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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wigan have impressive qualities and deserve greater recognition

Wigan hosted Arsenal yesterday lunchtime and put on a proud display of relentless hard running, team unity, strength, pace, skill and desire. I was really impressed by what I saw from a team that I had dismissed at the start of the season… in retrospect because of ignorance of the extent of their attributes.

Wigan lost 3-2 but this was a case of a team losing, but also winning at the same time. They started the better team only to be hit by two counter attacking goals of the highest order; one from RVP after a supreme control and pirourette around one of the Wigan centre-backs followed by decisive run towards the box and low hard finish, the second a clinical low finish into the far corner by Henry after a perfect through ball from Francesc.

This is when Wigan showed the excellent character which has propelled them to an amazing second place in their first ever Premiership season. They didn’t put their heads down; instead they kept on coming at Arsenal and pulled one back from a set piece free kick: Baines lifted the ball into the box, De Zeeuw headed it back across the goalmouth, and Camara showed a good stikers instict by flying low across the ground and heading it in.

Wigan regained their early momentum and were looking threatening before Henry's inch-perfect 32 yard free kick in the 41st minute: Andy Gray then remarking that 'world class' was not appropriate to describe TH… he was 'universal class!'. But again Wigan didn't lie down. Pascal Cygan this time woefully at fault (and not for the first time!!) as he got sucked out of his left back position into the centre of the pitch where he first failed to clear the ball despite reaching it marginally before the Wigan opponent, then failing to charge back into the left back position which was exploited by the persistent and impressive right midfielder Jimmy Bullard, who used the space to optimum effect and blasted the ball home past Lehmann.

So the half-time scoreline was 2-3, and everyone watching the entertainment- either at the JJB or at home on Sky- should have been thoroughly impressed by the Premiership new-boys.

The second half saw no goals. And although Arsenal had a greater control of possession, Wigan still showed team unity, fighting spirit, and good skill to keep the Gunners' on their toes. I was impressed by the front play of Camara and Roberts: who possess fearsome attributes of pace, power, and determination to surpass the vast majority of strike-partnerships in the Premiership. The four midfielders of Bullard, Francis, Kavanagh, and McCulloch are never-say-die players who attack and defend as a formidable unit. And once again Chimbonda was outstanding in supporting Bullard down the right-hand side: they definitely won their dual with Ljungberg and the catastrophic Cygan.

The great thing about the Wigan performance yesterday is that it's their norm, not their exception. They played with similar spirit on the opening day of the season against Chelsea, only to lose to an injury time curler by Crespo. They then lost 1-0 at Charlton, but since had gone on an unbeaten run of 10 wins and one draw in the Premiership and Carling Cup combined... which came to an end yesterday.

Despite this defeat, Wigan did impress me a lot. They possess a lot of qualities, and decisively show more hunger for the game than I have seen from most other Premiership teams. I personally look forward to seeing more of their matches over the rest of the season.


Blogger RedsMan said...

If there has ever been a bigger contradiction of estimations, they haven't enlarged any bigger so far than those who summarised Wigan's fortunes in the Premiership. Tremendous is the adjective I can attached to their current form. It's as if the other side fail to actually perform, you just wouldn't bet on most of the sides giving way as they have done. And T has mentioned one element that you need to survive at the top: pace.

West Ham began well, I reported on their first match against Blackburn at Upton Park, 3-1, and witnessed the rapidness of Harewood, Reo-Coker and Etherington, adding to the experience and skill of Sheringham, two reasons why they are in the top half of the league. In Roberts and Camara, the former WBA man has pace and strength, which was tested well by Campbell and to a degree I thought would be a no-contest but Roberts did excellently to almost square for the equaliser in the second half. Camara doesn't bother himself with the Premiership defenders, probably ignores or avoids newspaper reports, media coverage, simply goes about his life, meets up with the squad, gets change and plays. Most players wish to concern themselves with exactly who they are facing. I don't think Camara is one of them, he sees the ball and just runs, and he will twist and turn against anyone with little fear. These two are almost similar and gel very well.

Bullock and McCulloch are as T described. Kavanagh has always been a midfield general, he should be the Eire captain (no disrespect to Cunningham). He may not have pace but his vision is something I'd equate to Sheringham's. Chimbonda is tenacious, pacy, and is like Ashley Cole charging up the right flank. Yet the pick for me is the Prime Minister's favourite, De Zeeuw. Why on this earth did Portsmouth release him is baffling. Too old? I don't know, but his defending with a little from Henchoz is a good enough partnership to help such a side in Wigan. Not two expensive denfeders to strain the budget, no panic buying, simply one is a warhorse, the other a keen sargeant.

I cant quite figure it out but feel Paul Jewel has an atmosphere of jokes, seriousness, and old-fashioned training keeping this squad stronger mentally and physically. From Bullock to McCuloch, Francis to Kavanagh, Roberts to Camara, they all want to get on the scoresheet. A coincidence they have only lose to London clubs, but at home against two of the best in the league, they have lost by a single goal. That is a high compliment.


11/20/2005 4:17 pm

Blogger T said...

Redsman, you are spot on to highlight De Zeeuw. He is a magnificent captain and defensive organiser for Wigan; re-creating the exact same role that he performed for Portsmouth as they were promoted to and then consolidated in the Premiership. I also can't believe Pompey let him go??

He was my second choice nomination for EFT player of the month for September: leading Wigan through an unbeaten month of football.

Kavanagh (QC?!?) has been around for a long time but all of it- to my memory- in the lower leagues. He has both creativity and tenacity and is a good asset for Wigan. Redsman, I'm not sure about him being captaincy material for Eire because of his relative lack of top level experience.... but I can see the qualities that convinces you to make this call.

11/20/2005 9:03 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't believe Pompey let a lot of their players go. They didn't even seem to fight very hard for Yakubu. Mandaric should have stayed out of the footballing side. Back to Wigan, they don't only have spirit, they were extremely well organized, pushing up and tracking back as a unit, not easily pulled out of shape. They also have a good mix of workers and high quality skilled players.

11/20/2005 9:55 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Anon - I forgot to mention about Yakubu. There is the adage about not keeping a player who wants to leave, but it was as if Portsmouth resigned to it with little resistence, or persuasion.

Pompey fans may say I'm crazy to suggest Mandaric and Perrin would do little to keep the Nigerian, but Boro completed a snip for him at £7.5m when Portsmouth should be looking to keep him for future progression. Without De Zeeuw and Yakubu now, the South Coast side are struggling and need the likes of Robert and LuaLua to bring them the service they need, Dario Silva seemed an unusual purchase.


11/20/2005 10:24 pm

Anonymous MolineuxBlue said...

As a Wiganer it's been a weird and wonderful season so far. Arjan De Zeeuw was always going to be a massive signing for us. His previous time with us showed us how classy he was, and Prem experience with Pompey was only going to have helped him further.

The same goes for Henchoz really. He's a tad slow, but compensates well with quality skill on the floor and great aerial ability.

Kav is a good holder in midfield, but against someone class like Arsenal takes too long to make decisions. That's our downfall this season, we're still learning, so we take three passes to do what other teams do in one or two.

Bullard is great. A real runner with bags of skill. Hopefully he won't be lured away by Liverpool as is the current rumour.

Camara was a gamble, but one that's paid off so far. His goals tally outweighs his strops, so that's alright.

Thierry Henry was a class apart on Saturday, and his free kick was perfection. Hopefully we won't get by on creditable defeats, and will put a couple past Spurs next weekend.


11/21/2005 8:40 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

MB - I came across a report somewhere in a Sunday newspaper detailing an interview with Paul Jewel. Jewel laid out his opinion on a number of players, andCamara was one of them, where the Wigan boss said he has his moments of strops but trains hard and provides speed and a threat whenever he runs towards goal. I'm not knowledged on his strops and wondered if you could enlighten us with anything you know about them, or any Wiganer can provide some info on it.

Why the monicker of 'molineuxblue'?


11/21/2005 10:50 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Good posts as usual T and Redsman - insightful and most of all thoughtful!

What I hadn't realised after watching the match of Wigan v Arsenal was the Henry comment to Graham Poll..."How was that?" or something after the screamer of a free kick! LOL...Henry always brings a bit of entertainment. A shame for keeper Filan...but I really don't think there was much he could do about it, the kick taken with perfection.

I think Wigan were certainly resolute and 3-1 would certainly have not them themselves justice...but with was always going down to the wire and 3-2 it ended up. Too bad for Arsenal..but a "glorious" defeat if you can ever have one for Wigan. I was VERY impressed with their organisation and certainly they didn't look like being fazed at all.

Top half finish to the season I think at least...if not top six as Wenger has alluded to.

The real test now is with the rest of the top half teams and big games - hopefully they keep their spirits up!

11/25/2005 12:43 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanx NTurtle, appreciate your comments!

Yep, Wigan and the word 'organisation' defintely belong together. Its great to see a football team who play so hard as a whole team unit... mucho credit to Paul Jewell!

I should also add that as they play with two strikers up front, they automatically have my appreciation for adopting a positive approach to football.

11/26/2005 10:04 am


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