Saturday, 31 March 2012

Latics Secure Vital Win

Wigan 2-0 Stoke City 

In what was described this week as a must win game the Latics responsed to the pressure to produce an outstanding performance, and secured back to back victories for the first time this season. 

Roberto Martinez’s men had the DW Stadium rocking, as they secured only their second home victory of the season. The Spaniard decided to stick with the same XI that came back from Anfield last weekend with all three points.

Roberto Martinez 
The Latics were dominant from the outset with the midfield pairing of James McArthur and James McCarthy running the game. Although keep Ali Al Habsi pulled off an outstanding stop to keep out Ryan Shawcross in what was the only clear cut chance that his side were able to muster all afternoon.

Scottish international Shaun Maloney kept up his impressive run of form with a man of the match performance and played an integral part in the opening goal.

His quick thinking from a free kick played through Beausejour who attonded for his earlier sitter with an inch perfect cross which was emphatically met by centre half Antolin Alcaraz. 

The goal was more than the Latics deserved as a result of their dominance and arguably should have had a spot kick as Dean Whitehead handled the ball from McArthur’s shot, but referee Mark Clattenburg waved away the appeals.

Wigan Celebrate Moses' Goal 
At times the play from the home side was delightful and was a real treat for the home fans who have been very patient this season after seeing them only pick up the one victory.

The visitors were left frustrated by being played off the park by Martinez’s men for much of the game and as a result had four players cautioned and were unable to retain possession. 

Martinez tightened things up in the closing stages to ensure that his side secured the crucial victory but in all honesty the result never looked in doubt.

The second goal came on the break as Victor Moses fought hard and chased down what seemed to be a lost cause, as he disposed Andy Wilkinson on the half way line and made his way to goal.

The Nigerian international kept his cool despite attempts to bring him down and slotted home to send the Latics fans into delirium.

Once again results elsewhere have not been kind to Wigan as they remain in the bottom three but now only on goal difference. Tough away trips to London with Chelsea and Arsenal are broken up with the visit of the Manchester United and anything that they can pick up from these games could be crucial. 

Belief is the key and momentum is crucial at this stage of the season and with seven games left to play Martinez will be very confident that he can lead the Latics to the great escape once again.

Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Alcaraz, McCarthy, Caldwell (c), Di Santo (Gomez 81), Maloney (Watson 69), Moses, McArthur, Boyce, Beausejour (Sammon 86), Figueroa.
Unused Subs: Kirland, Crusat, Jones, Stam.
Stoke City:
 Begovic, Huth, Wilson, Pennant (Palacios 65), Shawcross (c), Whitehead, Walters (Fuller 65), Crouch, Etherington (Jerome 48), Whelan, Wilkinson.
Unused Subs:  Sorensen, Jones, Upson, Shotton

Attendance: 19,786 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Martinez Unleashes Secret Weapon

As the Latics were facing yet another defeat at Carrow Road, manager Roberto Martinez called upon Scottish international, Shaun Maloney to change the game a decision that could ensure survival.

The Malaysian born summer signing from Celtic, has faltered badly in what is now his second spell in the Premier League. He made his first team debut in the Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace in August and was restricted to only three appearances from the bench, before his cameo against Norwich.

Shaun Maloney 
In a performance that Martinez described as “outstanding” the Spaniard rewarded the former Aston Villa man with a place in the starting XI in the last two outings. 

His most significant contribution for the Latics came on Saturday when, after a long delay he coolly dispatched his spot kick at Anfield to set up a memorable victory which reignites the relegation battle.

Having burst onto the scene with Celtic, Maloney since has flattered to deceive. He followed Martin O’Neill to Villa Park and struggled to impose himself and swiftly returned to the SPL the following season.

He settled back down in Scotland and for a fee just short of a million, Martinez saw fit to give Maloney his second chance in the England.

For the vast majority of this season he has been the forgotten man at the DW Stadium, dogged by fitness issues his introduction at Norwich was the tonic the Latics needed.

Just like a new signing he has had a positive influence on the pitch; he is lively and crucially carries a goal threat. Alongside Jean Beausejour and Victor Moses he will create chances for the front men and his time in Scotland shows he can bag as well.

Roberto Martinez
At the age of 29 this is certainly his last chance to impress across the border and having been left on the sidelines for much of the campaign. He is now set for a run in the team until the end of the season and will look to repay the faith shown in him from Martinez.

