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Wigan Athletic
October 31, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/31/2011

Quite how Fulham beat us on Saturday is beyond me. Nine corners for Wigan, none for Fulham. Nineteen goal attempts Latics, Cottagers six. We have yet again been punished for the failure to convert our chances. But how many more games will go by in which the law of averages does not apply? How many times more can we possibly hit the post without it bouncing in, taking a slight deflection, or falling to one of our strikers to tap in. How many more corners until we get a lucky bounce? How many more bone-crunching tackles from the opposition before the referee sends one of them off?

We just can’t buy a goal. Victor Moses has to go down in history as one the most unfortunate attackers to set foot in the league. Sure, he is a raw young talent, an erratic finisher who would benefit from a cooler head. But he alone has hit the post 4-5 times already. Time and time again, he gets past his marker with such power and pace, but is denied against all odds by a lunging defender, an inspired keeper, or the woodwork. He was scoring for fun in pre-season. The Gods of the Premier League just aren’t smiling on him. Surely his reward will come soon?

• Fulham blog: Wigan spooked at Halloween

Then there’s Roberto. I thought he made the right decision in sticking with the XI who performed so admirably against Newcastle. He was forced to substitute his most talented midfielder in the first five minutes after some cynical and targeted tackling, particularly that of Steve Sidwell, which typically went unpunished. He eventually brought Di Santo on for Crusat, who was probably tiring. But with one substitute left, still trailing by a goal, the Stam-for-Boyce substitution is infuriating. It’s not that Stam is a bad player, but he had Shaun Maloney and Conor Sammon on the bench. If you don’t throw them on in that situation, when do you?

That said, I don’t blame Roberto’s tactics for this loss, or the one at Newcastle, or so many others. If either of the shots that hit the post had gone in, we would have probably gone on to win. We were after all, the better side.

October 28, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/28/2011

Rarely does a game of such importance rear its head this early in a season. Wigan Athletic have now lost seven games in a row. The last time results were that bad, Dave Whelan moved swiftly to relieve Chris Hutchings of his managerial duties. Times have changed, and while there is no chance Roberto will suffer a similar fate, he must be feeling the pressure. This match is as crucial as they come, an absolute cup final.

Thankfully, it’s against a struggling Fulham side who are notoriously poor away from home. They’re in rotten form, sitting only two places above Latics in the league table with only two points more to their name. They too, have only won a single match so far, also against QPR, who have ironically left us both behind and sit comfortably in the dizzying heights of 10th place. While Roberto finally has a full squad to choose from, Martin Jol has a couple injury concerns in defense, with Aaron Hughes missing out and Philippe Senderos doubtful. Simon Davies is also still out with a knee injury.

All this said, Fulham are one of those teams we seem to find tricky. Theoretically, they should be one of those mid-table teams that we might lose to away but expect to beat at home. But our last five meetings at the DW/JJB have ended in draws, and more often than not, Clint Dempsey scores.

October 24, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/24/2011

Never has a league loss given supporters so much cause for optimism. Perhaps it’s a knee-jerk reaction, having spent last week in the gutter following the depressing home loss to Bolton, but I’m tempted to say the first 45 minutes at St. James’ Park were the best we’ve seen of Wigan since Roberto Martinez took the job. Only the goals were missing. Ultimately, we tired, Newcastle improved, and their sustained pressure culminated in a sublime Yohan Cabaye strike that settled matters.

But those 45 minutes set a new benchmark. Ali Al-Habsi hardly touched the ball until the final minutes of the first half. The defence was alert, strong, and neat in distribution. The midfield was physical, energetic and inventive. And the attack was pacey, if hesitant when it mattered the most. Anyone out of the loop would have assumed Latics were the in-form, unbeaten side, not Newcastle. If we start the Fulham and Wolves fixtures in the same way, they should be over by halftime.

Unfortunately, the goals never came. The match commentator shared a damning statistic midway through the first half. Hugo Rodallega has only scored twice in his last 19 Premier League matches. This time, he had two chances. The first, a quick-thinking through-ball from David Jones. The second, an incisive ball from Ben Watson deep from midfield. Both times, the Colombian snatched his shot toward the near post, failing to test Tim Krul. But the best chance of the match had already fallen to Victor Moses, who volleyed from inside the box after Hugo had guided the ball into his path, only for Krul to pull off a magnificent reflex save. Towards the end of the encounter, Mo Diame was inches from poking home a Victor Moses cross, and headed agonizingly wide.

