|Ipswich Town 1 v 0 Wigan Athletic|
Saturday, 15th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Play to Our Recent Form and We Could Throw the Tractor Boys a Lifeline - Notes for Wigan Athletic
Friday, 14th Dec 2018 10:50 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“There is only one goal this season. Some people need to get used to it”, “We’re a small club with a small budget in a big league. We need to steady the ship by staying in the league for more than one season”, “We have a side better than six teams if not more at this level. Survival is very achievable.”
Wigan head into Saturday’s game anxious to arrest a slide in form which has seen them drift from fifth in the table after nine games to 16th after last Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Derby. They have only picked up two wins and three draws in the last 12 games, scoring a mere nine goals in this run.
Latics are broadly realistic in their expectations for this season. “There are some awful teams in this league and we should stay up”, “We must take every day as it comes and limp to survival”, “We will stay up, as this time there are three worse teams than us. We just need to avoid complacency.”
“We are looking to stay in this division, not win it. We know we can’t win it and anyone who thought we would challenge for promotion is living in cloud-cuckoo land”, “Our form lately has been poor but with injuries clearing up and a few possible comings and goings in January we will be comfortable.”
A run of hamstring injuries to all their strongest attacking quartet - striker Will Grigg, playmaker Nick Powell and wingers Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey - played a role in their poor scoring form. Two of the four players, Grigg and Massey, are now fit enough to be included in their matchday squad.
“I have to be honest and admit I’m concerned. Looking at the six-pointers this year, when we have played teams in the relegation dog-fight we have won two, drawn two and lost three. These are the games which will end up defining our season. The results and performances haven’t been inspiring.”
Horrendous Away Form
“Combine our record in six-pointers with horrific away form that shows no sign of improving and I am worried”, “Our away form has become a real psychological barrier now. If we couldn’t break it two weeks ago against such a poor and unmotivated Bolton team, I am not sure when we will.”
“We can’t discount our horrendous away form.” With an away record of one win and one draw in 10 games, many Latics have another reason to feel very apprehensive about Saturday. “What we can’t afford to do at Portman Road next week is capitulate and give Ipswich some hope and momentum.”
“In Cook I trust”, “I hope the owners keep their nerve and support him through this difficult period”, “He proved last year that he’s a very good manager and we looked superb early on this season”, “All things considered he’s doing an excellent job this season and will continue to get my full support.”
The 51-year-old former Accrington and Chesterfield boss was also in charge of the Portsmouth side which knocked Town out of the FA Cup in 2016. He left Fratton Park in May 2017 to take over at the newly-relegated Latics side, steering them back into the Championship in his first season in charge.
“Does anyone think we can get a better manager?” Latics were worried that a lack of Championship managerial experience might see him getting found out. He was criticised for taking a more cautious approach with several creative players injured, but his side have recently played more expansively.
“Cook is still finding his feet at this level and will need to adjust to the ever-changing tactics used in the Championship”, “It will help lift the gloom if we play on the front foot and try to win”, “Hats off to him for realising against Blackburn that continuing with negative tactics would land us in trouble.”
“He’s a very good manager who talks sense and keeps everything in perspective. Win, lose or draw, he always remains calm with his feet on the ground. Support him and at the end of the season you will enjoy both where we finish and what he has built. We will not be disappointed, I promise you.”
Formation and Tactics
“The momentum of last year’s promotion, the surprise factor of being new boys and all our players hitting top form and confidence at the same time was a perfect storm of factors to produce a magic start to the season”, “I would love us to find our mojo but I’m not expecting us to hit those heights.”
“It will be interesting to see which version of Wigan we see over the rest of the season, the one that is brave and attacks or the cowardly one that last month played for a 0-0 home draw with Reading”, “The cautious football Cook had been playing lately would definitely see us relegated.”
Many Latics feel that their destiny will lie in their own hands if they play the right brand of positive football. “If we continue to play like we did against Derby and Blackburn for the rest of the season, continuing to pass and move the ball, we will win more games than we lose and ensure our safety.”
“We are playing exactly the same 4-2-3-1 as last season but with players who are not good enough to play it at this level.” Cook’s starting line-up last Saturday against Frank Lampard’s Derby was set out in his preferred shape but Latics have repeated concerns about their lack of quality and depth.
The dismissal of Kai Naismith coupled with the Antonee Robinson’s ankle injury has left the Latics without a frontline left-back. Left-footed centre-half Dan Burn could move across or former Town loanee Callum Connolly could cover, but Connolly has been criticised for his anonymity in midfield.
Injuries have also deprived Wigan of centre-half Chey Dunkley, so veteran Alex Bruce has covered on the bench for Dan Burn and Cedric Kipre. Burn’s form has improved as the season has progressed, and he is praised for his aerial prowess and his ability to cover for the occasionally error-prone Kipre.
