Tottenham tactics: Wigan vs Spurs preview

After coming back to overturn a one-goal deficit against Manchester City, our next match sees us travel to a side that beat us by a goal at the Lane, as its Wigan vs Spurs.

The Latics have lost their last two matches in the Premier League since beating Millwall at Wembley to progress to the FA Cup Final. Both of those games have been away though, at home they have been a different proposition, winning two of their last three.

In Spurs 0 Wigan 1 at the Lane, the Latics took the lead, then defended for their lives with their three centre back system causing us trouble. Andre Villas-Boas admitted as such after the game.

“It’s a team that play in a system that’s different to most other teams. We had difficulties setting up against them and putting them under pressure.”

So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Wigan vs Spurs this time?

Wigan set up and style

Wigan are the only side in the Premier League to regularly play with three centre backs, as Roberto Martinez lines his side up in a 3-4-3 formation.

Maynor Figueroa is usually the key player in back three when Wigan have the ball, as he starts the attacks. His passes are usually looking to move it out to Jean Beausejour in the left wingback position, as Wigan favours this side to hit the opposition. Only Everton attack more down the left than the Latics, with the combination of Beausejour and Shaun Maloney being the crux of their forays forward.

In the middle of the park, they deploy a robust ball winner in James McCarthy alongside a probing passer in Jordi Gomez. The Spaniard is equally capable of sliding a pass in down the channels for Arouna Kone to run on to, as he is to take a shot.

Out on the right, Callum McManaman brings a very direct, dribbling style to the team. Although he is yet to score or assist on a goal in the Premier League, his strike in the FA Cup Semi-Final served note of his tendency to drift inside with play going down the left. It also highlighted Jordi Gomez’s ability to pick out the run.

Up front, Arouna Kone is the focus for any hold up play, as well as his ability to run the channels. Wigan are a very intricate passing team, but if the ball goes long, it will be to Kone. He likes to move out to the left side and get involved with the build up play, then move back in to the centre looking to get in down the channels or from a ball pulled back in to the centre.

The Wigan left

The Latics left side is where the action happens when Wigan have the ball. The combination of Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney going forward is arguably one to rival that of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines at Everton.

The Chilean international gets up and down the line and is usually the focus for the passing of Maynor Figueroa out from the back. Ahead of him, Shaun Maloney cuts inside and can look for the runs of Arouna Kone, but also looks for Beausejour on the overlap.

If we look at Wigan’s last home match with Norwich we can see how the pair work in tandem. Beausejour feeding the ball inside to Maloney and then the Scot looking to give it back up the line on the overlap.


The inside/outside Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney combination.

If Maloney does come inside with the ball, then he is a threat to do two things. Either play a pass diagonally in towards the area, often looking for Arouna Kone, or aiming to fire a curling shot towards the far corner.


Shaun Maloney diagonal through passing vs Norwich and balls played to Arouna Kone.

The Tottenham tactics for Wigan vs Spurs really needs to focus on shutting down the Beausejour and Maloney supply line down the Latics’ left. This is easier said than done. Kyle Walker has often had problems tracking players who move infield, which could see Shaun Maloney give him trouble. If fit enough to start, Aaron Lennon will have a busy day marking Jean Beausejour from his wingback position.

Norwich did a good job of having Jonathan Howson shuttle across from his central midfield position to create 3v2 situations in this area. The Canaries created a mass of interceptions as a result of having the extra man, all down the Wigan left side.


Norwich interceptions against Wigan.

Wigan creating chances

With Wigan attacking heavily down this left side, it’s no surprise that this is where they create the majority of their opportunities.

They are a threat to create from a cross courtesy of Jean Beausejour, but are more likely to work the ball in to positions so they can square it or pull it back across the area.

In their last home match with Norwich we can see their heavy bombardment from the left through crosses, pullbacks and square balls. Despite this, their goal came via a through pass from Shaun Maloney to Arouna Kone down the inside right channel. Kone is a threat to do this, pulling on the shoulder of the last defender.

In their match at home before that with Liverpool, the Latics created almost exclusively from squared balls inside the area.


Wigan chances created against Norwich and Liverpool.

As a result of this type of play, Wigan are a real danger to score in the box. Of their 37 Premier League goals this season, 33 have come from inside the area, only Stoke (2 goals) have struck fewer times from outside the box this term.

Wigan conceding goals

Wigan are open to conceding goals from two sources. Firstly, due to the fact that they attack so heavily down the left, their formation can become skewed leaving their right side exposed. Secondly from balls played through the channels between their three centre backs.

If we look at each area in turn we can see how the Latics are vulnerable from these two situations.

With Wigan attacking down the left through Beausejour and Maloney with Kone also moving out to get involved, this often pulls Callum McManaman in field. Emerson Boyce is then often left exposed in the right wingback position against quick counter attacks.

In Wigan’s last home match, Norwich weren’t able to score, but they were able to create chances from Wigan’s right side.


Norwich chances created against WIgan.

In the Latics’ home match before that with Liverpool, the Reds opened the scoring from a swift counter. Coutinho got in behind an exposed Emerson Boyce to cross for Downing.


Coutinho gets in-behind the Wigan right side.

In that match, Liverpool also showed Wigan’s other weakness, conceding chances to balls played in through the channels between the three centre backs.

Luis Suarez scored the Reds’ second goal after taking a pass from Coutinho, as he slipped in through the inside left channel between Boyce and Caldwell. Note that this is the area behind right wingback Emerson Boyce once again.



Suarez gets behind Boyce through the inside left channel.

The Uruguayan then completed his hat-trick to put Liverpool 4-0 up after taking a pass from Glen Johnson.

This time it was through the left side of the Wigan defence, after their players who had been on the attack from this flank were caught up-field.


Suarez down the channel again with Wigan’s attack caught up field.

The Tottenham tactics for Wigan vs Spurs here need to focus on moving the ball quickly forward after turnovers to get at the right side of the Wigan defence. If Gareth Bale does not start on the left, then he should be looking to move out to this side in counter attacks.

The ball slipped in through the channel could also see Jermain Defoe being a better choice up front than Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker will probably start due to his hold-up play, but Defoe could make a significant impact from the bench.

Wigan vs Spurs outlook

As Michael Dawson has been pointing out this week, going to the DW is a tough test and therefore ‘we have to be ready.’ Wigan have won their last two Premier League matches at home and are battling relegation, so this won’t be an easy match.

First up, we have to shut down their left side. Aaron Lennon would be a much better choice to play on the right if fit than Clint Dempsey. The American drifts inside to help the attack when he plays here and this could leave Kyle Walker exposed to the Beausejour-Maloney combination.

On top of this, we need to bring extra players in to this area on the Wigan left, such as Scott Parker and Moussa Dembele from central midfield, to avoid being over-run. Then we have to switch focus to attacking the Wigan right if we manage to create turnovers and transition the ball forward quickly.

A positive factor is that Wigan usually control possession in their home matches (55.8% average). So, this could actually be good for us, as it will mean they won’t sit back and take away any space in-behind the back three as they did at the Lane.

Although Shaun Maloney is the greatest threat for Wigan, Callum McManaman on the other side can’t be forgotten about with his pace and dribbling ability.

Both teams need the three points which could lead to an open game if there is an early goal, but a tight one if there isn’t. Andre Villas-Boas has often chased a quick strike in away games and I see him going for one here.

Wigan vs Spurs prediction: Wigan 1 Spurs 2.

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