Jordi Gomez: The Marmite Midfielder


Loved and defended by some, hated and openly criticised by most others – the Spanish playmaker has undoubtedly been key to Wigan’s successes.

Elegance, flair and beautiful hair – Wigan’s Spanish midfielder is all-too-often slated and criticised by so-called ‘fans’ of the club.

Embarrassing fans insist on destroying Gomez’ confidence, groaning as loud as they possibly can whenever he loses the ball. The groans change to delusional cheers when the number 14 lights up on the fourth official’s electronic board, delivering the killer blow to the playmaker’s self-esteem. Said ‘fans’ wonder, too, why he “plays so badly”. Where is the motivation to work hard when mistakes, which are inevitable in football, are to be met with insults and undeserved criticism? Such fans are the first to tell Gomez about a mistake he has made but are also the first to sing his praises when he fashions a killer pass through a defence – the word ‘fickle’ springs to mind.
Common shouts from members of the crowd, who annoyingly provide unwanted running commentaries, are “he’s too slow”, “he holds onto the ball for too long”, “he’s too lightweight”, “he’s a lazy bastard”.

“Jordi divides opinions because he represents a style of football. It is not just the way he is as a footballer, it is the style he represents. I was disappointed on Saturday, a little sector of the crowd couldn’t wait until the final whistle to look back on his performance and then assess it. I was so proud of the manner Jordi reacted to whatever was going on. He showed an incredible mental strength. He was a great example to any youngster at the ground wanting to arrive into the first team. Jordi’s performance and his handling of the occasion was a real example of how to be a professional footballer. The dressing room was very proud. You don’t want players who don’t have the warmth from the crowd. All he did is do everything he could to win the points for Wigan Athletic and I think a sector of the crowd should realise that.” – Roberto Martinez on Jordi Gomez’s hat-trick against Reading in 2012 after the player was booed by some fans for making mistakes early in the match.

My theory is that Gomez’ footballing mind functions too quickly for the players around him; that he is two steps ahead of everybody else. He waits for space to be opened like he has imagined just milliseconds before, but his teammates’ inability to think steps ahead means that Gomez is often caught spending ‘too much time’ on the ball. In countries such as Spain and Holland, players are coached into thinking steps ahead. Gomez, a product of La Masia – Barcelona’s youth academy, visualises scenarios unthinkable of that to the average footballer. Jordi needs to be surrounded by players who create the pictures he imagines. In the current squad, I can think of only Jean Beausejour who ‘reads the game’ in such a similar way to Gomez. The pair link up so seemlessly on the left flank when Gomez drifts wide, Beausejour getting in behind opposition defensive lines thanks to a Gomez pass with unnoticed regularity.

Off the ball, he is slated for “not tracking back” or not getting “stuck in”. Footballers can’t be in two places at once, they are just humans after all. How can a player be expected to press high up the pitch yet be in a defensive block by the time a pass has been made? His pressing often goes unrecognised due to the fans’ tendency to use him as a scapegoat when other players fail to apply the principles of cover and balance behind him. The way in which he presses, too, is overlooked. He looks to position his body in a way that makes passes predictable whilst also blocking off nearby passing options, a feature that the majority of his teammates cannot grasp: effective pressing. He might not always be strong in the tackle but that is hardly without reason, he would rather block a passing lane than lose a tackle and concede space behind him. He knows that he lacks physical strength. Knowing his own weaknesses allows him to hide them and manipulate them into a positive.

The pass at 00:45, the movement and the shot at 00:55 looks effortless. The pass at 01:26 epitomises Gomez’ thinking of steps ahead – look how long he waits for the run. The execution is beautiful.

His ability to get between the lines and in half spaces is probably the greatest aspect of his game, but again it is inconspicuous to a large sample of simple-minded Wigan fans who fall in and out of love with him. Tactically excellent, he knows when and where to create overloads, which is central to a possession-based philosophy: regularly dropping deep to create 4v2s or 3v2s to help the defenders when building up play, getting between the lines to offer a forward option and create a central overload, and, my personal favourite, drifting wide to create 2v1s or 3v2s. When Gomez drops off to provide an extra receiving line and a pressure relief, he has done so because he has thought of the next move. The amount of times Gomez switches the ball to McManaman or Beausejour to create a 1v1 is ridiculous, but again goes undetected by the crowd who instead focus on the ball receiver. When Gomez drifts wide to support the full back and winger, he has done so because he has thought of the next move. One-twos between Gomez and Beausejour to put the Chilean in behind opposition defensive lines are performed almost habitually, but praise is only given by the certain few fans who appreciate him.

Everton v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup Sixth Round

A prominent feature of his game is his determination to protect the ball. He knows when to receive on the back foot, when to receive on the front foot, and knows how to win free kicks by placing his body between the opponent and the ball. His technique is unquestionable, striking the ball with such gracefulness each time he has it at his feet. It is like the ball is his friend, treating it with a respect that the English game lacks.

Gomez is far from the perfect player. He isn’t the paciest of players, he isn’t very strong, he might not be the most confident either, but his technique, positioning and movement, speed of thought and untainted resilience should be appreciated greatly. He is a unique player who has brought Wigan fans the greatest of joy, and admittedly some frustration but that, I believe, is because he is steps ahead of the players around him.

