Trying to find the finishing touches – Wigan Athletic 0 Brentford 0

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Chey Dunkley twice went close for Latics

Wigan Athletic remain in the relegation dogfight after a 0-0 draw at home to Brentford and are four points above the drop zone with seven games remaining.

It was a creditable performance by Latics who had the best chances to secure all three points in a closely fought game.

Brentford had comfortably dispatched Latics earlier in the season at Griffin Park and had previously looked capable of being promotion challengers.

The Bees did threaten sporadically but Latics were the better outfit on this occasion.

Reece James’ 35-yard volley forced an acrobatic save from Luke Daniels, Gavin Massey had a one-on-one saved and the Bees keeper produced a full length save to deny Chey Dunkley’s diving header.

Dunkley also headed against the crossbar and Anthony Pilkington had a goal disallowed for offside but they just couldn’t find the finishing touches to secure the three points to pull them further away from the drop zone.

Latics made one change to their starting eleven following the win over Bolton Wanderers as Danny Fox returned to the side in the place of Cedric Kipre.

Both teams threatened in the opening ten minutes. Massey and Antonee Robinson had goal-bound efforts blocked for Latics before Neal Maupay dragged a shot wide for the Bees.

Latics player of the season Reece James went close with an improvised half volley on 25 minutes which was well tipped over by Daniels.

But the best chance of the first half fell to Massey after Nick Powell had done superbly to take the ball from deep in his own half. The winger was put in the clear by Powell but his final shot lacked real conviction and was saved by Daniels.

Brentford had enjoyed the greater possession and looked a threat on the break but Latics had created the better chances in the first half.

Early in the second half Christian Walton was at full stretch to deny Said Benrahma’s powerful effort from the edge of the box.

Latics then went close when Daniels denied Dunkley’s diving header following James’ corner-kick.

The hosts looked to have broken the deadlock on 75 minutes when Joe Garner’s towering header found substitute Pilkington at the back-post for an easy finish, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

The match was finely poised with Latics doing most of the pressing but with the Bees always a threat on the counter.

Latics almost got the all important winner on 83 minutes when Danny Fox’s cross was met by Dunkley but the centre-back’s looped header landed on the top of the crossbar and the match ended in stalemate.

Paul Cook’s reluctance to use Callum McManaman remains very puzzling. With 20 minutes remaining Latics needed a creative player who could unlock the Bees defence, but the manager left it until the 87th minute before introducing McManaman.

The change almost did the trick as the winger immediately breached the Bees backline before being brought down before he could cross.

Surely the change should’ve been made sooner if Cook wanted to secure the three points. Cook’s failure to use McManaman is one of the great mysteries of this season.

Latics now have some very tough fixtures ahead as they have to face several of the top teams, including Bristol City, Norwich City and Leeds United, and in that context this result inevitably felt like a wasted opportunity to take all three points.

 

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Posted in Brentford, Callum McManaman, Championship, Chey Dunkley, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which players should be released if Latics survive in the Championship?

Reece James

Star man Reece James

With eight games remaining Latics are in a relegation scrap and sit just three points above the drop zone, but if they do survive in the Championship this season what are the player options for next season.

Latics’ best player Chelsea loanee Reece James was this week deservedly named in the Championship team of the year but it is unlikely that the club will be able to retain his services for next season.

Several Premier League teams are keen to secure his signature and if Chelsea don’t sell him on he is likely to be loaned out to either a Premier League or top Championship outfit.

Manager Paul Cook will no doubt endeavour to make good use of the loan system next season but he is unlikely to find a young player of James’ quality again.

A new goalkeeper is on the wanted list as Brighton loanee Christian Walton will probably return to his home club. Latics other keeper Jamie Jones has signed an extended contract but they will need another experienced keeper to compete with Jones for the Number 1 spot.

The International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) have said they have money available to invest in the squad and that the Will Grigg transfer money is going to be used on recruitment.

As I’m not expecting loan striker Leon Clarke to stay on after completing his loan from Sheffield United, it is therefore important that the recruitment team seek out a goal scorer to replace Grigg as soon as possible.

Striker Joe Garner has been a useful addition to the squad but he is unlikely to score enough goals to fire Latics up the table.

Highly regarded midfielder Nick Powell and winger Gavin Massey are in negotiations about new contracts and if the new owners are serious about success on the pitch they should try their hardest to keep both players at the club.