Christian Walton is a solid albeit inexperienced keeper back on loan from Brighton, having played for last season’s promotion-winning side. He is still adapting to this level of football, whereas right-back and Chelsea loanee Reece James has been widely praised and seen as a future England international.
“Lee Evans and Sam Morsy dovetail well in midfield. They balance one another’s distinctive strengths and weaknesses. This provides a fulcrum for the team and sets the tone for their midfield partners, but when Darron Gibson plays, Morsy only looks half the player compared to when Evans plays.”
Wigan have lacked a specialist holding midfielder this season. Lee Evans is praised for his passing and reading of the game while Morsy adds more physicality. Darron Gibson is seen as someone who is playing on his reputation, coasting through games and occasionally playing colleagues into trouble.
“I’m not sure Nathan Byrne and Gary Roberts are good enough on the wings in the long run.” Cook has had to switch right-back Byrne and veteran former Blue Roberts to wide roles to cover for the absent Massey and Jacobs. Callum McManaman is an out-and-out winger but he lacks the fitness to start.
“No Grigg, no Massey, no Jacobs, no shots on target”, “Our biggest issue is the lack of penetration from our attacking quartet, with the ball constantly coming back at us”, “We can’t hit a barn door from six inches. Our finishing is diabolical and we lack creativity in midfield to carve out chances.”
Will Grigg and James Vaughan are effective strikers when the ball is played through to them on the floor. Vaughan has a very good understanding with attacking midfielder Josh Windass, who was the subject of a Town enquiry before he joined the Latics from Rangers in August. Grigg is seen as their most dangerous frontman in marked contrast to Joe Garner, who has flattered to deceive.
“The biggest issue is that we don’t have a goal threat in us”, “Our team performances are decent but we lack composure with our final ball”, “We lack composure on the opposition box, wasting chances and failing to hit the target”, “Our lack of a clinical cutting edge up front gives me so much concern.”
Wigan 0 – 1 Derby
“That was a creditable performance given the circumstances”, “We demonstrated some passion and had a go but without any great skill”, “Our performance was very good considering we had 10 men for 75 minutes”, “Play like that in the next two games and I’m convinced we will pick up six points.”
Jack Marriott's header on 21 minutes was enough to secure three points for Derby. Naismith was red-carded six minutes earlier for hauling down Derby’s Harry Wilson as he ran on to a through ball. Home fans felt that Wilson should have been given a second yellow card for diving on 67 minutes.
“Derby tore us to shreds in the first half. We had a belting second-half performance and could have had a point”, “For the last 35 minutes we changed gear and put in a really spirited display with great defending and waves of attacking football”, “The commitment of the 10 men was a joy to watch.”
WaltonJamesKipreBurnNaismith (Sent Off)EvansMorsyByrneConnollyGarnerGibson
“Cook’s substitutions kept us in the game and gave us a chance to nick a point.” Cook was praised for introducing Gibson to sit in front of the back three (above), which allowed Evans and Morsy to push forward and cut off the Rams’ midfield supply lines. “If we play like that all season, we will be okay.”
Bolton 1 – 1 Wigan
“Where is the next away win coming from?”, “Ipswich”, “Really? A little memory jog of our results at Millwall and Preston as well”, “I’m glad we didn’t lose but I’m so disappointed we didn’t win a game that was there for the taking”, “Bolton were just awful but we made them look like a mid-table side.”
Will Buckley put the hosts in front after seven minutes with a back-post finish from Pawel Olkowski's cross, but Grigg levelled for Wigan from the penalty spot on 25 minutes after Jack Hobbs fouled the Northern Ireland international. Most visiting Latics felt that this was a real opportunity missed. “I’m glad I didn’t go.”
Grigg played made his first start (above) coming back from his hamstring injury. “A League One standard match from most of the players in the pitch with the odd exception”, “Too many crosses were not just overhit, I thought we were trying to Peter Kay it into the car park.”
Wigan 3 – 1 Blackburn
“Fantastic, boys”, “A top performance. The defence was solid, the midfield worked their socks off and we threatened up top. Faith has been restored”, “The best form of defence is attack. We proved this by taking the game by the scruff of the neck. We battered our opponents into submission.”
Roberts put Wigan ahead stunning long-range strike on 37, before Vaughan converted from the spot on 54 after Rovers’ Jack Rodwell brought down Windass. Burn’s own goal on 83 made halved the deficit but McManaman's finish three minutes later sealed victory for the Latics.
The starting XI (above) included playmaker Nick Powell who was substituted with an injury after 22 minutes, a switch which changed the game. “Vaughan and Windass ran Blackburn ragged. Windass replaced Powell who was carrying a knock and we were a different team and in complete control.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Christian Walton has kept us in the game on a number of occasions.” The 23-year-old Brighton loan signing “is a very assured keeper despite his lack of Championship experience. He takes the pressure off the defence by coming to collect high balls”, “He has made so many fantastic saves this season.”