“English players don’t think until they have the ball at their feet. You have to give the ball at the right moment. In Holland we don’t think about the first man. We think of the third man, the one who has to run. If I get the ball, the third man can run immediately because he knows that immediately I will pass to the second man, and he will give it to him. If I delay, the third man has to delay his run and the moment is over. It is that special moment, that special pass.” – Arnold Muhren


Team Analysis | Atlético Madrid – Part 1: Defensive Organisation


In an era where the 4-4-2 has lost its prevalence, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid see themselves performing fantastically in a formation touted ‘prehistoric’ by some. It is rare to see teams in the elite leagues employ a 4-4-2, but Atlético Madrid, along with Manchester City, are giving the classic formation a new lease of life. The 4-4-2 seems like something of the past due to its perceived inability to cope with the rise in controlling 3-man midfields and space between the lines.

However, Simeone’s Atléti have shown that it can work very well indeed. Atléti’s structure, discipline, sheer hard work and transitional efficiency has helped them rise to joint 1st place in La Liga, only toppled by Barcelona who sit above them on goal difference. Simeone’s men have amassed 14 league wins, 1 draw and, astonishingly, just 1 loss. With just 9 goals conceded and 43 goals scored, Atléti’s title credentials are starting to look serious.

Atleti league table (16th Dec 2013)

The ethos of Argentinian manager Diego Simeone, a great defensive-minded midfielder in his time, is reflected in his team – solid defensive abilities and attitudes with a devastating efficiency in transition. Atlético are a team that look to control space rather than possession.

I have analysed Atlético only when they play a 4-4-2 – it must be noted that Atléti do play with a 4-2-3-1 from time to time. In the first part of the series, I have analysed Atléti’s defensive organisation.

This analysis uses most aspects of this criteria, which was developed by @MartinLewis94. Note that the phases of play generally apply, but are not restricted, to these zones:

Courtesy of @MartinLewis94.

Courtesy of @MartinLewis94.

Defensive organisation

The fact that 54% of shots  Atleti concede are from outside the box highlights their defensive effectiveness. It is the highest rate in La Liga.

The fact that 54% of shots Atleti concede are from outside the box highlights their defensive effectiveness. It is the highest rate in La Liga.

The key objectives of the team are to mark zonally with an aggressive pressing mentality when an opposition player is about to receive the ball in their zone and to control the central vertical zone, doing so with great effect. Their controlling of space is central to their success and defensive stability.

Phase 1 [mid block 4-4-2]:  Atléti employ a mid block 4-4-2 when the opposition are constructing from defence and do not press unless triggers arise. By not pressing, it allows the opposition to enter phase 2, or even 3, fairly quickly but ensures that the team does not become disjointed. A noticeable feature is that Atléti stay narrow, which allows space down flanks, which in turn means they control the central vertical zone. This makes it hard for the opposition to play through the middle. The strikers, in this instance Costa and Villa, act almost like midfielders, looking to block easy passes into the centre of midfield. Here is an example of a pressing trigger:

David Villa presses Illarramendi from behind.

David Villa presses Illarramendi from behind.

Here is another example, this time showing how triggers can initiate a high press on the goalkeeper and his surrounding passing options:

Atleti force the goalkeeper to panic and go long.

Atleti force the goalkeeper to panic and go long.

However, there is space between the lines for a deep playmaker or an advanced midfielder to receive the ball in, but this could create a pressing trap. For instance, if the opposition played a pass in between the midfield line and attacking line, the midfielders would press the ball carrier as would a striker from behind. The fear of this occurring often results in the opposition making ‘easier’ passes into wide areas.

Atleti look to control the central vertical zone to try and force pressing traps on the flanks.

Atleti look to control the central vertical zone to try and force pressing traps on the flanks.

Phase 2 [mid-low block 4-4-2]:

Atléti’s objective is to force the opponents to play into wide areas and, due to their controlling of the central zone, this is where most of the opposition’s passes end up. This creates a pressing trap because Atléti’s full back and wide midfielder double up on the player who received the ball out wide, and one central midfielder, if required, presses the nearest passing option from behind. This then forces the opposition to either play a direct ball forward [vertical], a pass back infield [lateral] or pass back to defence [usually diagonally]. The amount of 3v3 and 2v2 situations created by this means that Atléti require players with a strong 1v1 defensive capacity.

Di Maria was forced to pass back to the centre back on this occasion.

Di Maria was forced to pass back to the centre back on this occasion.

The full back on the near side of the field comes close to the opposition’s wide midfielder, ready to initiate the pressing trap if the ball is played to them. The striker on the near side of the field comes a little deeper than his partner, looking to cut off any central passing options. The central midfielder on the near side of the field looks to cover the half space created by the full back coming close to the opposition’s wide midfielder.

The centre mid applies good cover here.

The centre mid applies good cover here.

Should the cover of the near-side centre mid and the balance of the defence be applied too slowly, the half space is open to be penetrated. Also, the centre mid’s priority is to aggressively press within his zone, so he will look to press rather than cover should the ball enter his zone, again opening up the half space. This is a potential weakness that teams could look to exploit by playing with fast tempo in wide areas along with penetrating runs in Phase 2. Here is an example:

A half space, which could be exploited, opens up when the full back presses. Real did not take advantage of this, on this occasion.

The half space, which could be exploited, opens up when the full back presses. Real did not take advantage of this, on this occasion.

This type of pressing trap explains why many ball recoveries are made in wide areas by Atléti. Three points may explain why this pressing trap is applied:
1) When a player has the ball on the flank, there is only a 180° angle they can pass into, compared to a 360° passing range in the centre of the pitch. This limits passing options and can force throw ins in favour of Atléti.
2) Staying narrow and then pressing wide will encourage the opposition to pass inside from wide areas, which can benefit Atléti as it coincides with their aggressive zonal pressing from the centre mids. A square pass back infield can be easy to intercept when aggressively pressing in zones, resembling pistons. This could show why some ball recoveries are made between wide and central areas.
3) Atléti are not afraid to press in wide areas and concede throw ins themselves. I will signify in the set pieces section how Atléti employ another pressing trap on opposition throw ins.

