Latics received a major setback to their survival chances when they lost at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night. They remain in 22nd spot and are two points behind 21st place Bristol City who have one game in hand.
Calls to sack Warren Joyce by some supporters are very premature and are unlikely to have any benefit at this stage in the season. However, Joyce would be wise to consider changes to his tactics and formation as they go into the last 13 games of the season.
QPR was yet another narrow defeat and a change in approach for the upcoming fixtures is now required if they are going to survive. Latics lacked width at Loftus Road and this has been a constant problem since the departure of Yanic Wildschut to Norwich City.
The manager has brought in numerous midfield players but it appears that apart from Gabriel Obertan who has been used sparingly, they are bereft of the wingers who can get good delivery into the box.
Also the departure of Jordi Gomez to Rayo Vallecano has meant they have been without the type of creativity and guile that can unlock opposition defences.
They showed signs of fatigue in the second half at QPR and the recent unrelenting schedule seems to be taking its toll on the players. Joyce now needs to re-assess his squad and make some strategic changes to the line-up if they are to get the wins required.
Omar Bogle is proving to be a handful for opposition defences, but he often lacks support as Latics rarely get more than one or two players in the opposition box.
Despite Will Grigg’s recent lack of form I believe he is still the best partner for Bogle. Joyce’s long ball tactics are not doing Grigg any favours as he would prefer the ball to feet or just beyond the last man but he is playing behind Bogle in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
A goal for Grigg would certainly do wonders for his confidence, but both Grigg and Bogle need support in and around the box, if the goals are going to flow.
Joyce does have attacking options and could bring in Gabriel Obertan, Mikael Mandron or Ryan Colclough and attacking midfielder Alex Gilbey is nearing match fitness.
Injuries to Michael Jacobs and Shaun MacDonald have not helped the situation and they are likely to be missing for tomorrow’s vital home game against Nottingham Forest. Latics will need to set up to attack Forest and be on the front foot right from the kick off.
They have a chance to narrow the gap against a team who have slipped down to 18th in the table and are just six points ahead of them. Anything less than a win is unthinkable.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 24th February 2017.
It’s one of a series of three paintings of Springfield by D.W.Barrow http://www.davidbarrowartist.co.uk/product-category/wigan-life/