In my opinion Callum McManaman deserves another contract, but it is evident that the manager has other ideas, so it would seem likely that he will move on.

Loanee full back Antonee Robinson has spent much of the season injured and loanee midfielder Beni Baningime has had very limited game time, so both could well return to their parent club Everton.

Midfielder Darron Gibson has not contributed much to the campaign and I would be very surprised if he got another contract.

Centre back Jonas Olssen came out of retirement to provide defensive cover recently but his performance against Blackburn did not augur well for an extended contract.

Midfielder Shaun MacDonald has not managed to get back into the first team after suffering a broken leg in April 2017 and is likely to given the opportunity to find another club.

Latics allowed several squad members to go out on loan during the course of the season. Midfielder Leonardo Da Silva Lopes is currently at Gillingham and will probably be recalled to see if he has progressed sufficiently to compete for a place next season.

Winger Jamie Walker was on loan at Peterborough but returned mid-season and hasn’t got back into first team contention. Similarly striker Devante Cole was on loan at Burton Albion and returned mid season and hasn’t been in first team contention. So I expect both of them to leave the club in the summer.

Striker James Vaughan who is currently on loan at Portsmouth is also likely to be released.

Latics do have several promising young players who might challenge for a first team place next season, in particular, England youth internationals Jensen Weir and Joe Geldhart. However the step up from youth team football can often be problematic, so we shouldn’t expect too much from them in the short-term.

With so many player departures likely it’s going to be a big close season of change for the club. It will be the first summer in charge for the new owners and it will provide a strong indicator of IEC’s intentions for the future.

In a fiercely competitive Championship the owner’s commitment to providing the funds for new players will be crucial if Latics are to make serious progress next season.

Posted in Championship, Paul Cook, Reece James, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Big win for Latics and under pressure Cook – Wigan Athletic 5 Bolton Wanderers 2

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Joe Garner gave Latics an early lead

Relegation threatened Wigan Athletic recorded an emphatic 5-2 victory against fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers and relieved the pressure on manager Paul Cook.

Latics took an early lead when Joe Garner headed home from Reece James’ free-kick and went further ahead in the 51st minute following a deflected finish from Gavin Massey.

Four minutes later Wanderers keeper Remi Matthews made a major blunder allowing Michael Jacobs to steal the ball off him and set up Nick Powell for an easy tap-in.

The visitors then pulled a goal back through Gary O’Neil on 62 minutes but Latics restored their three goal lead when Michael Jacobs produced a stunning finish from the edge of the box.

Substitute Sammy Ameobi added a second for Wanderers on 80 minutes but Latics soon restored their three goal advantage when Nathan Byrne found substitute Leon Clarke at the back post to head home the fifth and final goal.

Latics move up to 19th in the Championship table and three points above the drop zone. Wanderers remain in 23rd spot and eight points from safety.

After some poor performances in the defeat at Blackburn on Tuesday Cook made three changes to his starting line-up with Christian Walton, Nathan Byrne and Cedric Kipre coming in for Jamie Jones, Lee Evans and Jonas Olsson.

Latics got off to a great start as they went in front after only four minutes. Reece James’ excellent free-kick found Garner in the box and the former Preston striker headed home from close range.

Wanderers were hitting high balls up to their two big strikers but the Latics central defensive partnership of Dunkley and Kipre held firm.

The hosts could have doubled their lead before the break as Powell played in Antonee Robinson and the USA international forced a superb save from Matthews.

Just before the interval O’Neil was denied by the excellent Walton at his near post.

Latics started the second-half brightly and soon doubled their lead when Powell slipped the ball into the path of Massey who drove forward before hitting a shot which deflected off a defender and the post before finding the back of the net.

Just four minutes later it was 3-0 as keeper Matthews was dispossessed by Jacobs and Powell was left to casually knock the ball into an empty net.

O’Neil almost immediately managed to pull a goal back for Wanderers to make it 3-1, but the prospect of a comeback was short lived as Jacobs broke clear and produced an unstoppable finish from the edge of the box.

Christian Walton produced a superb save with his legs to deny former Latics loanee Callum Connolly before Ameobi did reduce the deficit on 80 minutes.

But a minute later Latics got their fifth when Byrne’s deep cross to the back post found substitute Clarke who headed past Matthews.

