Say this about Roberto Martinez: He’s not willing to watch this Wigan campaign go to pot without a fight.
The Latics deficiencies are many and obvious, but at least there will be some new faces in coming weeks. Wigan has reportedly signed Mexican striker Guillermo Franco, acquired Chelsea’s Franco di Santo on a loan and signed Scottish defender Steven Caldwell.
The acquisition of di Santo promises the most return. It is hoped that the Argentine might be able to find some chemistry with countryman Mauro Boselli, who’s had some good moments but has yet to open his EPL account.
Caldwell, at least, is expected to be available for Tuesday’s Carling Cup match against Hartlepool United.
Caldwell was with the team during the preseason, but had not played in the Latics’ first two EPL matches. His brother, Gary, was recently named Wigan’s captain.
Two games into the season and Wigan is being outscored 10-0. Just to make us feel a little worse about that, Arsenal beat the team that beat us last week 6-0. Does that mean we are destined to lose 11-0 to Arsenal?
Don’t really know what to say other than Chris Kirkland probably needs to go to the bench if for no other reason than to preserve his sanity. Once again, he looked awful on several goals. The first one was really not his fault, as he made a nice initial save before the rebound was slotted home. He failed to be decisive on the second and third goals and, to be honest, I had kind of lost interest after that. I did see that the defense did not help him on either of the final two tallies.
Beyond that, not sure there’s much that I see changing in personnel. I guess it would be good if Victor Moses was there, but by the time he’s back there’s a good chance Zog will be gone. Games like today probably don’t do much to convince him to want to be in DW Stadium, which it should be noted looked awfully empty for an early season match against a Big Four side.
Despite losing in such a horrible fashion, it should be said there were some bright spots. The first 35 minutes were actually pretty good and I felt like Wigan actually controlled a fair amount of the play to that point. Hugo Rodallega was looking strong, Ronnie Stam was looking solid in his first start and Wigan’s trap was obviously frustrating the Chelsea attack.
The score seemed to change everything. Suddenly, the trap that worked so well was simply leading to odd-man rushes and Wigan lost all control over the midfield. Mauro Boselli had a couple decent chances to score in the second half, but he was correctly deemed offsides on a called-back goal and a well-struck header was right at Petr Cech. He does appear to be adapting to the EPL, though, which might be the only real positive to come out of this match.
Wigan will almost certainly find itself stuck at the bottom of the table this week, unless Newcastle finds a way to lose by seven.
I don’t think I can quite work up intense anger over this, but I will say that I’m starting to curse my destiny. At some point, I really need to see some rays of hope here. I applaud Roberto Martinez for coming out aggressively against a side as strong as Chelsea, but the defense just looks so bad. There seems to be very little organization in back and the entire “system” falls apart if the opponent can just manage to stay onside.
There does seem to be some offensive promise, but at some point there have to be goals. It won’t get much easier next week as we visit Tottenham and we face the very real possibility of returning to DW Stadium against Sunderland winless after three.
Make me a believer boys.
The latest news out of the rumor mill is that Birmingham City has renewed its effort to steal away our beloved Charles N’Zogbia.
As you may or may not remember, City was hot on the trail of The French Flash (just made that up myself!) but balked at Wigan’s reported $16 million transfer demand (look, I’m an American and I don’t know the key stroke for pounds so I’m just going to do rough conversions). City is reportedly considering an offer of about $14 million.
From the sound of it, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez does not want to part with N’Zogbia unless his price is met. But this may also be leading to some friction, as reports that N’Zogbia was on strike last week surfaced.
All of this has prompted Martinez to bemoan the transfer window staying open after the season begins.
“It would really help if the window was closed before the games started,” he said. “The transfer window gives a player a moment to think about their careers and their futures. By doing that you are disrespecting the team. If the window closed before the first game, at least the players can get focused. Football is a collective sport and at the moment the transfer window goes against that and treats it like an individual sport.”
The hope is that N’Zogbia will at least be ready for this week’s match against Chelsea. He would most likely serve as a replacement for the injured Victor Moses.
Well, at least we can rest assured that midfielder Charles N’Zogbia will suit up and probably start against Chelsea. After manager Roberto Martinez explained his French midfielder’s absence in the season opener by saying he was “not mentally right to play,” Martinez has shifted his opinion and now says N’Zogbia is ready.
“But he has been back to himself in training this week,” Martinez said. “And when he does that, he remains a special player for us.”
Of course, this hardly means N’Zogbia will be staying put for the entire season. Martinez actually seems to be welcoming speculation by essentially saying that N’Zogbia will be moved whenever the right deal presents itself.
Tottenham Hotspurs are the latest side to join the rumored pursuit of N’Zogbia, with Juventus, Marseille and Sunderland already supposedly in the mix.
Also worth noting, apparently goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is getting another opportunity this week. I guess there’s something to be said with Martinez sticking by his man, but I’m hoping the leash isn’t too long.
My cousin, a Tottenham supporter, recently asked me how I was feeling about this weekend’s Wigan-Chelsea matchup. I jokingly said I expect a 4-0 victory, but then conceded that I was OK with something like a 3-1 loss. Coming off a 4-0 loss to Blackpool, it’s pretty awful to think that starting the season being outscored 7-1 would be deemed acceptable.
Afterall, the last time these sides met, Chelsea was yukking it up and winning 8-0 to close out the EPL campaign.
Making matters worse is an apparent row between Wigan manager Roberto Martinez and Charles N’Zogbia that may have kept the French midfielder out of last weekend’s match against Blackpool. Martinez claims there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on here and there’s still a decent chance that he’ll play this week. I’m still holding out hope that N’Zogbia will stick around, but this does not seem to bode well.
Such is life as a lower-table supporter, I guess.
Then again, maybe I’m being too pessimistic. Sports in general, and soccer especially, is full of upsets. Look no further than last year’s Chelsea-Wigan match at DW Stadium.
You could be forgiven for forgetting that Wigan won that match, and not by some fluke, either. The score was 3-1 and Wigan never trailed. Wigan took the lead at 16′ on a Titus Bramble score. Chelsea equalized right before the half. But Peter Cech was eventually red-carded, Wigan converted the penalty and then put the game away witha 90′ strike.
That marked the first time Wigan would ever beat a “Big Four” side in 34 tries and would ultimately be the first of three victories against those teams, as Wigan went on to also beat Arsenal (3-2) and Liverpool (1-0) at home.
Last season’s victory over Chelsea, it should also be mentioned, came in the midst of a not-so-different run of form. Wigan entered that match having lost four of its first six EPL matches and had also lost to Blackpool (4-1) in the Carling Cup.
I’m not going to pretend as if I think a victory is likely on Saturday, but I think the game should at least be worth watching. There’s no way Wigan can play worse than it did last week and even tying Chelsea would give me some valuable bragging rights, which I would probably have to forfeit if I don’t at least watch the match.
The best news to come out of Saturday’s fixture of opening EPL matches was that Wigan does not find itself at the bottom of the table.
Despite falling 4-0 to recently promoted Blackpool, Wigan finds themselves nestled safely in 19th after Chelsea’s 6-0 throttling of West Bromwich. After an offseason filled with promise, this was not the start I was looking for.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher put Wigan in an early hole with a strike at 16′. After a pair of goals from Marion Harewood at 38′ and 43′ set the match into halftime 3-0, the game was essentially over. Alex Baptiste closed out the scoring in 75′.
There were some points of positivity from the Latics, though. Newcomer Mauro Bosselli and last year’s leading scorer Hugo Rodallega made some strong connections and Bosselli nearly opened his scoring account with a header that glanced off the woodwork. Prior to Baptiste’s late goal, the Latics had actually controlled play during the second half, albeit against a team that had little reason to push forward. Wigan also had a second-half goal pulled back after what appeared to be an incorrect offside call.
“Today was extremely disappointing,” Latics manager Roberto Martinez told the team’s website after the match. ”We were excited about playing at home and looking forward to giving our fans the right performance to start the season with.”
On a personal level, I’m trying to not less this match get me too far down. I’m trying to remember that Charles N’Zogbia didn’t play, that Ronnie Stam was a substitute and that Ali Al Habsi can’t possibly do worse than today’s starting keeper Chris Kirkland.
Obviously, one lopsided loss hasn’t changed my interest in this team. It does, however, serve as a wakeup call. In watching today’s match, I know now more than ever that talent alone does not guarantee victories, especially in the EPL. At points, I was actually amazed at how quick and skilled Wigan’s players are in comparison to the players I usually watch in the MLS. I knew this was the case, but seeing two teams that could very well be fighting relegation this season really drove that point home.
Maybe it’s my naivete, but I am genuinely excited about Wigan’s chances this year. I’ve read predictions that have run the gamut from near certain relegation to competing for a spot in Europa.
They have a fresh striker in Mauro Boselli, who early reports suggest may be one of the top transfers to hit the Premiership this season. The Argentinian was one of South America’s top strikers the past two seasons and was the leading scorer in Copa Libertadores while helping lead Estudiantes to the title in 2009. He scored two goals in Wigan’s final warmup against Dundee, and that $10 million transfer may turn out to be a decent bargain.
He seems poised to create quite a scoring duo with Hugo Rodallega, who was the team’s leading goal scorer last season. The 25-year-old Colombian closed out last season with goals in three of four matches and appears to finally be adjusting to the English game.
Both players are of similar stature and seem to play similar styles, so it will be interesting to see if that’s a problem or not.
The midfield, too, seems to offer some promise of hope. Charles N’Zogbia is another youngster (24) and just earned his first cap for France in their recent friendly. There have been rumors swirling that he’ll leave the team, but if he stays it could be the difference between fighting off relegation and aiming for something much more significant.
Mohamed Diame, just 23, has shown much promise as more of a defense-minded central midfielder. Unfortunately, he also has been linked in transfer rumors.
Quite honestly, I’m not sure what to think of this team. I’ve never followed EPL closely, so the fact there are a bunch of players that seem interesting seems great. The fact that so many of them are young, seems promising, but also potentially scary. It’s hard to imagine that a bunch of guys in their mid-20s will be able to hang with players that are in their athletic primes and have more years of high-level competition under their belts.
Still, I am quite honestly looking forward to this season. No matter what happens — barring a complete collapse in which relegation becomes a foregone conclusion — I’m expecting this season to be exciting. If that means the Latics will be fighting for their Premiership lives, I’ll be sure to find that interesting. If they end up being the surprise side of the league, that would be even better.
My biggest concern is figuring out how to watch these games without making my wife leave me (the early morning starts will not be popular).