Counter attacking cool, for cats

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There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Not that this is a practice I have ever performed, nor would I recommend any readers do so unless they happen to be employed as a taxidermist.

Yet this old adage is a useful parallel to the fact that there is more than one way to win a football match. So it’s a cautious thumbs up for me after Monday’s cockle warming performance at the frozen tundra of the John Smiths Stadium.

If you follow the path through our last seven managers, we have flipped flopped our playing style every single time, which cannot be good for a club’s stability but it feels like a case of needs must right now.

I say this not because I wanted Caldwell gone. Experience tells us that Caldwell’s teams just like Martinez’s teams, start seasons slowly and finish with a crescendo and that patience is generally rewarded.

However, he’s gone now and I feel there is nothing wrong at all with the way Joyce is approaching games either. We’re in the relegation zone and need to grind out results via whatever means possible.

Warren Joyce has quickly decided that shoring up the defence is the most important priority (after about five minutes of his tenure actually!) and counter attacking was to be the preferred method of attack rather than the luxury of expansive football.

I am a firm advocate of passing football. Martinez, Caldwell and Rosler have given us some of the greatest football results of our lives in the past ten years. The fact is that the team who has the most possession generally wins the game.

You will get these freak results occasionally whereby Northern Ireland can beat Germany in Euro qualifiers with 9% possession or something ridiculous. Indeed, Leicester won a Premier League title by focussing on countering.

I have concerns that a more direct style of play will only ever result in moderate improvement. It was the passing style that enabled us to make real exponential gains, for example, playing Manchester City off the park to win the FA Cup.

A few years before silly fools like me were brainwashed by Martinez, we had Paul Jewell as manager whose style was much more direct but again yielded once in a lifetime results.

However, we once again find ourselves as a small club with poor gates and a low wage bill and maybe we just need to go for the backs to the wall approach to get ourselves out of this mess.

When we changed style in the past under Coyle and Mackay it was something of a disaster in both cases, however Warren Joyce seems to be a much more progressive manager who comes with high accolade and a very good pedigree.

What we are seeing at present is a sensible “walk before run” strategy and a stripping back of the luxury elements of the team. Dropping popular players such as Grigg and Gomez may not curry favour, especially when Nick Powell, the very definition of a luxury player, has been getting regular game time this year but they are all very well paid footballers, so there’s no tears here.

In essence, I won’t be losing any sleep over who is playing or how we are playing in the coming weeks, so long as the new Wigan Athletic keep clocking up the points to haul us up the table.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man Column on Friday 2nd December 2016

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