Latics blunted in attack – Wigan Athletic 0 Derby County 1

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Wildschut was left isolated in Wigan’s attack. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

Warren Joyce’s decision to play Yanic Wildschut as the lone striker ultimately proved costly as Wigan Athletic slipped to a 1-0 home defeat to Derby County.

Bradley Johnson put Derby in front when he headed home Tom Ince’s free-kick on 16 minutes, although he did appear to foul Shaun MacDonald when going up for the header.

Johnny Russell might have doubled the lead when he picked up a poor backpass from Luke Garbutt, but Jussi Jaaskelainen came to the rescue by tipping his shot onto the post.

Joyce’s 4-5-1 formation had proved effective in the last two away fixtures but was found wanting in the first half as Wildschut was left isolated and Latics rarely threatened Derby keeper Scott Carson’s goal.

Latics were much improved in the second half as more players were pushed forward and striker Will Grigg was thrown into the fray. Their best chance of an equaliser came when Max Power’s header smacked against the crossbar.

Derby survived the second half onslaught and moved to within two points of the play-offs while Latics drop down to second-bottom in the table.

Wigan made two changes to the side which had won at Huddersfield with Craig Morgan and Jordi Gomez coming in for the injured Reece Burke and Nathan Byrne.

After a tentative opening period by both teams, Derby were the first to threaten when Matej Vydra nearly got on the end of Russell’s dangerous cross.

But on 16 minutes the visitors went ahead following Ince’s free-kick which was headed home by Johnson. MacDonald appeared to be fouled by Johnson but referee Andy Madley waved away all appeals.

Latics were now looking vulnerable and Derby might have doubled their lead when Russell saw his effort hit the post.

The former Dundee United player broke into the area, rounded Jaaskelainen and his shot looked destined for the net until the keeper recovered and tipped the ball onto the post before smothering the rebound.

Latics rarely troubled Carson in the first half but Power did have one effort which had the keeper at full stretch when he tried his luck from 25-yards-out.

The home team would have to change their approach if they were going to score and they certainly started the second half with great gusto.

The first opportunity came in the opening few minutes of the half when a corner from the left resulted in a goalmouth scramble.

Both Shaun McDonald and Craig Morgan tried to get a shot in but Derby somehow cleared the danger.

Joyce introduced Grigg for Gomez on 60 minutes and Latics looked invigorated by the change.The extra forward was making a difference and now more opportunities were being created.

Latics nearly levelled when Garbutt’s long range cross from the right evaded Carson and was just inches wide of the net.

Wildschut was now taking up a wide role and his pace down the flank was causing Derby problems. On 67 minutes he linked up well with Grigg and burst into the area before unleashing a shot which Carson did well to push away for a corner.

Pressure was mounting on the Derby defence and Latics had a great chance to level on 69 minutes when Power saw his close range header hit the crossbar after meeting Stephen Warnock’s excellent cross from the left.

Garbutt then saw his dangerous cross kicked off the line by Alex Pearce but Derby somehow held out for the three points.

The final result was harsh on Latics as they had dominated the second half and they probably deserved to get at least a point from the game.

Warren Joyce will probably be kicking himself that he did not start with a more attacking formation and push Derby back from the kick off. With Grigg on the pitch Latics posed a much greater threat and it is now surely time for the striker to return to the starting line-up.

Posted in Bradley Johnson, Championship, Derby County, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg, Yanic Wildschut | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Is the lone striker the way forward?

Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Is Will Grigg due a recall? Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

It will be interesting to see what formation and tactics Warren Joyce employs against in-form Derby County on Saturday. Joyce has played one striker, packed the midfield and defended deep in his last two away games at Barnsley and Huddersfield and picked up four points.

Will he change to a more attacking formation or continue to defend in depth and hope to hit his opponents on the break?

It is something of a dilemma for the new manager. The home fans will have expectations to see their team attack Derby but using Yanic Wildschut as a lone striker and packing the midfield has delivered results so far.

There is no doubt that Latics rode their luck at both Oakwell and the John Smith’s stadium and they could easily have lost both games.

