About once every season, us lot as Wigan Athletic are treated to a miracle (or something similar), thanks to goings on at Anfield on Saturday, we weren’t starved of our feast of the five hundred this campaign either.
In recent years, we’ve experienced surreal incidents such as Dave Whelan refusing to comment on a controversial topic; having a whole week elapse without an attendance related jibe and even the time when Pascal Chimbonda played without his infamous gloves.
Slightly less obscene moments have included the lights going out in the semi-final against Arsenal, the Carling Cup final in Cardiff and the rumours that Real Madrid were chasing one of our players. Normal order was resumed when the prospective Galactico’s next move was to Hull City.
The omnipotent Dave Whelan’s latest parcel from heaven is the profit Gary Caldwell.
Now I’ve been one to slag off our erratic captain on numerous occasions this season (sorry Gary) and my opinion of him still remains similar to previously (as a defender anyway), yet his winning goal on Saturday suggests he could be greatly out of position at centre back.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero had dummied a shot to fool such an experienced defender as Andy Carroll, then got the ball stuck under their feet as they managed to prod the ball goalbound, nutmegging Pepe Reina in the process, then we’d have superlative after superlative thrown at us describing their God-given flair.
But this is Gary Caldwell we’re on about, he’s stocky, he’s Scottish and, well, he plays for Wigan, that’s never going to happen, is it?
His highly impressive goal tally of three goal for the season is three more than Conor Sammon, and only one goal short of the highly prolific duo of Jordi Gomez and Franco Di Santo. When you consider that Caldwell has scored more goals at Anfield this season than a £35 million Liverpool striker, it goes without saying that he should in fact lead the Latics front line for the relegation run in. What could possibly go wrong?
On a more serious note, one attacking player that has caught the eye recently is Shaun Maloney, Caldwell’s ex-Celtic teammate.
To sign a player in the summer and use him so sparingly up until this point has been rather strange, especially when considering he was allocated the number 10 shirt and has only the likes of Jordi Gomez as competition.
A class act against Norwich, assisting Victor Moses for the equalising goal, Maloney carried on his fine form at Anfield. His performance comprised of more than just an expertly taken penalty (Ben Watson take note) he was outstanding throughout, finding pockets of space in front of Liverpool’s back four and threading dangerous passes like Andres Iniesta. Maybe a slightly generous comparison, but if Leon Britton’s an equal to Xavi then I think Maloney is almost in Iniesta’s league, almost.
Furthermore, he demonstrated the endeavour critical to a successful survival season when chasing down the clearance that led to Victor Moses winning the penalty which opened the scoring. If Liverpool had cleared the ball upfield, who knows what the score would have ended up as?
On the basis of recent performances, Maloney appears to be a quicker, more creative and harder working version of Jordi Gomez, and he has the penalties to match. Keep up the good work Shaun.
Predictably perhaps, Latics weren’t alone in celebrating at the bottom of the table. Despite QPR, Blackburn and Wolves all losing, Bolton inflicted Blackburn’s defeat at the Reebok and made sure Latics weren’t leaving the relegation zone by 5:45 on Saturday evening.
It had been thought that the tragic events could provide a hurdle for Bolton in their battle for safety, yet the opposite was true on Saturday, as Blackburn couldn’t match their desire, hunger and endeavour. Bolton seemed to be vastly encouraged by the incidents surrounding Fabrice Muamba this week, with the fans and players galvanized in a common goal for victory against Blackburn to dedicate to Fabrice.
The unlikely hero was in the form of another frustrated striker who’s stuck at centre back, David Wheater, whose two goals led Wanderers to a 2-1 victory.
This all means that Latics are on 25 points, level with QPR, whilst Wolves take our personally owned 20th spot with 22. Bolton and Blackburn are in the final safety spots currently, amazingly when you consider their hardships, especially Rovers’, with 26 and 28 points respectively. Wanderers though, do have a game in hand which is worth considering.
It is very difficult to predict the final three that will eventually perish, most seemed settled on the trio that currently occupy the three spots. Yet experience has told Latics fans to expect the unexpected, nothing is decided with ten games to go, so there’s hope for us all yet.
When looking at fixtures for the five relevant teams, the system changes slightly towards the end. Of course the top teams are to avoid, especially away from home, whilst the mid-table teams are those favoured by fans of the relegation threatened clubs. With seemingly little to play for and subsequently a possible ‘already on holiday’ attitude from the opposition, three points are certaintly up for grabs. Having said that, Latics beat big boys Liverpool and QPR were hammered by 9th placed Sunderland.
The games against other relegation rivals are simply one off cup final matches, determined not by form or class, but simply who wants it more, as shown at the Reebok this weekend.
QPR’s fixture list does look the hardest, especially based on the above theory, with only three mid table teams (Swansea, West Brom and Stoke) and no relegation rivals left to play amongst games against Arsenal, Man Utd, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City.Another red card for Djibril Cisse can’t have helped their cause either.
Wolves don’t seem to be able to find a win from anywhere at present, with games against Bolton and ourselves the only likely opportunity for points. Indeed, by the time they visit the DW on the final day, one or both of our respective fates may have been sealed.
Rovers seem to be in the most commanding position, especially in terms of points, yet their run in could go either way due to their immense unpredictability. The are equally likely to hammer teams like West Brom, Swansea and Norwich 3-0 or capitulate and lose 3-0. Bolton meanwhile face a number of mid table teams too which could work in their favour, a trip to Wolves on Saturday too might be a chance to build on recent form.
That leaves us with our beloved side, looking at our fixtures, April seems to be the critical month. If Latics are still in with a shout after facing Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal, then the adrenaline might be enough to salvage enough points from the remaining four games against Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolves.
Whichever way you look at it, it’ll be one hell of a ride.
Goal of the Week: We were treated to some beauties weren’t we? Mikel Arteta, Taye Taiwo and Leighton Baines all hit perfect free-kicks, whilst Yaya Toure’s thunderbolt was almost as good as the aforementioned prod from Gary Caldwell. Yet you can’t escape the fact that Crouchy’s goal was something else, can you?
Of the Week: After a seventh straight win which takes his side three points ahead of Spurs in third, Arsen Wenger must be relatively pleased with his response to critics who suggested he should be sacked amid the club’s ‘crisis’.
Of the Week: The editor of Man United’s ‘Red Issue’ fanzine hasn’t done himself any favours in endearing himself to football fans after revealing the cover to the fanzine’s latest issue for tonight’s clash with Fulham. It features a picture of Fabrice Muamba being treated with speech bubbles appeared from the crowd reading “Is he dead yet”, “I’ve tweeted my condolences just in case” and “Good mourning”. Slightly insensitive, don’t we agree?
Quote of the Week: Colin Murray actually says something which slightly resembles a joke: “Joey Barton is like ‘hastage, where’s my armband’?”
Boselli Watch: After deciding playing maybe isn’t for him, our eccentric friend applied for a job as a striker coach for a certain Mr G. Caldwell. I’ll keep you updated with the results.