Wigan Athletic 2-0 Ipswich Town – 22/09/2013 – Sky Bet Championship – DW Stadium – Tactical analysis
A well-travelled Wigan Athletic side played hosts to Ipswich Town just 3 days after their European debut. The Latics fought for a 0-0 draw against Belgian side Zulte Waregem at a neutral ground in Brugge, defending well but lacking creativity. The Jan Breydel Stadium welcomed nearly 3,000 Wigan supporters in one of the club’s most nostalgic matches ever. Today’s visitors Ipswich Town came into the match in good form with 2 consecutive wins to their name, beating Yeovil and Middlesbrough in their two previous games.
Looking more closely at the form, Ipswich are clearly not the best of sides on the road. They had lost 3 of their 4 away games thus far, including a 2-0 defeat in the Capital One Cup at Stevenage. Of the 10 points they had accumulated, 9 had come from home games. Wigan, however, were unbeaten at home after drawing twice and winning once. With Ipswich having 2 days extra rest, the game was hard to call pre-kick off.
Wigan (4-2-3-1) made 4 personnel changes from their last match but made many tactical changes too. Perch and Shotton, the centre back pairing against Zulte, found themselves pushed wider into full back positions. Watson, Beausejour, Rogne and Barnett all came into the side in place of McCann, Gomez, Boyce and Crainey. McManaman shifted from his usual right wing role to play as a lone striker despite his lack of physical presence, McClean moved from the left wing to the right wing, and Powell changed from the lone striker role into an advanced midfield role.
Subs: Nicholls (GK), Crainey, Boyce, Espinoza, McCann, Gomez, Dicko
Ipswich (4-4-1-1/4-4-2) made only 1 change to personnel, with Carlos Edwards being replaced by Paul Anderson. I will be honest and admit that I didn’t know what Ipswich’s style of play would be, but could fathom a guess. Mick McCarthy’s sides are usually big and strong, not overly pacey, and very determined. His teams have always featured wingers, and he is one of the few managers who still fields what resembles a 4-4-2 in attack, despite tactical advancements over the years. It was expected that he would favour two strong, tall forwards to get on the end of numerous crosses.
Subs: Loach (GK), Hewitt, Wordsworth, Edwards, Taylor, Tabb, Nouble
Ipswich’s defensive shape stifled Wigan build up
Mick McCarthy opted for an old school 4-4-2 when attacking but had a clear change in shape when defending, opting for a 4-4-1-1. This clever instruction stopped Wigan from building from the back as well as building from midfield.
When Wigan wanted to build from the back, one Ipswich forward would press high up to create a 2 with their partner, essentially preventing Wigan from starting attacks via Barnett & Rogne as they had no space or time to take a touch and pick out a sensible pass. Also, when Wigan wanted to build from the midfield, one Ipswich forward would fall back into ‘the hole’ and essentially create a three with Hyam & Skuse, which gave them a man advantage in the centre of midfield. It was mainly McGoldrick who performed this defensive duty but, when required, Murphy was happy to interchange positions with his partner to ease the workload. Obviously, it was not possible for constant pressing to occur, but the forwards did a good job defensively.
With the midfield outnumbered or the defence matched, Wigan ‘keeper Scott Carson was forced to go long. This hampered Wigan’s build up play massively; they didn’t have an out-and-out centre forward in the squad and Callum McManaman stands at just 5 ft 9. This meant that Ipswich were able to receive the ball on an alarming number of occasions as Wigan lacked short options and Ipswich fielded an aerially strong team. It came as no surprise that Wigan ended the match with only 44% possession, much of which was wasted.
The home side clearly missed Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez for creativity and build up as, with two wingers in McClean and Beausejour rather than interiores (wingers who move infield), there was nobody to come short, receive the ball and dictate play.
Wigan’s forward movement disorganised Ipswich defenders
A common theme in the match was McManaman’s willingness to move into wide channels, in particular the left wing, in order to receive the ball, which opened up space for others to run into.
Wigan’s first goal came indirectly as a result of this particular movement. McManaman, whose reputation from last season was built largely from his ability to beat players in one-on-one situations, made a run between Berra (RCB) and Chambers (RB) and received the ball. This opened up space between the Ipswich centre-backs because Smith (LCB) was occupied with Powell (CAM), and Chambers (RB) had to pick up Beausejour (LAM). The creation of space allowed McManaman to face Berra one-on-one, which resulted in a corner after an attempted low cross.
The corner was aimed towards the far post by loanee Nick Powell and was met by the head of his fellow loanee, Ryan Shotton, into the net, giving The Latics the lead. Shotton came close against Zulte from a corner and has so far looked to be a solid addition to the side.
Misfiring Ipswich strikers proved the difference as crosses proved unsuccessful
The 2-0 result looks like a comfortable home win for Wigan on paper, yet it was anything but. Similarly to the match against Nottingham Forest, Wigan came under immense pressure from crosses after taking the lead. Ipswich, like most teams under McCarthy’s tenure, looked to get the ball out wide as the main focal point of their build up play before crossing.
Ipswich always wanted at least 3 men in the box – the two forwards and a midfield runner – to try and meet a cross. The opposite winger from where the ball was crossed lurked in between the touchline and box in order to try and create space by dragging the Wigan full back out. In this example (see left), Anderson (RM) stays quite wide to take Perch away from the central area to allow Skuse (RCM) to make a run into the space created, whilst the two centre backs are already occupied. The full back on the wing from where the ball was being crossed, for example Cresswell (LB), offered support to make a cross from deep if Tunnicliffe (LM) couldn’t get a cross in. The other full back, in this case Chambers (RB), ventured into the opposition half to put himself into a position to receive any headed clearances that came his way.
However, Wigan dealt with Ipswich’s crosses fairly well but Ipswich had a number of chances to score. McGoldrick and Murphy just couldn’t get the ball past the barrage of Wigan players to find the net, which meant Ipswich went home empty handed. This is evident as Ipswich had 20 shots, with only 5 on target.
Powell pokes in the second to secure the 3 points
Wigan’s 2nd goal would not have looked out of place on a Sunday morning at Little Lane. It was all very route one: Carson booted the ball up into the Ipswich half, which invited Gerken to challenge Powell for the header, missing the ball completely before giving up and gifting Wigan a goal.
The 2-0 scoreline somewhat flattered Wigan and it could be argued that Ipswich’s efforts were worthy of a point. However, Wigan’s high concentration and aerial presence in the form of Barnett and Rogne, the former in particular, handed them the 3 points in their 2nd consecutive home win to take them up to 11th in the league table.
4 points and 2 clean sheets from 2 games in 4 days after travelling to and from Belgium shows that Wigan could have what it takes to handle the stresses, and opportunities, of promotion targets and European enjoyment.