Atleti had 16/22 successful tackles vs Real Madrid. 10 were in wide areas.

Atleti had 16/22 successful tackles vs Real Madrid. 10 were in wide areas. Stats and picture courtesy of Squawka.

Atleti made 22/26 successful tackles against Porto. 12 were in wide areas and 4 were close to wide areas.

Atleti made 22/26 successful tackles against Porto. 12 were in wide areas and 4 were close to wide areas. Stats and picture courtesy of Squawka.

Another pressing trigger of Atléti’s is if the ball receiver is going to have difficulty controlling the ball, and if a pass is fairly slow as it gives Atléti time to restrict space for the ball receiver to control the ball in. Here (below), against Porto, Atléti press the ball receiver and his passing options, whilst also restricting space to play into. If unsuccessful at recovering the ball, it would force a pass backwards, a long ball forward or a switch back across the field. In this case, Atléti recovered the ball.

The long switch across field triggers Atletico to press, this time resulting in a successful ball recovery.

The long switch across field triggers Atletico to press, this time resulting in a successful ball recovery.

A further pressing trigger is if the opposition have managed to play out of defence, past Atléti’s striker, into the central midfielders’ zones. Below, Gabi aggressively presses the opposition midfielder due to the ball being played through Costa and Villa. It is imperative that the central midfielder who is not pressing drops back and provides a covering angle, or too much space will be conceded between the lines for the opposition to exploit.

Atleti's central midfielders' aggressive zonal pressing is key to stopping the opponent playing through them.

Atleti’s central midfielders’ aggressive zonal pressing is key to stopping opponents playing through them.

Phase 3 [low block 4-4-2]:

Atléti still look to control the central zone, but press more aggressively in each player’s zone in Phase 3. The lines become more tight and the shape is still narrow, making Atléti extremely compact and hard to play through.

Atleti's compact shape along with aggressive zonal pressing restricts the opposition attacking through the centre.

Atleti’s compact shape along with aggressive zonal pressing restricts the opposition attacking through the centre.

The aggressive zonal pressing applies to the centre backs too. Although Atlético don’t use an apparent stopper-cover centre back partnership, their centre backs are aggressive in challenging for the first ball, often getting in front of the opponent to win the ball. This approach is clearly successful when you consider the sheer amount, and success, of clearances made in the central zone in and around the area.

A strength of Atleti's defensive organisation is how well they defend the central zone, especially in and around the box.

A strength of Atleti’s defensive organisation is how well they defend the central zone, especially in and around the box. Stats and picture courtesy of Squawka.

Phase 4 [very low block 4-4-2]:

Atléti’s full back closes down the player who is about to cross, whilst the rest of the defenders use tight zonal marking. Atléti’s main objective is that the danger zones are covered in that the front post, penalty spot and back post are guarded by the defenders. A perhaps more striking feature is that Atléti’s centre mid and opposite wide midfielder secure the top of the box, preventing cutback crosses being made. This is a vital feature as many teams score from cutback crosses and most sides, even with a double pivot, usually neglect this area.

Atleti have all important zones covered on crosses.

Atleti have all important zones covered on crosses.

As Atléti spend a lot of time in defensive organisation Phases 2 & 3, it is clear to see why most people say Atléti use a low block 4-4-2. Their defensive solidity in the centre results in a lot of defensive actions, and what is noticeable is Atléti’s counter-attacking style from this chart.

The high amount of clearances highlights Atleti's counter-attacking approach. Clearing the ball long for Diego Costa is a key feature.

The high amount of clearances highlights Atleti’s strong defensive stability and counter-attacking approach.

I will be looking at Atlético Madrid’s offensive organisation in the next part of this analysis.

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Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Tactical preview

Arsenal host Borussia Dortmund tonight in Group F of the Champions League. The Gunners top the group with 2 wins from 2 games, whilst Dortmund sit in 3rd place having won 1 and lost 1.

Team news & predicted line ups

Arsenal are without the injured Mathieu Flamini, with boss Arsene Wenger resisting temptation and sticking to his 5 day rule. They are also without Theo Walcott who faces a further 2 weeks on the sideline, as well as Yaya Sanogo, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby.
They are likely to stick with a 4-2-3-1, using Ramsey as part of the double pivot in place of Flamini.
Borussia Dortmund welcome back ‘keeper Roman Weidenfeller who returns from a one-match European ban. Mats Hummels is also welcomed back having served a domestic ban, and midfielders Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin & Sven Bender are all set to feature after playing on the weekend despite being doubts for the game against Hannover. However, BVB will have to cope without Ilkay Gundogan, Lukas Piszczek & Sebastian Kehl.

Predicted line ups

Predicted line ups

Midfield battle to take centre stage

Arsenal are without a natural winger and thus will play more centrally. However, Dortmund’s defensive game is focused on making it hard for teams to play in the middle as they combine counterpressing and triggered pressing with a mid-high block. This, though, allows space in behind and Arsenal should look to take advantage of this area. They would be able to do this by making Arteta play between the centre backs during build up play as he has the technique to play direct passes, which will be a key requirement for Arsenal in order to avoid Dortmund’s effective pressing in the middle third, and pushing both Ozil and Ramsey further forward to provide vertical outlets. A worry for Arsenal, though, is their lack of a true, pacey winger as they will need to exploit the space in behind with direct balls. With no Walcott, they will find it hard to catch Dortmund on the counter because both Cazorla and Wilshere tend to drift centrally which creates an overload in the middle, but Dortmund are most effective when defending in the middle of the pitch.