The statistics show that Barnsley had 62% possession and 16 shots to Latics 6. Huddersfield had 70% possession and 19 shots to Latics 9. The Terriers also had two good penalty shouts turned down.

A one-man attack will limit the number of chances created and it cannot be a strategy for long-term success unless the midfielders and wingbacks are pushed forward and support the striker on a regular basis.

If Joyce goes for a more positive approach on Saturday, Will Grigg has surely got to come into contention. Grigg’s recent absence from the team feels peculiar given his undoubted ability as a goal scorer.

The manager said that he hasn’t seen much of the striker in training due to international call ups and illness and that the player didn’t get much rest over the summer.

The Northern Ireland striker has only started in 12 games for Latics but he has still scored six goals this season. The prolific marksman should have trained this week and he has got to be the main option for a starting place if Joyce wants to be more attack minded.

Yanic Wildschut produced a Man of the Match performance at Huddersfield. He created the first goal and scored the second in a virtuoso display of strength and power.

He had worked his socks off for the team but he can’t be expected to fulfil such an energy-sapping role in every game.

Yanic was a revelation at Huddersfield, although comparisons to Marcus Rashford and Ronaldo are premature, the flying Dutchman has the potential to be a big success in the Championship.

A re-invigorated Wildschut and fully refreshed Grigg is an exciting prospect, but will the manager be brave enough to use them together?

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 2nd December 2016.

Posted in Championship, Derby County, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg, Yanic Wildschut | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yanic has the Terriers in a panic – Huddersfield Town 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Yanic Wildschut Wigan Athletic

Man of the Match Yanic Wildschut. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Lone striker Yanic Wildschut produced a Man of the Match performance to give Wigan Athletic an unlikely win at fourth placed Huddersfield Town.

Latics defended for long periods of the game and rode their luck but came away with their first three points under new manager Warren Joyce.

Wildschut created the first and scored the second in a virtuoso display of strength and power.

The Terriers had levelled through Aaron Mooy after Luke Burke’s close range finish had given Wigan the lead, but Wildschut sealed the points when he broke from his own half, rounded keeper Danny Ward and finished with aplomb.

Huddersfield dominated possession and had plenty of opportunities but failed to be clinical in front of goal.

Latics remain in the bottom three but move on to level points with Wolves in 18th place. The Terriers drop to sixth in the table.

Warren Joyce started with a defensive line-up and made three changes from the side which drew at Barnsley with Jussi Jaaskelainen, Nathan Byrne and Luke Garbutt coming in for Adam Bogdan, Craig Morgan and Nick Powell.

Huddersfield attacked Wigan from the kick off and they nearly went ahead on nine minutes when Elias Kachunga headed just over from Rajiv Van La Parra’s cross.

The Terriers went close two minutes later when Jon Stankovic headed over Aaron Mooy’s free-kick from the right hand side, and they had an Elias Kachunga effort ruled out for offside on 24 minutes.

Latics had to endure wave after wave of the home team’s attacks but Wildschut was looking lively on the break and he nearly put Latics in front with a powerful drive into the area but his final shot went narrowly wide of the top corner.

Huddersfield continued their dominance with Kasey Palmer, Tommy Smith and Sean Scannell all going close.

But against the run of play Latics went ahead just before the interval when Wildschut powered his way down the right hand side before crossing to the unlikely goal scorer Reece Burke who had somehow kept pace with Wildschut. The home crowd was stunned into silence.

Latics nearly added to their lead before half time when Wildschut once again ran at the Terriers defence but this time his final effort was deflected wide.

Latics had defended deep and in numbers for most of the first half and they started the second in similar fashion and it proved a risky strategy as the home team levelled four minutes in through Aaron Mooy from close range after good work by Nahki Wells down the left.

Huddersfield went in search of a second and Mooy had two efforts from range go close soon afterwards.

Despite the Terriers controlling most of the possession Latics always looked dangerous on the break through the outstanding Wildschut.

On the hour mark he restored Latics’ lead with a superb break from his own half, first powering past two defenders then rounding Ward and finishing for his first goal of the season.

