In this article, one shall refrain from dwelling too long on the negative aspects of this weekend’s demoralising defeat at the hands of Fulham (or, as that old football game used to call them, ‘Emptypig’). Instead, it is the purpose of today’s post to convince the Latics fan that it isn’t all as bad as you think. I am aware this is an almost impossible task, but shall nevertheless attempt to alleviate the reader’s anxieties regarding our favourite(?) football club as we look to the future and, with a bit of luck, happier times.
Much has been made of Roberto’s supposed ‘stubbornness’ with regard to tactics, in particular his formations. He has drawn criticism, especially in the previous three months, for his “inflexibility” and seemingly unwavering advocacy of 4-5-1. It is indeed true that this is his favoured configuration, but it must be noted that we witnessed elements of 4-3-3, most notably when Latics were attacking, and 4-4-2, when Franco Di Santo was drafted into the fray. The latter failed for the lack of an Albert Crusat who, ironically, was withdrawn in favour of the Argentine. On the evidence of this, I’d be happy to stick to 4-5-1 (or, to be more positive, 4-3-3), thanks.
Besides, I’m becoming increasingly convinced the starting XI that donned the Latics shirts at 3pm on Saturday is our strongest. One might claim it’s a sad state of affairs when your so-called best lineup is struggling at both ends of the pitch, but the fact remains that we’re lumbered with them for at least a couple of months. It is imperative for Roberto, and the club’s fans, to show some faith in our search for consistency. Whilst I’m sure Bob and indeed the vast majority of Latic fanatics are more than aware of our failings, it can’t be denied we’re also going through a bad run of form, at least collectively.
The good news is that I’m sure Latics will come out of the back of this sooner rather than later and probably score seven games’ worth of goals in one glorious ninety minutes. This ‘karma rebalancing’ happens in football – look at that extended run of unbeaten matches we experienced earlier this year. It must be noted that we fielded almost precisely the same defence we have right now, and bar the odd Jones and Crusat, a similar midfield. The main difference is, arguably, Charles N’Zogbia. In the Frenchman we had a real player to build our attacks around, a man to fearlessly take on defences and, most importantly, score goals.
Of course, that isn’t the only difference. We seemed to be finally ‘clicking’ as a unit and creating our own luck, most memorably that last minute winner against Birmingham and of course the classic clashes with West Ham and Stoke. Charlie had a rather ordinary game in the final of those contests, but we saw through it and clung on to Premier League status against all the odds. Again. Is Roberto a lucky manager? It would seem not at the moment, but I’m certain he doesn’t believe in fate.
Though we haven’t seen much evidence of this current lineup being able to keep us up for yet another year, recent improved performances offer hope. As a football fan, that’s all you need, and a win this weekend might just be the start of a second (first?) wind we so desperately crave.
Victor Moses was in imperious form against Fulham, the best player on the pitch by some margin. Defences at any level don’t like it when you run at them, and both he and Albert Crusat have exploited this. No doubt Mohamed Diame, who hobbled off early on Saturday, would have done the same and probably got a goal or two. As I type, it’s not certain if he will be back for the weekend but should he return to fitness our attack line will be all the better for it.
An early goal of any sort for Wigan may just be the extra bit of confidence we need to go out there and turn things around. I think we’re going the right way about it, which is certainly a step in the right direction towards results. I guess I’m saying all you need is a bit of blind faith.