Are Wigan Shooting Themselves in the Foot?

Wigan Athletic’s recent run of results have seen them drop to 16th in the Premier League and now only 2 points above the relegation zone following Monday night’s 3-0 thrashing at Newcastle.

Roberto Martinez’s side are easy on the eye, playing a system that entails 3 centre backs and 2 wing backs. A few injuries in that defence this season has seen them ship 28 goals in 15 Premier League games – only newly-promoted Southampton (32) have conceded more.

Their last 2 games have been shown live on TV here in the UK, and with programmes such as Football First and Match of the Day, as well as the internet these days, I have seen a lot of Wigan recently. And their defence is really hurting them right now.

Maynor Figueroa was lucky not to concede a penalty versus Reading 3 games ago, but the Honduran was clumsy in giving one away at St James’ Park last night. As the last man, the letter of the law meant he had to go. And once the penalty was converted by Demba Ba in the 13th minute it was game over as far as I was concerned. And a pretty unexciting game played out thereafter.

One thing I had noticed in recent weeks was the number of times Figueroa had played careless passes inside his own half that were being intercepted. So when I looked up which players had made the most unsuccessful passes in their own half this season, I wasn’t too surprised to see the Wigan #31 come out on top of the pile.

Something that should alarm manager Martinez however is that 3 of his team top the table of misplacing passes inside their own half. Something that is criminal.

Right wing back and centre back Emmerson Boyce and left winger and wing back Jean Beausejour is joint-third. Notice how 9 of the top 10 players in this list play for sides in the bottom 12, with Jonas Olsson of West Brom being the exception? OK, perhaps it is just a coincidence.

It is no surprise that Wigan as a team top the list of most unsuccessful passes inside their own half, given the contributions of Figueroa, Boyce and Beausejour. Directly beneath them are Queens Park Rangers and Southampton; two teams in the relegation zone.

A team that likes to keep the ball on the floor, it seems that Wigan are taking too many chances in their own half. I believe Roberto Martinez needs to tell his players it’s ok to hoof the ball up the field every once in a while. I’m all in favour of defenders like Igor Stimac and Darren Moore whom just hoofed the ball up field, or usually out for a throw in instead of taking the chance. Particularly when you’re a bottom half side who are inferior to most of the opposition they come up against (4 wins and 9 losses defines “inferior”).

Wigan Athletic have lost 4 of their last 5 Premier League games, which includes losing 3-0 to Liverpool (their joint-biggest win of the season and only their third win of the season). Manchester City, West Brom and playing with 10 men against Newcastle can be forgiven. The only points in their last 5 games came in a last minute 3-2 victory over lowly Reading. A big three points they were indeed.

The Latics host Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and will be a tricky tie for them. Maynor Figueroa and Gary Caldwell are both suspended. Antolin Alcaraz has been out since the second game of the season and Ivan Ramis is a doubt. Potentially 4 defenders missing for the same game. If there was ever a favourable match for QPR to record their first win of the season, this is it.