Blues 3 Wigan Athletic 2 .. match report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 28 October 2007

They didn't make it easy for themselves though, as is usually their way - two horrendous mistakes gifted Wigan the lead twice, but credit to Blues, they hung on in their and got the win they probably deserved.

Two things dominated the pre-match build up. Firstly, there was Steve Bruce getting the meeting that he'd demanded with Carson Yeung, which was obviously crucial... a man who has nearly two years of job security demanding a meeting with a man who doesn't own the club to discuss his future - important, pressing stuff. Secondly, there was the "Will he? Won't he?" discussions about whether Bruce would revert to a 4-4-2 formation, with two out and out strikers in Cameron Jerome and Garry O'Connor. Well, he didn't.

There was a slight shift in formation, however, to a 4-2-3-1 formation - effectively Blues started with two banks in the midfield. Fabrice Muamba and Mehdi Nafti played centrally and deep, whilst Wilson Palacios played centrally and a lot more advanced, with Olivier Kapo on the left and Daniel de Ridder on the right, both advanced too, with Jerome up top on his own.

Blues started ok, but within 20 minutes or so, having not made a breakthrough, this changed, and Kapo went behind Jerome up top with Palacios going wide left in a more conventional four man midfield, and then there were several variations on a theme for much of the first half and early in the second half.

Personally I'd have started with a straight 4-4-2, in the conventional way, and Blues swapping it around so much did suggest that they (players and management) weren't totally convinced that they'd made the right choice. It's worth noting though that Blues did create plenty of chances with just Jerome up front, and others in differing roles behind him, and that Blues could have been playing 8-1-1, 2-5-3, 10-0-0 or 1-2-7, and they'd have still conceded the two goals that they did, such were the mistakes made that led to Wigan's strikes.

Regular readers will know that I'm no fan of Maik Taylor. In fairness to him, he was given a chance recently and took it and has looked ok, but today I think he was at afult for both goals. For the first, a goalkeeper who reads the game properly should have been advancing as soon as Mario Melchiot launched a long ball forward, anticipating that it may sail over Liam Ridgewell's head, which it did. Once it had done so, had Taylor been reading the game, he should have been picking the ball up on the edge of his area. He didn't though, and Marcus Bent was in on goal, and Taylor was rooted to his line. Bent is no Ruud van Nistelrooy, but when he's 10 yards out and the ball is sitting up beautifully, you'd back him to score past a 'keeper rooted to his line, and he did.

For the second, Melchiot crossed and as the ball went across the six yard box, whether Taylor did call or not, such is the lack of confidence in him, Stephen Kelly also dived in, clipped it past Taylor, and Bent was on hand to finish from an inch out.

Taylor's general play was poor too. His distribution was awful. He insisted on banging long, high balls up at a lone centre forward when he should have been looking for full backs, midfielders or wide players, and so often play broke down because of him.

On to some more positive stuff. In front of Taylor, Blues look to have unearthed a good little defender in Rafael Schmitz. He's not that tall, but competes well in the air (see his header that was going in until his skipper nicked a goal on the line) and looks to read the game superbly. He was well positioned at all times, reads the game well, and you can see he has plenty of experience. Obviously Blues have Johan Djourou to come back, and Ridgewell has impressed, but Schmitz looks like he'll offer plenty too.

De Ridder was another one of the "new" players so a few months into the season is only just beginning to make an impression, following an injury. He was slow to get into the game, but once he did, he was a real threat. He's good on the ball, has excellent control as he skips past people, and looks like he can create things out of nothing - he's the kind of player Blues don't often have, but that all players need.

Talking of players who can make something out of nothing, there's Kapo. At times he drifts out of the game, and as usual, there were fans in the crowd suggesting that he was failing to make an impression and should be hauled off, yet he got two goals. Yes, one was a penalty, but it was cool as you like, and then the second, well, he was the only player in a blue and white penguin shirt who could have scored such a goal, which proved to be the winner. If you're chasing a goal, and even if he's having the quietest game ever, you still wouldn't take him off, because you know what he's capable of, and so it proved. Unfortunately Blues fans in general prefer the blood and thunder, 110mph approach, but Kapo's little touches, flicks and the capacity to score wonder goals mean that he HAS to stay in the team, and the people behind me will have to continue to moan at him, I'm afraid. It's like Nicklas Bendtner all over again...

Three points were crucial today, and Blues got them. They were the better team, created more chances, and deserved the win, but made it hard work. I still find it hard to accept that Wigan are a Premier League team - they're just not. Even Barnsley and Swindon Town seemed like more worthy members of the elite, and Wigan, after a couple of decent seasons (including their escape last season) will really struggle this season, and so it was important that Blues won this.

The one slight concern though is that Blues target these games, tend to do ok in them (a draw against Sunderland and wins against Derby, Bolton and Wigan so far this campaign) and then move on to games against slightly better standard teams and seem to play well, accept defeat, and say "well, as long as we beat the teams around us, we'll be ok". That may well be the case, and Blues, if they continue as they've done so far in their own little mini-league, may well scrape their way to survival, but they need to target some of these other games against Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Man City, Everton, Villa, Newcastle, etc, etc and pick up things from those, because they'll make life so much easier for themselves.

Yes, a win against Wigan is a massive result, but in the bigger picture seven points out of Wigan at home, Everton away and Villa at home would be even better. I'd like to think it can happen, and maybe it will, but for the moment I get the impression that Blues are content to just beat the lowly teams, and a couple of defeats in such games will see Blues in trouble. It'd be great for Blues to go on a bit of a run, and string some results together... let's see if they can do it now.

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