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Wigan Athletic
May 11, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 05/11/2012

Wigan Athletic will be in the Premier League for an eighth straight year, crowning a truly unbelievable run of results with an away win at Ewood Park last Monday. A draw may well have been enough from the Latics perspective, but Antolin Alcaraz’s late headed winner was fair reward for another display of cultured, confident passing in difficult playing conditions, in a venue that had not been kind to the Latics in years past.

Anything but a win would have spelled the end for Blackburn, a club in free-fall, but they seemed to have accepted their fate from the outset. This is a club in crisis from top to bottom. Injured and demoralized players, furious fans, inept management and clueless owners — however dire our season may have looked two months ago when we were relegation certainties, it never approach that sort of madness.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJuGspbyQ5I

April 30, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/30/2012

Wigan Athletic once more played with confidence, style and determination, as they had against Manchester United a little over two weeks ago. This first half display with four spectacular goals completely blew away a 4th placed Newcastle team that had arrived full of confidence after 6 consecutive victories.

From the start the Jimmy Macs - McCarthy and McArthur - ruled the midfield, barely allowing the visitors a touch of the ball. This laid the foundation for the wing backs to play more like wingers and the forward players to slice holes in the Newcastle defence. The little genius, Maloney, was orchestrating it all from midfield and the end result was a fluid attacking style with more than a touch of class. Vintage football indeed!

April 25, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/25/2012

Fresh from earning what were probably the two best results in the club's history, Wigan Athletic this time succumbed to a late 2-1 defeat against bogey team Fulham. Though organized and well drilled, Roberto's men were visibly tired and lacked the verve of recent performances.

The loss would not have been quite so damaging had QPR, Blackburn and Bolton not all picked up points (3, 3 and 4 respectively) in their fixtures. The good news is that Aston Villa are now well and truly involved, sitting only two points above the Latics with three games to play.

April 17, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/17/2012

Any concerns about the bubble being burst were laid to rest in emphatic fashion on Monday night as Latics emerged from a traditionally nightmarish fixture with three points of gold and another famous scalp.

• Arsenal blog: We can learn a lot from Wigan

The scoreboard beggared belief after eight minutes of football, during which Franco Di Santo capped off a flowing breakaway and Jordi Gomez stabbed home a Victor Moses cross at the second attempt. Given the club’s dreadful record at the Emirates - no goals scored there since 2007, plenty conceded - this was a sight for sore eyes.

There is much to appreciate about Arsene Wenger, his teams, and his team’s form of late, but there was a dangerous air of arrogance evident in those opening passages of play. When asked about Wigan’s attacking threat a day earlier, the Frenchman err-ed and ahh-ed before mentioning Victor Moses, Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa. While inadvertently picking out three of Wigan’s top performers on the night, his response implied that he had not watched much of Wigan lately. Figueroa, of course, has been playing as a left-sided centre-back, while Boyce, an excellent defender, has not been a key contributor in attack. And Victor Moses - well, they clearly hadn’t watched enough of his recent play, because he ran rings around them all night.

April 10, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/10/2012

Twice this season, a match official has made a footballing decision so horribly incorrect that they were suspended from duty in the ensuing fixture. The first was Andre Marriner, the referee who allowed Morten Gamst Pedersen to simply run the ball in from the corner flag, producing a goal that denied Wigan Athletic a crucial three points against Blackburn Rovers. The second was linesman Dave Bryan, who on Saturday gifted Chelsea three points by allowing two offside goals to stand. Again, the victim was Wigan Athletic, who would have escaped the relegation zone with one point from this match, let alone the three they deserved.

Back in December, Wigan Athletic suffered from another blatantly incorrect decision when Conor Sammon was sent off against Manchester United for very minimal contact with Michael Carrick. When the club appealed the suspension, the FA acknowledged its mistake and rescinded the suspension, something they do not make a habit of doing. A token gesture, I suppose, but once again, Wigan emerged with no points.

April 3, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 04/03/2012

Wigan kept the dream alive with an emphatic victory over Stoke City on Saturday, although results elsewhere conspired to keep them in the bottom three. Once again it was a centre-back who dealt the killer blow, with Antolin Alcaraz providing the kind of assertive finish his more attacking teammates had failed to produce all season. The Paraguayan's thumping header was just reward for his excellent performances of late.

