Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man
Our panel of Latics experts have their say on a side not managing to pick up the points their performances have deserved - and how to put it right!
Are we getting better, or are we getting worse? Does it even matter if we aren’t being rewarded with results? There is the rub unfortunately. I enjoyed the Swansea game immensely for 90 odd minutes. They were a very well drilled side with some class players, and yes, they did a job on us. We played superbly, we came back from an early set back to stifle Swansea’s crisp passing and create plenty of our own chances, and on another day, we could (should) have won by three or four goals. Unfortunately, one team was clinical and the other wasn’t. I was bitterly disappointed with the result, but definitely not with the performance. This team is improving week on week. Whether we’ve won, lost or drawn, there has generally been the odd goal in it and we have been desperately unlucky at times not to improve our points haul. I suspect that was what was on Paul Cook’s mind when he made attacking substitutions. With the match finely poised, he went out to try and win the game, only for us to receive a last minute sucker punch on the counter. Maybe if he had done the usual Garner for Moore, Naismith for Lowe like v like subs, which seem to irritate the fans so much, we may have at least got a point out of the game. I’m sure people will still moan but this is a side that is gradually coming good, I’m certain of it.
We look so much more solid in midfield, we have plenty of attacking options and David Marshall is now the ‘keeper we hoped he would be when we signed him. I’m loathe to criticise Dunkley and Kipre but it’s no coincidence that we looked a lot more assured with the calm, older head of Charlie Mulgrew alongside one of them. Both of Swansea’s goals could have easily been avoided. They were so predictable that I found myself “going early” in a smug, annoying manner and stating “that’s a goal” before the cross had even landed, as the Swansea players were much more quicker and agile, creating the space to finish. The whole ground could see what was coming, whilst our defence reacted slowly to do anything to prevent it. It’s done and dusted now and we look forward. Brentford can be another scary, attacking prospect but it’s an old cliche of mine that goes that says teams from the South always give us a hard game at their place, but they’re never quite the same when they travel up north. They don’t like it up them, captain! So if we get into them like we did with Swansea and stop them playing, maybe this time we will take our chances and get the rub of the green in front of goal. When I look at the rest of November, all four games are winnable, yet we could also lose them all the way things are going. However, six points out of 12 would represent a very reasonable mid-point target to me and we should view each month on its merits rather than the next game. Yet, at the risk of stating the obvious, getting three points on Saturday would make the world a much brighter place before we head into the international break.
Martin Holden:We played really well against Swansea last weekend, we have played well against lots of teams over the last 18 months and got absolutely nothing out of the game. In the main, the results just aren’t there, and this sport is pretty much all about results, especially for the new owners. We cannot keep missing chance after chance after chance every week – we just can’t.Let’s look at our forward options right now: Kieffer Moore works really hard, but will he get loads of goals in the Championship? I doubt it … our style doesn’t really allow him anything much apart from holding the ball up and releasing someone else, but I have been a bit disappointed not to see him on the end of any of the few crosses that we do put it. Even Leon Clarke managed that from time to time, granted he was generally offside or shanked it wide, but he was on the end of them – I just don’t see that from Moore. He does work hard, but then again, I would expect that from anyone pulling the shirt on. Jamal Lowe has sparks of quality, no doubt about it, but again at this level, I am not sure he gives us enough, not really convinced now that he works at all with Moore. The Massey/Jacobs conundrum continues, flashes of brilliance, flashes of Sunday League all in one match – both with good pace, both a bit headless chicken – I don’t think either of them deserves a starting spot just now. Looking over at the bench, we have Joe Garner, who always gives everything when he plays, he does offer something different, but for me, he is better off the bench than starting.
Two players who need to start whenever they are fit must be Gelhardt and Pilkington. I go on all the time about Gelhardt (yes, I know I say that every week and have done since April) but if the manager can’t see the quality and talent right there, right now then he needs a few more cups of tea. The kid is ready, and he is ready to play now! Pick him! Pilkington is quality and brings a bit more physicality than either Massey or Jacobs and I think we need that right now. He is much more creative and will shoot when given the chance. We need that right now too. My overall feeling remains from the summer that Cook does need to be replaced, but I cannot fault his decision to play Williams, Morsy, and McLeod together – that is such a strong workforce and it has released all three to be a bit more forward-thinking and it’s great to see. The forward line selection and tactics and the substitutions baffle me week in week out. Brentford (like most teams in this league) will be another tough opponent at the weekend. Let’s get behind the players again and see what they can produce. Up the Tics!