The push for survival continues on Saturday at home to Stoke and you can expect to see Maloney in action once again and without a doubt he is going to play a huge part in the scrap and could well land himself a place in Wigan folklore. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Latics Land Huge Win

As captain Gary Caldwell exquisitely struck the winner, in front of the Kop end he breathed fire into his club’s fight for Premier League survival.

In what was a wonderful team performance the Latics dominated for long periods and they took the lead after half an hour, after Martin Skrtel struck the lively Victor Moses plum in the face, and Shaun Maloney did the honours from the spot.

Gary Caldwell
Roberto Martinez kept the belief in the starting XI that drew with West Brom last weekend and his rallying call during the week seemed to do the trick.

Chilean international Jean Beausejour was a constant threat all afternoon as he and Moses proved to be a handful for both Liverpool full backs, but as with on many occasions this season the end product was lacking.

This was until the usually reliable Skrtel lost his composure and raised his boot in the face of Moses, leaving Lee Mason with no other option but to point to the spot.

After a long wait as a result of the injury to Moses, (which was to eventually force him off) Maloney held his cool and sent the travelling Latics into delirium.

After the break the controversial Luis Suarez levelled things up after some great link up play with Steven Gerrard and it looked very much as if that would be that.

Suarez looked to have given the home side the lead with a header, but after some confusion he was adjudged to have impeded Caldwell.

This seemed to give the Latics the wakeup call they needed as Martinez marshalled the troops from the sideline and eventually his side regained their composure and control of the game.

The winner game after James McCarthy’s speculative strike caught the Liverpool backline out and Caldwell pounced as the ball fell to him and he struck the historical winner.

Shaun Maloney
Results elsewhere mean the Latics remain in the drop zone but are now within one point of Bolton in seventeenth and results elsewhere see Wolves cut adrift at the foot of the table.

After a string of encouraging performances this result will have pundits take note the Latics are well and truly up for the fight.

Next up it is Stoke City at home, in what is simply a must win game. Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal follow Saturday’s encounter and 3 points are a must.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Norwich City 1-1 Wigan - Latics show signs that they are up for the fight

Roberto Martinez’s men showed signs of significant improvement in a spirited performance, but will leave Norfolk kicking themselves having dominated and created the better openings in what was an entertaining encounter.

After last week’s horror show at the DW against Swansea you got the feeling that the Latics were going to bring their stay in the top flight to an end come May. 

Roberto Martinez & Victor Moses
The big issue for Wigan is that they are yet again involved in a scrap for Premier League survival in what is now their sixth season in the top flight.

Taking the next step forward is key for Wigan if they are genuinely to be considered as an established Premier League team, you get a feeling if they were to drop back into the Championship they would struggle to come back.

The job that Dave Whelan has done has been nothing short of remarkable to take this small town living in the shadow of the likes of Manchester United into the promise land and maintain their presence.

The big question is can they take the next step up. Investment is a huge issue for them, with the likes of QPR coming up and spending big and with Swansea and Norwich proving to be a more attractive choice for players, getting genuine talent through the door in is an issue.

As for the yesterday’s game they will be left wondering what might have been as they were by far the better team.

A sloppy clearance from the usually reliable Ali Al-Habsi put the defence on the backfoot only ten minutes in, as Wes Hoolahan evaded Gary Caldwell and co to smartly score on his 150th appearance for the Canaries.

Despite the setback Martinez’s men stuck to their game plan and grew into the game more and were unlucky to not to level before half time.

The Spaniard as he does in every game kicked every ball and unlike last week his decision on substitutes paid off when brought on former Celtic man Shaun Maloney. He proved to be instrumental in the Latics taking a share of the spoils at Carrow Road. He was lively throughout and was on hand to put through Victor Moses, who coolly rounded John Ruddy to level things up.

Maloney was on hand again late on as he played the perfect ball to substitute Mohammed Diame who blasted over with the goal and three points at his mercy.

Shaun Maloney
Wales international Steve Morison nearly broke Wigan hearts as he was denied by Al-Habsi who produced a stunning one handed stop and managed to clear the incoming danger.

As mentioned earlier an improvement at home is going to key for the Latics as their next three games on the road involve Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Despite their manager’s belief that he has the team and characters in it to stay up, they will look at this game as two points dropped. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

David Moyes - Everton boss celebrates 10 years at the helm

Recently lauded by the great Sir Alex Ferguson it is fair to say that, despite not winning any trophies the job done at Everton by David Moyes is nothing short of remarkable. He deserves the plaudits coming his way this week as he celebrates ten years in charge of the blue half of Merseyside.

