Was that a little glimpse of the old Wigan Athletic coming back on Saturday afternoon? No, I don’t mean getting nilled at home after an abject performance. Again. I mean that there was some semblance of play and cohesion to our game.
The back four looked a bit more comfortable keeping hold of a ball a bit longer (but not for too long heaven forbid!) and further up, midfielders were actually trying to pass to one another, build passages of play. We even created some chances, had some attacks and forced Villa’s ‘keeper into having an outstanding afternoon.
This constantly reinventing the wheel is doing us no favours but if we are reverting back to the style which garnered so much success last season and sporadically throughout the last seven years, then that is fine by me.
I’m not objecting to the sort of negative, defensive, low possession game that Warren Joyce was obsessed with – well no actually I am – but I think, we, as fans deserve to at least see an attempt to entertain us, particularly at home.
It’s not as if the Warren Joyce approach doesn’t work, it does. Malky Mackay’s Cardiff team were masters of a tight defensive game, long balls and counter and a dependency on winning and scoring from set pieces. Unfortunately, Mackay, like Joyce at Latics, tried to introduce it here without due consideration to the forward thinking half of that equation. Thus 1-0 wins become 1-0 defeats.
Of course, the constant throughout the season has been the lack of quality and goals in the team generally. These problems have been exacerbated by the sale of Wildschut, Grigg being out for the season, ditto Powell, the release of Gomez and Craig Davies (OK just kidding on the last one!)
At this point I suppose I should round on Caldwell for a poor summer of recruitment but it does just amplify the difference between Championship and League One. Namely, that this was a team that was frequently scoring 3, 4 or even 5 goals at home and away, particularly in the second half of the season, yet this year the goals scored column has been so barren.
Of course it has to be said again, that other teams have come up and managed it and Barnsley and Burton, who finished behind us, look set to stay up. It does sadly seem, that in our case the cure to our goal drought will inevitably be relegation.
The goals and wins may be flowing again as soon as August if we can keep hold of the nucleus of our squad and install the right manager. One who understands budgets, can progress youth development and is a broad fit with the way we like to play from the youth team upwards.
Then maybe next year the gloom will lift again. For the time being, there is very much an “interim” feel about Wigan Athletic. Not down, not out but perhaps just awaiting the inevitable.
Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Thursday 23rd March 2017