Wigan Nights

Wigan Athletic 0 – 1 Arsenal

0 – 1 Adebayour (88)

Someone needs to pour me a large Brandy – two away games, four points from six and more to the point, two performances where the team battled to get their just rewards. As I mentioned in the preview yesterday, the points dropped at Bolton and Fulham were costly and totally unnecessary. Despite the fact that this game will be lost in the midsts of time, it could prove to be a turning point in the season. The opposition tonight were well drilled, maintained their formation (aside from one occasion and they paid a heavy price for it) and were up for the fight. They were matched by a midfield that refused to be bullied. Up front Camara and Heskey linked well and the Wigan midfield got the ball forward to them quickly, mixing long and short passes. In short, slightly better than average opponents, the sort who have caused us a tremendous amount of problems over the past two seasons.

The first half was completely forgettable. Neither side managed a goal attempt on target in the entire forty seven minutes from the first shrill blast from Rob Styles Acme Thunderer to the last. Which is absolutely pathetic considering the sums of money that the twenty two players on the pitch earn. Fortunately the second half was a considerable improvement; the collective rockets inserted forcefully into the players backsides during the interval did the trick. Heskey and Camara went close for Wigan whilst Baptista and Adebayour returned the compliment. However, it was the introduction of Fabregas and van Persie late in the second half that provided the spark which had been missing; van Persie slotted into a more advanced position that Baptista had held and Cesc provided the passing impetus that had been absent whilst he rested his weary legs. The deciding moment came following a solid challenge by Fabregas won the ball in midfield and then on receiving the return pass, sent a wonderful through ball for Adebayour to latch onto and slip under Kirkland, 1 – 0, job done.

The team played well within themselves tonight, the first half littered with sloppy passing and poor concentration. Frankly, the only difference between that forty five minutes and the corresponding ones at Bolton were that we had not conceded any goals by half time. The team looked disjointed in midfield. There was little or no cohesion in movement and passing but they got away with it. It is difficult to give an overall assessment of the performances with a first half that bad. However, there could be little argument with Toure’s winning the Man Of The Match award, from the Arsenal perspective at least. Djourou could have made a strong case for challenging, coping with Heskey and Camara well whilst Clichy did not harm his case for being Cole’s long term replacement at the club. The usual area of concern with Eboue’s lapses in concentration reared its head again tonight but he got away with it.

In midfield, Gilberto went about his work quietly and reasonably efficiently whilst Flamini huffed and puffed and shot wildly over the bar when within range. Ljungberg was in and out of the game although he did support Clichy well when it came to defensive duties. But going forward we were truly average. Walcott showed flashes of his potential but was, I thought, well marshalled by Baines, the Wigan left back. Adebayour deserved his goal for his second half endeavours. The Beast was finally unleashed on the Premiership and for the first half was more a ‘puddy tat’ than anything else. He raised his game in the second but was probably played too deep for the impact that we as supporters are expecting of him. However, if he can cope with a cold night in Wigan then it bodes well for the future.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern is the lack of goals from midfield. I am not sure of the exact figures of the five who started the match but I would amazed if they have reached double figures in total for the season so far. Alexsandr Hleb highlighted the problem earlier in the week and whilst he can be somewhat of a culprit, it seems to be a wider issue because the chances to score for these players are few and far between. Take tonight for instance; the closest anyone came was Baptista whose shot was well saved by Kirkland. After that I may be wrong but I believe Flamini was next closest and his effort was about twenty feet over the bar in the first half. The approach play is on the whole fine (although tonight proved that we are reliant on Fabregas at the moment to give us the creative spark) but the support in the area is not. Sure, players get into the box but they do not attack the ball with sufficient “relish” to make a threat. It seems that more often than not they are content with making a nuisance of themselves to defenders. Perhaps that is a bit harsh given that it was not the first choice midfield tonight but it is something that may require some attention in the January sales.

At the end of the day though, three points gained, third place means mission accomplished and Portsmouth visit The Emirates on Saturday presenting us with the perfect opportunity to start putting daylight between third place and the pack.

14 thoughts on “Wigan Nights

  1. What we learnt from this game:

    1. Cesc is even more important than TH14
    2. At least 1 (preferably 2) of Hleb, Rosicky & Cesc must play. Perhaps Diaby.
    3.Walcott showed he has big potential but could not find a final ball last night.
    4.Baptista showed just enough of what he can do to be worth perservering with.
    5.Freddie will now only be of some use when we have all our best players in the team.
    6.Eboue needs to pick up his concentration by about 50%. Might be better as a right sided midfielder if and when Ralph comes back.