Stoke's direct style of play needs no introduction, so it was no surprise that Latics controlled possession early on - and indeed for most of the match. The surprise here was the sloppy defending on display from Pulis' typically disciplined and tenacious men.

First, Franco Di Santo dispossessed a sleepy Andy Wilkinson early in the game with a great burst of speed, only to be thwarted by Asmir Begovic in a one-on-one opportunity. Several minutes later, fantastic work from Emmerson Boyce and Victor Moses found Shaun Maloney, who tested the Stoke keeper once again with a firm left-footed volley.

March 26, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/26/2012

Wigan’s strong run of recent form finally yielded the three point return it deserved on Saturday, in the least likely of places, and from the least likely of sources. Captain Gary Caldwell was the hero with the sort of poacher’s finish Anfield-goers came to expect of Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen. Indeed, everyone looked a bit bemused when the Scot recovered from the initial shock of finding himself with the ball in the box to turn Andy Carroll the wrong way and coolly slot past Pepe Reina. The Scot epitomizes the the determination and grit that has been on display in the club’s recent matches and his strike was well worthy of its place in the history books.

Earlier in the game, his compatriot Shaun Maloney had put Wigan 1-0 up from the penalty spot. Martin Skrtel, a bad choice for a babysitter, thwacked Victor Moses across the chest and face as he was trying to head a looping Gary Caldwell ball over Pepe Reina. It was clearly a penalty, but the type of decision Wigan too frequently don’t get awarded away against the big boys. Maloney took his opportunity perfectly, blasting low and left to claim his first goal for the club.

March 22, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/22/2012

A terrific team display once again ended in frustration for Wigan Athletic, as their 21 shots — 3 of which hit the post — amounted to just one goal, the same as the rather fortunate West Brom. Roberto’s team is surely playing the best football a team in its league position has ever played, and yet it also appears to be the worst at finishing opportunities in all four professional leagues.

With apologies for the late match report, these extra few days of reflection have brought me a frustrating conclusion. We already have a player who could have made the difference — Mauro Boselli. At risk of incurring the wrath of Cockney Latic, this would have been the type of game that would have seen the Argentine thrive.

March 15, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/15/2012

*contributed by Jakarta Jack, whose writing regularly graces Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

Was this going to be the turning point in our season? It’s the 85th minute, all equal at 1-1, Wigan Athletic dominating and Norwich on the back foot. Mohamed Diame has just come on as a substitute. Shaun Maloney skillfully beats the right-back and plays a lovely ball across from the left, leaving an open goal for him. Diame somehow kicks it over the bar.

It was an all-too-familiar pattern. So many times this season Latics have been the better team but have not been able to kill off the opposition. The result — Latics remain in the mire, glued to the bottom, with very difficult fixtures against top teams fast approaching. Norwich continue to punch above their weight, 15 points ahead of Latics this season with a squad that is certainly no better than ours. They seem to be experts at getting goals out of the blue, as did Hoolahan in the 10th minute when he somehow got a poke of the ball ahead of Caldwell from a speculative cross. In the 68th minute, Victor Moses had leveled the score after latching on to a lovely through ball from Shaun Maloney, finishing with aplomb. A far cry from the wretched finishing we have seen from him in previous games. One of our two main strikers, he has now scored 3 goals in 28 appearances. The other striker on the day was Hugo Rodallaga, energetic and involved, going close on several occasions. He has scored 2 in 22, although half of those appearances were made as a substitute. But goalscoring is not merely in the strikers’ domain. The midfield sadly lacked a goalscoring touch in this match, Diame the main culprit on more than one occasion, but he was not alone in his profligacy.

March 6, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 03/06/2012

Dark days at the DW as Roberto Martinez's Wigan were outdone by a side he assembled and styled, but couldn't break down. It was a painful, if strangely comforting realization that while Swansea are currently much better at executing the Spaniard's footballing vision, at least they are living proof that it can actually work.

This fixture had been seen by most Latics supporters as a must-win — indeed three points would have boosted the side out of the relegation zone. It was one of three winnable fixtures before the terrifying weeks ahead involving trips to Stamford Bridge, Anfield, the Emirates, and the visit of Manchester United. Swansea, while a respectable side, had a poor away record, and we had deserved to win the reverse fixture. The mood before kickoff was optimistic.

