Have to admit, I didn’t watch the match, but I was still very happy to see Wigan beat just about anybody. That this third round victory in the Carling Cup came against Championship side Preston North End hardly bothers me. The manner in which they won, requiring two late goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit, also should matter little at this point.
All I care about is Wigan not embarrassing themselves, really.
From the match reports, it appears they did their best to do just that until late. Some bad defending led to a first-half penalty and a resulting 1-0 deficit. It took the Latics until two minutes before stoppage time to find the equalizer and up until the final play of the match for Charles N’Zogbia to secure the spot in the fourth round.
With his side unable to make any match look easy, Latics manager Roberto Martinez seems to have adopted a similar stance as myself.
“We started the game in such a slow tempo, and probably didn’t give the occasion the approach it deserved.
“But in situations like this you see the reactions of individuals as men and as a team, and we were really together at the end and managed to find the solutions.”
There have been small signs of hope throughout Wigan’s season. The acquisition of Tom Cleverley seemed to be one. In his debut against Sunderland, he looked sharp and capable of making an impact.
Looks like we’ll have to wait at least a month to find out. Cleverley apparently hurt his knee in a training mishap and likely won’t return at least until the Oct. 16 match at Newcastle.
“He has a little problem with the medial ligament in his knee,” Latics manager Roberto Martinez said. “But he is a very strong, fit boy and we hope he’ll be able to heal quicker than is expected.
“In training, as you can imagine, it’s very competitive with all the talent we have in the squad.”
Wigan play Preston in Carling Cup action Wednesday.
I was out of the country last week (hey, Canada counts!), so I didn’t deem it important enough to write about Wigan’s tie with Sunderland. I didn’t watch it, but I paid attention enough to know they fell behind while a man up and then needed a 88′ strike to pull out a point. Once again, Wigan manages a baffling result.
Well, I was hoping for another baffler this week, but was sorely disappointed. The 2-0 loss to Manchester City was probably just about what you’d expect. Carlos Tevez scored early, then assisted on the second tally. Wigan looked outmatched for the most part, once again failing to must anything in front of the DW Stadium faithful.
In case you’re wondering, Wigan has played four of its first five EPL matches at their friendly confines and claimed a grand total of one point (in the aforementioned Sunderland draw) and have been outscored … wait for it … 13-1. This loss to ManCity, in which Yaya Toure did not score the second goal until 70′, qualifies as a competitive match by these standards. I’ll tell ya, I don’t want to be a fair-weather fan, but this is actually considerably harder than I had anticipated.
That Wigan has already established themselves as one of the teams that will undoubtedly be fighting relegation should come as little surprise. That they have done so with such a home-heavy schedule hardly bodes well for their future prospects.
Then again, maybe playing at home is not as much of an advantage as we’d like to think. Wigan, as you probably know, plays in front of the smallest crowds in the EPL. Their high-water mark for attendance this season was the opener against Blackpool, which drew fewer than the average MLS crowd: 16,152. Against ManCity, a team that I have to assume is considered one of their rivals, about 15,500 showed up. Judging from what I could see on video, there were nearly as many away fans as there were Wigan supporters.
Who knows, maybe the Latics actually play better on the road where they get to feel like a real-life top-division side. Their one win, against Tottenham, came on the road, after all.
So, maybe I’ve just got it backwards. Maybe the trip to Birmingham’s St. Andrews Stadium, and against the team Charles N’Zogbia could not come to terms with, is the perfect elixir.
Somehow I missed this gem after Wigan beat Hotspur last Saturday.
Just as my faith is wavering, Wigan pulls me back in. A 10-0 collective thrashing in the first two EPL matches — both at home — had left little reason for hope regarding Wigan’s chances at Champion’s League-participant Tottenham’s White Hart Lane.
I had so little hope that I actually forgot to set my alarm this morning. Maybe that was a good thing.
When I finally awoke around 8:30 a.m. PST, the game was in its final 10 minutes and Wigan was clinging to a 1-0 advantage. Watching the final 10-plus minutes was about all my heart could handle.
Wigan surrendered numerous chances, at least one of which felt like it was a sure-fire goal, but held strong to claim their first points of the season.
Ali Al Habsi got the start in goal, his first of the season, and looked to be a massive improvement over Chris Kirkland. Al Habsi had some shaky moments, but Wigan was content to play nine men in the box for much of the match and provided him relief whenever it was needed.
Roberto Martinez’s strategy finally paid off when Hugo Rodallega found an opening on the right wing and fired a low shot past the Spurs keeper.
Al Habsi was one of four changes from previous contests as Ronnie Stam, Steve Gohouri and James McCarthy all got their first starts of the season.
It’s been quite a week for the Latics. It started out with a Carling Cup second-round victory over Hartlepool. On Thursday it was announced that Wigan agreed upon a transfer fee that would send Charles N’Zogbia to Birmingham City. Then news broke that the deal had fallen apart as N’Zogbia failed to come to personal terms on a contract. His situation remains unclear.
This week has been an insane roller-coaster. It had started out with me questioning whether I could really follow a team that was as bad as Wigan when I had no historic personal investment in them. The prospect of losing our best player hardly made that any easier. Whether or not N’Zogbia returns to the fold, though, this win served as a great reminder of why I wanted to start watching EPL, and Wigan in particular.
The Latics may not be a great team (I’ve come to terms with the fight for relegation), but Martinez has an amazing ability to pull wins out of thin air. In a way, it’s even more exciting this way.
Assuming I understand this news correctly, it appears as if Charles N’Zogbia is as good as gone.
Wigan announced today that they have accepted an offer from Birmingham for the transfer of the newly minted French international. All that stands between N’Zogbia and his new team is for the player to agree to a contract.
Birmingham revealed on Wednesday that they had presented a new offer for the 24-year-old midfielder, which was apparently less than they had offered earlier in the year. This prompted a bit of a scolding from Wigan manager Roberto Martinez.
‘We had a couple of offers in May and now the offer is less than the one we had in May and then they go public in the press. It doesn’t look serious to me.
‘The valuation is very clear. If the team matches it he can speak with them. Until that happens he is a Wigan Athletic player. The transfer window brings you that distraction but when you get other managers talking about your players, that is really disappointing – to unsettle players and the press with no substance behind it.”
I’m going to go ahead and assume this means Birmingham at least came close to Martinez’s asking price of about $12 million. Unfortunately, with so little time left in the transfer window, I’m also assuming it’s too late to put that money to use.
My expectations for following Wigan were mainly that the Latics would keep it interesting. With two blowout losses and now the loss of their best player, I suppose “interesting” is still a fair word to use. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for “interesting” to turn into “intriguing.”
The Latics are still a young team, but they are definitely a less talented one. I have grown to have a fair amount of faith in Martinez’s ability to find hidden gems, but it’s hard for me to see how this particular move is going to be spun into a positive.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy Wigan avoided the ugliness that would have meant losing in the second round of the Carling Cup. Beating Hartlepool United 3-0 is definitely not a bad thing.
I am trying to dampen any positive feelings I have over it, though. Hartlepool, after all, is a side that sports an italicized script in their crest. To say they are less than bigtime is a bit of an understatement.
So, I won’t pretend as if I don’t care that Victor Moses scored his first goal of the season. Although, even Moses’ play deserves an asterisk since he left the game after a poor tackle.
“Hopefully I’ll be OK for Saturday,” Moses said. “I got smashed on my ankle, and it’s very sore, but fingers crossed.”
But this is the state of our season just two weeks in, I guess. We’re trying to find positives in wins over League 1 sides … and failing to find them without caveats.