Opinion: Latics being left behind in the fight for survival

By Paul Farrington
Last updated : 22 January 2012

Once again the Latics committed critical errors at the wrong times and as a result are now firmly rooted to the foot of the table with games against Tottenham (away), followed by Everton (home), Bolton (away), Aston Villa (home).

The performance and result against Q.P.R. highlighted all that is wrong with the present set up.

So far this season our defence has managed just three clean sheets, and two of those came in the opening month of the season. We have conceeded forty-five goals, an average of more than two a game.

At the same time we just aren't able to score goals. For all the pretty football and possession the Latics sturggle to break opposing teams down.

We were reliant on a fantastic free-kick from Rodallega on Saturday to net our soletary goal. Prior to that, it was McManaman's strike against Swindon in the FA Cup and Rodallega's solo goal against Sunderland.

Three goals scored in four games for January is just the start of a problem that is endemic within the present squad. We have managed just nineteen goals in twenty-two games, an average of less than one goal a game.

It is not so much the goal-scoring that is the big issue, it is the defending. Q.P.R., Everton, West Brom, and Swansea have all managed twenty-two, or twenty-three goals.

The big difference is at the other end where all four team can boast far superior defensive records than ourselves (Everton [26], Swansea [27], West Brom [31], Q.P.R. [37]).

For as long as we are going to conceed goals the way we do, we are going to be easy to beat.

Possession is often an indicator of which team is on top in a football match, but it is goals that win the points. Bolton has less than 40% possession against Liverpool this weekend but they managed to come away with a 3-1 win because they defending stoutly.

It is that run of three games mentioned earlier, against Everton, Bolton, and Aston Villa where the Latics are to pick up at least six points, if we are to remain with a hope of retaining our Premier League status.

With just over a week of the transfer window remaining Roberto Martinez needs to show just what he has. As well as bringing in a much needed finisher at the front end, we need someone who can marshall the defence.

Gary Caldwell is not worth the rumoured £40k a aweek it took to prize him away from Celtic Park (on a four year contract I might add).

He is a great captain and certainly a motivator, but his lack of pace is alarming and to compensate, the Latics drop deeper, and deeper until we're defending inside our own area.

Non more evident than against Q.P.R. this weekend where the shots were reigning down on Al-Habsi's goal from the 20 yard mark as mdifielders charged at our deep defensive line at will.

There are also questions about his defensive compatriots. Maynor Figueroa is a fantastic one-on-one defender and suits his present role very well, as would Steve Gohouri if he could muster some intelligence.

Antoilin Alcaraz is competent, but nothing more, whilst Adrian Lopez makes Caldwell himself look like Usain Bolt on performance enhancing drugs.

Their is one defender, often used by Martinez is the right back role, who would make mince meat of the Caldwell's present centre back efforts.

Step forward Emmerson Boyce. With 132 Premier League appearances for the Latics Martinez must give Boyce the lead role at the back.

He must swallow his pride and admit a poor (and very expensive) signing with Gary Caldwell and give someone else a chance. We're over half-way in this season and we're shipping goals for fun.

For as easy as it is to be critical of the team, particularly at home games, we mustn't. save the criticsm for after the game as it doesn't help the players during it.

Sat near me at home games is possibly one of the lead candidates. Often before the game has started he can be spotted, his face particularly contorted, hurling abuse at an empty pitch.

Once the players have arrived he kicks into over-drive and the abuse flood gates open.

If the gentleman (known locally in the West Stand area in which I sit as 'Potato-face') could as much energy into supporting his team, we would be much better off.

Roberto Martinez has called for togetherness and unity from everyone connected with the club. He told the club's official website: "It's a time for us all to stick together, and there is nothing different on that score," said the Spaniard.

"The players need as much help as we can give them, and we'll try to do that by bringing in a couple of new faces.

"As a football club, we need the fans behind us more than ever and it is that unity that will get is though."

This is clearly a message to supporters after a performance that Martinez knows was sub-standard in such a crucial game.

The dilemma for supporters is whether to address their manager's rallying call or whether it is too late. Following the performance against Q.P.R. it is very easy to say there isn't much hope.

A true supporter however will support their team until the last, even if Gary Caldwell is playing centre back. Where do you stand?

Caldwell

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