How Can Wigan Avoid Another Relegation Scrap in 2019-20?

Wigan’s fight to avoid relegation is likely to go down to the last day of the season. As our first season back in the Championship after relegation in 2018, it’s fair to say that avoiding relegation can be considered a success – should we accomplish it.

Going forward, however, we’ll want to push on and become more of a force in the Championship – ideally pushing for the play-offs. So, how Latics go from relegation fodder to a strong mid-table side or even play-off candidates? Let’s take a look at some of the 2018-19 statistics

The problem playing away

One thing that definitely stands out with Wigan in 2018-19 is the poor form playing away. Wigan are the Championship’s worst team away from home, winning just one away match all season – and that was way back in August at Stoke. On the flipside, the home form table puts them firmly mid-table, just a few points from the play-offs.

It’s almost impossible for teams to compete in any league without the ability to gain points away from home. Even if you win all your home games, that still only provides 69 points – not quite enough to get into the play-offs. It will come as no surprise that the seven teams with the best away form are also the top seven in the league table.

The solution? For many teams, the best option is to adopt a more defensive approach away from home. Play for the draw, take your time, slow down the game and frustrate the opposition, who will be keen on taking all three points. The more they push forward, the more chance Wigan have of nicking a goal on the counter.

A proven goal-scorer

Another issue Wigan Athletic have had this season, as have many teams lurking near the relegation zone, is goals. Latics are one of eight teams with less than fifty goals this season – just more than one goal a game. On top of that, we’ve failed to score in a massive 40% of matches.

Why? It’s hard to look beyond the loss of Will Grigg at the end of January and the lack of a real replacement. Paul Cook brought in Ipswich’s Joe Garner a few months earlier, who was hardly prolific and – aged 30 at the time – probably past his best as a striker.

But given the last minute nature of Grigg’s departure, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to replace him. Odds and probabilities aside, no team is going to have a good season without someone to put the ball away.

Game management

What’s also interesting when you look at Wigan’s statistics from the 2018-19 season is that we actually do quite well in the first half. In the first 42 matches, Latics were winning at half time a third of the time. They were drawing at half time in 40% of matches and losing in just 26%.

Over 60% of the goals Wigan concede come in the second half of matches, with a massive 21% of goals given away in the final ten minutes of matches. What this tells us is that Paul Cook – assuming he keeps his job – needs to put a lot more work into game management.

Work on high pressure scenarios, where opposition teams pile forward to get the winner or equaliser, as this is clearly where Wigan have struggled. A big part of this will be getting the subs right. Again, this may be a recruitment issue. Do Wigan Athletic have enough depth of strength, with players that can come on specifically to control games?

Summer recruitment will be the first major hurdle for Wigan, building up to 2019-20. Of course, this all depends on whether we can survive the drop in 2018-19…

 

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