It appears to be a recurring trend in our Premier League years that Latics only start playing when it gets to the ‘now or never’ stage, with the exception of 2005/06 and 2008/09 when we had the relative security of mid-table of course.
Stoke City are a formidable opposition at any time, with their monster long throws, big oafs of target men and ogre like fans, it’s hard not to feel intimidated. Yet, the only times Wigan have achieved back-to-back wins under Martinez have both involved victories over Stoke, and the six points gained over the past week are as valuable as any others we’ve gained in the top flight.
In terms of the game itself, it was a tough one to call. Surely Stoke wouldn’t fall into the mid-table complacency trap where they have nothing to play for by the end of March? I thought the Latics would be heading for a draw and a hard fought one at that. In reality, it was a lot more comfortable.
To be fair to Stoke, they deal rather well with irony. I’m not just referring to the ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ and ‘We only score from a thrown in chants’, but their rather tongue in cheek chant about Wigan being a sh*thole. I mean, has anyone been to Stoke? It’s like the Gaza Strip, and if you don’t consider your sister and wife to be the same person, you’re a serious outcast in the Potteries.
Back to the game, Stoke seemed rather flat and lacking in motivation in a lukewarm opening half from their point of view. Not that it stopped half of their following support getting arrested and dragged out of the North Stand one by one by the stewards, nor did it stop that detestable Lee Cattermole wannabee Dean Whitehead handballing in the box and blatantly hauling Victor Moses to the floor.
Latics created the best chances of the first half, Maloney was pulling the strings nicely, with plenty of Cruyff turns and fancy flicks to bypass defenders whilst Di Santo and Beausejour spurned the best opportunities. The less said about the latter, the better really.
It looked like it could be ‘one of those days’ for Wigan, like it was against West Brom, whereby we totally pummel the opposition, but only succeed in getting a draw, or even worse. By the time Beausejour missed his fourth open net, I think we all feared a repeat scenario.
But fear not, our misfiring Chilean whipped a rabbit out of the hat with a fine left wing cross which was met by the head of Antolin Alcaraz, resulting in a goal for the Latics at last.
From then on, Stoke offered very little going forward and not even Peter Crouch could find a moment of genius from somewhere to trouble Al-Habsi, who was pretty much a spectator for much of the game.
Further chances came and went, and Martinez was obviously feeling a little complacent by offering some rare playing time to reserves such as Sammon, Gomez and Watson late on.
Wiganers hearts could start beating again when Victor Moses slotted the ball into an open net (that’s how you do it Jean) after dispossessing Andy Wilkinson on the half way line and charging towards goal.
Rather typically, the two wins Wigan amassed by virtue of surprise weren’t even enough to climb to 18th place in the table. I think that’s the burning bush in terms of how much luck we will need to get out of this.
After beating Stoke, surely we could rely on Arsenal, the form team in the whole flippin’ league, to beat Queens Park Rangers. Even if it was just a stuffy 1-0, it would have done. Yet despite beating the likes of Everton and Spurs over the last few weeks, Arsene’s boys fell to Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie, Paddy Kenny and co at Loftus Road just when it mattered.
In that game, Adel Taarabt showed that actually, he can choose to ditch the lethargic, prima donna persona he often portrays by spinning Thomas Vermaelen and smashing home the opener. Samba Diakite fired home the winner after Theo Walcott had toyed with our emotions by equalising.
It was quite unbelievable that after 90 minutes of blood, sweat and tears from the DW, we weren’t even a place better of for it. After Stewart Frodsham announced the QPR score after the game, the sharp intake of breath from the home crowd was simply stunning.
Look on the bright side though, it could be worse.
We could be six points adrift of 19th place after losing 3-2 at home to Bolton, put simply, we could be Wolves.
Whilst we are much more fortunate to be human rather than Wolves (sorry) we can finally look down and laugh at somebody who is in a worse position that ourselves.
I do have sympathy for Wolves and their fans however, they do have some decent players (Jarvis, Fletcher and Kightly spring to mind) yet they’ve been handicapped by the disastrous decision to sack Mick McCarthy and replace him with Terry Connor mid way through the season.
We’ve seen it all before with Chris Hutchings, Sammy Lee, Eddie Gray and the likes, good assistants don’t necessarily make good managers.
Meanwhile, Bolton’s win at Molineux leaves them a point clear of the drop zone with a game in hand on the bottom three clubs. Blackburn meanwhile, face Man United tonight (Monday), and whilst common sense suggests they should lose, they did travel to Old Trafford and win back in December.
It appears that Latics may have to turn over a big side if they’re to stay up again this season. But who would have predicted us beating Liverpool, or QPR beating Arsenal, or Blackburn beating Man Utd, or us even being here in the first place? Whilst there’s possibility, there’s still hope, even for Wolves (maybe).
At the less interesting end of the table, Man City did the inevitable and threw away their title chance against Sunderland.
By drawing 3-3 and giving United the chance to build an eight point gap before City next play, Mancini’s men performed to the expectations of Man City sides gone by. You can buy great players but the tag ‘typical City’ will still remain, and Man City will mess things up at any given opportunity, it’s fate, you can’t fight it.
Meanwhile, this weekend showed that it’s becoming fashionable to attack your own teammates. I’m not talking Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer style here, but the spats between Roger Johnson and Wayne Hennessey, Peter Odemwingie and Ben Foster, plus Mario Balotelli and Alexander Kolarov, were strange to watch, especially as they all occurred on the same afternoon.
Goal of the Week: There were plenty of contenders, but I’m giving it to Gylfi Sigurdsson after his effort against Spurs.
Mike Pollitt of the Week: After finally scoring his first Premier League goal since September, Fernando Torres earns this award with an emphatic finish.
Mike Bassett of the Week: Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool were embarrassed by Newcastle on Sunday. Andy Carroll dived with the goal at his mercy and Pepe Reina got sent off for a pathetic headbut on James Perch, at least it wasn’t on his own player eh?
Quote of the Week: “I felt psychically sick.” Michael Kightly reveals the trauma of being a Wolves player.
Boselli Watch: Mauro’s current club Estudiantes have considered entering a competition for the most expensive statue, claiming they managed to get £6million for theirs off Dave Whelan.