Past seasons have suggested that one thing that is crucial for a successful survival campaign is a strong home record. So, after going thirteen depressing home games without victory, it could easily be depicted Latics’ season may not be one of survival or triumph.
The cliché goes that a good set of results at home makes your stadium a ‘fortress’. A bastion of intimidation where mischievous fans are lurking around corners ready to pounce on the enemy as the portcullises fall.
Comparatively, the DW can be considered more like a cardboard box, where the only fear is sensed by the home players as they attempt to avoid being the victim of the next boo and the nearest thing to a moat is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Hardly something to make Henry VIII turn in his grave, unless he has an irrational phobia of empty seats that is.
When Swansea came to town, it was a big occasion not only as for the three points on offer, but the history personnel on both sides have with the opposition.
Truthfully, watching Swansea play for Roberto Martinez must have been like being shown a tutorial DVD saying ‘nice try, but here’s how it should look…’
Wigan, noticeably with key players on the bench (more on that later), were simply outclassed by a Swansea side with more talent, organisation and desire. Not a single Latics player looked even slightly impressive, Jordi Gomez seemed as if he was allergic to passing to a teammate; James McCarthy was about as anonymous as a body at the bottom of the ocean and Conor Sammon demonstrated on multiple occasions his perfect technique of mis-controlling the ball and running past a defender whilst leaving that all important white sphere behind. This really was a toothless performance.
Gylfi Sigurdsson on the other hand was made to look like Zinedine Zidane by a midfield that had more holes than a colander and the resistance of a paper bag. Sigurdsson walked through the Wigan midfield and strolled towards a static defence before curling the ball home with ease. If Woolworths had the same reluctance to close down as Antolin Alcaraz did, then maybe they’d still be around today.
With Wigan’s attacking prowess of Sammon and Di Santo, the one goal made the three points more than safe for Swansea.
In the second half, Wigan’s innovative tactics of giving the ball away as many times as possible or occasionally getting into the opposition’s half and then stay static didn’t work, surprisingly. It was no shock when Sigurdsson bent home a free-kick past Al-Habsi to make it 2-0, neither was it a surprise to watch them comfortably see out the remainder of the match even with only ten men.
Although not the worst performance of the season (and there has been a collection to choose from) this was the game that confirmed our helplessness for me. The mood in the stands was one of a relegated team with no hope of salvation, whilst the mood of the players on the pitch appeared to be one of little confidence, fear of making a mistake and general lethargy, as if the players had inherited this learned helplessness from the faithful.
Following the game, in what can best be described as a ‘heat of the moment’ comment, Dave Whelan went on air and criticised Martinez’s selection, stating there were “three quality players on the bench” and he would “ask questions about the selection and performance”. Come on Dave, just because Moses, Hugo and Momo can actually kick a football and don’t have the combined footballing ability of Eric Djemba-Djemba like the rest doesn’t qualify them as ‘quality’. They’d probably struggle to make it into most other Premier League teams, unless you believe Hugo Rodallega’s agent that is.
I don’t blame Dave for stating his discontent, if I’d pumped millions of my own money into a project and saw it result in a weeping failure I wouldn’t be best pleased about it. Yet all this has to be done internally, once it gets out then it’s all over the news and tension is created. Whelan has to back his manager externally to paint a picture of solidarity for the run in, which to be fair, he has done with his subsequent comments after his “successful meeting.”
One thing I will say regarding the selection policy for Saturday is that every other Premier League team had internationals away in midweek, yet it didn’t seem to be a hindrance for them. Having said that, many of these players did pick up mystery injuries and illnesses to prevent such a scenario, I suppose you can when you’re at a ‘big club’, can’t you?
Regardless, the writing is on the wall for Wigan and results must be turned around instantly for any hope of a 17th place finish (the pinnacle of our aspirations this season). With a meagre 20 points from 27 games, around six wins are required from the remaining eleven games to put ourselves in with any chance. That would be top half form, a tall order for a team that has amassed an incredibly impressive tally of four victories all season, and one that still has Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal left to face. So effectively, we need six wins from the other seven games.
The final two fixtures offer some form of hope in the shape of Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers, but I fear by then it’ll be too little too late.
Nowt like a dose of optimism is there?
Chelsea this weekend hosted their annual sacking of their manager following a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Roberto Di Matteo has been given the job until further notice as Villas-Boas’ replacement, with an estimated period of time in charge being around 36 minutes of game time, until Abramovich can finally find his fantastical conception of a manager who can spit silverware out of their mouth on demand.
Meanwhile, Newcastle and Sunderland managed to proudly break a collective record by making this weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby the most aggressive since records began. Lee Cattermole achieved his personal target by picking up a booking after just 40 seconds, a PB for the tenacious midfielder. He was followed in the book by seven others, whilst Stephane Sessegnon was sent off for an ‘elbow’. Cattermole himself was finally sent off after the full time whistle, by the way, the final score was 1-1.
Finally, football fans everywhere were shocked to here the news that Mario Balotelli had been seen and subsequently fined for appearing outside a strip club in the early hours of Friday morning. The shock being that it wasn’t Saturday morning of course, he went on to score in Man City’s routine 2-0 home victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Goal of the Week: Robin Van Persie’s last minute volley was the greatest piece of action the DW has seen all season. Unfortunately, it was only in the concourse and Arsenal snatched a 2-1 win against Liverpool.
Steve McMillan of the Week: Ashley Young fired in two goals to effectively extinguish off Tottenham’s whimpering title flame and ensure United’s was very much a burning bonfire. Yet Andre Villas Boas’ earning of £9million over the course of a few hours makes him the clear victor of the weekend’s action.
Steve Bruce of the Week: Terry Conner’s Wolves team lost 5-0 at Fulham whilst nobody connected with Wigan Athletic can claim a successful weekend, yet my loser is Pep Guardiola, after being linked with the Chelsea job he must be seriously wondering what the hell he’s done wrong with his life.
Quote of the Week: Proof, if any was needed, only idiots call into football phone ins:
Robbie Savage: (on Chelsea’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan at Atletico Madrid) “To be fair, he was only beaten by a great free-kick by Lionel Messi the other day…”
Chelsea fan Steve: “But you wouldn’t have been able to save that shot!”
Boselli Watch: Mauro has reportedly applied to the vacant England job after all stating he considers himself the perfect candidate. He is an incompetent tactician, he can’t speak English, he has no proven track record in English football but most importantly: he’s foreign.