Opinion: Stoke disappointment testament to recent progress
Feature by Paul Farrington
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2012
The disappointment that was felt as Peter Crouch headed home Stoke's equaliser on Saturday afternoon was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.
On reflection though it must be considered that disappointment at such a performance and result is testament to the recent progress the Latics have made.
Up until Jean Beausejour’s injury mid-way through the first half, the Latics looked like they could roll the Potteries side over and record a result reminiscent of the 6-1 drubbing handed out a few years back.
The consistent machine that is the Latics had clicked into gear once again and Tony Pulis’ side were left chasing shadows in the vein hope of regaining possession. There was a distinct spell that lead me to remark that this is the best Wigan Athletic side I’ve seen (more on that later).
Beausejour’s injury was a pivotal moment and that is meant without any disrespect to David Jones who simply isn’t a left wing back. The flowing possession was halted and the balance of the team looked out of kilter. From this point on Stoke grew in confidence and the Latics struggled to get back into their grove.
Whilst thoroughly entertaining, the game was much less under the control of the blue and whites than Martinez would have hoped. We fell back to conceding sloppy goals and just when we thought that strength-in-depth was a strong point of the present squad, one injury, and one red card (Alcaraz) has proved otherwise. The international break has come at a good time for Beausejour.
Back to the defining remark of the Stoke game. It was not moments prior to Beausejour’s injury that I was lead to consider just how proud I am to be a Wigan Athletic supporter at the moment and conclude that the present team is the best I have had the pleasure of seeing.
There have been many a good Wigan Athletic side over the past few years and perhaps the most memorable is that of Palacios, Heskey, Valencia et al that stormed into the top half of the table under Steve Bruce before the January transfer window killed the season.
I think this present team tops that.
The present Wigan Athletic squad may not be the most talented individually, although it would come close, but the football on display is well worth the entrance money.
Stoke City are a good benchmark on this front. Hailed as a successful modern football club, Tony Pulis has built a combative team that is difficult to beat and always liable to cause an upset. The flip side to this is that Stoke are boring to watch and can be put in the Premier League box with Everton, and West Ham (or any Allardyce team for that matter). These sides are very efficient at picking up the points, but a season ticket can be considered a cure to insomnia.
Stoke’s passion was to win a free kick within distance of the Latics penalty box before hurling the ball and three/four human battering rams at the goal. It’s easy to see why Pulis has invested in the range of Charlie Adam’s left boot.
In the blue corner of Wigan Athletic things are much more cultured. Possession is treasured and skill aligned with pace and movement are the weapons with which the Latics propose to break through opposition defences.
As opposed to a lone striker, we play an attacking 3-4-3 formation that has a clear focus on overloading opposition defences in the right areas of the pitch and the resulting football that is presently being produced is fit to grace any stage of world football.
The side against Stoke was largely the same as that which achieved historic results and performances at the tail end of last season, save for one or two strengthening adjustments.
We’ve also not spent the £9 million received for Victor Moses, and have a £5 million Argentine on the bench hungry for action. With Di Santo, Maloney, Myaichi, Kone and co. all firing, and our defence looking a little sharper (Stoke aside), I think it is a fair assessment to say this is the best Wigan Athletic side ever seen.
Whilst the second half against Stoke was frustrating one must remember just how far we have come and just how good the football being served up by the Latics is. We’re playing beautiful football on a budget and for the cheapest ticket prices in the Premier League. The dross that will be served up by our national side over the next week will only serve to act as a further reminder of what a gem we presently have in Wigan Athletic Football Club.