I think Dortmund’s sheer directness, pace and tactical excellence on the counter will win them the game, but I anticipate a close encounter, with the game being won in the middle of the pitch. The small things matter the most, and this is what it will probably come down to. Arsenal will need their quality in midfield if they are to succeed.

Wigan Athletic 3-1 NK Maribor – Team report: Wigan

Wigan Athletic recorded a historic Europa League victory against the most successful Slovenian club of all time, NK Maribor, winning 3-1. Various club records were created: first ever European win, first European goal(s), most goals scored in Europe, most goals conceded in Europe etc. You get the jist.

I analysed Wigan as a team, deconstructing their play into the 4 moments of the game: offensive organisation, transition from attack to defence (A-D), defensive organisation and transition from defence to attack (D-A). Refer to the glossary for each moments’ definition.


Wigan vs Maribor line up

Wigan: Carson (gk), Boyce (c), Shotton, Barnett, Perch, McManaman, Watson, McArthur, Beausejour, Gomez, Powell
Subs: Nicholls (gk), Rogne, Garcia, McCann, Espinoza, McClean, Dicko

Maribor: Handanovic (gk), Milec, Rajcevic, Arghus, Shevchuk, Mejac, Mertelj, Filipovic, Bohar, Cvijanovic, Tavares, Mendy (c)
Subs: Pridigar (gk), Dodlek, Viler, Mezga, Potokar, Fajic, Dervisevic

Referee: Aleksander Stavrev

Offensive organisation (4-2-3-1)

Wigan, especially in the first half, found themselves in the offensive organisation phase numerous times due to Maribor’s lack of pressing. This was due to either deliberate instruction or not having a clear idea when to press, and when they did press it often lacked numbers.

This gave Wigan plenty of time and space on the ball, allowing them to build from the back with relative success, which was evident as Wigan had 62% possession at half time and 57% possession at full time. Latics fans have found themselves frustrated in recent weeks when watching the side’s build up play as a predominant theme has been to play ineffective long passes to the striker when the opposition are balanced and organised, rather than focusing on ball retention, off-the-ball movement and opposition pressing, which would help to create space and passing options.

There are a few reasons which could explain the change in build up. The main reason, in my opinion, was that, with Wigan lacking a number 9 due to the injuries of Fortune and Holt and the hesitancy to make a loan signing, Powell playing as a striker meant that Wigan needed to play passes into his feet or for him to run onto for their build up to be truly effective. The second reason was that, as stated above, Maribor’s reluctancy to press gave Wigan licence to recycle possession at the back. Even when they did press, they lacked numbers and work rate.

Wigan goal kick shape

Wigan’s shape on goal kicks, combined with Maribor’s lack of pressing, helped them to play out from the back successfully.

Three factors underpinned Wigan’s good build up play – Maribor’s horrendous defensive organisation: a) They were not compact enough, which allowed too much space between the lines, b) They played with a medium block, which was counter-effective due to their lack of pressing as it conceded space in behind, and c) They were nowhere near narrow enough, conceding space between players and in key areas. The reason for Maribor’s lack of narrowness was McManaman’s and Beausejour’s width; Wigan boss Owen Coyle had clearly instructed them to stay wide at all times and not to drift inside, which differs from the modern 4-2-3-1 set up where the full backs are expected provide the main source of width and the wingers are usually responsible for penetrating space in the channels between the centre back and full back.

Wigan’s full backs rarely made forward runs. Had they underlapped more often, they could have helped Wigan in their offensive organisation, but would have given them problems in their transitions from attack to defence because of Maribor’s quickness in their transitions from defence to attack.

Beausejour action heat map

Beausejour got into good crossing positions due to his penetrating runs. Courtesy of Squawka.

A concern for Wigan, though, was the difference in the levels of performance from Beausejour and McManaman. The Chilean assisted 2 goals, whereas McManaman was wasteful both on and off the ball. As you can see (left), Beausejour had a higher average position than

McManaman action heat map

McManaman’s wider, deeper position made him isolated for most of the game. Courtesy of Squawka.

McManaman, largely due to his penetrating runs (which often go unnoticed). Beausejour’s crossing has been fantastic for Wigan since joining in 2012, and both of his assists came from crosses although the first took a slight deflection before the ‘keeper bizarrely mis-punched the ball onto Nick Powell’s head for him to score, much to the delight of the Wigan fans. McManaman (left), however, stayed wide at all times and made no penetrating runs of note. He appeared static and, not for the first time this season, had a poor game. He completed only 2 of his 5 attempted take ons and had a lacklustre 73% pass completion, as well as missing a good chance to score just before half time. It is no wonder that he was hooked for McClean on 66 minutes.

Transition from attack to defence (A-D)

Wigan were poor for Maribor’s goal, which came on the counter, due to a lack of collective movement from the team. With Watson or McArthur nowhere to be seen due to a lack of positional discipline, as one of the midfielders in a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 must stay back when attacking to provide defensive stability, it was up to Wigan’s back four to stop Maribor’s counter.

