected to and lost to sides we were expected to beat.

At home Latics are a completely different prospect, and it’s the home form that is seeing us keep our heads above water.

Let us be in no doubt injuries have had a massive effect on our form this season.

With players returning and the January transfer window opening soon, we have to hope pressure will be eased on a stretched squad.

With any luck, our away form in the second half of the season will be better than it has been in the first.

There is an argument to say Wigan are in their natural place in the table, which is true to some extent.

We’ve had some big results against the teams at the top end of the table, which makes the losses against Ipswich all the more frustrating.

But I have every faith Cook and the management team will turn things around again.

With Birmingham on Saturday, it’s important we get three points.

The trip to the Hawthorns on Boxing Day looks ominous and, as a result, it would be good to go in to the Christmas period with a win.

Gary Monk’s side have recovered from a disappointing start to the season and won’t be an easy proposition.

Latics will have to be at their best to collect three points, but they are a much-needed three points.

Let’s hope we can do it.

STUART GLOVER: Another away game, another defeat.

What is going on with our away form? Why is it so bad? How can our home form be so good (fourth best in the division I believe) while at the same time we are so bad away from the DW.

In fact, with only four points from a possible 33 on our travels this season, there are only a couple of teams worse than us.

But why? Why is the away form so bad?

Here are some suggestions that have been made recently.

Could it be Paul Cook? Are his tactics away from home different from those at the DW? Or perhaps they are just less effective.

Perhaps it is to do with the mentality of the players? They are less comfortable, or more nervous or otherwise find it more difficult to play at other grounds.

Maybe it is the fact Callum McManaman is always on the bench rather than on the pitch that is to blame?

What about the defence? Is Christian Walton out of his depth in this division? Perhaps he looked better than he was last year.

What about Dan Burn? Is his head already in Brighton? Since signing for them maybe he is under-performing for us.

Or what about the yellow kit? Is it just as simple that yellow kits are unlucky for us? Would changing kit colour change our form?

Or is it a combination of more than one, or indeed all of the above?

Personally I don’t buy any of them. Not one.

Some of our performances have been poor.

Certainly at Millwall, and apparently on Saturday at Ipswich, we played too many long balls and didn’t play to our strengths.

But there have been games when we have played well.

Sheffield United fans complimented our performance against them.

We have been the better side in games. Not all our defeats have been deserved.

So what is the reason? Does there even have to be a reason?

No. There doesn’t. It could just be one of those things!

Only three results are possible in football.

We haven’t been a team who have drawn many games over the last season and a half.

Most of our games end decisively. We win some and we lose some.

While it is unusual to have such a dramatic difference in home and away results – perhaps that is just what is happening.

An unusual statistical trend.

Paul Cook said earlier in the season the poor away form didn’t bother him.

Obviously that may have changed now that we are deeper into the campaign and the results have not improved.

I understand the criticism of Cook for those comments, especially when we are often told to aim high – as Dave Whelan and David Sharpe did as chairmen.

But there is nothing wrong with a bit of realism.

We are not expected to challenge for the play-offs this season.

Most of us expected us to finish the campaign in the sort of position we’re in now.

While we have had disappointing results against teams like Millwall, QPR, Ipswich and Horwich, some of those teams have improved their results remarkable of late.

It is only at the end of the season that we will see how good or bad our results against them were.

I do believe there are three worse teams in the league than us, and that we will stay up – which should be considered to be a success.

We’re still mid-table and our home form is very good so, while our away form is a concern, it still is not a major worry.

Unless our form at the DW gets worse.

If that happens, then it really will become a problem for us all!