February 28, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 02/28/2012

Wigan Athletic's second 0-0 of the season, in what was probably the most predictable result on the fixture list, seems to be sparking far more debate than the rather more colourful affairs we've graced. Was this a missed opportunity after another frustrating display of poor attacking play, or should we be grateful for the point, the clean sheet and move on?

The match itself was not one for the neutral. Latics controlled possession, passing commendably despite a torn up pitch (thanks rugby), but didn't create anything of note. Villa waited patiently, breaking dangerously through Robbie Keane and Darren Bent, but found Al-Habsi at his best. Jean Beausejour's contribution down the left has resulted in an increased volume of crosses, but there remains no one with the striking instincts, or heading ability, to meet them. Wigan logged 14 corners without coming close to scoring from them. Is Lee McCulloch available?

February 15, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 02/15/2012

Wigan Athletic took a giant step towards revival (and survival?) with a 2-1 success over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. A loss would have cut Latics eight points adrift and delivered a probably fatal blow to the side’s morale. Instead, the gap between the bottom five has been narrowed to an encouraging two points. Better still, the squad has a tasty fixture list coming up including three home fixtures against Aston Villa, Swansea and West Brom, with a trip to Norwich in between. Without getting ahead of ourselves, things are suddenly looking up at the DW.

Martinez’s men started slowly but started to take control of the match about 20 minutes in. Franco Di Santo, working hard up front with little service, received the ball deep and weaved before fizzing a powerful attempt just over and wide. Victor Moses embarked on a mazy trademark run, crashing a left-footed effort into the side netting (a trademark finish). Bolton’s approaches were largely limited to set pieces and hopeful shooting from outside the box, while Latics enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession. Pressure finally told when Gary Caldwell impressively beat David Wheater — who must have at least 5 inches on the Scot — in the air to power home a Jean Beausejour corner late in the first half. 1-0 Wigan at half-time.

January 28, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 01/28/2012

An hour before any Wigan Athletic game is due to start I like to trawl along to the official club website and look for news of the team line-up. I did it last weekend and got an immediate sense of foreboding. Gohouri in for Alcaraz and only one winger in the line-up. A return to playing Jordi Gomez on the right wing? A question of pack your team with midfield players to stifle the opposition? Then maybe bring on another attack minded player later? Was this to be the way to get a good result against another struggling team?

• This post was contributed by Jakarta Jack, of Los Three Amigos of Wigan.

My sense of foreboding was to be temporarily lifted in the first few minutes with Latics going close to scoring on a couple of occasions. However, this was to be only a temporary respite. Wigan were playing without any attacking player on the right. Gomez would track back to help Boyce when the opposition attacked on their left, then move back to a central midfield position to receive the ball. As the half progressed a nervy QPR started to get on top. Their nerves were calmed after 32 minutes when James McCarthy idiotically palmed the ball away from a Barton corner. Helguson scored the resulting penalty with ease. The situation was exacerbated in the 45th minute when Gohouri ‘s trip on Campbell gave Buzsaky the chance to curl a wonderful free kick in off the post.

January 4, 2012
Posted by Ned Brown on 01/04/2012

We felt in our match preview that this was a tough time to play Sunderland, a revitalized side brimming with confidence after claiming Manchester City's scalp at the weekend. Rarely will you see two strikes as sublime as those of Craig Gardner and David Vaughan in the same 90 minutes, and indeed it seemed everything went Sunderland's way. But the scoreline, and headlines in most of Wednesday's publications, paint a very false picture of a match Wigan had the better of, and should have put to bed before crucial decisions turned it upside down.

The first half was all Wigan - almost. Roberto turned a few heads with his stating lineup, resting the key duo of Victor Moses and Mohammed Diame; Albert Crusat and Ben Watson starting in their stead. The 3-4-2-1 formation that has yielded Latics best results this season was left intact. Steve Gohouri took Gary Caldwell's position at the centre of the back three, while Dave Jones and Ronnie Stam continued as advanced wing-backs, protected by the mostly defensive central midfield pairing of James McCarthy and Ben Watson. Ahead of them, Crusat started inside left, Jordi inside right, and Rodallega up top - though such is the fluidity of this system that Jordi's was more of a free-role, popping up left, right and center, with Ronnie Stam constantly overlapping him on the right wing.

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

Having found ourselves internet-less during the festive period, we look back on two of the best performances of the season, and another the standard treatment from an intimidated referee at Old Trafford. Overall, a pleasing festive period during which Roberto’s team has started to show its real potential.

Wigan Athletic 1 Chelsea 1

The home side were more than a match for Chelsea, who had strung several wins together before this fixture. Daniel Sturridge scored a beautifully taken goal early in the second half against the run of play, but Latics persistence paid off when Petr Cech fumbled Rodallega’s shot straight to Jordi Gomez for the equalizer.

The Good:

The entire performance, but special mention to the tackling in midfield, defensive solidity, and Jordi for being in the right place at the right time at the end of a very tiring match.

The Bad:

Shame it couldn’t have been three points.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 7; Antolin Alcaraz: 8.5; Gary Caldwell: 8; Maynor Figueroa: 8; Ronnie Stam: 7; Dave Jones: 7; James McCarthy: 8.8; Mo Diame: 7; Jordi Gomez: 7; Victor Moses: 8; Conor Sammon: 6

Posted by Ned Brown on 01/03/2012

* contributed by Jakarta Jack of Los Three Amigos Wigan

Ben Watson made a welcome reappearance off the bench to salvage a well deserved point for Latics. A 10 man Latics team were trailing 2-1 when Hugo Rodallega was pulled down in the penalty box. The usual penalty taker, Jordi Gomez, had already been substituted so Martinez had a tough decision to make. It turned out to be an inspired decision, Watson hitting home the penalty with aplomb after being pulled off the bench to take it.

As expected Latics had to withstand the usual aerial bombardment from Stoke with multiple long throws form Rory Delap, although the wing backs did well in keeping in check the dangerous wingers, Pennant and Etherington. The stats tell us that Stoke only had two shots on target the whole game, whereas Wigan had six. Moreover Ali Al Habsi did not have a direct shot to save whereas Stoke’s Sorensen had four, although Wigan had a slice of luck in the 60th minute when a header from Huth hit the post and fell into Al Habsi’s welcoming arms. In between the aerial bombardment we saw the usual ruthless tackling from Stoke, with Latics getting minimal protection from the referee. Victor Moses in particularly was heavily marked.

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 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.

November 29, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 11/29/2011

We asked - we begged and pleaded - for a bit of luck, and finally we have received. After weeks upon weeks of dodgy refereeing, ill-timed injuries, missed penalties, Victor Moses' personal mission to hit the post but not score, we finally caught a break, and won a match we probably did not deserve to win.

Quite how you can play as well as Latics did away at Newcastle and lose, and then beat Sunderland as we did on Sunday, I'm not sure. Roberto tends to praise his team's performance when results go the wrong way. This was the opposite, a decidedly average if resolute performance, but an excellent result.

Latics started like wounded dogs - after the morale crushing finale against Blackburn a week prior - and it was no surprise when Sebastian Larsson put Sunderland ahead after eight minutes. Ali Al-Habsi made a rare mistake, spilling from Nicklas Bendtner's optimistic shot. The Omani keeper's subsequent block fell to the Swede, a bright light in Sunderland's poor campaign, and he made no mistake.

November 8, 2011
Posted by Ned Brown on 11/08/2011

For several weeks now, we have sat down to write our match previews with relentless optimism (#keepthefaith), operating under the assumption that at some point in the next match, during a crucial moment, we would get a slice of luck.

This week, we finally did.

One-nil down, just before the stroke of halftime, Emmerson Boyce cleverly drew a penalty by jinking through a pair of Wolves defenders. Ben Watson stepped up, a visible bundle of nerves, and kicked it right at the keeper. It bounced back for an easy tap in, and Latics were back in the match. We finally got that bit of luck.

The problem was everything else. Despite playing far better football, creating chance after chance, Latics continued to single-handedly provide footage for the 12Bet.com How-Not-to-Finish instructional video. The man posing as Hugo Rodallega was culprit-in-chief, tamely toe-poking when through on goal early in the match before missing an absolute sitter - probably the easiest chance he's had in a Wigan shirt - after chesting down a lovely Franco Di Santo pass with only the goalkeeper to beat. It visibly affected him, but he has cut a forlorn figure for quite some time now. With his agent talking up a potential move to Juventus, Latics Premier League goal-scoring record holder's stay appears to be coming to a depressing end.

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 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 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?