Arghus had won the ball and played a quick, direct diagonal pass to Mertelj, who then played the ball to Tavares. Barnett decided to press the advancing Tavares and, with the other 3 defenders not reacting to this, conceded space behind him. Had the other 3 defenders applied the defensive principles of cover and balance, the space behind Barnett would have been closed, forcing play wide. Had Barnett delayed the attack by not pressing, Maribor would have been, again, forced wide. However, neither of these solutions occurred and Tavares held the ball up before passing to Mendy, who had made a clever supporting run. Mendy dribbled with the ball and drew in Ryan Shotton before cutting the ball back for Tavares, who was one of 3 passing options, for the goal.

Maribor goal

How Maribor scored their goal. Courtesy of Squawka.

Although it only happened once, the poor positional play by one of Wigan’s double pivot proved costly. Wigan, overall, had transitioned from attack to defence quite well throughout the game. However, the image (above) shows the importance of quick, direct passes to start off a counter-attack. Maribor’s speed of transition and collective movement for their goal was really impressive and was by far the best moment of the game, in terms of quality, for them.

One aspect of Wigan’s transitions from attack to defence was that, when certain triggers arose, Powell and the 2 nearest players to him would engage in an initial press, whilst the rest of the players would be getting into the defensive shape of 4-4-1-1. This is not quite counterpressing as, although there is a press when the ball is lost, the other players are transitioning into the defensive shape. Counterpressing, which in my opinion is more effective, would require collective movement by all of the team to ‘make the pitch smaller’, not just 3 players.

Defensive organisation (4-4-1-1)

Wigan’s two banks of four were quite compact throughout the match, allowing little space between the lines. Most noticeably, though, was that Wigan’s pressing and defensive block went hand in hand for most of the game. When Wigan pressed high with Nick Powell leading the press, the defensive line moved up in unison. When the pressers dropped off, so did the defensive line. Powell’s pressing, a key factor as to why he played so well, resulted in him winning the ball high up on quite a few occasions. In fact, Powell had one opportunity to score after pressing high and winning the ball but narrowly missed.

Powell also provided Wigan’s depth for counter-attacks when they won the ball. If the ball bypassed him into midfield, he stayed high and did not press, which would allow for a good passing option providing Wigan won the ball.

Transition from defence to attack

Wigan generally looked to play quickly towards Maribor’s goal when the opposition were unbalanced. This, combined with effective pressing, gave Wigan a couple of scoring opportunities over the course of the game. An interesting benefit that Wigan had by playing Powell, a natural midfielder, up front was that his late runs had the ability to disorganise Maribor’s back line.

Said benefit led to Wigan’s 3rd goal: Carson claimed a corner and, after seeing that Maribor were unbalanced, threw the ball out to Ryan Shotton, who then played a long, direct ball to James McClean. Rajcevic made a poor clearance that landed at the feet of the onrushing Nick Powell, who subsequently beat his first two men by cutting inside, followed by beating Rajcevic by doing the same, and finished well with the goal at his peril.

The route to Nick Powell's second goal. Courtesy of Squawka.

The route to Nick Powell’s second goal. Courtesy of Squawka.


Wigan, overall, were excellent apart from one blip, and never looked like losing their lead. They created plenty of chances thanks to some fast counter-attacks, high pressing and patient build up. The football on display was a welcome change, differing from the usual long ball reliance. Should Coyle’s men play like this on Sunday against Blackburn, who will present a completely different challenge, the Latics can give themselves a good chance of taking all 3 points in an all-North West clash.

Wigan’s performance cannot go without saying it must have been influenced by how poor Maribor were. Had Maribor pressed higher and more willingly, Wigan’s build up, and overall play, would have suffered. The visitors did not challenge The Latics in such a way to cause them problems, but challenged Wigan to express themselves substantially more than in domestic league games this season (excluding the Barnsley mauling). They responded well, and this could be the catalyst for a change in style and improvement in quality of performances.

What will be interesting to see is, when Holt and/or Fortune return from injury, if Wigan change their build up back to the style we have seen in previous weeks. Although Powell played well and bagged a brace, Wigan desperately need a natural striker to be brought in on loan at least until January. It cannot be helped to think that it could have been 4 or 5 had Wigan been playing with a natural number 9.

The Importance of Pressing in Modern Football – Why the English Game Must Keep Up

As football’s ever-evolving state enters a new phase, pressing has quickly become one of the most recognised pieces of the tactical jigsaw. The pursuit of tiki-taka football, mastered by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side of 2008-2011, is on the decline, whilst styles of football such as the ones implemented by Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid are on the rise.

The three aforementioned styles are distinctly different, yet all of them have enforced a successful style of pressing. All three teams employed counterpressing, an approach based on winning the ball back high up the pitch as soon as it is lost, to great effect. Differences in each style of play are clear to see: Barca favoured a possesion-oriented game, whilst Atletico show near-refusal to keep the ball, and Dortmund base their play on penetration. A chunk of each side’s success is down to their well designed pressing methods.

Types of pressing

There are various types of pressing in the world of football; some are common, some are sparse, some are effective, some are self-destructive, and some are down to an outright lack of design.

Unconditional Pressing

The idea of unconditional pressing is self-explanatory; the team presses constantly when out of possession of the ball. Like any other method, it has its strengths and weaknesses. It is rare to come across a team that uses this style purely because of the excessive physical demands it requires. Players are often left lying on the floor in exhaustion after implementing the system in a competitive match, take Athletic Bilbao’s match vs Barcelona as an example.

