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Wigan Athletic Formation - The Debate

Wigan Athletic Formation - The Debate

Vital Latics member wigdean discusses a real burning issue amongst Latics fans:

One of the major debates amongst Latics fans is our formation. Many call for the 4-4-2, many are happy with 4-5-1 but want a change of style. I am of the opinion that with a couple of tweaks we'll see a whole lot more from this team...

The aim of this article is not to force my opinions upon people but to offer a different way of thinking. Maybe the 4-5-1 is all it is cracked up to be. And maybe our style of play is actually the way forward. Maybe it is the players letting down the formation...

From my point of view I see two things wrong with our system at the moment. That is the defensive midfield role and the attacking midfield role. If we are going to line up with Hendry Thomas protecting the defence and Ben Watson playing just behind the striker, I don't believe we can move forward as a team.

Firstly and most importantly we'll discuss the defensive midfield role. Thomas this season is proving to be a very capable player. He is getting better with each game. However, I don't think the Honduran offers enough to the team to hold down that defensive role. In our current system we require a player who is willing to drop deep for the ball, turn and use possession wisely. What we see with Thomas is static play. He does not make himself open for the ball, he doesn't come deep and ask for possession.

This leaves his midfield partners - namely Diame and Watson - dropping deep for the ball. This straight away leaves us short when we get on the attack. There shouldn't be the need for Diame to drop deep for the ball and there certainly shouldn't be the need for Watson to come even further.

When Thomas does receive the ball, how many times have you seen him turn and carry the ball forwards or pick out one of the more advanced midfielders?

I hear people constantly bring up our tendency to pass the ball aimlessly across the back 4. Would this happen with a defensive midfield player capable of picking a pass? In my opinion, no. The tempo in our play would increase, the numbers we have in forward positions would increase, there would be no need for the rest of our midfielders to become static - they could support our attacks.

Think of the role that Sergio Busquets plays for Barcelona. Think of the role that Xabi Alonso plays for Real Madrid. Of course I'm not asking Roberto to go out and sign a world class defensive midfielder to slot into our team - but we need somebody capable of turning defence into attack without the rest of our midfield dropping deep. This is the role that Martinez had marked down for Lee Cattermole. If you read the transcripts from the fan site meetings with Martinez he speaks of how he saw Cattermole playing for us - and this is exactly what he envisaged. He wanted Cattermole in that position, demanding the ball from our defenders.

We have been linked to Javi Marquez of Espanyol in the past. Providing the player settled in England this would be the type of signing that would allow us to properly fill this role.

Secondly we have the attacking midfield role. Ben Watson is currently holding this position. The likes of Jordi Gomez, Mo Diame, Tom Cleverley, James McCarthy and Victor Moses have all been tried here at one point or another. This in itself highlights that Martinez is unsure of whether we have a player capable of doing the job.

If we had the kind of player I mentioned earlier, the ball playing defensive midfielder, I do believe we'd see such a better, flowing attacking football and the likes of Watson and Gomez would start to improve. However I am unsure as to whether these two players are good enough to take us forward. Gomez requires far too much time on the ball than what is available in the Premier League. I do not think he is a bad player but he is clearly not suited to the league. My problem with Watson is that whilst he is capable of keeping possession and picking out passes - he often picks the wrong option or is just too slow with his passes. This is why Martinez sent him on loan to QPR and in my opinion these aspects of his game didn't improve enough for him to slot straight into our team.

We need a player in there that can get hold of the ball and quickly move us forwards. We need someone who can allow our wingers to come infield - as they are expected to do, this is why they play on the "wrong" side - and we need someone who can provide them with the correct balls allowing us to then have a front three instead of Rodallega/Boselli/Di Santo being outnumbered and stranded.

The problem is not the formation. It is not the tempo. It is not the style. It is two positions not having players who possess the right skills to do the role properly. Correct this and we see a different Wigan Athletic. Martinez, as mentioned, has pointed this out himself either at the fan site meetings or by sending Watson on loan.

We have a team that is so obviously better than what it is currently achieving. We have a fantastic goalkeeper, one of the stand out World Cup stars in our defence, wingers 80% of the Premier League would love to have, potential all over the pitch and on the bench. Have faith in the formation and what Martinez is doing and have faith that he'll find the answers. Get behind the team.

