The most important decision at the weekend was made by Roberto Martinez. Dropping Gary Caldwell and playing Antolin Alcaraz in the back three was a massive move, and one which worked well for Latics; seeing us change from defensive frailty against Swansea City, to solid wall at the back.
The tactical play between the three (Emmerson Boyce, Paul Scharner and Alcaraz) was superb. If one player went tight, then the other two plugged the gap in behind him, while our two wing-backs in Roger Espinoza and James McArthur would drop deep, when the ball was in the Latics final third.
It was like watching us play Manchester United last season. When we had the ball Jordi Gomez, Shaun Maloney and James McCarthy held to and looked for the pass forward or to get it wide. Up front we had Callum McManaman working the wide areas, with Arouna Kone working the Manchester City defence.
The wide areas were the key battles for Wigan. Martinez recognizing McManaman’s influence on the pitch told our players to try and find the winger when going forward. Nine times out of ten Callum beat his man, and by the end of the game, Gael Clichy must have been sick of the sight of the winger heels. It was also for two fouls on Callum that Pablo Zabeleta saw red.
The talent of this young man now in full flow, and he is in the best form of his life, unlucky not to get on the score sheet Callum could be in line for call up for the three lions this summer. Expected to play for the under 21’s at least, Roberto has said Roy Hodgson should be looking at him for the senior side.
The good performances by players were coming from everywhere. From back to front, and at the back Joel Robles was in good form yet again. The young Spanish goalkeeper will be appearing on lots of team’s radars after another great performance, making a hand full of important saves. Latics do have an option to buy this lad at the end of the season; if we stay up I can only see us taking it up.
Will this performance swing the season in Latics favour? We play like that for the next two games then it can only be two wins in the bag. But three games coming in one week, do the players have the mental and physical strength left to push through the barrier.
The team knows what winning those two games will mean, and Premier League survival would make the FA Cup victory all the more sweeter. But after nearly 48 hours of celebrating, it’s time for the Latics players to come crashing back to the reality of Earth and prepare for a tough six days.
Keep the Faith!