'Personnel' the problem, not formation, insists Wigan Athletic boss
Paul Cook has pleaded with his Wigan Athletic side to cut out the 'horrendous individual mistakes' that are hampering their efforts to stay in the Championship.
Latics picked up a fine point on the road in a four-goal thriller at Bristol City on Saturday, thanks to Anthony Pilkington's stoppage-time leveller.
But it could and perhaps should have been all three, with the visitors dominating their promotion-chasing opponents for most of the game.
However, after leading on the hour mark thanks to a Reece James wondergoal, two goals in the space of four minutes around the three-quarter mark almost saw them leave with nothing.
Cook was unhappy with the way Matty Taylor was able to make it 1-1 despite being in close proximity to Cedric Kipre and Chey Dunkley, who then slipped to allow Taylor to feed Kasey Palmer to put the Robins ahead.
Credit Latics for showing character to rescue a point - but Cook was disappointed it had come to that.
"I don't think that character has ever not been there," the Latics boss mused.
"Can my lads work any harder? No.
"Do we make some horrendous individual mistakes? Yes.
"From being in such a strong position, to then have three minutes like we did...you couldn't make it up.
"It's something we've done all year, and within that managers get challenged over tactics and formations.
"But we have to be stronger and more aggressive with our defending.
"Unfortunately at times we're not, and that's where we're at."
Cook had tweaked his team selection and formation to allow an extra centre-back for added protection.
And although the positive performance appeared to vindicate that decision, Cook was in no mood for plaudits.
"It doesn't matter what formation we play - and that's what I'm trying to say to our supporters," he explained.
"It borders on being irrelevant doesn't it?
"We have the ability to concede goals when we're not under great pressure...and that's football, at the level we're at.
"Whatever formation we play, we still have the ability to do the same stuff - and that's a personnel thing.
"I thought Christian Walton was excellent by the way.
"But unfortunately in front of him we're not as strong as we should be.
"My job as a manager is to work with players and make them better - and I'll continue to do that.
"For the club to progress going forwards, this is a tough division to be in.
"You look at Bristol City not with envy, but as a progressive football club, developing a squad to go forwards.
"That's something I'd love Wigan Athletic to be.
"If you're a good club moving forwards, you've got to look at what you're not good at, and try and make it better.
"If you're not up to the standard required of you - and this Championship is tough, by the way - then that's the challenge for us as a football club.
"But that's one for the future."
City made a triple change on the hour mark which changed the whole complexion of the game - but Cook felt that masked the real reason for the turnaround.
"We don't win a header at the far post...and then we slip and fall over..." he countered.
"You can make as many substitutions as you want, but if we don't defend those situations, it's irrelevant.
"Bristol City only had 11 men on the field at any one time, the same as us."
Cook didn't even want to take any credit for his own triple switch with eight minutes to go, despite two of the subs - Pilkington and Leon Clarke - combining for the equaliser.
"Josh (Windass) was excellent, the formation suited him and (Nick) Powelly...and I thought Joe Garner played well too," he added.
"But unfortunately when you concede the goals we did, the manager has to make changes he doesn't realistically want to.
"You're making subs because you have to, you're not making them for tactical reasons, you're making them to satisfy supporters.
"We put three flair players on in the hope of getting a goal - and we shouldn't be in that position.
"We should be seeing games out better, but unfortunately we can't."