An outstanding performance by Gareth Bale ensured Spurs condemned Latics to yet another defeat at White Hart Lane on Tuesday night. His two goals were of the highest quality, but he was a constant threat throughout the 90 minutes and could easily have scored four or five goals. On this performance few teams in the world could have contained the brilliance of Bale.
Wigan were set up defensively to try to contain Spurs, with three centre backs and two wing backs. Franco Di Santo started up front with Hugo Rodallega on the bench no doubt with the day’s transfer machinations at the forefront of his mind.
White Hart Lane is a very difficult place to go and attack, but Wigan’s shortcomings were for all to see in the first half as they sat back and gave Spurs far too much room to play.
For Wigan to be successful they needed to get their fair share of possession but too often they gave the ball away and struggled to get their usual passing game flowing. Ben Watson and Jordi Gomez were particularly profligate with the ball, but few outfield players emerged with any credit from the first 45 minutes.
Spurs first goal came on 30 minutes when an excellent cross field pass by Luka Modric found Bale, who cut inside debutant Jean Beausejour, before acrobatically volleying past Ali Al Habsi.
The second goal came just before half time, when a miss hit clearance by Maynor Figueroa ricocheted off Jordi Gomez and fell to Modric who rifled his shot into corner of the Wigan net.
Wigan looked to get a foothold by adopting a more offensive formation. After a mistake by Niko Kranjcar, Victor Moses had a good opportunity to score but he shot over from the edge of the box.
But just as Wigan looked to be making progress, Bale showed a touch of brilliance, with very little back lift he produced a bullet of a shot which Al Habsi could do nothing to stop.
Spurs were now coasting, and with Bale always looking a threat, it looked as though they might get a bag full.
On 69 minutes the ineffectual Gomez was replaced by James McArthur. Soon afterwards Franco D Santo had to be replaced by Conor Sammon after a very poor challenge by Assou-Ekotto. The Spurs full back clearly stamped on Di Santo and would probably have been sent off but referee Lee Probert didn’t see the incident and Assou-Ekotto wasnt even booked.
As the half wore on Wigan didn’t give up the fight and with Spurs sitting back, they pulled a goal back through James McArthur. A neat pass by Moses played in McArthur and his shot deflected off Scott Parker and looped over Brad Friedel into the Spurs net.
In fact Spurs complacency in the later stages of the game gave Wigan a window of opportunity. Firstly Sammon failed to connect with a cross from Ronnie Stam when it appeared easier to score. From another cross by Stam, James McCarthy’s flicked shot went just over the Spurs cross bar and they had another chance when a lapse by Ledley King let in Sammon but the striker wasted the opportunity.
Overall, it’s fair to say that most teams would struggle against Spurs, a team with exceptional players in Bale and Modric.
If Wigan had taken their chances in the second half they might have achieved an unlikely draw, however this was probably more to do with Spurs complacency than the excellence of their play.
The danger signs are now for all to see and a frustrating time in the transfer deadline day market has only compounded Wigan’s predicament.
With 15 games remaining, there is still time to escape the drop but it will require a monumental effort from the players, manager and supporters if we are to do so.