Shaun Maloney’s unbeaten start to life as Wigan Athletic has stretched to four games after yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Norwich City. Here are five things we learnt from the game…
1)Another step forward!
The most impressive thing about Latics under Shaun Maloney is the fact that there is notable improvement from one game to the next. Norwich are easily the most difficult side we’ve had to face under the new manager so for it to be our best and most dominant performance is really promising, and to come away feeling hard done by with a point shows how much progress has been made.
We did everything, apart from finish our chances, pretty much perfectly but obviously that’s the most important part of the game. The thing we have to remember is that, in theory, if we continue to create as many chances for ourselves as we did yesterday we’ll score at least one of them more often than not. It’s positive that we’re even getting these chances.
2) Fierce first half…
As halves of football go I reckon the first half yesterday was the best we’ve had all season. From minute one we were aggressive, front footed and dominant which is exactly what we needed to be against a team with more individual quality than ourselves. We pressed them high and forced errors in their back line that gave us huge chances to take the league.
I explained in my preview how I expected Norwich’s desire to play risk/reward football and it’s fair to say that panned out. Our pressing was so good and on two or three occasions we forced errors through our measured aggression and well drilled pressure, which considering how quick the turnaround from the Bristol City game was is so impressive.
3) Another xG victory!
Whilst the actual results have been very positive under Maloney, the underlying stats suggest we’ve been hard done by more often than not. In each of the last three games we’ve created considerably more high quality opportunities than our opponents and to come away with only two goals is pretty disappointing in all honesty.
In these three games we’ve created 3.34 xG and allowed just 0.95 xG which are outstanding numbers. What it tells us is we’re excellent defensively and aren’t allowing anything clear-cut, and going forward we’ve created enough to suggest we should be scoring more than we are doing. Will Keane and Callum Lang need to rediscover their goal scoring form and we’ll be fine.
4) Defensive injuries keep coming…
Whilst lots of yesterday was overwhelmingly positive, the real downer came half an hour in when Jack Whatmough went down after a strong collision with Josh Sergeant. Initially it looked as though he’d be fine to carry on but unfortunately was withdrawn on 34 minutes, and looked in a pretty bad way.
Hopefully, it’s just a dead leg and nothing more serious than an impact injury. He left the stadium in a knee brace apparently and does have a history of serious knee injuries, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be season ending. Touch wood! His replacement Steven Caulker was superb and made a couple of vital interventions, whilst Charlie Hughes and Ryan Nyambe both impressed in the back three too. The defence under Maloney has been absolutely fantastic.
5) We have what it takes to stay up!
Despite the fact Latics dropped down two places to end the day rock bottom, it feels like we’re closer to survival than ever before! The positive performance coupled with the fact that we still have key players to come back into the side seems to be giving everyone a lot of hope and I’m no different. This is the most positive I’ve been about our chances in a long, long time.
It’s frustrating because you can’t help but think what would’ve happened if we appointed Maloney after the sacking of Leam Richardson. Our situation was completely salvageable at that point but we wasted 7 league games under Touré and the task for Maloney has been made so much harder. I’ve seen enough to give me the hope and confidence that we’ll be fine though.