Latics nearly increased their lead a minute later when the flying Dutchman once again drove at the Terriers defence but this time his final attempt was just wide of the target.

Wigan were lucky to survive a shout for a penalty when Luke Garbutt brought down Wells in the area but referee Tony Harrington waved away the hosts appeals.

Huddersfield continued to search for an equaliser but a combination of some very good defending by Shaun MacDonald, Stephen Warnock, Jake Buxton and Jussi Jaaskelainen plus a little luck enabled Latics to survive the onslaught and secure their first victory under Warren Joyce.

Posted in Aaron Mooy, Championship, Huddersfield Town, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic, Yanic Wildschut | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Whelan’s legacy

Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan

Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan with the FA Cup

Wigan Athletic celebrated Dave Whelan’s 80th Birthday this week with the unveiling of a statue depicting the club owner parading the FA Cup. It was a fitting tribute to the man who has transformed the club during his 21 years in charge.

His contribution to Wigan has been nothing less than incredible. When Whelan took over in 1995 Latics were struggling in the bottom division and few could have expected that the club would have such a meteoric rise.

To climb through the divisions and to enjoy eight years in the Premier League, reach a League Cup Final, win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement.

When Whelan said he would he would take the club into the Premier League many people mocked. When he said he would like to see the Latics play in the FA Cup Final many people said it was an impossible dream. But during Whelan’s chairmanship they did these extraordinary things.

When Whelan stepped down as Chairman in March 2015 after the damaging tenure of Malky Mackay, the appointment of his grandson David Sharpe as Chairman proved very successful as Latics won the League One title under Gary Caldwell.

However Latics are now going through a difficult period and there is some uncertainty about the direction of the club.

Recent events and changes in personnel would suggest that the owner has not taken a backseat and is still the driving force behind the big decisions and there is a risk that these decisions might not always be in the club’s best interests.

Latics have sacked four managers since the start of the 2012/13 season with only seven other clubs in the Premier League and Football League having a higher turnover of managers.

It is fair to say that Whelan has made some poor managerial appointments, in particular Owen Coyle and Malky Mackay, during his Chairmanship.

But Caldwell’s sacking was perhaps the most surprising given that Caldwell had just won the League One title and was only 14 games into the Championship season.

When Caldwell was appointed Chairman David Sharpe said it was “an appointment for the long-term” and spoke about having a “blueprint for the future”, but that has all now gone out of the window.

New manager Warren Joyce is only recently in post but he has set about making significant changes to the club. Chief Scout Malcolm Crosby and Goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt have left the club and there is speculation that further changes are in the offing.

It was confirmed this week that First team coach Joe Parkinson has been sacked and that there are likely to be other changes with Joyce’s ex-Manchester United colleagues Paul Scholes, Paul McGuinness and Jim Ryan about to join the coaching staff.

The uncertainty off the pitch is certainly not helping performances on the field, as results have not improved. Despite being recommended by Whelan’s friend Alex Ferguson, Joyce has to be regarded as a risky appointment.

He is untried at Championship level having spent the last eight years in the protected atmosphere of reserve team football. If Latics were to be relegated back to League One it would be a disaster after the progress made by Caldwell and his coaching team.

Dave Whelan has achieved so much for Wigan Athletic during his time in charge but he should be careful not to taint his legacy by continuing to intervene in the big decisions.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Saturday 26th November 2016.

Posted in Championship, Dave Whelan, FA Cup, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Latics hold misfiring Tykes – Barnsley 0 Wigan Athletic 0

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Warren Joyce got his first point in charge

Wigan Athletic secured their first point under new manager Warren Joyce with a backs to the wall defensive display against a Barnsley team who are struggling to find the net.

It was an improved defensive performance by Latics after the abysmal showing against Reading but they offered little going forward.

The Tykes had much the better of the chances with Sam Winnall, Marley Watkins, Adam Hamill and Conor Hourihane all going close.

Latics’ best opportunity came when Yanic Wildschut’s driving run took him past several defenders but he shot tamely at Barnsley keeper Adam Davies.