October 21, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/21/2011

Under normal circumstances, this match preview would address a history of relative success against Newcastle with measured optimism. I’d point out our last result at St. James Park (2-2 draw that we should have won), and the fact that Newcastle tend to be in that mid-table pack that has been very much accessible to us in our Premier League years; a much bigger club, but one that tends to let its guard down when minnows like us turn up.

October 20, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/20/2011

Bright-eyed, congenial, eloquent as they come, Roberto Martinez is the kind of character people in the game love, with good reason. In the past year alone, he has led our unfashionable Wigan to survival on a shoestring budget in the most principled of ways. Then, he follows it up with an encore of rare football loyalty, turning down an offer from a much bigger club that would double his paycheck, not to mention spending power in the transfer market. The chairman treats him like a son, guaranteeing him a job for life. It’s a match made in heaven.

And it doesn’t stop there. His relationship with the club — and town — dates back to 1995, when he arrived as a player with fellow amigos Isidro Diaz and Jesus Seba, scored on his debut, finished club top scorer and was voted player of the year in the old Division 3. His return was to Wigan as a manager was greeted as that of the prodigal son, and rightfully so.

Fast forward to present. 19th in the league, fresh off a mistake-riddled 6th consecutive defeat, this time to our despised local rivals. Supporters have taken to the web and are understandably upset. If Martinez’s lineup on Saturday raised some eyebrows at kick-off, then even more so at full-time. Specifically, the inclusion of Steve Gohouri at left-back when both Maynor Figueroa and Patrick Van Aanholt were available; and the conservative decision to field James McCarthy in an unfamiliar left-wing role when more natural — and adventurous — options were available for the position.

October 17, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/17/2011

If you've watched Latics at all in the past few years, you'll be familiar with our two most basic failings - individual defensive mistakes, and a lack of killer instinct up front. When we lose matches, it's generally the former, when we draw them, the latter. You might as well insert your joke here, as I'm basically saying we can't defend or attack. But it's not quite that simple. The amazing conclusion to last season proved that when concentration levels are high, and individual mistakes are cut out, there is enough talent up front to get the necessary points. But it is games like this one - a 3-1 loss to Bolton in a local derby no less - that just makes you scratch your head in disbelief.

How is it possible that these are the same players who battled so hard to keep us up last year - did they not learn anything at all from that experience? Each of the three defensive lapses was a direct result of being too casual, taking too much time on the ball, as though it were a kickabout at the park.

The key sentence in our match preview was "Whether Latics go on to beat Bolton resoundingly, or to even beat them at all, is going to depend on their approach to the game." It's hard to assign all blame to the coach when your defenders do silly things to give away goals, but Roberto's lineup - and approach - was just too conservative. Packing the midfield is acceptable when you're playing the big boys, but at home to Bolton, who were bottom of the table at kickoff? Come on. It sends the wrong message to the players, and affords too much respect to the opposition. Victor Moses was the only creative player on the pitch. Shaun Maloney could have started. We've seen all too little of Conor Sammon, who might've started as centre-forward, pushing Franco Di Santo out wide. We must assume Albert Crusat is injured, another shame, as his pace is much needed. What about Callum McManaman, Nouha Dicko, both of whom have been outstanding for the reserves?

October 14, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 10/14/2011

There has never been a better time for Wigan Athletic to give Bolton Wanderers a drubbing. The ‘auld enemy’ lies bottom of the table after seven matches with 21 goals conceded. They have lost 11 of their last 12 Premier League matches.

Whether Latics go on to beat Bolton resoundingly, or to even beat them at all, is going to depend on their approach to the game. To play the ‘cat and mouse’ stuff that Wigan supporters have seen too often in the past couple of years would surely play into Bolton’s hands. Despite the propaganda that comes from Coyle, Cahill and company their confidence has to be at a low point and we cannot afford to show them too much respect. Let’s have an attack-minded lineup and get at them from the start!

Wigan Athletic’s season really needs a kick-start. As has happened so often in the past two years, the team has promised but not delivered. A dynamic performance in this game could prove to be a turning point for the season. Wigan Athletic have the talent. It is the belief that they need.

October 4, 2011
Posted by Dom Raynor on 10/04/2011

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