Monday, January 12, 2009

Wigan v Tottenham, January 11, Premier League

It’s very frustrating when you go through full games without getting to know the names of some players because commentators just don’t mention them. So if it’s not a team that you follow every week and if you miss the pre-match show…and owing to domestic pressures – the half-time analysis, then you need to spend considerable energy on post-match research to figure out exactly who the delightful right back was, or other such details.

And so it is with Wigan. Let’s see who is it that I remember: Zaki, Heskey, Palacios, Valencia, Melchiot, Bramble, Figeroa, Kirkland and a balding mid-fielder who I am familiar with but whose name I can’t recall now. And yet this team of little-knowns or not-top-of-the-heads has taken 18 points of their last 21 (or something crazy like that), including three against a Tottenham display which can only be described as Redknapp’s presentation to the board to get transfer funds.

But this was really not about the players that Harry does not have. This was about how little the players he does have did throughout the game and whether the manager is really trying to make the best use of the team he currently has. There was a lot of discussion from the commentators regarding some invisible “revolutionary tactics” that HR was using but I couldn’t figure out what they are at that time and I don’t care if I never do. For all he achieved was a big zero.

It was a typical ordinary English game and there was really nothing to really marvel at apart from sporadic instances of going ‘wow’ if you were managing to pay attention. Most of them involved Valencia, the very talented Wigan left winger and some came at seeing Ledley King playing a quite superb holding (and holding only) role. The highlight however, had to be Heskey who wins every…I repeat every...ball that is played his way. If Zaki finds his beginning of the season form then Wigan will be scoring a lot many more. Zokora’s work rate caught my eye for a few fleeting seconds and Palacios had some great moments until Figeroa finally gave Wigan the win they deserved, heading in an injury time corner.

Wigan were impressive because they believed they could win and tried to make things happen. Tottenham, in spite of Harry’s protests about the squad, a much stronger team on paper, kept their superiority to the paper. Modric, Pavlyuchenko and Defoe hardly saw the ball and whenever they did, they had little to offer. It was supposed to be some 3-5-2 formation for Tottenham but it seemed more like a don’t-know-what-to-do formation. O’ Hara added nothing, Bale was outplayed and King too defensive.

Spend or not, I think Spurs are better than relegation candidates but just being better does nothing to save your season. Playing better does and that is the manager’s challenge, or at least a challenge more important than the transfer market. The transfer market will give you an over-priced Jermaine Defoe and teams don’t become title contenders by having Jermaine Defoe as their lead striker.

Wigan: Europe was something that was mentioned and with such form why not? I think they will hold on to Heskey as unless a big club is looking for a non-scoring striker, there’s not too much value he has for them. Valencia could be a problem keeping hold of and may end up with some big guy or Tottenham by the summer if not February. By the way, I checked and the three players I could not remember the names of are Scharner, Cattermole and Taylor. Ordinary individuals, impressive team.

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