Byrne might have added a sixth before the end when he crashed a shot from distance against the post, but it had been a very special victory for Latics against their local rivals and Paul Cook can sleep easily tonight.

Posted in Bolton Wanderers, Championship, Gary O'Neil, Gavin Massey, Joe Garner, Leon Clarke, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, Sammy Ameobi, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics press the self-destruct button – Blackburn Rovers 3 Wigan Athletic 0

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Paul Cook out of luck and out of ideas

Dark days at Wigan Athletic as Paul Cook’s team engineered their own downfall and gifted Blackburn Rovers an easy three points at Ewood Park.

After enjoying plenty of early possession Latics contrived to present Rovers with three goals following defensive mistakes.

Reece James recklessly fouled Harrison Read in the penalty box after 39 minutes and Danny Graham comfortably converted the resulting spot kick.

Early in the second half substitute Callum McManaman set up Nick Powell but the former Manchester United midfielder was unable to capitalise as he headed narrowly wide of the target and soon afterwards Chey Dunkley’s miskick allowed Graham the easiest of tasks to add his and Rovers second goal.

Rovers wasted further chances to increase their lead before Jonas Olsson provided another gift when his poor back-pass allowed Bradley Dack another easy finish.

Latics remain in 20th spot in the Championship table just three points above the relegation zone while Rovers are comfortable in 16th spot.

The visitors made one enforced change from the team defeated at Reading on Saturday with Lee Evans replacing Nathan Byrne who had to miss out due to illness.

In difficult wet and windy conditions Latics enjoyed the majority of the early possession but Rovers went closest when Bradley Dack forced a good save from Jamie Jones.

Neither team carved out any clear cut openings until eight minutes before half time when Latics gave away a penalty. James caught Reed with a high boot and referee Chris Kavanagh had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.

Graham stepped up and fired Rovers into a one goal lead going into the interval.

Cook replaced Gavin Massey with McManaman at half-time and the winger had an almost immediate impact when crossing for Powell but the midfielder was inches wide of the target with his header.

Latics pressed for the equaliser but their good work was undone when a long ball from Rovers was not dealt with by Dunkley and Graham had an easy task to slot home past Jamie Jones.

The visitors tried to respond and Evans fired just wide and substitute Josh Windass forced a good save from David Raya, but the points were sealed on 86 minutes when Olsson’s back-pass was intercepted by Dack who finished calmly.

Either side of the third goal Rovers had very good chances to add to their tally through Joe Nuttall and Dack as Latics lost any semblance of defensive organisation.

This had been a disastrous performance by Latics which leaves them perilously close to the drop zone and desperately low in confidence.

Cook’s long ball tactics had proved ineffective and too many Latics players had performed way below the standard required for the Championship.

Basic mistakes had presented Rovers with three goals but it could easily have been five or six as Latics defenders offered limited resistance at times.

Even Latics player of the season so far Reece James had not been at his best, but others such as Evans, Dunkley, Olsson and Antonee Robinson should be ashamed of their performances.

Cook’s charges seem incapable of winning away from home and they could find themselves in the relegation zone if they lose at home against fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Bradley Dack, Championship, Danny Graham, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cook on the brink? Reading 3 Wigan Athletic 2

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Nick Powell scored the opening goal

Wigan Athletic failed to capitalise on their dominance and succumbed to a late Reading fight back to slip nearer to the Championship relegation zone.

Latics went ahead through Nick Powell after 20 minutes and, although Reading equalised through a John Swift free kick in first half injury time, Joe Garner restored their lead on 64 minutes.

But with Latics looking to see the game out the Royals equalised through Mo Barrow’s 30-yard strike on 89 minutes and with the clock showing 97 minutes Yakou Meite broke Wigan hearts with a stooping header at the back-post.

Latics are now below Reading on goal difference and are just three points clear of the relegation zone with ten games still to play.

Paul Cook made four changes to his starting line-up from Tuesday night’s defeat at Derby  County, with Antonee Robinson, Jonas Olsson, Powell and Garner replacing Danny Fox, Cedric Kipre, Lee Evans and Leon Clarke.

After an even opening period, Latics started to take control of the game and went ahead after 20 minutes when Powell produced a neat finish from a Michael Jacobs cross after some excellent work by Reece James in midfield.

Latics again threatened when Powell set up Jacobs but his shot was well saved by Emi Martinez.