Latics remain in the relegation zone and Barnsley slip to 15th in the Championship table.

Warren Joyce made three changes to the starting line-up from Latics defeat to Reading with Craig Morgan, Nick Powell and Wildschut replacing Dan Burn, Jordi Gomez and Adam Le Fondre.

Latics had the first opportunity on four minutes when David Perkins tried a shot from the edge of the area but it was easily saved by Davies.

The Tykes then went close when Sam Winnall headed narrowly over from Andy Yiadom’s cross.

The home team continued to press and Marley Watkins close range effort was well saved by Adam Bogdan at the near post.

Max Power tried an effort from distance on the half hour mark but Latics were struggling to make any headway.

To compound Latics difficulties Nick Powell had to be withdrawn due to injury. Manager Joyce demonstrated his intentions by replacing Powell with midfielder Luke Garbutt rather than a striker such as Will Grigg or Adam Le Fondre.

Just before the interval the home team might have gone ahead but Winnall’s header was ruled out for offside.

The second half continued with Barnsley having more of the possession and looking the more likely to take the lead.

James Bree and Andy Yiadom both tried shots from outside the box but neither effort troubled Bogdan.

However, the keeper had to be replaced on 59 minutes when he seemed to pull a muscle when making a clearance. The experienced Jussi Jaaskelainen came on for his first League appearance of the season.

Latics forced a rare corner soon afterwards and Garbutt’s cross found the unmarked Craig Morgan in the area but the defender headed narrowly wide of the target.

The visitors then had their best move of the game as Michael Jacobs played through Wildschut but his final shot did not trouble Davies.

Latics forced a couple of corners in quick succession but as the game moved into the final 20 minutes it was Barnsley in the ascendancy as the visitors retreated further into defence in the hope that they might secure a point.

Craig Davies replaced the tiring Wildschut as the lone striker on 82 minutes, but he was unable to make any impact.

Armstrong headed over the crossbar from a good central position from Winnall’s cross and then Hourihane’s free-kick from 25-yards similarly cleared the crossbar.

Substitute Adam Hamill then tried his luck but his effort was high and wide.

As the game moved into five minutes of added time Hourihane had an opportunity to win it for the home side but his shot from the edge of the box went straight at Jaaskelainen.

Wigan had defended resolutely but they had also ridden their luck and if Barnsley had been more clinical in front of goal they would surely have taken all three points.

Latics manager Warren Joyce will be relieved to have got his first point, but it is clear that he has many challenges ahead and he must quickly find a more attacking formula if the club are to climb out of the bottom three.

Posted in Barnsley, Championship, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Mischief-makers target Latics

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Dan Burn was targeted by The Sun.

The mischief-makers have been out in force during the international break creating speculation and unrest around Latics new manager Warren Joyce and the Euxton training camp.

Tales of training ground bust-ups and changes to the coaching staff cannot have helped morale at a time when the new manager was looking to build team spirit and get a positive response from his players after the poor display against Reading.

Latics defender Dan Burn was the subject of an unverified report about a training ground bust-up.

The 6ft 7in centre-back was singled out as the scapegoat for the home defeat to Reading by a Sun journalist who suggested the player could be on his way out of the club following a disagreement with Warren Joyce.

The former Fulham defender was reportedly upset after being blamed by Joyce for all three goals in the Reading defeat but it seems unlikely that the manager would blame Burn for all three goals.

Of course, the problem with this story is that it was reported by one of the most unreliable national newspapers, which is renowned for making things up and so has little credibility.

The other unverified report was started by the same journalist and was soon picked up by other newspapers and spread via the Internet and social media.

The story was that former Manchester United player Paul Scholes was about to be offered a coaching role with Latics along with United coaches Jimmy Ryan and Paul McGuinness. This would, in turn, lead to the departure of Latics stalwarts Graham Barrow, Joe Parkinson and Peter Atherton.

Scholes hasn’t coached since retiring from the game and doesn’t hold a UEFA Pro Licence coaching badge but this hasn’t stopped the speculation that he might be joining Joyce.

