What do you reckon will characterise Latics’ season by the time we get to May? Yes, outsiders will focus on the inconsistency, the young manager and inexperienced team (all hopefully come good) but for all of us with a seat at the DW, a Latics Player subscription and a log-in somewhere on the Wigan Wide Web the season, so far at least, is simply one of those marmite moments, you’re either loving it or you hate it.
If we’re honest, it’s not unusual for the gloves to come off between Latics’ fans whether it’s JCL vs. Old School, Happy Clappers vs. Miserable Old Gits, East vs. West or Forum vs. Forum it seems we’re never that far away from some kind of cyber rumble. Mostly they’re just a magnification of the barnies you see most weeks in the stands, all based on the old root of “get behind the team or go home” vs. “I’ve paid my money, I’ll say what I want”.
Usually you can just find a quiet spot, sit back and laugh as things unfold, but this time around it’s not so easy, and it’s all Roberto Martinez’s fault.
How dare he come round here and challenge our (football) world view, how dare he be thinking about next season and the year after when we’ve got Premier League mediocrity to be achieving, how dare he be young, occasionally naive and not buy into the “best form of attack is defence” ethos of the lower mid-table of the best league in the world and how dare he insist on his players passing the ball to each other rather than running around a lot shouting.
He should play 4-4-2, he needs a plan B, he should be bloody hung that lad.
You’d have thought we’d lost on Saturday to listen to some people, or at best fluked a win with a goal after Mick McCarthy had told Jody Craddock to place the ball on the goal line to “see if that Columbian lad can hit the net from there”. “Bloody rubbish Wigan” has deliberately made into a jokey catchphrase, but like the best clichés it isn’t half true for some of our fans, you could give ’em the Champions’ League and they’d complain that the victory parade started at 12:00 not half past, “aye, but all t’good pies ull’ve gone”.
I’m not getting over excited by this result, it means nothing unless we can start stringing them together, but I ate my tea happy on Saturday, I had a cherry Sunday and I’m just about still feeling the warm glow now. It was a good win, the team played well, it would be no exaggeration to say that Latics could have had twice the lead and still been value.
A sending off, a little help from the ref on the first goal? A bit of stupidity and a bit of luck but Latics were well on top throughout most of this game We would all have been calling the football gods cruel if we hadn’t been three points better off after this one.
It could have been different. Wolves had an early spurt of chances but didn’t capitalise and even once Latics had settled in, Hahnemann looked set to keep them, or at least Rodallega at bay. And there’s your marmite. What do you do when faced with such frustration, with an extra man, and a keeper in top form?
Personally, I was impressed with the way that Latics handled their numerical advantage. All too often sides get caught out after a red card because they become too focussed on their extra man, too aware of the need to push forward to get a goal before the referee gets a chance to even things up. If your game plan is right then it’ll work all the better against 10 men.
The manager didn’t get all gung ho after the sending off because his team were already creating as many chances as they have in any other game this season and, as it was, his striker should/could have already put his side out of sight. If the chances keep coming even when a side tightens up against you, then one of them is eventually going to go in. Simply, why try to fix something that weren’t broke to start off with?
In the end, Latics’ extra class told. Our squad may not be as deep or as strong as you’d like, but it’s hard to deny that it contains a couple of gems, players that mark it apart from that of most teams around us and players that (if they are still around) should give us an edge in the run in that perhaps only Blackburn and Sunderland can claim to have.
In the first half, especially, Rodallega had the home defence run ragged and on another day, with another keeper could have easily taken the match ball with him for a half-time orange. In the second half it was N’Zogbia’s turn to make Wolves look right Charlies. Lionel Messi he’s not, but if France have got enough players to prevent him being an emerging contender for their World Cup squad then what were they doing struggling to qualify?
A two man team? Well we would certainly be in big trouble if we lost them, but there’s enough potential elsewhere to suggest we could be having similar conversations about, say Diame or McCarthy in 12-18 months time. No the team isn’t the finished article, but it’s got the makings and a bit of momentum could start to see us reap some of the benefits of that potential.
This game might have been easier than you would have expected, but that can’t be a slight on Latics, the question now is whether it can be turned into the platform for a run of form? This is the first of a series of winnable games that lead us to the return game against Spurs a few more performances like this one and we might be able to afford a defeat in that one, maybe not 9-1 mind.
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