Defensive worries

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We’ve only been back in action for ten days but as always following Wigan Athletic it’s never dull.

The excellent opening day win over Sheffield Wednesday was followed up by an action packed deadline day that looked to have brought in real quality to the squad.

That was followed up by two swift defeats and a worrying number of goals conceded. So where do Latics and indeed Paul Cook go from here? Let’s look at the Villa defeat first.

As the clock ticked to 94 minutes at Villa Park I imagine myself and most Latics fans were happy with an excellent point away from home, that could have been even three if we had put our second half chances away. There’s no other way to describe the feeling after that last minute winner for Villa than absolutely gut wrenching.

But the consensus was if we can stamp out the defensive mistakes we’ll be in for a good season. As with the opening game of the season we look like we can score with every attack. I’m sure the addition of Garner, Windass, Connolly and Evans will only add to that potency in the attacking third.

There were more worrying defensive signs against Rotherham in the first round of the League Cup on Tuesday. Three goals conceded on Tuesday made it eight in total since the start of the season, a record I’m sure Paul Cook won’t be happy with.

There are of course underlying reasons behind this record, last season’s defensive stability was built on a solid back four that played the vast majority of the season together. This back four was led magnificently by Dan Burn and we’re clearly missing his strength and influence at the back. Equally it’s unfair to put too much criticisim at the door of Cedric Kipre, a young defender with a lot of potential who has been thrown in to the first team much earlier than Paul Cook would have wanted.

The longer this makeshift defence play together, the better the understanding.  There’s no need to press the panic button yet, once we eradicate those defensive errors we’ll be much stronger. The fact that we are scoring goals and creating chances is half the battle.

So it’s Nottingham Forest on Saturday, the tough games are coming thick and fast and Forest is another difficult prospect. But if we can wipe out those defensive frailties we’ll have another good chance.

Forest are a side in transition but have spent a lot of money this summer, they’ll be looking to start making an impression on the league table and we need to make sure it isn’t going to happen this weekend.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 17th August 2018.

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