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Date:Sunday January 23 2011
Time: 4:29PM


Palacios was the best at doing that. We still miss him
23/01/2011 16:52:00
Palacios was awesome and I thinnk that he would have flourished even more in this system, would Spurs loan him back to us for the rest of the season?
23/01/2011 16:56:00
Fair comments well put. However, From what I have seen at the games (and on Sky) Hendry does drop back to get the ball from the defence, but the defence seem more interested in playing wide to the wingers. Maybe this is because, like you, they don't feel Hendry can distribute well enough. In addition your view of the formation is lacking something, you say we have Thomas as ther defensive midfield man, watson/Gomez/whoever in "the hole" 2wingers and a striker. That leaves a man over without a position (Momo/McArthur). I do not disagree with your article and do see your points, and I do believe that McArthy and Moses returning with maybe a new signing we could turn things around.
latics fan in skem
23/01/2011 17:34:00
Interesting thoughts. Thanks for that, wigdean, seeing the positive (while on the surface, looking just at results, the temptation is to be able to focus only on the negative). [I confess I wish folk would call our `standard` formation 4-2-3-1 - even though the players move around much more fluidly than I think we give them credit for - rather than 4-5-1, which sounds so defensive and unadventurous.]

My impression is that Thomas was very good indeed in the first half of the season and has dropped off a bit in form recently. From the sidelines I'd like to see Other-Mac given a go in that role. (He seems better to me than I realised. RM certainly found a good'un there, to partner Super-Mac. No wonder they did so well together for Hamilton.) And then surely Super-Mac himself is the answer for the central attacking midfielder that you want? Watson has been good at times and less good at others. Hasn't he been playing there just while Super-Mac is recovering?

I too look forward to the rest of the season, when we should have the players back again who can really show what Roberto's ideas can do.
23/01/2011 17:41:00
With regards to the man without a position - it's a difficult one isn't it. The way I see it we have the defensive midfielder, the attacking midfielder and then we have the position Momo plays. In my opinion he's expected to be something of a box to box type player. He's joined in the centre by Watson when we don't have the ball, but when we have the ball that's when everything goes wrong and the problems arise which I have detailed. With regards to McCarthy - this is something I orginally had in the article but removed to cut it down (I could have gone on all night!). I think McCarthy can grow into that attacking mid position. And I feel McArthur can grow into the defensive mid position. It's just whether the fans have the patience to stick with it and whether Martinez is actually planning that...
23/01/2011 18:09:00
Biggest problem overall is total lack of movement off the ball. Unless Zog takes the ball from deep and takes players on we generally don't get anywhere near goal. Even if we had Fabregas he wouldn't find a killer pass in our team because no one would move into the spaces for him to deliver the precise through ball
23/01/2011 19:43:00
This discussion is irrelevant - Martinez will not change, and the Swansea fans who told us this when he arrived at the club have been proved correct. I have seen no evidence that we have what it takes to stay up. The other teams down there all seem to have more fight about them. Sadly Whelan seems to not want to sack Martinez, so we are stuck with what we have. I didn't renew my season ticket until 2 weeks before the start of this season due to not really fancying another season of this dross. I definately won't be renewing next season if Martinez is still in charge. Waste of a hard earned £300.
23/01/2011 22:24:00
Excellent comments wigdean. I am also of the opinion that the DM and AM positions are problematic for us and unfortunately they are 2 positions that make up the spine of the team. I'd like to see McArthur given a few starts in DM, he does have a pass and a tackle in him but most of all, he moves the ball quickly which I think benefits our wingers. From what I've seen, when fit, McCarthy is not yet the answer to the AM role. He is more of a link player and provides energy to the midfield, sadly missing at the moment. I'd say that AM is the single biggest weakness in our squad and until Martinez finds the right player (probably needs buy someone) then our goals tally will not improve enough to take us out of year on year relegation battles.
24/01/2011 11:22:00
I think guitardave has been reading my mind. I agrree with every word he has written. Roberto is completely out of his depth along with his two mates. I do have some sympathy with Dave Whelan though, he is trying to compete with Indian chicken breeders, Americans and Russians with far too much money to be healthy and Arabs who have half of the world by the short and curlies with their oil. On the formation employed by Roberto, I wonder if he realises that the top six play two strikers while the botton six play one. He ridiculed Robbie Savage when he said the three to go down would be three 'W's. Not going to be far off the mark Roberto.
Standish mon
24/01/2011 17:46:00
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