Wigan v Spurs. Modric and Pav Rise Above the Morass

I thought better of writing a preview for the Wigan match. There was nothing new to be said – keep it on the floor, don’t whack it up to Crouch, in fact just keep it. I trust you did not feel let down, dear reader, but you’ve heard it all before. In fact, I did you a favour and let you have more time in bed on a Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, I knocked out something on the problems facing young players at the club, which has done the rounds of the messageboards, interesting feedback, thank you all.

But my non-preview didn’t take account of the infamous Wigan pitch. The long ball would have been a more valid tactic yesterday. Pass and move is all very well when neither is easy in the peat bog of a midfield. Think of it more as a history lesson. Hey kids!!! That’s what the Lane was like in the good old days! I narrowed my eyes and could almost see Steve Perryman and John Pratt ploughing through the mud, sleeves rolled up, shoulders hunched not so much to protect the ball but more to summon up the strength to run another few yards. It looked so odd. Watching the game with a couple of teenagers, it struck me that they had never seen a Premier League match in conditions that were commonplace 15 years ago.

Problem was, neither had most of our players. It takes long enough for instructions to flow from Big Tom’s brain to his feet under normal circumstances but when the feet aren’t moving it adds a whole other dimension. ‘A bit late’ sums up his afternoon and that of a few others. The verdant pastures of the wings, green, firm and welcoming, were there to be used but Bentley and Corluka seemed more stuck than most, Kranjcar had a quiet afternoon and he drifts in anyway, so it was left once more to Gareth Bale to seize the opportunity to inject much needed pace into our attacks. His was the decisive intervention of the first half, cutting in to provide Defoe with a well-taken touch for our first.

He was way offside and knew it, his guilty glance at the linesman before beginning a muted celebration betraying this poor decision. Goals are always important but this came at a crucial juncture as the match was settling down without either side achieving dominance. After this Wigan were always chasing the game and their weaknesses were cruelly exposed. In seeking to stifle us in midfield with a five and two men wide, they blunted their own already limited attacking options. Later, they pushed two and three forward but left themselves open at the back.

As usual we responded by giving away the ball and a series of unnecessary fouls. It was a day for firm passing to feet or maybe ahead of the forwards – Wigan left space for us to do so, unlike recent opponents – but in the first half we were able to do neither. Crocuh could not make it stick, again he really could have done more to hold the ball up but equally we could have maintained a presence closer to him rather than leave him on his own.

Referee Wiley had as much trouble coming to terms with the conditions as many of players. Having missed Defoe’s early foul, he booked Bentley for an innocuous challenge well inside the Wigan half. Consistency is the key for refereeing but this set an unfortunately low benchmark as players slipped and stumbled. A foul is a foul whatever the conditions but he booked players too early, and then pulled back from the consequences, of sending players off for two relatively minor offences. Hud could easily have gone before the end.

The second half began in similarly stuttering fashion, then gradually we got on top and remained there until the end. Wigan seldom threatened but we pressured ourselves with those early and wasteful bookings for Bentley, Defoe and Dawson creating an unnecessary edge. I held my breath as they pondered challenges    and worried when King was replaced by Bassong. He’s looked out of sorts lately – his expression recalls Darren Bent’s taut drawn face – and he and Gomes almost conspired to cock up a long ball. Then it clicked, and for the rest of the match he hoofed the ball forward, high, off, up with a glorious absence of dexterity that was absolutely right for the conditions.

Harry has been roundly criticised of late, although not here, for his conservative policy on the use of substitutes. Yesterday he secured the game by bringing on Modric relatively early. In difficult conditions, Modric proved that class will always tell. Where lesser players toiled, he skipped over the surface, passing with firm certainty and running steadily into the heart of the Wigan defence. He was our best performer, a wonderful cameo and he was unlucky not to score with a first time touch that struck the post and rebounded in to the arms of a grateful keeper, rooted to the spot by the speed of the strike rather than the cloying mud.

And so to Pavlychencko. TOMM has never cast him as Our Saviour but has wanted him to play because his talents will suit our style, and so it was. Defoe may have been the choice to come off not because of Harry’s tactical genius but because of the striker’s stupidity – the next foul or whinge and he could have been off- but it proved a masterstroke. Freed from the responsibility of being the striker furthest forward, Pav could move onto the ball rather than have his back to the opponent’s goal half the time. His movement was instinctive and natural – this is what he is used to, this is his game, and how he revelled in his freedom. Brilliantly done and he will play a vital part in our run in.