At the other end, Tyler Blackett’s cross found Garath McCleary but his effort was saved by Jamie Jones.

In added time at the end of the first half the hosts drew level when Swift’s excellent free kick beat Jones from the edge of the area

Early in the second-half Gavin Massey forced Martinez into another good save before Chey Dunkley fired over the crossbar from a James corner.

Latics went back in front on 64 minutes when Powell’s attempted overhead kick found the unmarked Garner at the back-post and the well-travelled striker finished with aplomb.

Dunkley forced another good save from Martinez before the keeper produced a superb reflex save to deny Powell at close range.

Martinez then presented Latics with a golden opportunity when he rolled the ball into the path of James but the Chelsea loanee was unable to capitalise and fired wide of the target from 25-yards out.

Samy Morsy then produced a stinging 25-yard strike but a full stretch Martinez was equal to the task.

Cook replaced the tiring Massey and Powell with Kal Naismith and Leon Clarke and Latics lost their attacking threat. Naismith looked uncomfortable on the right wing and Clarke was once again out of sorts.

With the clock ticking down to 90 minutes a lack of composure by Latics was to prove costly.

Morsy allowed a free kick to be taken quickly while out of position and with James off the pitch, Mo Barrow was allowed plenty of space to run into before firing past Jones from 30-yards.

Latics’ inability to manage the game out proved even more costly on 97 minutes when from a corner Meite was allowed to head home unmarked at the back-post.

It was a game that Latics shouldn’t have lost and their inability to win away from home is proving to be their achilles heel.

They have won only one game away all season and that was at Stoke back in August. If they are to survive they must pick up more points on the road.

The pressure is mounting on Cook and the next two fixtures against local rivals Blackburn (a) and Bolton (h) could well determine the manager’s future.

Cook did so well in getting Latics promoted to the Championship but if there isn’t a quick improvement he is likely to take the club back to League One.

Latics are in the relegation mire and in a downward spiral, if they don’t get a win very soon Cook will surely lose his job.

 

Posted in Championship, Joe Garner, John Swift, Mo Barrow, Nick Powell, Reading, Wigan Athletic, Yakou Meite | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review: Done Deal – An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business by Daniel Geey

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If you are interested in the inner workings of the football industry this could be the book for you. Sports lawyer Daniel Geey provides insights into what goes on behind the scenes with high stakes transfers, television rights negotiations, player negotiations, player misconduct or multi-million pound club takeovers.

Geey’s clients include Premier League football clubs, international players and agencies; he is therefore able to provide first-hand accounts of what is involved in the business side of the game.

The transfer and contract process is explained in some detail and Geey gives an example of a headline transfer fee of £35m that could reach as high as £71.3m over the length of a player’s first contract. He uses Liverpool as an example, if they pay £35m for a Brazilian international player.

The transfer agreement may state that Liverpool pay:

* £35m up front;

* £5m on both first and second anniversaries of the player’s transfer;

* £5m if the player makes 50 appearances for Liverpool; and

* £5m if the player wins the Champions League and the Premier League with Liverpool (£2.5m per win).

When salary, performance related bonuses, image rights and agents fees are factored in from a headline transfer fee of £35m, the total investment that Liverpool may need to pay could therefore reach as high as £71.3m over the length of the player’s first contract: £35m (transfer fee) + £26m (wages) + £3m (signing on /loyalty bonus) + £1m (performance-related bonus) + £5m (image rights payment) + £1.3m (agent commission).

Agents are a particularly controversial part of multi-million pound deals and Geey is very sympathetic to their role and importance in getting a deal done but, nevertheless, it is hard for the reader not to think that they get paid far too much.

UEFA says agents made more than €3 billion between 2013-17. The FA now recommends that agents only get 3% of the player’s income (or in the case of an agent acting for the club) 3% of the actual transfer fee.

Geey states that the problem with such a recommendation is that agents usually receive 5-10% on particular deals. Since the recommendation has been in force – not much has changed – so far.

But it is reported that FIFA are recommending sweeping rule changes including the reintroduction of an agents exam, an end to players’ agents representing multiple parties, fixed commission percentages and a transfer clearing house for all monies to be paid when a transfer occurs.

Geey believes that moves by UEFA and FIFA to curb remuneration would be contested and would end up in court. But despite the author’s protestations it is impossible to deny that he is part of the system and benefits from high fees for his legal football work.