Such was the level of interest in Scholes coming to Latics that some fans even suggested that the 42-year-old could still get a game at Wigan.

These types of rumours inevitably have a detrimental effect on the players and coaches at the club and will certainly not have helped the preparations for the game at Barnsley.

The Tykes had a good start to the season but are now on a poor run of form, winning only once, losing five and drawing three of their last nine matches.

Latics also need to get back to winning ways quickly and a victory at Oakwell could move them out of the bottom three.

It is to be hoped Latics’ plans will not have been too adversely affected by the rumours and speculation and they can get the first win under Warren Joyce on Saturday.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 18th November 2016.

Posted in Barnsley, Championship, Dan Burn, Paul Scholes, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyce’s reign gets off to worst possible start – Wigan Athletic 0 Reading 3

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Warren Joyce photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic produced their worst performance of the season for the arrival of new manager Warren Joyce.

Latics were completely outplayed by Jaap Stam’s rampant Reading and fell behind within the first minute when Garath McCleary was allowed to run free and lift the ball over the hesitant Adam Bogdan.

After five minutes it was 2-0 as the Latics defence backed off the advancing McCleary and the winger unleashed a low drive from 20 yards to beat Bogdan.

Latics were in disarray and they could easily have gone four down before the interval when Yann Kermogant twice went close.

In the second half Kermogant did get on the score sheet when he converted a penalty for the Royals to seal the three points.

It’s too early to judge Warren Joyce, but this was a disastrous performance and the Latics’ hierarchy must take full responsibility for this result.

Wigan were second best throughout. The decision to sack manager Gary Caldwell had clearly unsettled the players and there appeared to be a lack of belief in the new regime.

Joyce surprisingly left out top scorer Will Grigg and winger Yanic Wildschut from the starting line up with Adam Le Fondre and Max Power coming in.

Latics’ defence went to sleep in the opening minute when both Dan Burn and Adam Bogdan allowed Garath McCleary to nip between them and lift the ball over Bogdan and into the net.

The home team were clearly unsettled by conceding such a sloppy goal and matters got much worse on five minutes when Liam Moore ran through the midfield unchallenged before setting up McCleary on the edge of the area, and the winger’s low effort evaded Bogdan.

Reading were completely on top and they should have extended their lead when Yann Kermogant twice went close.

His first effort inside the box was deflected just wide of Bogdan’s post.

From the resulting corner Kermogant had another opportunity, this time the ball looped just over the crossbar.

Latics failed to create any worthwhile opportunities in the opening half and any confidence gained from last week’s victory at Cardiff had completely disappeared.

Given the nature of the first half performance it was disappointing that the new manager only made one change at half time with Yanic Wildschut replacing Jordi Gomez.

Wildschut was soon in the action creating Latics first real opportunity when he broke down the left and crossed into the area, the ball fell to Jacobs who tried a back-heel, but Reading were able to clear.

Latics continued to try to get a foothold in the game and Le Fondre had a deflected effort from distance well saved by Al-Habsi.

But Reading always looked dangerous on the break and they sealed the three points on 63 minutes when Kermogant converted a penalty after Max Power had fouled John Swift in the area.

Will Grigg replaced Le Fondre on 71 minutes and Latics seemed invigorated for a spell, but it was all in vain as the Royals ran out comfortable winners.

Joyce will not have had the time to implement his ideas but the players demonstrated no new manager bounce for the former Manchester United reserve coach.

It was always going to be a big challenge for the new manager. The stark reality is that Gary Caldwell was sacked when there was no real crisis at the club. Normally a manager is removed from his position at the half-way point in the season when the club is rooted in the relegation zone and showing no signs of improvement.

But this was not the case at Wigan as only 14 games had been played and they had only lost once in their previous five games and were within striking distance of mid table.

Something behind the scenes must have happened for a promising young manager who had done so magnificently last season in getting the team promoted to be harshly dismissed at the first signs of a setback.

The Championship is full of impatient owners looking for instant success and chopping and changing managers on a regular basis does not guarantee success.

Posted in Championship, Garath McCleary, Reading, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic, Yann Kermogant | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment