Sleepwalking towards relegation – Swansea City 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Nathan Byrne

Nathan Byrne. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Latics slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Swansea City and slipped deeper into relegation trouble.

Paul Cook’s team have won only once in the last 17 games and the club seems to be sleepwalking towards League One after another toothless display.

Nathan Byrne had given Latics an early lead at the Liberty Stadium but goals from Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster and Andre Ayew had ensured that the Swans got a deserved victory.

Latics remain second bottom in the Championship table, two points from safety, while Swansea move up to fifth.

Latics made one change from the team beaten by Bristol City with Joe Garner replacing Josh Windass. Kieffer Moore returned to the bench, but Joe Gelhardt was absent due to illness.

The hosts started the stronger but Latics had an early opportunity when Kieran Dowell crossed for Joe Williams, but the midfielder headed over the crossbar.

On 17 minutes Latics were ahead from a counter attack with Antonee Robinson combining well with Dowell, who pulled the ball back for Byrne, who slotted home past Woodman.

But the Swans were level almost immediately as Kal Naismith gave the ball away in defence and Conor Gallagher set up Brewster who finished past David Marshall.

Ten minutes later the Swans had a chance to go ahead when Connor Roberts squared for Gallagher, but the midfielder fired over the crossbar.

Early in the second half Dowell provided an opportunity for Robinson but the full back’s effort was cleared by Ben Wilmot.

Robinson then provided an inviting cross for Garner to restore Latics’ lead but the striker wasted the opportunity heading just over.

Just before half-time, the Swans nearly went in front as Bersant Celina escaped Byrne on the left and beat Marshall but Naismith was luckily on hand to clear the ball from going over the line.

Then in first half stoppage time the hosts missed another great opportunity as Ayew headed wide with the goal at his mercy.

In the second-half Latics continued to be on the back foot as the Swans threatened.

Brewster saw an effort blocked by Kipre before Kyle Naughton had an effort deflected just wide.

With just over 20 minutes remaining Swansea deservedly went ahead as Celina crossed for Ayew to convert at the near post.

Dowell was once again Latics’ most creative player and he created a chance for substitute Moore but the striker headed back across goal and the ball was cleared.

Celina then had a great chance to seal victory for the Swans but he dragged his effort wide.

In stoppage time Latics had a great chance to steal a point as Moore broke clear for a one on one with Woodman but the Wales striker’s tame effort was easily saved by the Swans keeper.

Latics dreadful run of form continues and the prospect of relegation gets ever nearer.

The Latics board should have made a change in manager prior to Christmas to address the decline but their reluctance to sack Cook has only led to further defeats.

As it now seems that Cook will be in charge for the foreseeable future, we can only hope for a radical rethink from the manager if Latics are to escape the drop.

The manager must review his current tactics, team selections and produce a strategy for survival plus the board must act ambitiously in the transfer window.

An experienced striker is a clear priority as well as additional defensive cover.

It is still possible for Latics to escape relegation but it can only come from a radical change in approach from Cook and some key additions to the team.

Posted in Andre Ayew, Championship, Nathan Byrne, Paul Cook, Rhian Brewster, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong – The Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths by Kevin Moore

What You Think You Know About Footballi is Wrong

The former director of the National Football Museum Kevin Moore has produced a challenging and revelatory new book which debunks many of the myths and assumptions about football.

In 50 short chapters Moore shatters many of the strongly held beliefs of football fans. His entertaining commentary is generally supported with hard facts and statistics although occasionally he does stray onto more subjective ground.

Usually he gets it right. It is surprising to know that the ball did cross the line in the 1966 World Cup final but that England did not win the World Cup fairly. Cambridge and not Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest football club. The Germans do not always win on penalties and it’s not a game of two halves.

He zips through the long list of revelations and we have to reassess many of our own assumptions. Occasionally his assertions are more contestable, for example, when he states that Premier League players are not overpaid.

“So what’s behind the view that footballers are overpaid? It is simply prejudice against the kinds of people who become Premier League players, who tend to be working class and not well educated.”

I would argue that this is not necessarily so, and the bigger issue for many people is their disproportionate salary compared to average people in society.

It is not that footballers shouldn’t be able to earn a good salary but that the sums earned are now at ridiculous levels. Premier League players’ astronomical earnings cannot be morally justified when some people are earning so little and we have such high levels of poverty.

When Moore sticks to the less subjective we learn plenty of new facts, such as: FIFA does not make the rules and never has; there is overwhelming evidence that referee’s decisions are biased towards the home team; and it is not artistry that made the Brazilians the best but science.

Concerning the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar in 2022, Moore debunks the myth that it will be too hot to play football. The stadiums will be air-conditioned and temperatures should not exceed 28 degrees C or 82 degrees F.

Previous World Cups have been held in much higher temperatures. So although there may be may be many other good reasons for not holding the World Cup in Qatar (human rights, slavery of migrants, illegality of homosexuality etc.) temperature is not one of them.

Probably the most telling statistic in the book is that most football managers make no difference at all and the simple fact is that modern football is all about money.

“The richer the club, the more it has to spend on buying the best players and paying top wages to attract these players. Statistically, the more the club spends on wages, the more successful it will be. The correlation between wages and league position in the Premier League and Championship is as high as 87% in one study, 92% in another, leading to the conclusion that it’s around 90%. It’s a simple as that. That leaves the manager’s role as able to explain only up to a 10% difference – better or worse – to this.”

Food for thought and that’s what’s so good about this book as it challenges many of those long held and preconceived beliefs about football. It would be a worthwhile addition to any football fan’s library.

What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong – The Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths by Kevin Moore, published by Bloomsbury, Price £12.99.

This review first appeared in the January/February edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Championship, Kevin Moore, Premier League, Wigan Athletic, World Cup | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Same old, same old Latics – Wigan Athletic 0 Bristol City 2

Kieffer Moore

Kieffer Moore could be leaving for Cardiff City

Latics dominated Bristol City for most of this game but once again failed to be clinical in the final third and slipped further into relegation trouble as the visitors struck with two late counter-attacks.

The hosts dominated possession and played plenty of good football up to the final third but their lack of a goalscorer proved to be their downfall.

With the match finely balanced at 0-0 Latics went in search of the breakthrough but it was the visitors who broke quickly and Jamie Paterson produced a neat finish through David Marshall’s legs. Soon afterwards Paterson turned provider lifting the ball into the path of Famara Diedhiou who decisively found the corner of the net.

Latics drop a place to second bottom in the Championship table while Bristol City move up to ninth.

Paul Cook made two changes from the team which won away at Birmingham City with David Marshall and Kieran Dowell coming in for Jamie Jones and Michael Jacobs. A fit again Kieffer Moore was surprisingly not named in the match day squad and young striker Joe Gelhardt once again took up his place on the bench.

Latics started strongly and quickly took control of possession but found it difficult to penetrate in the final third.

Chances were few and far between but Joe Williams had a goalbound effort well blocked and Josh Windass had a deflected shot saved by Dan Bentley.

Diedhiou headed over from six yards out and he also had a goal disallowed for offside as the visitors threatened on the break.

Early in the second-half Dowell, who made a very promising home debut, forced a good save from Bentley.

Soon afterwards, Dowell crossed for Nathan Byrne but the full back headed wide of the target.

Windass then saw an effort saved by Bentley before Diedhiou volleyed towards the top corner and Marshall produced a spectacular save tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Cook made a double substitution on 68 minutes with Gelhardt and Joe Garner replacing Windass and Joe Williams.

Dowell was proving to be the creative force that Latics have been lacking and he created another chance on 72 minutes when he crossed for Garner but the striker’s header was well saved low down by Bentley.

Gelhardt was quickly in the thick of the action and causing problems for the City backline. He fired an excellent strike just inches over the crossbar on 76 minutes.

But in pressing for the breakthrough Latics left themselves exposed on the break and City executed a slick counter attack.

Paterson broke through from midfield and finished confidently past Marshall on 77 minutes.

As per usual when Latics go behind the players heads go down, and two minutes later the visitors doubled their lead when Paterson lobbed the ball in to the path of Diedhiou who finished into the corner of the net.

Latics had a quick opportunity to get a goal back as Garner headed into the path of Jamal Lowe, but the winger just couldn’t finish under pressure from Ashley Williams.

Lowe had another opportunity later on when he headed tamely at Bentley. The close season signing from Portsmouth had once again failed to impress and it is surely time for him to be rested.

It was another frustrating afternoon for Latics who had played well up to the final third but lack a cutting edge where it matters.

Latics are the lowest scorers in the Championship and it is obvious where they must improve but the manager has consistently failed to address the problem.

Cook’s decision not to include striker Moore in the team was surprising and the manager’s refusal to start Gelhardt continues to be baffling.

Cardiff City have reportedly had a transfer bid for Moore turned down and this may partly explain his exclusion. But surely if Cook wants to keep Moore, as he says, he should use him in the team.

It therefore seems likely that the manager is prepared to sell Moore for the right fee and he will leave before the end of the transfer window. If that is the case Latics must quickly find a replacement striker as well integrating Gelhardt into the team.