John Garry:Same old, same old. One man on his own isolated up front, the rest running around like headless chickens. No leadership on the field, no structure, no zip, no pace to get away from Swansea. There are more holes in our structure than a sieve. The defence lines up and parts like the Red Sea. The midfield is clueless with no vision, no plan, no idea. The forward line, sorry, the one man with no pace is so isolated and lonely he bought armpit spray because nobody went near him. Clearly the coaching staff at Wigan plus Paul Cook are out of their depth. I am 71 years old and I could tactically wake Wigan up – long ball to paceless forwards, gaps in midfield plus a leaky defence is criminal. Cook has had enough time to realise you don’t win matches with his style of coaching and tactics. He and Leam Richardson are, at best, League One coaches, and frankly Sunderland had a narrow escape. I would have paid them to take him! We need now a complete first-team coaching revamp, get rid of all first-team coaches, they are past their sell-by date. I don’t understand the Chinese owners, even they must see relegation is a serious possibility? Then they will get rid like a stale pizza. This team needs a kick up the backside, a shake-up, a reality check. Nobody in club is making them accountable. We need a full revamp of tactics, sharper training to make them concentrate, and ban mobile phones - they make players dozy! Cook must be replaced and Richardson must go, their apathy is obvious. Proper speed training, concentration exercises, structurally tighter, pressing man to man, plus try pushing forwards up too – that would be a first.
David Perry:If a team can still win when not playing well it is a sign of a good team . Or so the old adage goes. Sadly the opposite is true for Latics at the moment. Three decent performances against quality opposition has yielded one point from nine. Opinions always differ among our support to the extent I often wonder if we have watched the same game. The reaction on social media when someone offers a man of the match is hilarious ranging from sensible suggestions to meltdown reactions. That said I think the general consensus is that we are better than our results and position suggest and our just reward will come. Maybe. I really enjoyed the performance against Swansea and the sucker punch was hard to take. Especially as we did not seem particularly under the cosh or threatened too much by the opposition. Both managers made late substitutions to run down the clock which suggested that they were both happy with a point. You can often see and almost feel the other teams are going to score but I did not see then scoring a winner like that.
It would be churlish to deny the team and the manager some praise for that performance. It would also be a bit harsh to highlight some of the individual errors that have cost us points recently. The one negative that really stood out for me though against Swansea was that we hardly tested their keeper at all from open play. It would be a valid argument to say that Swansea, like our other opponents, defended well. They did. In the last third of the pitch there always seem to be one touch or pass too many and a reluctance to have a shot. For all our possession and set pieces we did not have any real punch up front. The through ball from Geldhardt to put Moore clean through had the fans off their feet. Pity it was not the other way around as I am sure the youngster would have buried that chance. That’s no criticism of Moore who tries so hard and will surely be helped now that he has broken his duck. I think it is time Joe started a game now as his quality is there for all to see. We are wasting his special talent in a way that I don’t feel any other club would. I am not looking forward to yet another international break but three points against Brentford would ease the boredom.
Caddy from the 5:“It’s a game of fine margins” has never been more apt after Saturday’s game. Swansea came hoping a win would take them top of the league, that’s right – top of the league – and after a daylight robbery that the great train robbers would be proud of, they did, for a few hours at least... The Tics’ defensive frailties were there for all to see in the first 10 minutes when they scored, the lad was unmarked eight yards out and had an easy finish, I think the quicker we get Mulgrew to Messi’s doctor the better because he’s sorely missed at the back. Marshall was seen a couple of times screaming at them to calm down (or similar words). It was great to see Moore’s efforts yet again finally getting off the mark, albeit from the spot, this lad’s work rate is immense and a bit more composure in front of goal and the rewards will come, I’m sure of it. The second half was completely one way traffic and I fully expected us to get a winner (a lie) but when they stole it at the end it was yet again a kick to the stomach. But we’ve got to start putting our chances away, I know it’s like a stuck record but it’s true. We can file Swansea along with Derby and Bristol City, all games with points thrown away, we can’t keep doing this or it will cost Cook his job, no doubt about it.
