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Wigan Athletic
April 19, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/19/2012

There are no two ways about it — Fulham are a pain in the neck. The last time we beat them was in 2006. They signed Clint Dempsey the following year, and he has feasted on us since. It’s not a case of outplaying or outclassing us, it’s just that no matter the manager from Hodgson to Hughes to Jol, their keeper always has a man-of-the-match performance, and their striker — usually the Texan — can’t miss.

Present circumstances promise for this to be quite an interesting iteration. Wigan are in dreamland, having produced their best every Premier League displays to earn wins over Liverpool, Stoke, Manchester United and Arsenal in their last five games. Fulham meanwhile, are about where you would expect them to be, playing well at home, dropping points on the road, but doing it with a pleasant continental style Martin Jol has brought to Craven Cottage. While classy Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz is out with a broken metatarsal and both Andrew Johnson and Pavel Pogrebnyak are doubtful with injuries, Clint Dempsey is enjoying his best ever season with 21 goals to his name and will likely start up front. Which could be trouble.

April 16, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/16/2012

Wigan Athletic travel to Arsenal on Monday on a euphoric high after two performances that have confounded their critics. There have been many among the Wigan Athletic faithful who have doubted the capability within Roberto Martinez's squad. There was talk of several players not being up to Premier League standard. The last two games have proved that this is not the case. The display against Chelsea was excellent, being robbed of a deserved win by two offside goals. Latics were the better team on the day - hard to believe they could reach such a level after the frustrating season we have been through.

* this post was contributed by Jakarta Jack, a regular contributor on Los Three Amigos Wigan.

Wigan Athletic were also the better team at the DW Stadium on Wednesday and their performance was such that Manchester United rarely looked like scoring. The quality of Latics' football in that game was way beyond anything we have seen from them before in the Premier League. The stats reveal Latics having 13 attempts on goal, Manchester United 9. Wigan Athletic had 55% of possession with 7 corners, compared with 3 from the visitors. Latics commited 8 fouls, United 14. One yellow card for Wigan two for United. As has become the Premier League norm when a little club plays a top four team, Latics had to deal with adverse refereeing decisions, which would have broken the backs of many teams. A rare headed goal from Victor Moses was disallowed by a linesman who focused on the protesting De Gea. Caldwell, stood in front of the Spaniard, did nothing against the rules but the goal was annulled. In the 60th minute Jonny Evans made a tackle that would have been a yellow card 99% of the time, but the referee decided it wasn't. Maybe his decision was influenced by the yellow card he had given the same player earlier? It is not the first time Evans has escaped like this against Latics.

March 16, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/16/2012

Let us know if these previews are starting to become a bit ridiculous with their constant references to must-win fixtures, but I think it’s time to face reality — barring any major miracles against the big boys, if we lose to West Brom this weekend it’s game over. A draw would be pretty bad news too. Three points would give us a chance.

The gloom is founded in our ensuing fixtures, which involve Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal — three of them away — followed by in-form, new-look Fulham (also away), and tricky though beatable Newcastle. The only saving grace, if survival is still mathematically attainable by then, is that the final two matches of the season are against direct rivals Blackburn and Wolves.

When we wrote our survival analysis several weeks ago, we were banking on a real point return from the recent fixtures against Villa, Swansea and Norwich. We should have emerged with six points from those nine, and instead got two.

March 2, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/02/2012

It’s business time at the DW, as Latics kick off the survival run-in with a must-win fixture against Roberto’s old flame, Swansea City.

The reverse fixture in Wales back in August was an interesting 0-0 draw in which Latics were twice denied by the post, either side of a Ben Watson penalty miss. Had any of those gone in, Latics would be sitting above the relegation zone in 17th.

The Welsh team has enjoyed a fine season, claiming a few famous scalps and impressing with their (extremely familiar) passing style of football. Liberty Stadium has been a real fortress for them, achieving a 5W, 6D, 2L record there. Away results, however — 2W, 3D, 8L — are a bit more encouraging.

January 6, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 01/06/2012

Judging by his post-match comments earlier this week, Roberto is ready to give his first team a good week and a half of rest and relaxation. They did, after all, face the traditional top four in back-to-back matches, the most physical team in the Premier League away, and Sunderland in heavy rain and swirling winds. Two of those were played with 10 men, and at least one against 12, it could be argued.

