We’ve done ‘woe is me’, we’ve done “don’t panic” and we’ve done “there once was a girl who had a little curl”, now I’m stumped. There isn’t much you can say about a performance like this one. I attempted to recall ghosts of Christmases past in my match preview by mentioning the Carling Cup semi final and the game two seasons back, but instead we got a bit of West Ham at home in 2006/07.
I’m not sure there’s much point looking here; I really don’t know the answer. But then again, I’m far from on my own there. The difference is that I know what the question is. It’s not are we going to go down, should we sack the manager or even is this going to be a long hard season. They’re all ridiculous questions to be asking in any September, let alone one where a new manager and his new team are finding their feet.
The real question is what, if anything, in the context of our season, does a 4-0 defeat, away at Arsenal mean? The answer in terms of the result is simple, almost nothing. Given that Latics still haven’t hit any sort of groove, you could say that the score line wasn’t that bad given that par for the Gunners currently sits at 3.25, could do, but of course there’s not much can soften the blow of a 4-0 defeat.
Before we go on, I should point out that I’m a realist. I’m not happy that Latics’ current side were beaten as soon as they boarded the bus to Ashburton Grove and I know it’s horrible to watch a side so obviously clueless about what to do when faced with Arsenal walking through them almost at will. No experience, no grit, no guile not even a bang it up to the big man and get a breather.
I compared this game to the Pepsi Challenge, in those terms, Latics didn’t come up even as Coke, they were more like what you get at McDonalds when the syrup is running out (and the soda has gone a little flat). Just like you can’t have a fizzy drink without the flavour and fizz, you can’t have an attacking, passing side if your players can’t kick the ball to each other, let alone get it to the forwards.
Actually that’s a bit harsh, but only a bit. I’ve always said that you can forgive defeat in any game as long as you see the team trying to do their best. The need to do that is trebled when you play sides like Arsenal and if you don’t step up to the mark? I’ve seen plenty of bad performances in the past, and this ranked up with them but there’s more to football than turning out against Arsenal, running around a lot and looking all hurt and injured when you don’t win.
I can’t help but put things in context though and because of it, I can’t make sense of the mass panic and mob rule that’s currently ruining the view on the Wigan Athletic Wide Web. Latics have played six games, four of them against teams who finished in the top six last season, we’ve got six points. Would the eleven that started last season and their manager have bettered that? Possibly only on goal difference and not by much.
There’s no amount of ignorance, arrogance and “the world ends at 17th in the Premier League”-ism can hide that simple fact. You might think Latics are doing horribly, but if, by your score, they were doing better, what would the net result be? Well I suppose we’d all be able to find some interesting message board posts.
The thing is that there’s something bigger going on at Latics right now than the usual ‘we’re in a relegation battle until we’re not approach’. You might be struggling with it, you might not think it’s going to work, but the manager is planning for the future. A future of being a football club with an ideal from top to bottom of playing football. A future of being a club with young players waiting to come through. A future, dare I say it of being a proper football club again.
Laugh all you want, but I’ve bought the hype on that front, I really believe that’s what Martinez wants for Latics, and I really hope that Whelan has the balls to let him see it through. Yes because I’m a sentimental old git, but also because I think it’ll pay dividends in the long run. It might make the here and now seem harder than it could be but it’s a fundamental issue that raises a fundamental question one that will divide Latics fans until the points start to roll in.
“Is Premier League survival worth any cost?”
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