Date: 23rd January 2011 at 4:30pm
Written by:

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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