There’s one simple thing that separates good teams from bad ones. No scratch that, there are plenty of benchmarks to measure how good a side is, but there’s just the one deciding factor in deciding how successful a team is. Whether it’s about stopping them or scoring them, football is all about goals.
The last season for Latics can easily be divided into two chapters. the first saw us conceding for fun and ended up with us stranded in the bottom three, The second was characterised by a lack of goal scoring that saw us turn things around, but meant that we had to wait until the death before safety was confirmed.
Stopping the flow was a fairly simple job, a bit of organisation, a dose of confidence and some tweaking and Latics became hard to beat. Solving the problem at the other end is another job altogether
We all know the arguments about Emile Heskey, they were played out in the media plenty enough before he joined us. He brings plenty to the team, when he’s there, but given a season where he’s been troubled by injury and a lack of a settled (and suitable?) partner, then it’s hard to see the point.
With Camara beggaring off to West Ham the search was always going to be on for that “Owen like” little man that would thrive off Heskey’s hard work and in turn bring out the best out of last season’s talisman. Instead we got Julius Aghahowa.
Whatever the Nigerian’s strengths were, I think it’s fair to say that we didn’t see them. Maybe he needed more time and games to settle into the Premier League, but when it comes down to it, teams in the relegation battle don’t really have either.
It’s hard to see how either of the other strikers that started the season at the JJB could be realistically partnered with Heskey. Sibierski is clearly a “forward” rather than a striker (whatever that means) and like Heskey would be better suited to playing with someone to finish off his hard work. Throw in the other attribute he shares with Emile, the apparent inability to complete 90 minutes, and there’s not much down for him really.
So it was left to Marcus Bent to et us the goals to keep us up, and whilst he may have finished up top scorer, 7 goals isn’t all that impressive especially when his efforts were concentrated into the space of four games and the other 34 games saw a mixture of criminal finishing and Lord Lucan impersonations.
You want modern football then Bent has it all, the bling, the silly goal celebrations (although admittedly for a good cause in this case) and the bikinied girlfriend on the cover of Nuts but if it’s what happens on the pitch that matters then…
So we hit January and the quest to resolve the problems upfront. Commeth the hour, commeth Marlon King. Not that you’d notice.
Despite showing a decent touch, the only thing that really marked out King from Aghahowa was that he looked a little more ‘English’ in his football, a bit more willing to work and run himself down at the expense of the team, and, the fact that he managed to score.
Now there’s plenty of reasons that this might be, but if we stick to the facts then he didn’t look effective and, if he’s going to play any role next season then he’s got a long way to go.
It would be completely out of character for me to overplay anything to do with Wigan Athletic, I’ve been stung by optimism too many times in the past, but it’s difficult to be too down on the efforts of our front line this season. Well, effort is probably the wrong word to use there, we’ve seen plenty of huffing and puffing, but the fact is that they’ve not provided us with enough of what they’re paid to give us, goals.
I’ve supported strikers in the past by saying that they’ve not had enough chances to prove themselves either way, and whilst that has been true at some points during the last nine months, there have been games where Latics have created enough chances to win a league but still not come away with three points.
I suppose we have to get back to having realistic aims, and for Latics that’s more about scoring enough goals rather than loads of them. There’s been talk about needing a 20-goal man, but when it comes down to it double figures would be a step forward. If we could mange to have two players that get past that mark, then there’s no doubt that we’ll have a much more comfortable time of it next year.
So what can Steve Bruce do? It’s easy to talk about new strikers, but when it comes down to it, Latics are never going to be in a position where they can go out and buy guaranteed goals. As I type , it seems that at least three of this year’s forward line won’t be at the club come August with a reasonable chance that the only constant may be Marlon King, so Bruce is going to have to take some risks.
Whether that be with Egyptian lads who no-one has heard of or Frenchmen that have never really lived up to their promise, who knows. The papers have had us linked with three quarters of the Honduras national team and that bloke who once scored 10 goals in a game has reared his head again. None of this fills you with great hope but would it be any better if we were linked with, say David Nugent and Leroy Lita?
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