Its effectiveness comes against teams who lack confidence and technical ability on the ball. If a player is uncomfortable on the ball in the first place, they will be quaking in their boots when they see a hungry pack of players who are eager to win the ball running at them. The thought of constant pressing, to some, is akin to disjointed pressing except in numbers; players running like headless chickens towards whichever part of the pitch the ball is in. This can happen, although it would be largely unsuccessful. Another point is that this pressing system requires man-marking to be truly effective. It simply would not work with zonal marking as opposition overloads of certain zones would undermine the system.

However, Marcelo Bielsa’s teams, for example, have used the system well by being precise. His players are not made to all run after the ball, but to anticipate where the next pass will be and to arrive before it has gone. Bielsa, nicknamed El Loco for his unconventional methods, has always kept his tactical set up the same, with the shape being structured by two principles: keeping a spare man at the back, and having 4 forwards. The reason for the spare man at the back is to compensate for opposition counter-attacks, i.e. 3 defenders vs 2 forwards or 2 defenders vs 1 forward. Key to his pressing style is the use of 4 forwards, consisting of 1 striker, 2 wingers and an attacking midfielder, which is never altered.

To read more on Bielsa, read @chalkontheboots’ excellent breakdown of his methods – Marcelo Bielsa – Method in the Madness.

The greatest example of unconditional pressing can be watched here, implemented, yet again, by Bielsa.

disjointed pressing

This form of pressing is arguably prevalent in the English game. It involves one man pressing solely whilst his teammates watch, running like a man possessed, following the ball in every direction, usually as a result of frustration or anger, and usually to no avail. Think Wayne Rooney: a couple of years back he was hailed for his ‘high work rate’ and how he harried defenders. Last season, Danny Welbeck got the nod ahead of him to play against Real Madrid because of Rooney’s unwillingness to mark their deep lying playmaker Xabi Alonso. So, has Rooney stopped his child-like energetic chasing of the ball? No. What is the problem, then? The problem is that he shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

By chasing the ball on his own, he would be breaking from the tactical plan. The plan was to stay compact as a unit against Madrid, but Rooney’s lack of patience often means he goes chasing the ball because his side are not in possession, so was dropped for the game. Another reason is his laziness in terms of transitioning quickly from attack to defence, in this case a deep shape.

However, Rooney is not the only player to do it. It is commonplace in the English game (albeit more common in the lower leagues) for a lone striker who has grown in frustration from not getting the ball enough to lose his rag and eventually crack; sprinting at full speed to the ball, only to be ridiculed by a simple pass. It allows teams who play a deep lying playmaker, a la Real Madrid, to utilise them and start attacks because the headless chicken of a striker has gone missing. It is no wonder that this is the least effective pressing system as it is highly likely that it is a result of a lack of coaching of pressing.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sole player either; it is usually the two vertically highest players in a team, ie 2 strikers or 1 striker and an attacking midfielder. They press, whilst the rest of the team maintain their defensive position, making the team disjointed whilst neglecting space at the same time.


This style of pressing, as mentioned above, has been used successfully by Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid. It was also used by Bayern Munich under Heynckes in the last season under his reign, taking inspiration from Dortmund.

It is the idea that the best time to seek to regain possession is when it is first lost (transition from attack to defence), usually in the opponent’s half, because the opponent is at their most disorientated and if won, the distance to the opposition’s goal is shorter. The opposition are trying to get the ball under control, which requires high concentration, and will feel under even more mental pressure if they are being pressed. The system is organised, and the whole team moves as a unit to squeeze the play. One player will press the player on the ball, whilst others look to cut off any available passes, and the defence will move up in unison with the pressers to make the pitch compact. As more players are higher up the pitch as a result of the pressing positions, a quick attack with numerous players can occur, which is always a danger.

If the ball is not won as a result of the counterpress, or if certain triggers to press do not arise, the players transition quickly into their defensive shape. There are various triggers: the opponent is facing their own goal or the opponent is facing the touchline, and the team is organised enough to start the press (e.g. counterpressing should not be used if 5 players are ahead of the ball and there are various passing options available for the opposition). The cues from conditional pressing can also be used, which I will outline later.

The beauty of this system is that if the counterpress regains possession, the team can start a counter-attack from high up the pitch when the opposition is unbalanced, which presents a good opportunity to fathom a clear cut chance. And if the ball is not won from the counterpress, the players get back into their defensive shape and employ a conditional pressing system. I will explain the conditional pressing system in the next section of the article.

This picture from Spielverlagerung, and the article itself, shows how Bayern put counterpressing into practice:

As you can see, Martinez is pressing the player in possession. What you cannot see, however, is that the player in possession has his back to goal. This is a key pressing trigger. Badstuber is preventing any attempt to back heel the ball, Ribery is cutting off the lay-off option, and Schweinsteiger and Kroos have closed down the space for the only realistic passing option (anticipating the next ball). Dante has provided cover for any over-the-top balls whilst Boateng and Lahm have provided balance, which are two highly important aspects of defensive organisation.

The outcome of this situation was that Martinez poked the ball from behind, dispossessing his opponent, towards Ribery, allowing him to pass to Schweinsteiger who could then start a counter attack.

It should be noted that, in my opinion, counterpressing is not specifically used by numerous teams because: a) the system requires a lot of training and design, b) it requires high concentration over a long period of time in matches, c) transitions from defence to attack and vice-versa have to be quick to be effective.

Conditional pressing

Probably the most commonly used pressing system in football, conditional pressing has the ability to be effective without substantial amounts of effort. However, it is unsurprisingly most effective when high concentration, high levels of training and good design are applied.