Christian Walton (Wigan Athletic)
“Walton was so well protected last season that he was rarely exposed. He spilled a ball against Leeds and was done on his near post at Bolton, but he has played confidently this season”, “He is good on one-on-ones, but reads the game better when the ball is out wide. He anticipates crosses very well.”
“Reece James has taken to the Championship like a duck to water.” The 18-year-old right-back is on a season-long loan from Chelsea. “The lad is our best player most weeks. He’s excellent in one-on-ones and overlapping. He can put in a decent cross but I’m not sure his team-mates are on his level.”
“Chelsea youngsters rarely break into their first team but I would be extremely surprised if this lad isn’t the exception to the rule”, “He has the odd shaky defensive moment with his positioning but he has improved even in a few months”, “A Chelsea legend and England international in the making.”
“I can’t see Alex Bruce as a legitimate option.” The 34-year-old former Town centre-half was on the bench for the Derby game but hasn’t featured lately. “The last thing we need is to be forced to use Bruce, and even the thought of him as a third-choice centre-back doesn’t fill me with confidence.”
“Cedric Kipre is in his first season at this level and is still learning.” The 21-year-old Ivory Coast U23 international signed in August from Motherwell. “Far too many of his headers were quite short and back into danger rather than getting height and distance on them, but this has been improving.”
“Kipre is the most overrated player in our team, he’s a bomb-scare waiting to happen”, “He goes hunting for the ball and disrupts our shape”, “He gets caught out of position chasing opponents out but he has been getting better”, “He’s young and error-prone, but I can see the merit in his signing.”
“Burn was immense against Derby.” The 26-year-old centre-back was signed by Brighton in August and loaned back to the Latics until January. “He did more than anyone else to score, making giraffe-like runs for their goal”, “He’s great at covering for his defensive partner and quicker than he looks.”
Dan Burn (Wigan Athletic)
“Burn is comfortable as a big stopper up against big strikers, winning physical and aerial battles. He’s less comfortable against smaller and quicker strikers who play more pass-and-move football”, “We need to sit deep to protect him. He’s not suited to playing a high line against fast and skilful players.”
“Under no circumstances should Callum Connolly play as a holding midfielder.” The 21-year-old loan signing from Everton played on loan for Town last season. “I don’t know how Ipswich got anything out of him in that position but he offers nothing defensively or on the attack”, “He is anonymous.”
“Connolly must be the only central midfielder I know that has ever managed to be invisible. He has a special talent for hiding”, “He mostly stands infield and gets marked throughout the game”, “Sorry, but it’s time to return to your parent club and have a good look in the mirror. It just isn’t working.”
“Darron Gibson looks like he should be playing at Soccer Aid as a fat ex-pro.” The 31-year-old former Everton and Sunderland man “ball-watches and allows opponents in behind him. He hits trademark flat passes straight at opponents with time on the ball, and he leaves massive holes in the centre.”
“The centre circle is the best play from which to direct play, but all Gibson does is stand still pointing at others to do the running. People rave about his two inch-perfect passes but that’s all he does. He doesn’t tackle or link up play and is a passenger going forward”, “A player living off his reputation.”
“Josh Windass was Blackburn’s best defender in the first half of our game against them, but he made some great runs after the break and linked play well.” The 24-year-old August arrival from Rangers “has Jekyll-and Hyde games. He looks too slow and lacks that bit of extra skill needed for this level.”
“Windass could be our most dangerous player but his final ball too often is dreadful”, “He has a good understanding with Vaughan and makes some inventive runs”, “Rangers fans were right about him, one good game every five. He will have one storming game and follow it with another four stinkers.”
“Lee Evans finds pockets of space and nicks the ball in advanced positions.” The 24-year-old signed in August from Sheffield United on loan with the move becoming permanent in January. “It’s good to see his deep crosses whipped in with pace and angle. He reads the game and intercepts balls well.”
“Evans looks better when he goes forward. He has a magnificent range of passing, raking cross-field balls better than most in the division”, “He’s not physically gifted or super strong. He doesn’t charge in to win the ball but is nimble and clever. He can create things with passes the opposition don’t see.”
“Sam has the physical presence to get in on opponents and create second balls.” The 27-year-old ex-Chesterfield man “is always available, putting himself in good supporting positions to close down. He can open up play and see the field going forward and is in the right place to cover his team-mates.”
“Morsy needs to sort out his temper or we will lose him to suspension again soon. There is ‘heart on the sleeve’ and ‘stupid’, and sometimes he’s closer to stupid”, “His gets caught in two minds playing in a holding role, but he drives the team forward with his ability to carry the ball out over 30 yards.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“I continue to be bemused by the absence of Callum McManaman from starting XIs.” The 27-year-old former Sunderland left winger returned to former club Wigan in July. “He’s our best chance of a match winner when he bombs down the wing but he’s struggling for fitness and this won’t change.”
