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Wigan 2 Spurs 2: Latics block the middle

The Latics came with a game plan to stifle the centre, but we grabbed a late equaliser as it finished Wigan 2 Spurs 2 at the DW Stadium.

Tottenham dominated possession, but weren’t able to turn this in to an advantage on the scoreboard against an efficient Wigan side who generated the better scoring chances.

Wigan set up and tactics

Roberto Martinez usually lines up with three centre backs when he has enough defenders available in a 3-4-3 formation. Here he went 4-3-3 as he opted to close the space between the lines and play with additional midfielders in the centre.

James McArthur came back in to the starting line-up and sat deep alongside James McCarthy in the middle, as the two proved an effective screen for the defence. With Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey moving inside from the wide positions, these two were able to reduce the space in which they could operate.

When in possession, the Latics really overloaded the left. I looked in the Tottenham tactics for Wigan vs Spurs at how they play through Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney down this side with Arouna Kone drifting over to help. That was very much the case here, but Jordi Gomez was also moving out to this flank to get four players in the area.

Both Beausejour and Maloney played wide, but were looking to move the ball in to Jordi Gomez to pick out a pass for Arouna Kone running the channels. Although the Ivorian didn’t score, he had several good chances including a one-on-one with Hugo Lloris after he drove past Michael Dawson.

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Wigan 2 Spurs 2: Jordi Gomez passes and total balls played to Arouna Kone.

The Chilean, Scot and Ivorian did combine on Wigan’s go-ahead goal to make it 2-1, which summed up what they were trying to do all afternoon.

Maloney received the ball from Beausejour wide on the right. He then fed it inside to Kone who had moved out to this side once again. Spurs had too many men dragged across in to this area from Wigan constantly attacking here, which allowed Kone to move the ball to James McCarthy. Callum McManaman, who only received 11 passes in the game, was then in acres of space on the other flank with Naughton caught inside and Dempsey ball-watching higher up.

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Callum McManaman escapes attention after the build-up play down the left.

It was a well-worked goal, sucking Spurs in and then moving play quickly across the park to the free man.

Tottenham play too narrow

With Wigan closing the space between the lines, whilst also using McCarthy and McArthur in front of the central defenders, this closed off the space for Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey.

Both the Welshman and the American were starting wide when the ball was in the midfield zone. However, as play moved up the pitch, both would move inside, looking for Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton to overlap. This is fine in principal, but with Jermain Defoe starting as the central striker, there was no real target for any crosses, as the England international was looking to run the channels.

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Wigan 2 Spurs 2: Jermain Defoe passes received.

In his only real moment of note, Defoe did get in-behind and tried to round goalkeeper Joel Robles, but the Spaniard clawed the ball in to the path of Scott Parker. Our number eight got the ball caught under his feet and then lost it in amongst a group of Wigan defenders.

This kind of summed up Parker’s afternoon, as he was pushed further forward due to the inclusion of Tom Huddlestone and the substitution of Moussa Dembele. He was willing to play the role, but not really able.

Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker

Recently Tom Huddlestone has been used as a kind of emergency quarterback. He’s come in to games in order to move the ball quickly around the field with long, accurate passing.

Here, Huddlestone got the start and it unbalanced the role of Scott Parker. Tom assumed his preferred position of playing in front of the back four and whilst this suits him to receive the ball then spray it around, it pushed Parker further forward.

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Wigan 2 Spurs 2: Tom Huddlestone passes played and Scott Parker passes received.

More often than not, Parker’s passes were backwards rather than forwards, as he wasn’t able to find any space in amongst a congested central midfield.

This had two knock-on effects. Firstly, this took away from our attacking presence, as there was no fluidity to the midfield. This season we’ve seen players switching positions and covering for one another, but with Huddlestone playing much deeper it meant Parker had to push forward to bridge the gap to Moussa Dembele.

Secondly, with Parker further forward, it meant that we were less solid defensively, as Huddlestone is not as mobile or as effective at winning back possession.

Spurs’ pressing

Although we were less stable with Huddlestone playing as the deepest midfielder, our early pressing caused the Latics problems. Although many pundits put Gareth Bale’s opener down to bad Wigan defending, it was actually the result of good pressure from him and Jermain Defoe.

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Bale and Defoe press Figueroa and Robles.

We’d seen a goal from Bale as a result of Aaron Lennon pressuring the goalkeeper in to a miscued clearance in Swansea 1 Spurs 2. This was another case of the pressing paying off.

Spurs didn’t stop here though, as for most of the game possession was won back by engaging Wigan early from the front. The problems for us came once the Latics had broken through this and moved the ball up the park towards the trio of Maloney, Gomez and Kone.

Kyle Walker makes a point

With Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey moving inside, Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton were left to provide the width from their full back positions.

Kyle Naughton did a decent job before being replaced by Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the second half in order to get a naturally left footed player on that flank. On the right, Kyle Walker was trying to get forward at every opportunity.

As a result, he suffered two key fouls, both from challenges by Jean Beausejour. The first was early in the game and resulted in Tom Huddlestone driving the free kick against Joel Robles’ near post. The second was at the death and allowed Huddlestone to drive in a free kick that cannoned off Emerson Boyce and in to the net to gain a point.

Wigan 2 Spurs 2 conclusions

For the second time this season we’ve run in to a Wigan side that has given us problems.

On both occasions they’ve been content to concede possession, whilst blocking off the middle. This meant that once again, the space was out on the flanks and we really required width from someone on top of the full backs.

Aaron Lennon came on for the last 20 minutes, as he wasn’t able to go the full 90 after returning from injury. Gylfi Sigurdsson would have been a better option to Clint Dempsey, as the Icelander does have the ability to offer width on the left.

In Spurs 0 Wigan 1 at the Lane, Jermain Defoe was ineffective and Andre Villas-Boas was able to bring on Emmanuel Adebayor up front. Although this didn’t alter the score line, it did immediately provide movement out in to wide areas and a target for crosses. Here he didn’t have that luxury and as a result we looked rather toothless up front.

On a positive note, this was another game where we’ve scored a late goal that’s earned us at least a point, something that could be quite valuable come mid-May.

Final score: Wigan 2 Spurs 2.



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One Response to Wigan 2 Spurs 2: Latics block the middle

  1. Chris 29th April 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Good read, great analysis as always.