Tim Cahill & David Moyes
When he joined back in the spring of 2002 his appointment was met by many of Gladys Street faithful with scepticism. The decision from Bill Kenwright to blood a young rookie manager in the place of the hugely experienced Walter Smith was a bold move and looking back now was perhaps the best decision ever made by the owner.

At the time they were a club going nowhere fast. Moyes joined a dressing room that was on its last legs and seemingly heading out of the league. He swiftly moved the likes of Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola out and focussed on bringing in youth with Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert being the first to be blooded in.

His focus from an early stage was on youth and he has given opportunities to a number of youth starts including Wayne Rooney. Today he has Jack Rodwell who is attracting interest from a number of big clubs and has Ross Barkley knocking on the door for a first team slot.

Year on year he has produced teams who play with pride and passion. Osman and Hibbert are prime examples players who technically are not the greatest who have ever worn the shirt but can be relied upon to a job and do it very well.

He has worked the transfer market very well bringing in the likes of Joleon Lescott, Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar in and selling them on for huge profit. He has done very well to keep hold of Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill who were brought in from the Championship and have blossomed into top players and are the heartbeat of the club.

Phil Jagielka
His financial control over the years would surely make him an attractive proposition for any club, as the financial fair play rules are set to kick in over the next couple of seasons. With Sir Alex taking note of his due diligence in the market: “David has had to contend with not having a strong financial structure.”

The January transfer window saw plenty of action with Darron Gibson and the return of Pienaar bolstering the numbers. The signing of Nikica Jelavic from Rangers looks an excellent bit of business with the Croat scoring the winner on his full debut against Tottenham over the weekend.

The decision to move Louis Saha on will have perhaps raised a few eyebrows but, put simply the former Manchester United man does not fit into Moyes’ ethos he was also a big earner and his sale balanced the books.

The recent run of results see Everton go into a big week in good form. A win in the Derby on Tuesday could see them overhaul their neighbours in the league and then they face Sunderland in the cup on the weekend with a place at Wembley on offer.

Over the years it would have been easy for Moyes to walk away he has had many suitors. Many thought the sale of Arteta to Arsenal back in August would have perhaps seen him turn his back on the club. He held firm and any move from Goodison would be well thought out as he has fallen in love with the ‘People’s Club.’

Cup success this season would be truly deserved having come so close in 2009 when his side fell just short at the hands of Chelsea.

Sir Alex Ferguson & David Moyes
At the age of 48 he is relatively young and has plenty more to offer the game and will go onto achieve much more, Evertonian’s will hope it comes with their club.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have a huge say in who comes into replace him when he finally calls it a day. Following his praise of his fellow Glaswegian over the recent months, who would be surprised if Moyes moved over Old Trafford? No one will more deserving of a shot at the big time than Moyes and he would without a doubt make it work. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Rangers’ boss prepares for crucial run in

It has been a far from perfect start to life at Loftus Road for Mark Hughes, he has seen his side pick up a mere 5 points since he replaced Neil Warnock at the helm of the West London club.

Despite the dismal start the former Manchester City boss remains confident that his side have enough about them to secure a second season in the top flight and build for the future. Speaking after his side’s recent home defeat to derby rivals Fulham, Hughes called for discipline and reiterated his belief that his side have the quality to survive.

Mark Hughes
Indiscipline has played a huge part in QPR’s downfall this season with five players seeing red and new signing Djibril Cisse and Samba Diakite recently picking up costly bans.

What will worry Rangers’ fans is that their run in includes fixtures against Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Unlike the teams around them after their trip to Bolton on Saturday they do not face anyone directly involved in the relegation scrap. 

Saturday’s can certainly be considered a so called “six pointer” as Hughes’ men face sides with aspirations of competing for the title and securing European football for next season. It looks as though it is going to be three from the current bottom five that will go down with the likes of Aston Villa and Swansea looking to have enough quality to not get dragged in.

It is clear that they should have much more points on the board by now just the way Norwich and Swansea have done.

Recent signings Bobby Zamora and Cisse will finally get to link up again after the former Liverpool man’s dismal half an hour into his home debut against Wolves. They have the pedigree to get the goals that Hughes needs but the big question is can they deliver when the pressure is really on?