Not before time…Harry’s face was a picture. He looked so miserable…but to be fair, he always looks like that. More to the point, Pav’s fellow players appeared genuinely delighted for him at the end, Defoe making a beeline for him at the whistle and others joining in the celebrations. He’s part of the team whatever Harry thinks.

Wigan on this performance are as poor a side as I have seen this season but all our players were pleased on emerging from this hard slog with the points, and so they should be.

7 thoughts on “Wigan v Spurs. Modric and Pav Rise Above the Morass

  1. great result for us yesterday, that fixture could of been slippery.
    Still get this niggling feeling that …had Defoe not found himself
    (Offside again)this time with some much desreved luck.. and then using
    his great football brain in trying to fight the player he’s just nearly
    seithed in to two (Good chllenge J)Rooney would of just walked away and
    nutmegged him and then broke him in half (legally)at some later point. So
    did Harry plan this (SUB) or was it forced. Would Pav had saved our sorry
    arses if harrys little mate Jermaine was’nt on a yellow. Love Spurs….
    I have hope for harry (thanks for bringing some pride back to the lane)
    Just failing to see harrys grasping of the nettle ,as oppsed to his Houdini
    random percentage approach.
    Still …while he’s a guest in our home, suppose u got to love him ????
    COYS

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  2. About time Pav got a chance to play. He was brilliant and can be the difference between 4th. and 7th. Crouch’s act has been figured out and he has been largely innoffective lately and Defoe has gone cold. Play the lad. His teammates clearly like him as they showed when he scored both times. As for Harry; well let’s just look at what he has done for our club and judge him just by his record. All managers and players are “guests in our home” so why point that obvious fact out? He is a sound manager that has finally got an opportunity to manage a “big club” and has resources he has never had before. Leave him be because I think he can take us to the promised land. Besides he makes me laugh; doesn’t take himself too seriously and genuinely loves his job and our club.

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  3. Yay. Well said John, completely agree. Overjoyed to see Pav get those goals but am not sure Crouch should be the one to make way. He serves a purpose. JD, on the other hand, has gone off the boil and his petulance on Sunday shows that he knows it too. Pav has quick feet and could feed off Crouch quite nicely.

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  4. If Modric can skip through the mud why can’t some of the others? I liked the retro-pitch and I think they should keep it that way as a tribute to the 70’s. They could make everyone play with big boots and an old style ball to give us all a regular laugh.

    A good win in the circumstances though our fourth position is pretty vulnerable to City and the Villa (or even Liverpool). Our run in is tough and I suspect we are too fragile to challenge for this spot by the end of the season.

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  5. Sory John , Ill just continue pulling my hair out watching Utter S***,shall I
    (Crouch)(Jenas)(Sometimes Db over Gio)(Rubbish stubborn subs). I tell you what mate…when you agree to my pay sky bill and for my petrol and £48/64 ticket cotsts x2 and food (Doobie)expenses ,then I ll agree to “not state the obvious”
    …!!!! untill then though………Cheers. Only mentioned the(home thing)Cos he KEEPS TELLIN PORKIES!!! I f he finishes in “the promised land”(which lacks detail)…Then rightly so ,it’s then he should be judged, for now though he needs to be watched.
    How could I forget john!? Course (His first big shot at a big club)He ‘s so focused a Sports news columnist and an interviewer xtroidenairre Did I forget duty as sales broker/part time (pompey samaritan)..(Tax court appearer).. I Bet Fergie Ancelotti Oneil mancini (excuse voyeurism) WEnker wipe their arses with ‘THE SUN’ (Even though I like it), i dont think it’s just you he makes laugh mate………Like I said he’s the one picking the team and is the guy at the helm of our current good run just (leave out the Bull********g)is really all I’m saying .

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  6. Before Pav headed down the Lane I saw him play a fantastic game for Russia v Holland in Euro 2008. He scored two, I think, sublime goals.

    When we signed this lad I thought it was an awesome signing. I reckon we haven’t got the best out of Pav, he helped make a powerful Holland look poor.

    He’s well better than Crouch

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  7. blooming hell SPURSINCE82 you are talking about the guy who has us fourth in February and still in the cup with 66 points from our last 38 games too. I am extremely happy with what he has done with my club in just one year and hope he gets a good few years yet to continue his good work. Not sure he will though as we have a history of firing managers and looking for the greener grass – sometimes ending up in a cow pat instead 🙂

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