  2. Anyone who can only talk about how poor we were last night needs to pause and reflect upon the fact that we started without any of our most creative players…Cesc,Rosicky,Hleb…not to mention RVP and Thierry…with these absentees it was only inevitable that we would look disjointed at times and lacking any creative impetus…imagine chelsea or united being without those types of players and think of who they would field…I think its testament to the strength of our squad that we can be without so many players yet field a side with such quality, on paper atleast…hopefully Arsene will realise that if he wants to rest Cesc he must play Hleb or Rosicky when fit

  3. Highlighting the poor display does not ignore the team’s composition; it highlights the thinness of the squad compared to their rivals. I agree that omitting Fabregas requires the inclusion of Hleb and / or Rosicky (I would suggest both) but it does not stop a valid complaint about the standard of football played particularly in the first half.

    However, the aim of the exercise was to get three points which they did. So onto Pompey on Saturday.

  4. Our squad is not thin by comparison to Chelsea or Man U.

    Not once this season have we been able to play a full strength side.

    Henry, Rosicky,Gallas, Sanderos,Lauren,Clichy & Diaby have missed large parts of the season.
    This has meant Cesc & Hleb have had to play too much.

    Take Droghba, Cole J, Carvalio, Terry, Ferriara, Cole A & I can’t even think of a Diaby equivalent, out of Chelsea’s team & they are struggling. Same goes for United who lost to Southend with their equivalent.

    The problem last night was because Cesc & Hleb had such a hard game on Sunday, and with Rosicky & Diaby unavailable we could not play any creative players.

  5. Thinness of the squad compared to their rivals?..the team that we fielded displays the strength of the squad compared to our rivals..the lack of cohesion in the first half was surely understandable due to the changes that were made to the team but definately not symptomatic of a lack of quality in the squad…

  6. United lost to Southend with a virtual first XI out; one of the beauties of a cup competition. When the upsets occur, they tend to be “big ones” now. Maybe less than in previous years but still can happen.

    Sorry Chaps but the squad is thin; there is a lack of experienced cover. The performance is the first half can be put partially down to unfamiliarity of the players but where is the cover for Fabregas? Hleb is fine but I think he is better suited to the wings. Rosicky covers the creative element but would he bite into the tackle?

    Flint – Diaby and Lauren have been missing for months, these are not new absences. Clichy played at Wigan, Senderos did not because of his performance at Chelsea. How can Hleb have played too much? I accept and agree Fabregas has but he is only what 19? Hleb is not a youngster and should be able to cope with the demands of the season so far; any professional should.

    The only area Chelsea are weak is in the centre of defence otherwise they have Bridge to cover Cole, Geremi and Boulharouz at right back, everyone under the sun in midfield and options in attack.

    The difference between the squads is experience and nobody can deny that we are very thin there. Don’t get me wrong, this squad is capable of delivering whilst it gains experience over the next couple of seasons but it cannot churn out performances like the first half with impugnity.

  7. You ask who will cover Cesc when he’s rested or injured yet the real problem last night was not just the absence of Cesc but of Hleb and Rosicky who can provide the creativity from wider positions in his absense..last season when Cesc was rested Diaby played and I certainly feel that in time Baptista or Diaby can cover for him with the creativity supplied by Rosicky or Hleb…experienced cover is overrated especially when you consider that most of our ‘youngsters’ played in the world cup

  8. Experience is definitely not overrated. The ability to deal with teams such as Bolton comes with experience. If you look at the number of goals we’ve conceded this season that are “soft”, half could well have been avoided with a bit more nous, which comes with playing games.

    Over the course of a season, there is much to be said for knowing how to deal with situations. Whether the players make the right choices is another matter…

  9. last season, contrary to what the press might suspect, it was the experienced players that all too often let us down…the meltdowns at Bolton,West Brom in early parts of the season and West Ham later on were largely the consquence of inadequate and ineffective displays from the ‘experienced’ Gilberto, Freddie and Campbell, while Dennis hardly featured and Bobby,though still a class act, was a shadow of his former self…the successes we enjoyed last season were largely due to the exuberance and quality of our younger players and highlighted the triumph of youth over experience, a fact embodied in the game against Juventus

  10. In Europe, for some reason, the exuberance of youth outperformed expectations but domestically it did not. Don’t confuse the two – we need to lower our sights for this season and just ask for an improvement in the league position for the end of the season

  11. MU v Portsmouth
    Man Utd Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra,Ronaldo (Fletcher 75), Carrick (Silvestre 71), Scholes, Giggs,Rooney (O’Shea 75), Saha

    MU v Southend
    Man Utd Kuszczak, O’Shea (Lee 75), Brown, Silvestre, Heinze,Ronaldo, David Jones (Shawcross 90), Fletcher, Richardson,Smith (Evra 60), Rooney.

    I count 9 changes there. Yes most of them are well known players but they lost.

    We can take a completely changed team to Everton & win, despite having 6 players injured & 5 on loan.

    Yes you are right that we lack experience & that costs. Diaby & Lauren have been long term injuries but you cannot replace every player who is injured.

    We also struggled at Boton etc when Paddy was still here.

    – we need to lower our sights for this season and just ask for an improvement in the league position for the end of the season – absolutely correct.

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