It is the idea of pressing only when in the designated defensive shape when triggers (conditions) occur. Conditional pressing is usually a consequence of design, particularly in European football, but is sometimes applied subconsciously, usually in English football. It is probably the second most common type of pressing in England. Triggers include, from the opponent: a loose touch, an underweighted pass, or a pass into a congested area (e.g. centre of the pitch).

Here is an example (excuse poor editing as Paint was used):

Dortmund are in their defensive shape of 4-4-1-1 (striker not on screen), whilst a pass is being played across midfield.

The pass is overweighted and the Nurnberg player fails to control the ball, triggering Dortmund to press the ball.

The Dortmund Player (Reus in this case) wins the ball as a result of successful conditional pressing and is able to start a counter attack. The counter attack resulted in a corner for Dortmund.

Another example comes from Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Whilst employing a low block 4-4-2, which sometimes changes to a 4-5-1 in their defensive shape, they seek to force the opposition wide by congesting the middle of the pitch. They then double up on the wings to force a lateral pass inside, which triggers one of the central midfielders, who act like pistons, to press due to there being a higher probability of an interception being made as opposed to a diagonal pass


The rise of double pivots, 3-man midfields, modern day centre-halves and liberos in continental football means that if the English game doesn’t progress with the times, it will fall behind its footballing counterparts because of the sheer speed of which attacks are assembled at in modern football.

Managers should have an effective pressing strategy in mind and should implement such strategies, as a result of design and practice, on the pitch. Effective pressing systems are seen more commonly in top footballing nations such as Germany, Spain & Italy, and it is no coincidence that these countries often perform excellently on the continental and international stages, whilst England fall behind. The art of pressing should be taught from an early age so that it is second nature to players who rise through the system. Of course coaches’ preferences will differ, but that promotes versatility, an invaluable asset that is growing in importance as the game evolves and demands players to be able to play in a number of positions and roles.

After all; if you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.

Wigan 2-0 Ipswich: Poor finishing costs Tractor Boys

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.

Line ups

Line ups

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

Ipswich def shape 1Ipswich def shape 2

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.

Wig att movement 1Wigan’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 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.

Powell 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.

Leicester vs Wigan – Counter-attack could prove to be key for both sides: Match preview

Leicester City vs Wigan Athletic – King Power Stadium – Sky Bet Championship


Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City welcome Wigan Athletic to the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon with the home side 2 points ahead of the visitors in the league table. The Foxes have accumulated 10 points from five games, a decent return considering Leicester were tipped by many to suffer a hangover from last season’s play-off defeat to Watford. Wigan, however, have taken 8 points from their opening five matches, enjoying an average of 2 goals scored per game. It is too early to be able to draw any solid conclusions from the league table, though.

Leicester come into the game off the back of a 2-1 away defeat to Charlton, playing 48 minutes with ten men due to 22 year old midfielder Matty James receiving his marching orders for a second booking. They left some key players on the bench in the shape of Knockaert, Wood and Dyer. Method in the madness suggests that Pearson did not want to put Knockaert in the shop window, which is quite understandable. However, fans have voiced their concerns over the omissions and want to see their best team out every week, which is also understandable. Their last home match resulted in a 3-2 victory over Birmingham, with Leicester requiring a 93rd minute David Nugent penalty to seal all three points. In between those games, The Foxes entertainingly beat Carlisle 5-2 away in Capital One Cup. Their other home match was a 0-0 draw with Leeds in their 2nd league game.

Wigan enter this match-up with only one fit striker in Marc-Antoine Fortuné. Grant Holt was injured for the last match against Nottingham Forest, where The Latics won 2-1, and will be out until October. A solid defensive display worthy of a clean sheet helped Wigan to win the game, only conceding to a sweetly hit free kick from Andy Reid. Prior to this, Wigan could only take a point apiece from home games against Middlesbrough and Doncaster courtesy of late equalisers. Both games lacked creativity from Wigan, but Coyle made 5 changes for the Forest game and the difference was pleasantly noticeable, especially in the first half. Callum McManaman returns from a 3-game suspension, having served his time for a dangerous tackle in the Bournemouth game in which Wigan lost 1-0. Wigan’s other away game was an emphatic 4-0 win at Barnsley on the opening day of the season.

Predicted line ups:

Lei v Wig - PLULeicester are likely to line up in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Nigel Pearson’s ever-changing tactics allow The Foxes to be unpredictable yet reactive, which also brings versatility, a trait which is growing in importance in the modern game. The fact that Pearson has players who can play in a range of positions means that they can change style and shape whenever they please in order to gain an advantage over opponents. This season has seen Pearson field his side in a 3-5-2, 4-3-1-2, and a 4-4-2. It is doubtful that they will go with a 3-5-2 as Wigan always field 2 wide players, which would concede a lot of space behind the wing backs. Wigan’s formation would also be likely to laterally stretch a back three due to supporting midfield runs, which could prove to be a banana skin. It is also unlikely that they will field a 4-4-2, as this would see them a man down in the centre of midfield. By playing in a 4-3-1-2 shape, Leicester have the luxury of matching Wigan’s 3-man midfield, whilst the centre-backs have a numerical advantage playing against a lone striker.

Wigan are expected to line up in a 4-3-2-1 formation, an unchanged shape from the win over Forest. By having 3 central midfielders, Wigan can match Leicester in the middle of the park, if the home side line up as expected, or can even have a numerical advantage should they come up against a 4-4-2. The visitors are limited to playing with a lone striker unless McManaman or Dicko feature up front, which is unlikely. Wigan should have an advantage on the wings, though, as Leicester’s 4-3-1-2 involves only 2 wide players in the form of full backs.