The football economy is now extremely lucrative and the riches available in the Premier League have attracted a new type of predominantly foreign owner. In the accounts for 2016/17 published in 2018, 18 of the 20 Premier League clubs made a profit. Only Chelsea and Sunderland made a loss.

Clubs will also work hard at separating various partnership assets to maximize the commercial inventory that they can offer to potential partners. This can be taken to extremes: it was reported that the home strip for Swedish side Mjallby AIF contained 13 different sponsors and Puebla FC’s home shirt for 2009 advertised nine.

Money is now regrettably at the forefront of the game. New figures released by Deloitte in 2018 set out that the European football market is now worth £21.9 billion. The value of commercial deals and broadcasting rights to a club that wins the play-off to reach the Premier league will no doubt soon break the £200m mark.

The financial deals at the top level are now breathtaking and the transfer fees almost beyond comprehension. For those involved in these deals, agents, lawyers, banks, marketing and PR agencies, the financial rewards are as you can imagine significant.

Geey has provided a thorough analysis of how the football business works at the top level but it is hard not to conclude that the astronomical amounts of money involved now take precedence over on the field matters.

Done Deal – An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business by Daniel Geey. Published by Bloomsbury Sport, price £16.99.

This review first appeared in the March/April 2019 of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Daniel Geey, Football Law, Late Tackle magazine, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A golden opportunity wasted – Derby County 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Gavin Massey

Gavin Massey

Wigan Athletic wasted a golden opportunity to move clear of the Championship relegation zone when Derby County came back from a goal down to win 2-1 at the iPro Stadium.

Latics had taken the lead through Gavin Massey on 25 minutes after a quick break by former Derby winger Michael Jacobs had set him clear.

In a scrappy game both teams struggled for continuity giving the ball away needlessly and it looked as though Massey’s early goal might be enough to give Latics all three points.

But out of the blue substitute Mason Bennet’s acrobatic overhead kick levelled the scores on 62 minutes and when Latics failed to clear their lines the Rams scored the winner on 78 minutes when Scott Malone finished from close range.

Latics remain in 19th spot in the table and just three points above the drop zone. While Derby remain in seventh spot they are now on level points with sixth placed Bristol City.

Paul Cook once again changed his formation moving from 5-3-2 to a 4-3-3 with Jacobs and Massey coming into the team for Kal Naismith and Josh Windass.

‘Frank Lampard’s Derby County’ started brightly and Harry Wilson blazed over before Bradley Johnson had a header blocked as Latics struggled to keep possession.

The visitors looked nervous with Nathan Byrne and Chey Dunkley giving the ball away needlessly and Derby should probably have capitalised.

But on 25 minutes following a Rams attack Jacobs broke quickly and after evading a desperate lunge by a defender he put Massey through on goal and the winger returning from a long injury scored his second goal of the season.

Soon afterwards Latics had a glorious chance to double their lead when Byrne crossed for Leon Clarke, but the striker headed just over.

Bradley Johnson then had an opportunity for the Rams firing over the crossbar before Jacobs had a header saved by Scott Carson.

Latics one up at the interval and Derby looking out of sorts and the home fans getting restless.

The second half started scrappily like much of the first half with both teams giving the ball away far too easily.

But the game turned in the Rams favour on 62 minutes when substitute Bennett acrobatically flicked the ball high over Jamie Jones and into the top corner of the net.

Latics had a golden opportunity to go back in front a few minutes later when Reece James played in Jacobs but the winger fired across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the far post.

The visitors were now making far too many mistakes in defensive positions and the chickens came home to roost in the 78th minute. Latics once again failed to clear on the edge of their own area and when Bogle’s cross shot found Malone he was able to finish from close range.

Latics huffed and puffed in the dying minutes but they never really looked like equalising.

This had been a rare opportunity for a Latics away win as Derby had looked disjointed and low in confidence after a poor run of form.

But Latics had failed to capitalise on their lead and wasted the chance to put a six point gap between themselves and the bottom three.

Overall there had been too many poor performances by Latics players, with only James, and Jacobs and Massey before they faded, emerging with much credit.

16 away games without a win is an abysmal record by any standards and a huge improvement will be required if they are to get anything from Saturday’s six-pointer at relegation rivals Reading.

Posted in Championship, Derby County, Gavin Massey, Mason Bennett, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment