This time twelve months ago, Wigan were just emerging from a series of results that would destine most teams to relegation. Is it testament to Roberto Martinez that his team not only survived the drop, but finished comfortably ahead of the drop zone, or is it another case of divine intervention? After all, Jesus is a Wiganer.
It is my considered opinion that pure skill alone, though a major contributory factor, cannot save you from the sins of eight straight losses, even with the prospect of well over half a season to play. As a result, things were still pretty dire when Latics visited Anfield as late as March, though a recent victory over Bolton offered hope that another mini-miracle might manifest itself.
I don’t need to remind you what transpired in the following two months. That victory over Liverpool can be pinpointed as one of, if not the turning point which spurred Wigan to ultimate success. Without that urgent need for points, however, would Wigan be able to summon enough to defeat a vastly different Liverpool side this afternoon? As it happens, nope.
The first half followed a fairly satisfactory formula for Wigan in that it saw no goals. The hosts were the more likely, dominating possession and shots on target, but a 0-0 scoreline as the players munched on their half time oranges would have been a decent outcome in many Latics scripts.
One potential plot hole for the visitors was an injury to Ben Watson, who hobbled off on 32 minutes after a heavy challenge with Raheem Sterling. Substitute David Jones attempted to write a workaround in the continued absence of James McArthur, and nearly set Arouna Kone away on goal on at least one occasion.
Indeed, the Ivorian and his Argentine international team-mate continued their pressing attacking play whenever possible and almost made one or two counter-attacks work for their team. With what possession Wigan did have, they exhibited much the same confidence present in recent victories over West Ham and Tottenham.
Unfortunately, Latics mostly held the ball in their own half. Liverpool’s pushing led to the game’s better chances, even if they weren’t dangerous enough to seriously challenge Ali Al Habsi. As we were soon to discover, however, the edge of that cliff over an inescapable canyon was much closer than one dared to think.
The second half began terribly, with Jean Beausejour losing his bearings to gift Liverpool possession in dangerous territory. To put it bluntly, when you’re up against the Godlike presence of Luis Suarez, you simply cannot afford to do that. The Uruguayan duly obliged, converting Sterling’s pass with clinical aplomb and giving Liverpool the lead their dominance deserved.
The hosts proceeded to tear their opponents to shreds. Wigan, increasingly committing men forward, fell pray to the Reds’ slick passing movements that even Roberto Martinez had to applaud. Sterling and Suarez linked up once again to double their lead in comfortable fashion on 58 minutes and Wigan were almost ready to run for the cover of the team bus.
For a second week in succession, Wigan were 2-0 behind and the possibility of a resurrection was looking slim. Forget a Second Coming – there was never even a first.
Wigan had absolutely no answer to an endless barrage of Liverpool attacks in the following ten minutes. As if to compound things, all four officials conspired to award the hosts a rather generous throw-in not far from the Latics area. Ivan Ramis and his defensive cohorts were seriously unhappy – so much so that their concentration lapsed, allowing Sterling to get a good effort in on goal. Though Al Habsi produced an excellent save, Jose Enrique was there to pass it home from short range for an easy third. This truly was a storm that could not be calmed.
With hopes of points now long gone, Martinez spotted the opportunity to give Ryo Miyaichi and Jordi Gomez a run out. Gary Caldwell was sacrificed for the second week in a row, while the irritated Di Santo made way for the man from Okazaki.
Wigan began to enjoy some possession in opposition half, but by now you got the feeling they wished the game were over. There was one effort that found its way through 10 sets of legs and hit Reina’s post, but that was *all* of the visitors’ attacking threat in the whole 90 minutes. There is nothing else of note to report in this department.
For today’s game, read Man United 4-0 Wigan. The similarities are uncanny – a decent enough first stanza followed by second half capitulation that the Dam Busters would have been proud of. Throw into the mix a player that probably costs more individually than all of Wigan’s put together (oh yes, we’ve reverted to that old chestnut already) and you have the ingredients for a thoroughly miserable afternoon out in Liverpool. I pity the poor Latics fans that had to brave Lime Street in the aftermath.
Suitably thrashed and our egos severely bruised, attention must now turn to next week’s encounter with Reading, who defeated Everton this afternoon. Nothing is ever easy in the Prem, but surely things can’t go as terribly as they did this afternoon? Oooh, for a penny each time I’ve said that and we’ve lost the following week. I’d just about be able to afford those official Latics notepads they have in the new DW Sports/Latics store. Ugh, I suppose it says a lot that I’ve also seen a display dedicated to Liverpool shirts there.
And with that, naught is left unsaid. Tune in for the podcast on Thursday to listen to me repeat it all. 😛
Suarez image by Badudoy at Wikimedia Commons (CC3.0)