Game plan for Wigan
Few give Wigan a prayer for Saturday's FA Cup final against North West neighbours Manchester City but there is hope for Roberto Martinez's side if they can stick to a game plan and have that crucial slice of luck...
Last Updated: 10/05/13 12:48pm
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has never been shy to experiment with formations. Be it 3-4-3, which morphs into 3-5-2 and then 5-3-2 if or when the situation requires. The way in which the team is able to quickly adapt to such elusive changes during a match speaks volumes for the amount of preparation that goes into each training session. It would also explain Martinez's preference of playing utility players - experienced professionals who are intelligent and obedient enough to trust their manager's instinct, which is paramount to Wigan's ethos. Wigan aren't a side that look to put ten men behind the ball - they look to attack and play to win. Because of this, emphasis is put on a possession-based game with wingers on either flank. With 52% of possession and 82% pass accuracy, it is commendable for a team near the bottom to adopt this approach. Only teams in the top six better these stats.
As with any game, the first goal will be vital and in Wigan's case, keeping a clean sheet before the interval is imperative. Out of 13 games played this season, the Latics have only managed to win one game when going in behind at half-time. In contrast, City have only lost once in 12 games after taking the lead at half-time - winning 10 of those. 30% of Wigan's goals have come from set-pieces and that could be their best chance for success against a City defence which has come unstuck a few times this season whilst defending corners and free-kicks. The opportunity for dead-ball specialist Shaun Maloney to deliver telling crosses could prove to be vital in exploiting any lapses and deficiencies. Arouna Kone is this season's top goalscorer for Wigan on 11 goals.
Whichever way you look at it, the task ahead for Wigan is enormous. With a plethora of word-class talent in City's ranks to try and stop them is arguably near impossible. However, there happens to be one major factor that could swing the Cup towards the DW Stadium - luck. Regardless of how difficult the circumstances or the opposition in question might be, in every match there comes a 10-15 minute window of opportunity in the second half where a short spell of chances come calling. The situation may require for someone to step up and become a Wembley hero which, in turn, could define Wigan and their fans for years to come. Clear-cut chances for the Latics will likely be few and far between during the 90 minutes, but they will have them. Depending on their ability to shut City down and keep it 0-0 at half-time, that one golden chance converted could be enough to see them through.
Shaun Maloney has been pivotal in everything that has been good about Wigan this season. An integral part of Martinez's plans, Maloney is the go-to guy and the inspiration for most of Wigan's attacking play. A dead-ball specialist, Maloney's deliveries have been of the highest quality especially during times when the club have really needed it. Arguably, one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League, he is playing some of the best football of his career. It will be interesting to see how Maloney copes with the pressure of a Wembley final with the likes of James Milner and Gareth Barry snapping at his heels. Stop him and you stop Wigan.