Expected movement & why players will feature

Leicester movement







Schmeichel is Leicester’s best ‘keeper and should perform his standard job.

RB: De Laet should feature due to Wigan’s tendency to attack down, and overload, their left-hand side because he is better defensively than going forward. He will need cover. His forward running will be limited because Wigan usually counter quickly down this side.
RCB: Moore is more mobile than Morgan, so is likely to start on the right side as he can provide cover for De Laet more quickly should Wigan overload that side of the pitch.
LCB: Morgan is the likeliest of the centre backs to start. He is experienced and arguably Leicester’s most accomplished defender.
LB: Konchesky is more likely to start than Bakayogo as Pearson will be wary of Wigan’s counter-attacking. Bakayogo would leave the left side exposed more due to his more attacking nature. Konchesky will want to overlap to link up with Knockaert against Boyce.

RCM: Drinkwater’s defensive running will be mainly lateral as overlaps on the left side will require him to track runs from Espinoza or Beausejour. Must be disciplined going forward.
CM: Hammond should start after joining on loan and will likely be the deepest of the three. His experience of promotion can be key and gives balance to The Foxes’ middle.
LCM: King’s work rate allows him to be up and down at free will. Attacking runs will support Knockaert in build-up play, whilst defensive runs are between the centre back and full back in order to combat Gomez cutting inside.
CAM: Knockaert’s left-sided runs will help him and King/Konchesky create a 2 v 1 with Boyce. Right-sided runs should be on the counter-attack to exploit space conceded should Beausejour be caught out of position when attacking.

LS: Nugent is likely to feature because Wood will probably be jet lagged. He should be a deep lying forward, an increasingly popular role, to drag out Rogne in order to create space for Knockaert or Vardy to run into.
RS: Vardy will be looking to get in behind the Wigan defence as he is quite pacey and will want to be getting onto any flick-ons provided from Nugent.

Wigan movement












GK: Carson will start, despite making a poor impression so far, as Al Habsi is injured.

RB: Boyce should start to provide defensive balance, and attacking runs will be limited due to Wigan’s lack of width on the right. Could be vulnerable due to his pace over 10 yards and Gomez’s low defensive work rate, especially when facing Knockaert & King.
RCB: Rogne should start after a convincing display last week. Asserted on the ball and strong in the air.
LCB: Barnett will more than likely feature on the left side as he has more pace to cope with Vardy than Rogne.
LB: Beausejour should play here ahead of Crainey due to his positional discipline and ability on the ball. He will overlap but only when necessary.

RCM: Powell will probably start as Coyle has said he will feature after replacing McCarthy in the transfer window on loan. Will look to start counter-attacks.
CM: McArthur should replace Watson after a poor performance vs Forest, and can prove himself worthy of a place. He should be the deepest of the three in a deep lying role.
LCM: Espinoza’s energy tenacity was well-needed against Forest. He will be box-to-box and should provide overlaps on the left as he links well with Beausejour & Maloney.

RAM: Gomez’s creativity is what Wigan require. He will drift inside, looking to get on the ball and dictate play. His defensive runs will be central to combat Knockaert or King.
LAM: Maloney is key to Wigan’s attacking play. He is both footed and can cut inside or go down the line. Links well with Beausejour & Espinoza. Defensive runs will be on the outside because it is likely that he will be covering for Beausejour’s overlaps.

ST: Fortuné will show for the ball and is great at holding up, which encourages supporting runs. Wigan can benefit from balls into his feet or chest. Works the left channel regularly.

Predicted tendencies: strategies that could be employed to seal a win


  • Should look for Nugent to come deep to bring Knockaert, King & Vardy into play.
  • Should look to create 2 v 1 situations with Boyce to exploit his slow acceleration and Gomez’s unwillingness to track back.
  • Should look to get Knockaert on the right if Wigan continually attacking down the left as his pace and creativity can provide good counter-attacking opportunities.
  • Should look to have plenty of cover on their right side to help deal with Wigan’s overload.
  • Could exploit the gap between Wigan’s midfield and defence, depending on how deep McArthur plays.


  • Should look for Fortuné to come deep to drag Moore out, creating space for Maloney to thread a ball through to a supporting run.
  • Should look to create from the wings as Wigan outnumber them in this department.
  • Should look for interplay with Beausejour, Espinoza and Maloney as they link up well and understand one another’s play.
  • Should be wary of going too ‘gung-ho’ down the left in order to avoid being caught on the counter.
  • Should look to get Gomez on the ball often as his creativity can create chances for Wigan.


Leicester 1-1 Wigan:

  • Both systems that are likely to be employed have their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Wigan go into the game in better form.
  • Wigan, however, had more international players feature for their countries in midweek and could tire late on.
  • Leicester may not be able to settle due to their ever-changing formations, but their versatility can work in their favour to exploit any Wigan weaknesses.
  • Wigan are starting to adjust to this formation and can build on a good performance in the last game.
  • Wigan are good on the counter-attack due to their flair players, whilst Leicester have players with the ability to punish Wigan on the counter if the away side overloads on the left.
  • Wigan welcome back Callum McManaman from suspension, who certainly has the ability to change a game.
  • Leicester are without Matty James through suspension.
  • Wigan play their first ever European game in the Europa League game on Thursday so may want to take key players off towards the end of the match.
  • The factors point towards a draw and I can see the two sides cancelling each other out, but not without goals. Both defences have conceded often and both sides can score.