There was a time when Man City considered Wigan Athletic as a ‘bogey team’. And rightly so, yet since their vast injection of cash, their perception of us has changed to a more common view: ‘that pathetic little club that we should be beating 8-0’. That’s fair enough I suppose.
When you spend over £200 million on new signings, you expect to travel to the DW and pick up the three points almost effortlessly. In spite of this, City fielded a strong eleven and were made to sweat for their three points.
I mean seriously, can you remember the last time a title contender brought off their playmaker for an extra centre half when facing the Latics?
This can be considered a complement to Martinez and his team, but realistically, was the result in any danger?
A Monday night kick off and televised fixture was the recipe for a low attendance, little over 16,000 were inside the DW, an occurrence which didn’t go unnoticed by Joey Barton and his infamous twitter account, amongst others.
The most worrying thing anyone can depict from the City game and indeed many games this season, is the apparent allergy to defending from a Latics perspective.
In my view, this is the most worrying part of our play. Every member of the back four on Monday night looked vulnerable, positionally unaware and clumsy. Even worse than the Newcastle donkeys of Boumsong, Bramble and Babayaro. Watching Latics defend is like watching four Frank Spencers.
Captain Gary Caldwell is quite frankly an embarrassment to the Premier League in terms of his defensive capabilities, the fact he’s our captain must strike about as much fear into the opposition as a pair of paper scissors on the front line of warfare.
Caldwell must be as difficult for opponents to beat as it is for them to rip a paper bag. He provides little resistance to attacks and overwhelmingly, has been sent off an amazing thirteen times in his long, dreary and ultimately depressing career (according to Sky commentators).
His partner in crime is equally as useless, Antolin Alcaraz has very little knowledge of defensive positioning as he can regularly be found several miles out of position. When he does get anywhere near the ball, he needlessly commits a challenge which knocks his opponent flying and gives away a set piece in a dangerous position. This was well demonstrated when Edin Dzeko headed home the only goal of the game against Man City when Alcaraz’s clumsy tackle didn’t go unpunished.
Oh, and he also spits in people’s faces, but only occasionally.
As for the full backs, there’s a lot left to be desired.
Ronnie Stam is probably the best of those that played against City and a full back who would look half decent in the Championship. Unfortunately, he is in the Premier League.
He’s a full back who’s key attribute is considered his attacking threat, and don’t get me wrong, he can deliver a mean cross, but his pace is average to say the least. He also struggles to beat his man and when he gets up the pitch, he is then so slow to retain his defensive position we’re left with a gaping hole at right back that even fat Ronaldo could fit into. I noticed this on several occasions against both Man City and Sunderland recently.
On the opposite side Figueroa is hardly Roberto Carlos, the handball late on against City summed up his performance.
Some might argue it was a goal scoring opportunity as Aguero was clean through on goal, regardless of whether he was on the half way line or not. Personally, I would have welcomed a red card and a three match ban for Figueroa, at least then we could bring in a much more competent defender like Patrick Van Aanholt, oh wait…
Compared to those that have played (and failed) at the back recently, the return of Emmerson Boyce will make him look like Franz Beckenbauer. Boyce, for me, is the best of a bad bunch and the most reliable defender we currently have, but whether he can plug all the holes at the back remains to be seen.
I think I’ve identified what is needed in the transfer window, two centre halves, maybe even three if Martinez persists with the 3-4-3 system. Yet quality centre halves are short in supply, Chelsea paid a bargain £7 million for Gary Cahill but generally, prices for any half decent player is inflated massively in January.
Quality defenders like Chris Samba are apparently being valued at £15 million, so the chances of Martinez pulling a rabbit out the hat are quite slim.
Bring back Bramble I say.
To be fair to our defensive donkeys though, they did limit City to only one goal, despite Caldwell and Alcaraz keeping Aguero and co onside at every available opportunity that is, their communication there seemed very poor.
Al-Habsi’s quality often makes up for the indecision in front of him and he was at it again with some top drawer saves to keep the score at 1-0.
I’d suggest that Edin Dzeko did as much defensive work on Wigan’s behalf as anyone as he stole the ball off Aguero’s toe as he was about to fire home after a mazy run through half-hearted, timid challenges. Dzeko proceeded in rolling the ball harmlessly into Al-Habsi’s hands in what was the most comical moment of the game (besides the Wigan defending).
One player who was out of action on Monday was Mario Balotelli, and unsurprisingly, he’s been up to his old tricks again.
We’ve heard of his antics giving out money to strangers and paying for tramps to spend a night in a five star hotel, yet his latest rumoured generosity is one which can only be admired.
Whether it ends up being insignificant hear say is another matter, but Mario Balotelli has been reported to be interested in funding Darlington FC’s bid to stay alive.
A club financially crippled in the Blue Square Bet Premier, Darlington have felt the impact of having an excessive 25,000 capacity stadium for a tiny club who yield attendances of just 2,000 maximum. A precursor for a future Wigan Athletic? I hope not.
If Balotelli does end up saving them, it would be the latest insane act in the life of football’s most unpredictable character. I’m sure Darlington will be very grateful, as long as he doesn’t set fire to their stadium with a set of fireworks.
At the bottom, Blackburn’s 3-1 win at home to Fulham dragged Kean’s team out of the bottom three and left Latics rock bottom. This occurred despite Yakubu’s early red card for a dangerous high challenge on Danny Murphy, although not intentionally malicious, it was worthy of a red card despite the Yak’s bemusement.
Nearer the top, Spurs failed to heap the pressure on Man City as Wolves held them at home 1-1. I suppose it’s typical really, as soon as Spurs were regarded as genuine title contenders by the media, the pressure gets too much for them. Although I’d love to see them break the domination threatened by the Manchester clubs after Chelsea’s decline, I can’t see them doing it if they can’t handle the pressure.
Finally, a smaller team who do have success playing the ‘right way’ are Swansea, who beat Arsenal 3-2 in a thriller at the Liberty. Swansea kept possession admirably and Danny Graham’s excellent movement made him a constant threat, the pace up front proved too much for Arsenal who crumbled to a defeat despite Thierry Henry’s league return. Despite Swansea’s success, don’t let the media let you believe Leon Britton is as good as Xavi, it’s merely a myth based on a few statistics.
Goal of the Week: In a weekend of unspectacular goals, Danny Graham’s tight angled finish against Arsenal was probably as sweet as they came.
David Unsworth of the Week: Antonio Valencia, Luka Modric and Nathan Dyer were all midfielders in form, but the real hero has to be Balotelli if he can save Darlington.
David Wright of the Week: The sadness of the news Dean Windass twice attempted suicide recently has been met with great sadness and shock. Thankfully, he failed and is seeking expert advice to overcome his post-retirement issues.
Quote of the Week: Neil Warnock: “I take full responsibility for where QPR are at present… in the Premier League.”
Boselli Watch: In response to Suarez’s claims of cultural differences in response to disciplinary charges, Boselli has gone around Argentina starting riots and looting the shops. He excuse was: “It’s normal back in England.”