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Wigan Athletic
December 12, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/12/2011

Three points of solid gold were obtained on Saturday as Latics clung on for a second consecutive 2-1 away victory in the Premier League. After the comprehensive home hammering by Arsenal it was clear what needed to happen on the training ground during the week, and the Latics delivered with a courageous, chest-thumping, steel-willed defensive performance.

On any other day, West Brom might've scored three or four, amassing 13 corners and 23 goal attempts over the course of 90 minutes. The pressure began early, with Chris Brunt, Shane Long and Jerome Thomas all going close, and Ali Al-Habsi back to his best with an instinctive reflex save. If you haven't read The Guardian's excellent profile on Ali, please do so here. Having survived the early onslaught, however, Wigan grew in confidence, gaining possession and making occasional forays into West Brom territory. Victor Moses created some space only to drag a tame shot wide, while David Jones willed his way through two or three defenders but failed to get a shot away.

The match was turning, and Latics were the more comfortable side when Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have pulled Peter Odemwingie down outside the box. While most of us watched Chris Brunt and his hammer of a left boot, Steven Reid planted a stunning right-footed curler past Al-Habsi and into the upper left corner.

December 9, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/09/2011

Let's start with an admission. I don't have the faintest clue what is going to happen at the Hawthorns tomorrow.

Since Roberto's tactical switch three matches ago, we've seen all shades of Wigan. The best attacking performance of the season came in the Blackburn draw, which would have been a win but for Andre bloody Mariner. The best defensive performance came in the away win at Sunderland. The worst performance full-stop, began the second Mikel Arteta scored Arsenal's first.

Football has way of clouding one's judgement. Having most recently watched 65 minutes of capitulation against an Arsenal team at their imperious best, co-starring ourselves at our demoralized worst, it's hard to view this next fixture with any real optimism. And yet, in the first 25 minutes of the game against that same Arsenal side, we played some of our best football all season. How would I feel if Arsenal had gone 4-0 up and Latics had finished with those excellent 25 minutes of football. Ok, still probably not great, but certainly a bit more optimistic.

Posted by Ned Brown on 12/09/2011

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose work appears regularly on Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

Do you ever get irritated by the “expert commentator” when you watch a televised football match? A particularly annoying tone of voice or an absurd level of incredulity and disbelief when a striker misses a chance. He will typically try to tell you that those things did not happen in his day. Some favour the top teams, others haven’t done their research or are just plain ignorant towards smaller sides like Wigan Athletic. Others still favour the clubs they used to play for. The theory is that they are good people to provide expert analyses, due to their experiences on the pitch during their playing careers. Their counterparts — the match narrators — are there because of their communication skills, their ability to reach out to mass audiences. They can grate on one too, particularly when glorifying the top teams and their players over all others — but I personally find them less irritating.

December 5, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/05/2011

From the moment the team for Arsenal’s midweek Carling Cup match against league leaders Manchester City was announced, things looked grim for Wigan in this fixture. Wenger rested just about all of his key players against the billionaire Sky Blues only to unleash them fresh against second-from-bottom Wigan. It was a statement of intent from Wenger, whose focus is clearly on the Premier League this season. DW Stadium has after all, proven a tricky place for the Gunners. Latics twice came from behind in spectacular fashion to deny Arsenal in the previous two fixtures, drawing 2-2 last year and winning thrillingly 3-2 the year before. Further back, Latics fans will fondly remember Paul Scharner giving the team their first win over a “big four” team in the Carling Cup.

Despite all this, Latics started very, very well, moving the ball quickly, pressuring high, with a spring in their step after a couple of back-to-back non-defeats. It all could have been so different if Jordi Gomez had found the net when, after excellent build-up play, a David Jones cross was tipped into his path. But it wasn’t to be, and moments later a completely unmarked Mikel Arteta swerved a shot past Ali Al-Habsi, only for Thomas Vermaelen to make it two within a minute, heading from a corner. And that was basically it.

December 1, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 12/01/2011

Harry is his team’s outstanding striker. He can hit the ball with either foot with rocket-like precision. He can leap like a salmon and wins great headers. He has scored more goals than anyone has ever done for his club. He is an icon. But he is going through a bad spell. No goals for five games now and he is getting tense.

The manager ‘drops’ him and it makes the headlines. Harry has to play for the reserves. A blow to his dignity. He is angry, but being a true professional, he accepts his fate. His first game for them is not a success: no goals and a poor performance. He scores a hat trick in his second game. But he is not recalled to the first team. Harry goes to see the manager. The manager tells him that he needs to do more: only then he will look at bringing him back to the first team. Harry responds and gets back into the first team. He continues on his successful career path.

Those times have gone. Let’s be fair: Harry’s career at the club could well have been waning, but in those days the reserve team was a different beast. They played on the same day as the first team. If you couldn’t make it to your first team’s away game you could go and watch the reserves. You could see the young players playing with some seasoned pros. Both benefited: the first team players could regain confidence, reap havoc against less experienced opposition. The younger players in the reserve team could learn exponentially through playing with the seasoned pros. A bygone era!