Latics make short trip to Ewood for crunch relegation battle.
The old fabled ‘six pointer’ doesn’t really get much bigger than this one. If we lose this then I think we will be the favourites for the drop, (edit – seemingly we are already odds on to be relegated) but a win especially if coupled with another defeat for Bristol City should be the shot in the arm we need to get ourselves out of this mess.
The display last week was appalling for a game that we needed to get something from and were more than capable of doing so. We lacked any form of cutting edge and once again the substitutions and team selection were baffling. I mentioned in the match review that I have lost faith in Warren Joyce over the last few weeks and a big change in tactics is needed if we are to survive. We can no longer play to protect a point and need to go out for the win from the offset in the next three. If we can get three wins this week, or even two, then the landscape of our season will look much different.
I’ve gone on about it multiple times over the last few weeks but I still have trouble getting my head around the reasons why we suddenly changed tactics from those that saw us beat Forest, Burton and Brentford to those that we saw against Preston a fortnight ago and Forest last week. Warren Joyce has blamed it on a lack of creativity since the loss of Michael Jacobs to injury and Yanic leaving for Norwich, but if that is the case then why have we had Gabriel Obertan and James Weir sat on the bench and been playing Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe as wide men? I don’t buy into this theory that Obertan isn’t fit because he hasn’t played since December. The guy is a professional footballer so even with a month off should be able to do at least an hour unless he has been on the Teremoks every day. What is the reason for not playing James Weir? Admittedly he didn’t look great when he started against Norwich but he barely saw the ball so it would be harsh to write him off after 45 minutes where the side was pretty poor throughout, and having worked with him before I’m pretty sure that Warren Joyce will now his capabilities outside of that one half of football. We are far too defensive for my liking considering our position and appear to be trying to protect a point as opposed to winning games. Yes you have to make yourself tough to beat, which to a degree I think we have achieved as our defence has improved, but you still need to try and win games especially against the sides around you. If we were playing Newcastle at St James’ Park tomorrow then I would snap your hand off for a point and would be setting up to frustrate them, but away at Blackburn, who are fighting relegation alongside us, we have to go with the sole intention of winning the game. Anything less just simply isn’t good enough.
The build up to the game has probably not been ideal for the players with the news that Warren Joyce has had to undergo a medical procedure. Graham Barrow and Andy Welsh have been taking charge of the side this week in training and I fully expect them to be in the dugout tomorrow at Ewood Park. I don’t however expect them to have too much of a say over the tactics so don’t expect a miraculous turnaround in our fortunes based on that. Barrow has said that they have been in regular contact with Joyce so I still expect him to be calling the shots and to have devised a plan of action. That would be a first I think looking at his reign so far though.
I’m also not sure that Graham Barrow is actually the answer given the frailties that have been evident in our play under several different managers all whilst Barrow has been at the club. Blackburn have opted to change manager in the last few weeks with Tony Mowbray replacing Owen Coyle and already they have seen some form of upturn with the win over Derby in his first home game in charge on Tuesday night that normally you probably wouldn’t have expected. We have never seen this upturn in form aside from probably the Uwe Rosler appointment, but our backroom staff has never changed and neither it would appear has our playing style. We still have more players in the box to defend a corner than to attack one and regularly leave nobody as an outlet should we clear the ball. We regularly see our lone striker on the wing crossing the ball to nobody as the midfield decides not to support in case they get a nose bleed, and we still regularly see the same mistakes at the back as we try to pass our way out of our own area despite not being able to string two passes together anywhere else on the park. Regardless of what happens this season I think we need a change off the field. It may go against the ‘Wigan Athletic family’ philosophy that we are trying to implement but we can’t keep swapping manager after a run of bad results, keeping the same backroom staff and then wondering why things are not changing.
As I said at the start this week is massive for us. The table currently looks like this:
Forest 34 -12 37
Burton 34 -13 36
Wolves 32 -5 35
Bristol 34 -8 33
Blackburn 33 -12 33
Wigan 34 -10 31
If we can get a win tomorrow and lift ourselves out of the drop zone, get something from Birmingham in the week and then beat Bristol City at home next Saturday then that will look very different especially if results go our way which looking at the fixtures there is a good chance they might. We can’t be looking at protecting a point and need to go for the juggler from the off. That’s what got us the three wins on the bounce at the start of the year and for me is the only tactic that will see us potentially survive.
We have been saying this for weeks now and hopefully I am not writing the exact same thing this time next week, but this run of fixtures are all winnable and could well decide our season.
Graham Barrow:“I know there was a little bit of discontent after last week’s game, but we’ve only lost one out of our last four and if we carry on in that vein it’ll see us safe hopefully. We know we’ve got to turn a couple of the draws into wins, so if we can get a couple of wins this week then we’ll be in there fighting. It’s the mentality that’s got to be right. If you look at the Burton game for example, even in the first couple of minutes you could see the mentality was bang on and I felt from then that we were going to win that game, that’s how significant it is.”
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