Bobby Zamora 
At the back they have now conceded in eighteen consecutive matches, with their last clean sheet coming against Chelsea in their biggest success since their return to the elite. The character shown by his side to fight back from the setback of Everton’s early goal on Saturday will have encouraged Hughes but he will know the hard work starts at the Reebok.

The players have to come up big during the run in and the Loftus Road faithful are going to play a huge part in their battle to avoid the drop, Hughes remains confident in his side but he knows deep down that he faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career to date and simply cannot fail.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Wigan 0-2 Swansea - 3 things we've learned

Gylfi Sigurdsson – Has a big future in the game

The Icelandic international on loan from German outfit Hoffenheim stole the show with two outstanding strikes from outside the area.

The former Reading man has been instrumental since his arrival in January and scored in their away win at West Brom. He is no stranger to wonder goals with his first strike for former club Reading coming from 35 yards out at home to Burton Albion in the Carling Cup.

Gylfi Sigurdsson 
Yesterday he looked cool and composed figure in the heart of the midfield and stood up well to the challenge of the tough Wigan midfield. His strike on the stroke of half time ensured the Swans took the lead before the break after dominating much of the opening period.

It was only ten minutes into the second half when after Nathan Dyer was fouled he left Al Habsi rooted to the spot as he curled an outstanding free kick to send the Swansea fans into delirium.

His signing is testament again to Brendan Rodgers as he has settled into the side and yesterday’s showing was testament to how pivotal he is to the Welsh club. The sending off of Dyer meant Sigurdsson had to be sacrfied as they held firm for the final half an hour.

He will get a lot of interest from a number of clubs in the summer and Rodgers will be hoping he can secure the signature as he adds something different to the his cultured side.

Wigan – They are in big trouble

The weekend’s result will leave many Latics fans frustrated as they missed out on a huge opportunity to move out of the drop zone.

Results elsewhere over the weekend have been kind to Roberto Martinez and his men as they still find themselves only two points from safety with eleven games to go.

Jean Beausejour 
The big issue for Wigan is that they are yet again involved in a scrap for Premier League survival in what is now their sixth season in the top flight.

Taking the next step forward is key for Wigan if they are genuinely to be considered as an established Premier League team, you get a feeling if they were to drop back into the Championship they would struggle to come back.

The job that Dave Whelan has done has been nothing short of remarkable to take this small town living in the shadow of the likes of Manchester United into the promise land and maintain their presence.

The big question is can they take the next step up. Investment is a huge issue for them, with the likes of QPR coming up and spending big and with Swansea and Norwich proving to be a more attractive choice for players, getting genuine talent through the door in is proving to be huge problem.

In order to stay up they have to improve at home one win against QPR back in August is the only time they have picked up three points at the DW stadium. West Brom and Stoke provide the opposition in their next two games at home in what are now must win games.

Martinez cannot afford to leave the likes of Mohammed Diame and Victor Moses on the bench as he did on Saturday. Connor Sammon was poor an infective and did not look up for the fight, encouragingly new singing Jean Beausejour looked lively throughout and will provide the front men with the required ammunition.

It is going to be tough for Wigan to pull off yet another great escape but do not bet against them, they seem to thrive in adversity, right now they are low but on Saturday’s showing things can only get better.

Swansea – Big win at the right time

Brendan Rodgers’ hailed his side after a terrific performance ensured they picked up their third win on the road this season and ease any concerns they might have over being dragged into the relegation dog fight.

The performance highlighted the quality Rodgers’ has at his disposal right across the pitch. They created a number of chances with Scott Sinclair having a chance cleared off the line before Gylfi Sigurdsson’s wonderful opener. He then doubled the lead before Nathan Dyer’s somewhat harsh dismissal meant a change of plan was required. 

Nathan Dyer 
Stalwart Alan Tate was called upon to tighten up defence in preparation for the Wigan onslaught that never materialised in the final part of the game. At the back the pairing of Ashley Williams and Steven Caulker were strong and on either flank Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel offered great support going forward and held firm when they were down to ten men 

What has impressed me the most about Swansea this season is how organised they are defensively. Despite going down to ten men they never looked under pressure and you got a feeling that they would big up their third victory on the road this season.

With eleven games to go they find themselves comfortably eleven points clear of the dog fight and Rodgers' will ensure his side pick up the remaining seven points they need to hit the magic forty points mark. 

They will now look forward to the visit of league leaders Manchester City to South Wales next weekend. If they continue with their impressive form they will grace the top flight for a second consecutive season something that will delight their fans and neutrals alike.