A Cautionary Tale – Season Catch Up part 1

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That “Football Blogger” entry on my CV might be a little bit ambitious at the best of times, but a five month gap between talking about football matches is really pushing it into the “creative career history” category.  It might just be the longest lull I’ve had, although I have written articles inbetween, we have had the summer break in there and I have spent the best part of the last two months playing the feet to Jimmy, Bernard et al’s Swans or the big hulking mass to their tip of the iceberg.

However, now that things are (largely) sorted on a technical front, I don’t really have any excuses to prevaricate on a tactical one.

Regardless of what might come in the rest of this article (and, as I type, the only thing I know is that it will be some stuff about how we’ve played this season) I know that things aren’t totally rosy.  I think that most fans were expecting a morale boosting start to the season that didn’t quite materialise and I also reckon that this has affected the reaction to latter games where we got nothing, but probably shouldn’t have expected anything either.

Expectancy was always going to be a problem for the first three games of Latics’ season though.  Even the most pessimistic amongst us wouldn’t see three games against the three promoted sides as a chance to fill the boots and start the season off with nine points on the board.  The flip side of that being that even the most optimistic of us couldn’t look at Norwich, Swansea and QPR without seeing the potential for at least one Blackpool sized banana skin in there.

And so we found ourselves on the opening day of the season, in the sunshine, watching Latics playing “softly, softly catchee canary” rather than giving the new boys a big “welcome to the Big League” run around.  After the debacle against Blackpool last season, it was understandable that the team had been drilled to expect Norwich to come at us like the clappers and if they had then the game might have been a little bit different, but Norwich weren’t about to rush into anything which left us with anything but a curtain raising spectacular.

Still, Latics should have taken the points after controlling large parts of the game, taking the lead from a penalty and having a more obvious one turned away.  “Should have” is no good mind, especially when it’s in the middle of “the keeper” and “caught that” which was exactly the case with the cross that al Habsi pushed out to Wes Hoolahan for the Canaries equaliser.

I’m sure that the game plan was completely different and more likely revolved around waiting for the visitors to make a mistake, something just like the very one that gave Norwich a share of the points.

Still, a point on the board was a better start than last year and as good as Latics have managed on the opening day of a Premier League so it was arguably job done and off to “The New Wigan Athletic” down in Swansea, with their small club does passing plagiarism and pocket Mourinho manager to see who could get the first Premier League goal to be scored on ‘foreign soil’.

In the end it was neither of us as, again, Latics played the cynical old gits to the Swans’ youthful exuberance.  Put simply, we went away, put in an away performance and could/should have come away with three points as Ben Watson fluffed his lines and Moses and Gomez both went desperately close.  For their part, the home team passed the ball well and had decent spells of possession and territorial advantage without really threatening.

So “The New Wigan Athletic” maybe closer to the truth than you might think.

To finish our run of cock ups in waiting it was back to the DW to face QPR and their newly found sources of pocket money.  As it was, Joey Barton had been grabbed too late and the bigger part of Neil Warnock’s last minute shopping was still to come so rather than the new anyone, it was the old QPR on show along with Latics old boy, and pointer to where QPR might slip up even with their attacking talent, at the back.

With the first two games being arguably ‘job done’, Latics looked more relaxed going into this one and started off with a bit more attacking intent.  There are those that will tell you that, no matter how much intent Latics show, it would all be wasted because they can’t finish and that looked to be as true in this game as any other until an unlikely hero stepped up and whacked in two goals.

I’d had a pre-season argument with one of my mates about Franco di Santo, I reckoned that he could come good in some shape or form and that his energy, work-rate and skill from the start of last season could be of real benefit to us if we could get him some level of confidence; my mate disagreed.  This isn’t an “I told you so” tale, I was probably drunk when I made those points, and wouldn’t make them again.  But here was proof of that hypothesis.

Franco had clearly taken some head out of a couple of decent performances, he’d certainly given Norwich something to think about and against QPR he felt good enough to buy the tickets that won him the lottery (to mangle a cliché).  His shots were both decent efforts and would have troubled the keeper anyway so if you’re still bothered about the deflections then you’re obviously mean spirited and hard hearted.  If nothing else we needed a forward who believed he was on a roll heading into what would be a challenging run of fixtures.

All of which probably brings us to a nice close on the start of the start to the season.  Three games that should have resulted in a pretty good start for Latics and guess what?  The five points we managed were the most we’ve ever had from the first three games of a top flight season.  We should have been happy with that surely, but the cautious approach taken, particularly in the first two of the three, had left a bubbling feeling of… something or other… that would come to the surface over the weeks that followed.

And that’s all for now, I’m tired and need a brew before I tackle the rest, in a fit of outlandish ambition I’m going to claim that part 2 will be online tomorrow.

Until then…

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