July 15, 2024
Relegation catfight

"Don't you dare say it's a relegation *dog*fight..."

Relegation catfight
“Don’t you dare say it’s a relegation *dog*fight…”

I have to admit – I had no idea what ‘false 9’ meant. Was it a parallel universe version of Real Madrid, or maybe the correct answer to a multiple choice quiz with no questions? In hindsight, the latter was unlikely as it raises almost as many queries as your typical website editors’ forum. Was Marc-Antoine Fortune caught in pre-Christmas traffic in ASDA car park? Was Andy Delort locked in Elton John’s box, enjoying a spot of salad? (Rocket, of course, man. Hyuk.)

At times like this, one turns to the Oracle of all knowledge – not the teletext service, but its disappointingly non-pixellated successor, Wikipedia. Hmm… aha, here we go: “false 9 is a fancy term used to make a lineup completely devoid of strikepower sound more like Barcelona”. Er… eh? Oh yeah, I forgot – Wikipedia is less a font of knowledge and more a hurriedly compiled smorgasbord of watered-down opinion and copy pilfered from small-time internet weblogs. Blasted crowdsourcing.

I tell you what, I’ll stop parroting text from external websites and let Wigan Athletic show you exactly what the false 9 is all about via the medium of… well, watered-down opinion and quotes stolen from Twitter. *Coughs*

So which 9 of the 11 are false, then?

Look, it’s just an expression, OK? It has as much relevance as ‘the Christmas tree’ or ‘the road sweeper’ – it just looks good on a piece of paper alongside a topless lady or the Archbishop of Canterbury falling out of a nightclub. Which, to be fair, would be one heck of an achievement… almost as much an achievement as fighting your way out of the bottom three when it’s harder to pick an accurate pass than fight your way through the Galleries on the Saturday before Christmas. Believe me, I know that last one from experience.

Actually, that’s a good analogy for once: Wigan Athletic are currently battling through crowds of shoppers at 3pm on Saturday on a weekly basis. And when they arrive at Argos, all the stock has been sold or reserved by staff that can’t be bothered with the admin of an eBay Xmas shopping spree. In other words, it’s a case of limiting potential damage, of containment; of waiting for the others to get tired and take a break – and that perfectly sums up Latics’ first half tactics.

Elton John
Realising the Christmas shopping needs to be done, Elton suddenly wishes he’d bought Argos instead.

Having narrowly survived an 18th minute free kick from Daniel Tözsér, however, the fragile ribbon holding the tightly packaged defence gave way with an unspectacular snap. Kind of like when you pull a Christmas cracker and the bang doesn’t go off… and the paper hat is all ripped. However you wish to paint it, when Troy Deeney converted from a relatively difficult angle with lung-emptying confidence, it was a decent reflection of the hosts’ dominance.

Yet the half finished with both sides evenly matched in terms of the statistical (steak?) pie chart, and most importantly (shoutout to Statman!), the scoreline.

As Latics necessarily shifted emphasis to matters attacking, acting centre forward James McClean linked up well with Ben Watson to draw Heurelho Gomes into a creditable save – at least in Wigan Athletic December 2014 terms. And soon, the deficit was wiped away like a gravy stain from a laminated table cloth. In a copy-paste of the McGoal against Wednesday, McClean chipped up the corner for McCann to McHead home at the McBack post. Never mind strikers, can we have more Macs in the January transfer window, please?

Coal for Christmas

As if the enormity of a relegation situation had only just sunk in, the visitors were fast becoming aggressive parents elbowing fellow competitors clear of the latest ‘must-have’ doll that’s out of date on 26 December – in a purely footballing sense, you understand. Leon Barnett and Ben Watson each took turns at heading wide as Latics stacked the microimprovements just prior to a period of contemplative circumspection, gradual regeneration for a final fling.

Unfortunately, however, Watford were the ones to emerge with the sole remaining Turboman with all new flashing LED posterior. Troy Deeney’s 82rd minute header was an unwelcome reminder that enterprise isn’t everything, but goals certainly are. Never mind false 9s – you can continue to make improvements on your own terms, but they mean little when pitted against *true* Championship opposition with the gamecraft to manufacture three points from one.

Coal for Christmas
If you’re offering, I’ll take it. My Calor gas heater died some time in the summer. (c)Lankiveil

Hold on a sec while I write something out here.

“Dear Santa,

I would like to retract my previous request of a top two spot for Christmas 2014. I now realise this was a tad fanciful and wish to ask instead for 21st place in the table.

Actually, scratch that. Can we have a point, please?”

Meh, forget it. I’ll ask another copy of the 2013 FA Cup final review for my upstairs DVD player – it’s a more realistic expectation, seeing as it’s in my local charity shop for 25p.

Second opinion

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