Callum McManaman (Sunderland) v Jonas Knudsen
“I just don’t think Cook fancies McManaman”, “His problem is that he doesn’t stick to his position if told to play wide. He switches off defensively and tires quickly. Going forward he’s more of a threat than any other wide player in this league, but the problem is that he just can’t track back or defend.”
“Gavin Massey is back for the Ipswich game, so he will probably be on the bench.” The 26-year-old one-time Colchester right winger has been absent since August having had hamstring surgery.
“The cracks in our form this season started showing when we lost both his pace and directness out wide.”
“Nathan Byrne got deserved plaudits last season playing at right-back.” The 26-year-old ex-Wolves man “is wandering around like a fish out of water at the moment. His crossing away at Bolton was shocking. Three times in good positions in the second half, he pasted it into touch on the far side.”
“I love Byrne as a player but his crossing can be woeful”, “Play with your head up, observe and cross early to the back of defence. If it’s not on, get at the defender or play it simple. Cut in every now and then for James to overlap”, “He’s not a winger, he’s an attacking full-back who gets up and down.”
“Roberts works his socks off but he varies in effectiveness.” The 34-year-old ex-Portsmouth and one-time Town man “gives you what he’s got but he’s not up to being a regular at this level. We have no other choice on the left of midfield”, “He gives that balance we need on the left but lacks pace.”
Roberts, Gary Town
“People may think that Roberts is a bench-warmer but he gives everything for every minute, and he has the ability to see a pass and execute it”, “He does bring a lot of movement off the ball and has a good eye for a pass or cross”, “He uses his older head and he gets involved in absolutely everything.”
“I have been underwhelmed with Joe Garner. He’s marginally better than others at getting up for headers but is too small to be an out-and-out target-man.” The 30-year-old one-time Preston man arrived from Ipswich in August. “He’s a willing trier, but he’s a finisher who needs service to score.”
Ben Pearson (Preston) v Joe Garner
“All Garner ever does is get into confrontations. I appreciate he tries to be combative but it comes across more as petulance”, “He is more concerned with kicking off and fouling than trying to create or take chances”, “He’s a battler who is quite strong for his size, but I’m not sure he’s the answer.”
“James Vaughan is a great guy who works hard for the team but I don’t think he’s good enough.” The 30-year-old former Sunderland man “is generally good at closing opponents down, but his finishing is inconsistent and has the touch of a donkey”, “We have got to stop the tactic of going long to him.”
“Vaughan is good at winning his aerial battles and pressurising defenders into making mistakes, and his ability to run into the channels is good to see”, “He isn’t a lone striker. He’s a poacher who plays off a target man”, “He’s okay working with a partner but it won’t work with him up top on his own.”
“Grigg’s game has stepped up this season.” The 27-year-old ex-Brentford man “is the only option we have as a real goal threat at this level”, “He isn’t a target man so we should play give-and-go football to his feet”, “He’s better in open games when teams don’t sit deep and make it a battle of strength.”
“Grigg has become a more complete forward this season, improving his key passes and link-up play. He leads the line well rather than the poacher we first signed”, “He’s not someone willing to bust a gut to get on the end of crosses. He must gamble and get in front of his man when they are fired in.”
Latics’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich are yet to win at home all season. I watched the Bristol City highlights where the keeper deflected the ball into the net”, “Lose to Ipswich and we can pack up and forfeit every away game from now to the end of the season”, “There’s some absolute dross down the bottom this season.”
“Ipswich have not won at home all season but have managed a few draws. I would hope we could at least get a point from this game, it should be a certain three, but given our away form I take nothing for granted”, “Being happy with a point against the worst team in the league doesn’t bode well.”
“Ipswich should be a definite three points, but given our away form I take nothing for granted.” It’s fair to say that Latics are nervous about Saturday’s game. Objectively they feel that they should have enough quality to beat us, but their lack of creativity and poor away record are causing real concern.
“Ipswich and Bolton are near-enough gone based on what’s going on at both clubs”, “Fail to beat Ipswich and I don’t see us winning another away game all season. This has become a psychological problem now. The players genuinely don’t believe they can go on and win into the last 15 minutes.”
This familiar analysis also popped up. “I was not shocked to see Ipswich sack Hurst. There comes a point you have to act before it gets too late”, “It just magnifies what a good job Mick McCarthy did on very little funds. Ipswich fans wanted him out and are now staring at a spell in League One.”
The two busiest Latics message boards are the friendly and knowledgeable Vital Wigan and Cockney Latic. Wigan Athletic highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues. @HarryFromBath
Photo: Action Images
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