Posted in Bristol City, Championship, Famara Diedhiou, Jamie Paterson, Joe Gelhardt, Kieffer Moore, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FA Cup exit but signs of promise – Leicester City 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Kieran Dowell made a promising debut

Latics produced a commendable performance against Premier League Leicester City at the King Power Stadium but slipped out of the FA Cup 2-0 at the Third Round stage.

The visitors started well but young full back Tom Pearce making his debut put into his own net after 19 minutes and after that it was always going to be an uphill struggle.

Harvey Barnes added a second via a deflection off Chey Dunkley just before the interval but Latics were not overrun in the second half and were unlucky not to pull a goal back when Jamal Lowe’s neat finish was ruled out for a marginal offside by VAR.

This was Latics’ first experience of the Video Assistant Referee and it is not something they will be looking forward to, if it continues in its current format.

The Foxes made 10 changes to the their starting line up from their previous game but Paul Cook also made six changes with new loan signing Kieran Dowell coming straight into the team for his debut. Left back Pearce also made his debut, whilst David Marshall, Dujon Sterling, Chey Dunkley and Gavin Massey also came in. Teenage striker Joe Gelhardt was once again left on the bench by the manager.

Latics were not overawed by second placed Foxes who have a League Cup semi final in midweek but the pace and creativity of the hosts was quickly on display as Dunkley made a good block from Marc Albrighton.

Marshall then denied Demarai Gray from 20 yards with a good save but on 19 minutes the Foxes were ahead as Albrighton crossed and Pearce got his feet in a tangle and put the ball into his own net. It was a very unfortunate moment for the young Ormskirk born defender on his Latics debut.

Despite the setback Latics remained competitive and they had a chance to open the scoring on 40 minutes as Massey’s cross found Dowell and the loanee’s effort was blocked by James Justin.

But the Foxes counter attacked quickly and Chilwell played in Barnes, who finished via a deflection off Dunkley.

Josh Windass continues to frustrate for Latics, often getting into good positions but failing to be clinical in front of goal.

On this occasion he got on the end of a Pearce cross but he couldn’t make it count.

In the second-half, Latics continued to probe but Leicester always looked dangerous on the counter attack and Dennis Praet headed wide from an Albrighton cross.

Latics looked to have pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining of normal time but although Lowe produced an excellent finish from a Pearce delivery VAR ruled the goal out for the most fractional offside.  Surely something will have to be done to amend the offside rule if VAR becomes the norm. At the current time VAR is killing the spirit of the game.

Marshall denied Gray and Barnes in the final minutes but Latics had put in a good performance against a team who have strength in depth and are likely to be in the Champions League next season.

Latics have produced some improved performances in recent weeks, with the addition of Dowell and if Gelhardt is given his chance, the prospects of Latics pulling away from the Championship relegation zone are looking much better.

Posted in FA Cup, Harvey Barnes, Kieren Dowell, Tom Pearce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A win at last – Birmingham City 2 Wigan Athletic 3

Cedric Kipre Cedric Kipre bundled home Latics’ third goal

Wigan Athletic ended a 15 game winless run and won their first away game since April last year when they defeated Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s.

Latics went ahead when a move involving Anthony Robinson and Joe Williams resulted in an easy tap in for Josh Windass. But the Blues equalised before half time when Kerim Mrabti fired home from an acute angle.

In the 50th-minute Windass’ cross was turned into his own net by Gary Gardner to restore the visitors lead before Cedric Kipre extended the advantage on 73 minutes when he bundled home a corner.

Latics never make it easy though and Jacques Maghoma pulled a goal back to make it a nervous final 10 minutes but despite some late scares they held on for a rare away victory.

Latics move up to third from the bottom of the Championship table while the Blues are in 18th spot just six points above the drop.

Paul Cook made one change from the defeat against Nottingham Forest with Michael Jacobs replacing Gavin Massey.

The visitors had an early scare when Lukas Jutkiewicz headed wide from a corner.

But they were ahead on nine minutes when Robinson battled to win the ball on the edge of the area and Williams crossed for Windass to tap in at the back post.

Latics should’ve gone further ahead when Kal Naismith found Nathan Byrne free in the box but the full back blazed over the crossbar at the back post.

At the other end Jeremie Bela had a shot spilled by Jones but fortunately for Latics the Blues couldn’t capitalise.

But the hosts did draw level just before the break as Mrabti produced an excellent finish from a tight angle.

Early in the second half Lee Evans found  Windass who rounded the keeper before firing in a cross from a tight angle which Gardner diverted into his own net.

