This weekend proved that there is a first for everything. For once, Wigan Athletic were actually the benefactors of the weekend’s action down at the bottom of the Premier League.
Not many would have predicted such an outcome, but Wigan managed to salvage a point against Chelsea through a late equalizer from, you guessed it: Jordi Gomez.
Martinez may have his flaws as a manager, yet there’s no denying he’s been Latics’ most successful at stealing points from the big boys.
Against the previously infamous ‘Big Four’ which seems to have fallen apart in recent seasons, Martinez has managed eighteen games and amassed twelve points. Which is far more creditable than Jewell’s total of zero points and Bruce’s incredibly impressive improvement of four.
Conversely, it may be pointed out that against Manchester City and Tottenham, the latest emergence of the Premier League’s big guns, Martinez has faired rather poorly. With a solitary win against Spurs at White Hart Lane last season not enough to erase the memories of the 9-1 game or several defeats to Man City, who previously regarded us as their bogey side.
The fact the ‘big four’ isn’t the grand old terrifying force it once was might take a little away from Martinez’s comparative glory, yet the way we occasionally do challenge the big boys now is certainly more encouraging.
Once upon a time a draw against one of these immortals seemed like a dream away especially as we either seemed to lose comprehensively or throw away a chance of a point by conceding a last minute winner (think Crespo, Adebayor, Robben and even Pascal Chimbonda’s own goal).
In this case, the great inconsistency Martinez has brought to the team has worked in his favour. A team capable of beating Liverpool at home on Wednesday was also capable of losing 4-0 at the Reebok the following weekend.
Likewise, a side we beat 3-1 at home managed to thrash us 8-0 away. Still, it’s better to be inconsistent than consistently bad, isn’t it?
The latest point from one of the ‘big boys’ came at the DW following the scalp of Chelsea.
Having ended Man City’s unbeaten run on Monday, only an idiot would back Wigan to stop Chelsea from earning three points on Saturday. When Daniel Sturridge fired past Al-Habsi for 1-0, this theory was looking to be a correct one.
Yet Wigan rampaged and Martinez even proved his great tactical diversity by showing he actually does know how to play two strikers at the same time, and it even paid off.
Franco Di Santo might hardly be Chelsea’s nemesis or ‘the one that got away’ for the Blues, but his introduction did cause their defence to have a little extra to think about. Hugo Rodallega looked slightly energetic for once and this combination created havoc in the Chelsea box which Di Santo nearly profited from. Alas, his shot was deflected wide.
Yet the equalizer was produced when the two combined down the left to set up Jordi Gomez with an open goal to salvage a late point.
Cech could have handled Rodallega’s hopeful toe poke a lot better but the fact is that he didn’t and little Wigan held Chelsea at home. After all those last minute heartaches in the past, I think Chelsea were due a piece of their own medicine.
Typically, the result wasn’t enough to escape the traitorous bottom three but when expecting to earn no points from a three match run involving Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United, to get a point in the first game can only be seen as a welcome bonus.
In contrast, Bolton don’t seem capable of getting a point from anywhere after losing again, this time away at Fulham.
On paper at least, Bolton seem to have a more than competent team, with options in all positions, a solid defensive pairing of Cahill and Knight and many attacking options in Eagles, Petrov, Kakuta, Klasnic, Kevin Davies and co supplemented by workman like midfielders such as Muamba, Reo-Coker and Mark Davies.
Comparatively, Wigan’s line-up looks rather weak, yet Bolton don’t seem to be able to get a win from anywhere, even with a respected manager such as Owen Coyle.
The reasons for Bolton’s downfall are debatable, is Cahill’s head elsewhere? Is he just playing out until January where he can move to a bigger club? Is Kevin Davies past his peak? Are in fact, the likes of Eagles and N’Gog average players who looked good in the Championship or next to better players at Liverpool respectively?
Bolton have proved that on their day though, their players can deliver. All three of their wins have been convincing (4-0 at QPR, 3-1 at Wigan and 5-0 against Stoke). Yet these occasions have been a rarity and came in between thirteen disappointing defeats.
This disastrous start to the season adds extra emphasis on the result between themselves and Blackburn in the basement battle tomorrow night (Tuesday). And who could call it?
Rovers aren’t in a much better position themselves and despite having a weaker team on paper, the recent form of Yakubu might just be enough to snatch it for them.
If Bolton fail to win, then they’ll be left bottom of the pile at Christmas, and we all know what that means…
All this gloom and doom of nearby neighbours makes me feel much better as a Latics fan. Not only do we have a decent owner and a manager who isn’t hated by his own fans (not much anyway); but we’re not bottom at Christmas; not the subject of any conspiracy theories; not worried about any of our players leaving in January and finally are actually improving in terms of form.
Be grateful all you Tics out there, and be glad you’re not the proud owner of a ‘KEAN OUT’ banner or a season ticket at the Reebok.
At the top, only Chelsea didn’t enjoy wins from the current top four as City, United and Spurs all earned three points.
Arsenal again came away from Manchester empty handed despite a much improved performance from their previous visit this season. Man City were made to sweat but recent clouds of their Champions League exit and Stamford Bridge defeat were given a Silva lining as David slotted home the winner.
At Loftus Road, the whole of the footballing nation was stunned when Michael Carrick actually did something productive rather than sticking to what he does best, sideways passing and giving the ball away. The Geordie seemed a little embarrassed when told in an interview that his goal was his first in 70 United games, the goal topped off a routine 2-0 win for the Reds in which Phil Jones was instrumental.
Goal of the Week: James Morrison might be more famous for singing, but his volleys aren’t bad either.
Jason Roberts of the Week: As previously mentioned, Phil Jones was the star of the show at Loftus Road to play down reports of United’s midfield crisis.
Jason Scotland of the Week: As always, Steve Kean is a prime contender, but Coyle and Woodgate are up there with him. The winner though has to be Theo Walcott for his anonymous performance and petulant tantrum at the Etihad. Although after being subbed off for Andrei Arshavin, can you blame him?
Quote of the Week: Martinez’s account of the possession at the DW needs revising, he said: “We had more possession” just as the stats at the bottom of the screen confirmed otherwise: Wigan 47% Chelsea 53%. Yet my favourite was Lee Dixon’s frank account of an incompetent manager: “I think Blackburn can get out of it, even with Kean.”
Boselli Watch: After being recalled to Wigan for the Christmas period, Boselli was determined to take his second opportunity in the Premier League. Unfortunately, the recall was only for the Latics Christmas party where an overweight guy with a dodgy beard was needed, I can’t imagine why.