The introduction of Gelhardt definitely gave us a lift with his no nonsense approach and he shouldn’t be knocking on Cook’s door for a start he should be kicking it in, as I said at the start, Swansea went top after the game and were made to look very ordinary. I’m not saying we’re title contenders but we’re a lot better than our position suggests IF we cut the stupid mistakes out. After the match Sky interviewed their match winner and he said they’d deserved the win! Right, on to Brentford and hopefully we’ll turn a decent performance into a win. I’m off for a cow's mouthful of 'Bow...
Mike Goodman:Ever since the Forest game our performances have been very good which is why it’s disappointing that we’ve only picked up one point from our last three games. We could so easily have taken maximum points from Derby, Bristol City and Swansea and if we had won those games surely be knocking on the doors of the play-offs. You can look at our recent form in two ways really. On one hand our performances have been impressive and we could be about to embark on a good run of form, stringing a few wins together. On the other hand it’s all well and good putting in good performances but it’s results that matter and we ultimately should have more points on the board than we currently do. I believe we’re close to clicking as a team and a good run of form is just around the corner. Yes we’ve missed some glorious chances to win each of our last three games and we should have more wins under our belt, but we are creating clear goal scoring opportunities and that’s encouraging. If we didn’t look like scoring then there would definitely be cause for concern, we just need to be more ruthless in front of goal.
I’ve been impressed with Lewis McLeod since he came back into the team. With him sitting just in front of the back four, he quietly keeps things ticking for us in midfield and allows Sam Morsy and Joe Williams to use their energy to get up and down the pitch in the 4-3-3 shape we’ve changed to recently. With McLeod coming into the team, it’s also allowed us to see just how much potential Williams has and why a number of Everton fans were disappointing to see him leave Goodison in the summer. He works incredibly hard all over the pitch, is strong in the tackle and you can see him scoring a few goals this season too. What a shrewd signing he could turn out to be.
Sean Livesey:As I write this it’s five days since that heart breaking 92nd minute winner for Swansea and I still don’t think it’s sunk in. In a ten day period we could well have had nine points and be sitting pretty in the relative safety of mid table obscurity. Instead we have one point and three generally very good if ultimately unsatisfying performances to look back on. With the international break once again disrupting any flow that Latics may have the match against Brentford on Saturday is taking on a lot of importance. First of all let’s look back at Swansea, despite conceding a soft goal early on Paul Cook’s side once again dominated against one of the sides who you expect to be pushing for promotion this season. Kieffer Moore’s penalty will do him a world of good and at half-time once again Latics should have been leading. The second half followed the same pattern and it felt like only a matter of time before Latics would get themselves in front. The improving Jamal Lowe and the aforementioned Moore were both unlucky not to get that second goal and as the fourth official indicated there would be an extra three minutes I think many would have been happy with a point. Until Swansea picked up on a loose ball on the edge of the area and broke both Wigan’s defensive resolve and hearts. It really was a kick in the teeth, similar to the feeling against Derby but worse because a win was in our grasp. Let alone a loss.
Performances if not results have really picked up over the last couple of months, Paul Cook will know Latics should be much higher in the table and that results both home and away need to improve soon but the gaffer can be heartened by the performances of the last few matches. As he said at the Fans Forum at the start of October it was about seeing those partnerships that he mentioned so much develop and seeing the players who came in to the club relatively late on in the transfer window become more settled. Both within the club and with their team mates and I think that is exactly what we are seeing now. After a quiet start Jamal Lowe has been central to a lot of our decent attacking play over the last few games, Kieffer Moore is off the mark and with a bit more luck could have had another goal on Saturday. The midfield three of Sam Morsy, Joe Williams and Lewis Macleod has really made a difference with the two new signings in particular being extremely impressive. While Antonee Robinson and Dujon Sterling have provided a new attacking impetus to our side. Cook has been given a lot of stick over the last few weeks for his less than attacking substitutions but I doubt many could complain at those on Saturday. Sadly we couldn’t get that second goal and we know how that story ended. I think there’s been a lot to be positive about over the last few weeks, we’re getting closer to getting it right. A decent run of results ahead of the festive period would do us wonders and hopefully see us rise up that table.