|DATE||Saturday 27th April 2013|
With Wigan in the FA Cup final in three weeks time and perilously close to relegation, with the Latics currently in that zone, you wonder what mind their players will be in. Injury and suspension might rule them out of the biggest day of the career in an FA Cup final at Wembley, but then they might end up playing their football in the Championship if they are not fully focused.
And that is why Tottenham have to take advantage. Leaving it late and cramming all their best play into the last quarter of an hour against Manchester City, Spurs need to start quickly and get a foothold in the game to prevent Wigan building up a platform to help them escape the bottom three. With Bale and Lennon likely to be back in tandem, the Wigan defence will hopefully be tied up with them to stop them thinking about going forward and this should be a possibility, as Wigan like to play their football. With the North-West side known this season for conceding the first goal in games, Tottenham need to continue that trend and then push home their lead.
From the back, where Ali al-Habsi has been replaced in goal by Joel Robles, who looks pretty sound in goal, but he has been exposed by his defence, such as last week at West Ham, when they were quite lax in picking up the opponents in the penalty box, to the front, where the forwards have been a little unlucky, but have only scored 37 goals in 33 matches.
With Franco Di Santo having a physical presence up front, his early season goals have dried up a bit and while his five goals put him second in the scorers list with Shaun Maloney this season, more was no doubt expected from him. His footwork is good for a big centre-forward and he is good in the air too, but the link play with Arouna Kone has not been as good as hoped for and the Ivory Coast striker had been paired with Shaun Maloney, who supports from midfield, along with Jordi Gomez. Kone has scored some very clever goals this season, but has also missed some sitters, but at least he was getting into the right positions. He has the canny knack of being in the box when the ball drops and he can finish with both feet and his head too. Maloney came down from Celtic and was a more traditional winger there, but has been transformed into an attacking midfielder, who has contributed with goals and is a dab hand at free-kicks. Gomez is a skilful Spaniard, in Roberto Martinez's mould and is a creator, with a good passing ability and he is one who makes intelligent runs off the ball. Calum McManaman has been making news for the wrong reasons, with his "horror" challenge against Newcastle, but he is a whole hearted player, with an eye for goal, as he showed at Wembley, so his runs will need to be tracked.
Jean Beausejour is a winger who arrived via Birmingham City and he has been improving this season under Martinez, with a good assist record. A strong runner, who can hold off opponents, he is regular in the side and Ben Watson, alongside him, does much of the hard work, but also possesses a fierce shot on him. Roger Espinoza is a new signing, who mostly features from the bench. I don't know too much about him other than he is a Honduran international and plays as a defensive midfielder.
Two more commonly known face sin the Wigan engine room are James McCarthy and James McArthur. McCarthy has drawn attention from a number of other Premier League clubs, as his driving on from midfield has likened him to Steven Gerrard. He has scored a couple of goals, but not enough to boost the club's tally from midfield. He is a good provider though and makes space for other sin midfield by taking player away from their markers with clever runs. McArthur is a little more solid in build, but he scored a cracking goal at the Lane two seasons ago, although his progress hasn't been as straightforward as he might have wished for.
Emmerson Boyce is an athletic full back or central defender, but he can be pulled out of position, as can Maynor Figeuroa. The big defender likes to push on and join in up front, but with the fleet footed in the Spurs side, breakaways might find him missing from his position. Another defender is veteran Austrian Paul Scharner. He has returned to Wigan after being released by WBA and has played central defender in the past, as well as in midfield, but his pace might let him down now, with him relying on his reading of the game to make up for it. Antolin Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis are both a little Latin in temperament, but although both are dangerous at set-pieces, neither will be fit to feature in Saturday's match. Gary Caldwell is an old fashioned centre-half, but with his pace fading, he might get caught out by our players and he is not a stranger to desperate measures to stop people getting past him.
Spurs need to maintain a good tempo to their play against Wigan, as this could be the key to keeping them going back towards their own goal and forcing turnovers of the ball. Wigan like to play and they don't always rush, so a fast pace to the game could see them struggle.
It won't be easy, as Wigan are desperate for the points and will be fighting for a place in the Cup Final team, so Spurs will need to work hard and not just turn up for a small segment of the game. The confidence gained from the Manchester City match should see them through.
|PREDICTION||Wigan Athletic 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
WIGAN ATHLETIC TEAM
Tiny midfielder Albert Crusat is out for the season with a knee injury and is joined by Ivan Ramis, who is side-lined with a problem in the same area. Ben Watson is just getting over a broken leg, so may not be quite match fit enough for this game, while Antolin Alcaraz is also out with a hamstring pull. Reserve keeper Mike Pollitt is out with a leg injury.
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Aaron Lennon is fit to return for Spurs, but William Gallas is still out with a calf muscle injury, Sandro is still recovering from his knee operation and Younes Kaboul has a thigh problem.
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Wigan Athletic - ()
Saturday 27th April 2013
Venue : JJB Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur - ()
Kick off 15:00
Boyce (own goal) 90
Gomez (foul on Huddlestone) 45+1
Di Santo (dissent) 83
Scharner (foul on Defoe) 90+5
Dawson (foul on Kone) 81
|Crowd : 22,326||Weather : Dry, bright|
|Referee : M. Atkinson (South Yorkshire)||Assistant Referees : P. Kirkup; C. Breakspear|
|Fourth Official : Neil Swarbrick||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the South Stand end in the first half.|
|Wigan Athletic :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
9 Franco Si SANTO 64 )
Scott PARKER (
|Manager : Roberto Martinez||Manager : Andre Villas-Boas|
|Sponsor : 12Bet.com||Shirt sponsor : Aurasma|
|Kit Supplier : Mi-Fit||Kit Supplier : Under Armour|
Leaving White Hart Lane last Sunday, many of us said that it would be typically Tottenham to beat Manchester City when it looked unlikely and then go and lose at Wigan. Prescient ? Well, not really. We have all been here before.
