It doesn’t take that long for the Premier League sheen to wear off, does it? From must see away game in 2005/06, through “protect our goal difference at all costs” to a game you just want to get out of the way so that you can get on with the real stuff in three easy seasons. Of course you can never really take away the glamour of a trip to Anfield, especially under the lights and with the ghost of Shanks and his past heroes looming large.
So of course I’m on the train to Lime Street, unfortunately it’s the 19:04 from Preston, I’ve got the bike with me and I’m definitely getting off at Wigan North Western, but at least I should be home to keep up to date with the game in some shape or form. Or so you’d think. In reality I spent the first half providing IT support to a mate who really shouldn’t be allowed access to the internet, maybe even a computer and the second listening to tales from Wigan Borough Council so I actually got to concentrate on precious little of the match but I still got enough to learn two things.
Firstly, all this ‘playing football’ is great, the plaudits are deserved, but we’re a long, long way off doing it for real. Contrast the nice build up play from Latics invariably leading to nothing as someone dwells a bit too long on his next pass with the quick incisive passing of Liverpool. We’re probably never going to get up to that standard, but we need to get nearer to it if we’re going to break teams down and get more ‘real’ chances to score goals.
Secondly, when we aren’t creating chances, we aren’t creating anything else either. It seems that, for whatever reason, we can not draw a mistimed tackle around the box or even catch a deflection to one of the long range shots that are becoming this year’s equivalent of the “long ball up to Heskey”.
It could be there’s some experience or touch of cynicism missing or maybe it’s an indication of our lack of cutting edge. I don’t know, but I do know that a high proportion of goals in this league come from set pieces so if you’re not getting those then your chance of scoring goes down. It’s simple maths, I think.
The Martinez view is that the result was disappointing and you have to take his point in terms of the goals we conceded, both were on the soft side and although the second came when we were pushing for an equaliser, there were no excuses for the defending on N’Gog’s. We were lax up front as well with a couple of good headers knock straight to the keeper and despite a number of longish shots, none of them really working the keeper.
I think that the reality was always that Latics would lose this game, Liverpool have been poor recently, but not that poor, and you had to doubt whether Latics had the cutting edge to take advantage of the home team’s shaky confidence. It might have been the best opportunity we’ve had to take a full set of points away from Anfield but any expectation that we would was based on the misconception that we were in any better frame of mind than our hosts.
So, yes, there were disappointing elements to this, but the one thing that Bobby wouldn’t have allowed himself to get across his relief that the defeat wasn’t worse. Latics played alright but there were shaky spells, not least when they were chasing the game and overall Liverpool could (should) have come down the finishing straight comfortably.
That they didn’t and that Latics didn’t even look like they might crumble once they went two down is the biggest plus from this game and could be a turning point in the season.. Hopefully it the proper signs that the team have now learnt something from the Spurs game that they hadn’t against Birmingham, that being on the back foot doesn’t mean that you have to go backwards, that the best way to get over a setback is to steady yourself and get back into it.
It’s a lesson that they’ll need to build on, as Latics play last this weekend and could be even more uncomfortably close to the bottom three than they are now. Defeat could even see them in it. Did someone say “must win”, well we’re playing Bolton so that goes without saying.
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