All of which means we are likely to see a few of the younger players in the squad, and a few older faces that have been on the fringe of the squad this season. Here are some of the lads I’ll be looking out for tomorrow:

Callum McManaman: the 20-year-old is fresh from a successful loan spell at Blackpool, who judging by fan forums were sad to lose him. He scored a couple goals and looked quite confident. Scored for Latics almost exactly a year ago in last season’s FA Cup 3rd round, so he’ll be hoping to repeat the feat. It was cracker (40 secs in).

January 3, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 01/03/2012

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about having to face a team at an unfortunate time.

But since our boys — with a little help from Wes Brown — got Steve Bruce sacked in late November, Martin O’Neill has predictably turned things around quite dramatically at Sunderland. In his first game in charge, the Black Cats scored a last minute winner to topple Blackburn. They fought bravely but lost 1-0 at Spurs, then beat Queen’s Park Rangers 3-2 In London, drew at home with in-form Everton, and most recently shocked everyone by not only beating but keeping a clean sheet against league leading Manchester City. Not a bad start.

November 25, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 11/25/2011

Steve Bruce is a name that most Wiganers will regard with respect. He kept Wigan Athletic afloat during difficult times in the Premier League on his return to the club. In his previous spell he got his team into the playoffs, where they were unluckily defeated. He left Wigan to join a club willing and able to spend much more cash, hungry for improvement. Sunderland got major cash windfalls through the sales of Kenwyne Jones and Jordan Henderson, but Bruce has also spent a lot of money, has a high wage bill and has to deal with high expectations from the fans. Poor results are putting him under increasing pressure. Bruce won 32% of his Premier League games at Wigan. At Sunderland he has won only 28% so far, despite major capital outlays. Sunderland stand 15th, two points above the drop zone. Bruce’s job is under threat: a bad result this weekend could be the final straw.

Sunderland, like the Wigan team in Bruce’s time, will not be pretty to watch. It will be fight-ball, rather than football, with the ball in the air, looking for knock-ons and deflections. Strong tacking will be the order of the day. It was a successful formula at Wigan and probably will be at Sunderland , if he is given the time to persevere. Latics have gone nine games without a win; Sunderland have won one in their last seven. Sunderland have won only two of their Premier League games against Wigan, whereas Latics have won five. Latics have taken seven points out of fifteen at Sunderland over the past five years.

November 18, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 11/18/2011

For the past couple of seasons both Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers have been stuck in dog-eat-dog relegation fights. Somehow, each has prevailed - but things are not looking good for either at the moment. When you are so hungry you sometimes have to settle for any morsels you can get. Odds are the two struggling teams will share points on Saturday. A loss for either would represent another nail in its coffin.

In order to survive relegation, a team needs to average around a point per game over the course of the season, although fourth-from-bottom Wolves needed 40 to stay up last year — an exceptional year. Wigan currently sit on 5 points, while Blackburn have one more, from 11 fixture. Two consecutive wins for either team would bring them within striking distance of the point per match relegation barometer.

So what to expect on Saturday?

November 4, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 11/04/2011

If the must-win theme in our match previews of late has been getting a bit repetitive, at least its message becomes truer by the week. Latics have already lost two absolutely-must-win home fixtures, the first with a shambolic display against Bolton, the second a luckless affair against bogey team Fulham.

The next three — Wolves away, Blackburn at home, and Sunderland away — are probably as crucial to our survival as any in the season run-in. Not only because they are matches we should expect to emerge from with some points. But because we have to emerge from them with some points. If we don’t, we go into December bottom of the table with fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United in four of the five next games.

Assuming we don’t pick up much in that Christmas deathtrap, I think we need no less than 7 out of the next 9 points. Which means beating Blackburn at home, then beating either Wolves or Sunderland away, and drawing with the other. Given Wolves’ poor form, this may be the better chance for that away win.

The good news is that Latics have a strong record at Molineux in recent times. We won 2-1 last year and 2-0 the year before. Their form has been poor, losing 7 of the last 9, although they won 3 of the 4 before that, and the most recent two losses were back-to-back exercises against Man City. They did draw at home to Swansea and lose to Newcastle, though, which should give us hope.

The bad news, of course, is that our form is worse. We are now on a staggering eight-match losing streak, although performances have not been as bad as the statistic suggests. With the exception of Man City away, Latics could have (in several cases should have) emerged with points. We live in hope that this will be the performance that delivers reward.

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 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 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.