I suppose if there was anything to take away from this 2-2 draw, it was the fact that we didn't lose, we still managed to battle back to get a draw and that we avoided the ignominy of having Wigan do ''the double' over us.
Spurs had started spritely enough, with Bale heading a Huddlestone free-kick off target and then Tom, from a narrow angle, crashing another free-kick against Robles' near post with the keeper struggling to spot what was coming in from Thud's boot. Just four minutes later, with nine minutes on the clock, Spurs took the lead in a most unusual way. Robles and Figueroa decided to play the ball between themselves without worrying too much about getting the ball away and as the defender rolled it back to the keeper, Bale closed him down and the clearance struck his studs and flew high into the Wigan net to put Tottenham 1-0 ahead. Full credit to Bale and Defoe who put the pressure on the Wigan players, but unfortunately, the same could not be said for our defenders as within two minutes, the home team were level.
A corner from the Spurs left came in and Emmerson Boyce attacking the ball as it came in and got the jump on Jan Vertonghen, thumping his header past Lloris. It was not what Spurs needed, with the need to push on with the game to keep Wigan behind. It didn't help that Spurs didn't have anyone on the post to clear the header either.
Wigan almost went ahead when Kone ran forward with the ball and with nobody challenging him, the Ivorian dinked a chip that beat Lloris, but was just too high and skimmed the top of the net as it dropped just over the bar.
Mousa Dembele had to leave the play five minutes before half-time with what looked like a hamstring injury, picked up challenging Beausejour and conceding a free-kick, with Lewis Holtby coming on to replace him in midfield. Shortly after, a great run on the left by Naughton saw his cross headed just over by Bale at the far post and then a neat move played Defoe in on the edge of the box. He nut-megged Scharner and then couldn't get his shot away, as the ball got caught under his feet before Robles came out to nudge the ball away from him.
At the start of the second half, Wigan worked the ball right and McManaman wrapped his foot around the ball rather than someone's knee and the cross needed Hugo to tip it away as it looked like it might drop over his head. When the move continued from a throw-in, the ball came across to the Wigan man again and on the edge of the box, the ball that sat up nicely for him, allowing him to hit it with great power and it flew past Lloris to put Wigan 2-1 ahead.
The goal seemed to knock Spurs back a bit and they kept possession well, but there was little tempo to the play, as they tried to pass around the massed ranks of blue shirts between them and the goal. And Wigan got everyone apart from Kone back behind the ball when Spurs were in possession. Martin Atkinson did his usual "see no evil" trick when Gomez kicked Holtby in the face with this studs .. .when Lewis was standing up. It was something Bobby Zamora got sent off for a couple of weeks back, but although Gomez was already on a yellow, Atkinson did nothing. No surprise really ... we all know that he couldn't spot a foul if it kicked him in the face.
I wasn't sure why Assou-Ekotto came on for Naughton, as someone like Carroll would have sharpened up the passing a bit more and pulled Wigan out of shape, but when Lennon entered the pitch, you wondered where he might find room to operate. In fact, Di Santo's right wing run and cross picked out Kone at the far post and his shot lacked any sort of power to beat Lloris. When Spurs had Wigan in deep positions and taking throw-ins, Kyle Walker kept giving them the opportunity to clear their lines by conceding needless free-kicks.
With ten minutes to go, Walker's run upfield saw him push the ball too far in front of him, so when it was played forward by Wigan, he was out of position and Kone got past Dawson to fire a low short from an angle on the left, but Lloris was there to keep it out. Dawson got booked for a cynical block on Kone as he went through and Spurs looked like they were struggling to cope and might have been the ones fighting relegation rather than needing the points at the top of the table.
A late foul on the right outside of the penalty area gave Tottenham a free-kick, which was played in low by Lennon missed out Bale and as a number of players went on for the ball, it struck Boyce's leg and went in past Robles in the centre of the goal from five yards out.
This meant the last few minutes were frantic. Kone got wide on the right and his cross was pulled back, with Wigan having numbers around the box, but as Espinoza lined up a shot, Vertonghen flew in to take the ball and not the man to save the situation. When Spurs had the chance to break following a breakdown of a Wigan attack, Dempsey's ball from the right was too far beyond Bale's out-stretched leg to reach. Scharner's cynical block on Defoe, as he looked to go outside him on the right wing, brought a booking but not real punishment, as Bale's free-kick was awkwardly punched out by the keeper straight to Huddlestone. With the barber getting his clippers ready, Tom struck the ball well from just inside the box, but a combination of keeper and Scharner blocked his effort and while the ball spun out to Dempsey, he could not find a ball to provide one last chance before the final whistle went.
The home side did the things that Spurs don't like. Get plenty of men back behind the ball to make it hard to be broken down and close any Spurs player on the ball to prevent them having time to do anything. Tottenham failed to do enough of the things that win them games ... work hard, make fast incisive passes and runs and finish your chances off.
The result now means that our fate is in others' hands. Until tomorrow's results come in of course, by which time, it could be back down to us, but failing to beat a bottom dweller like Wigan makes our own task all that much harder anyway.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Manchester City||2||West Ham United||1||Saturday|
|Southampton||0||West Bromwich Albion||3||Saturday|
|Stoke City||1||Norwich City||0||Saturday|
|Reading||0||Queens Park Rangers||0||Sunday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||34||14||6||14||47||45||48||+2|
|10||West Ham United||35||11||9||15||38||46||42||-8|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||35||4||13||18||29||56||25||-27|
Position before match :
Position after match : 5th
Position after the weekend : 5th
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