It’s difficult not to feel despondent about Latics survival chances after Saturday’s dispiriting performance at home to Nottingham Forest.
Manager Warren Joyce selected a team without any attack-minded wide players in a 4-4-1-1 formation and his team lacked the creativity to overcome a Forest team lacking in confidence after they had lost their previous three games.
Joyce seemed obsessed with not losing the game and he just didn’t do enough to try to win it. If this approach continues it will surely mean that Latics will be relegated.
The club has gone backwards since the appointment of the former Manchester United reserve coach and they are mired in the bottom three with only 12 games remaining.
Not only have the results not been good enough but also the type of football served up is inferior to the Gary Caldwell era. Caldwell had a system of play and the players knew what was required of them and that cannot be said of Joyce’s time in charge.
The players looked bemused by Joyce’s team selection on Saturday and his substitutions when they needed to win the game were baffling. As Joyce becomes more desperate for results he has resorted to long ball tactics which are ineffective at this level.
Long ball tactics do not suit the players who have been used to playing through midfield and through wing-backs or wingers.
Joyce’s team lacked any width against Forest. Admittedly Yanic Wildschut has been sold and Michael Jacobs has been injured but Joyce has players such as Gabriel Obertan, Ryan Colclough or Andy Kellett who can play in wide positions.
Wigan do have the strikers who can score the goals if they get the proper service. Will Grigg, Omar Bogle and Mikael Mandron are capable of scoring goals if other players can get the ball into the box from wide areas.
Launching the ball up the middle of the pitch from 40 yards away makes it easy for centre-backs to defend.
Will Grigg showed his frustration with Joyce’s tactics after Saturday’s game by firing the ball at the advertising hoardings.
Grigg had been left out of the starting line-up but with 66 minutes on the clock he was readied to come on and yet Joyce delayed the change until it was much too late on 83 minutes.
Latics now have three massive season defining games coming up against Blackburn, Birmingham and Bristol. Joyce must realise that Latics need wins and he must select an attack-minded team with wide players – draws are no longer enough to stay up – anything less and Latics will go down with a whimper.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 3rd March 2017.