Birmingham should have equalised soon afterwards but former Latic Josh McEachran fired wide of the target from the edge of the box.

But it was Latics who increased their lead when Windass’ corner was headed on by Evans and Kipre bundled the ball home at the back post.

Latics should’ve been comfortable now but their usual difficulty in seeing out a game reappeared.

It was to be a nervy last 15 minutes as the Blues substitute Maghoma scored as Latics failed to clear in the penalty area.

Jamie Jones then produced an outstanding save to deny Raul Giminez an equaliser at his near post.

Latics somehow survived the late scares and they hung on for their first away three points since the win at Leeds United on 19 April 2019.

Incredibly Latics’ last three away victories have come in three different years 2018, 2019 and now 2020.

The 511 supporters who travelled to St Andrew’s deserve great credit and this result should be dedicated to every one of them.

But Latics are still in trouble and this victory shouldn’t be allowed to mask the manager’s and team’s failings.

With the score at 2-1 to Latics Cook brought on the 35-year-old Gary Roberts for Michael Jacobs, when the obvious replacement would’ve been Joe Gelhardt who had been so outstanding as a substitute against Nottingham Forest.

Cook continues to defy all logic by denying the talented Gelhardt a starting place in the team.

Latics continue to struggle at set-pieces and with their game management, despite having 3-1 lead they could easily have drawn or even lost this game as Birmingham wasted some very good opportunities in the last 15 minutes.

Windass managed to get on the scoresheet against Birmingham but the forwards are not scoring enough and the team do not have a regular goalscorer in the team.

Posted in Cedric Kipre, Championship, Gary Gardner, Jacques Maghoma, Josh Windass, Kerim Mrabti, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deja vu as Latics’ dominance comes to nothing – Nottingham Forest 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Paul Cook

Wigan Athletic produced a dominant performance away at Nottingham Forest but once again went down to a set-piece sucker punch and remain bottom of the Championship table.

The visitors dominated possession and created numerous chances before Forest went ahead when Tobias Figueiredo was allowed to head home unchallenged from a corner in the 60th minute.

Latics were awarded a penalty in the 77th minute when substitute Joe Gelhardt was brought down in the box by Alfa Semedo but Josh Windass’ tame penalty was easily saved by Brice Samba. Soon afterwards the visitors had another penalty appeal turned down when former Latic Ben Watson handled Samy Morsy’s effort in the area.

Latics had the opportunities to equalise but their inability to be clinical in the final third enabled Forest to take a fortunate three points.

Forest move up to fifth while Latics remain rooted to the bottom of the Championship table.

Paul Cook made two changes from the team which had drawn 1-1 with Derby County on Boxing Day with Joe Williams and Gavin Massey replacing Anthony Pilkington and Michael Jacobs.

Latics started strongly, enjoying plenty of possession and producing some neat passing sequences. Forest struggled to gain a foothold despite home advantage.

The visitors first chance came on 19 minutes when Antonee Robinson got forward down the left hand side and crossed for Jamal Lowe but the striker couldn’t quite make the vital contact with his head.

Latics went close again on 28 minutes when Robinson’s cross found Williams at the near post and the midfielder’s flick crashed against the post and away to safety.

Forest were offering surprisingly little going forward and it was the visitors who were controlling the game.

As Latics continued to control the first half, they had another good opportunity when Williams right footed shot was well saved by Samba low down at his near post.

Forest’s only chance of the first half came when Lewis Grabban headed narrowly wide from a good position.

All square at the interval but Latics were crying out for a finisher to capitalise on their excellent approach play. Surely young striker Gelhardt would get his chance from the bench? But Cook didn’t make any changes at the interval.

Latics had a glorious opportunity go ahead on 58 minutes when Nathan Byrne broke quickly and outstripped the Forest defence before facing a one-on-one with Samba but the full back showed little conviction and fired wide of the target.

Two minutes later Latics were behind as Figueiredo was allowed to rise unchallenged at the near post and angle his header into the far corner of the net.

Gary Roberts replaced Massey on 62 minutes but still no sign of Gelhardt who was the obvious replacement.

When Gelhardt did finally emerge as a substitute for Lee Evans on 77 minutes he immediately made an impact.

Gelhardt went straight for the jugular dribbling into the area and was brought down by Semedo.

A fantastic opportunity for Latics to draw level but Windass’ poor spot kick was easily saved by Samba low down to his left.

Despite the massive setback Latics continued to be on top with Gelhardt at the centre of their best moves.

The 17-year-old England international’s tight control enabled him to glide into the box past several defenders before setting up Robinson whose final shot was deflected into the side netting.

A few minutes later the ball fell to Morsy on the edge of the area and the midfielder’s goal bound effort was handled by the onrushing Watson. Latics’ players surrounded referee Matt Donohue but the official harshly decided against a second penalty.

Gelhardt continued to threaten but time ran out for Latics and the youngster as they suffered yet another desperately disappointing away defeat.

Latics’ failings are for all to see but manager Cook has consistently failed to address the problems.

The manager’s reluctance to start Gelhardt is now beyond comprehension. The Young England international not only creates chances but he is a prolific finisher and it is obvious to everyone, apart from Cook, that he should play.

Latics defensive organisation has generally improved with Cedric Kipre and Kal Naismith at the centre of defence but the team have consistently conceded from set-pieces and this should have been addressed by the manager.

Windass shouldn’t take penalties. The former Rangers striker has been unable to find his scoring boots while at Latics and his pitiful spot kicks have twice proved very costly for the team. As at Millwall last season Windass was guilty of a desperately poor penalty kick when it mattered so much. He should be taken off penalty duty from now on.

Latics remain rock bottom of the Championship table, they have not won away since April and have now gone 13 games without a victory, few managers would still be in a job with such a terrible record.

Posted in Championship, Josh Windass, Nottingham Forest, Paul Cook, Tobias Figueiredo, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wasteful Latics suffer another late sickener – Wigan Athletic 1 Derby County 1

Joe Garner

Joe Garner

Wigan Athletic once again succumbed to the obligatory late goal and have now failed to win in their last 12 matches.

Latics had dominated proceedings against an out-of-form Derby County and had deservedly taken an 81st minute lead through substitute Joe Garner. But with 93 minutes on the clock Latics failed to clear from a throw in and Martyn Waghorn fired home the equaliser to sour the home fans’ day.

This was Latics fourth draw in four games and they have now dropped to the bottom of the table on goals scored after Stoke beat Sheffield Wednesday, Derby remain 17th just six points above the relegation zone.

Paul Cook made one change to his starting eleven from the draw with Blackburn with Anthony Pilkington replacing Gavin Massey.

Latics started on the front foot and were able to create several good goal scoring opportunities against the lacklustre visitors.

Nathan Byrne forced a good save from Ben Hamer before Antonee Robinson hit the near post with Hamer well beaten.

Josh Windass then had a glorious opportunity after an excellent set-piece routine but the striker fired straight at the Derby keeper from close range.

In a rare sortie forward Curtis Davies had a great opportunity for the Rams but he directed his header into the ground and Jamie Jones was able to save comfortably.

Windass was finding plenty of space behind the Derby defence but his final shot was disappointingly well wide of the target.

All square at the break but Latics had had he better chances to be ahead.

Latics were again on top in the second half and Windass frustrated the home fans with a poor pass across the penalty area with Pilkington in prime position to turn the ball home.

Michael Jacobs then forced another good save from Hamer with the hosts looking the most likely to break the deadlock.

On 64 minutes Cook replaced the ineffective Windass and Pilkington with Garner and Joe Williams and Latics moved up another gear.

With Williams pulling the strings in midfield the hosts pushed Derby further back and after a sustained attacking spell Garner was able to acrobatically volley home from close range.

It looked as though it would be enough to take all three points but Latics’ Achilles heel is their inability to see out the game and they conceded their obligatory late goal when former Latic Martyn Waghorn fired home despite the best efforts of Cedric Kipre on the goal line.

It was a disappointing ending to what had been a pleasing performance.

Poor game management, failure to defend set-pieces and strange substitutions are all factors in the late goals conceded.

However, Latics have shown noticeable improvement over the last four games by returning to an attractive passing game.

The long ball has been eschewed and building through the thirds has been a pleasure to see.

The combination of Kipre and Kal Naismith has enabled the team to play out from the back and to build through midfield.

Full backs Robinson and Byrne have been able to get forward to create crossing opportunities and Latics have created plenty of chances although problems arise in the final third were the forwards have been profligate.

Latics do not currently have a goalscorer in the team. Windass, Lowe, Jacobs were all wasteful against Derby and have consistently failed to make their chances count this season.

Cook’s reluctance to give prolific young striker Joe Gelhardt his opportunity seems increasingly ridiculous when the team are struggling for goals.

It appears that Cook will remain as manager in the January transfer window which could be so crucial to their chances of survival.

A proven goalscorer at this level is now essential if Latics are to convert the chances they are creating.

Posted in Championship, Derby County, Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments