Wigan v Ipswich: the struggle for goals

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Yanic Wildschut

The last time this fixture was played, Ipswich were victorious on a Monday night in September 2014. Christophe Berra was immense at centre-back, as he was for the rest of the season. Midfielders Luke Hyam and Teddy Bishop shone in a battling performance in which the Tractor Boys dominated the midfield through shear aggression, physicality and desire.

Mick McCarthy has since stuck to his principles, yet the team has not executed his plans with the same vigour that they did two years ago. The football has become bland, rather than intimidating and the team is scoring nowhere near as many goals, through open play or set pieces, as they did when they reached the play-offs.

They continue to hoof balls towards strikers who aren’t the biggest – following Daryl Murphy’s departure, they do not have a forward over 185cm tall. Of those available, Leon Best and Luke Varney are arguably League One standard. An out of position Freddie Sears and an injury ravaged David McGoldrick are better, but none of the four are helped by playing in a team that hoofs the ball forward.

Wigan are more of a possession side and they have played every team in the top five bar Brighton in Warren Joyce’s first six games in charge. The other two have been against top half side Barnsley and an improving Aston Villa. Their performance against the latter had been solid until Grealish’s superb late winner from distance.

The problem they have is that the players in their squad do not necessarily have the natural ability to do what Grealish does (on the pitch). Will Grigg’s recent hosing down – no goals since September – means Yanic Wildschut has been their most threatening attacking player of late. His counter-attacking pace was key to an arguably fortuitous victory at Huddersfield – their only win under Warren Joyce – but even Wildschut needs a better end product.

Wigan need to be better in both boxes with individual errors at the back not helping them at times. They have also suffered from injuries and the list of absentees could be extended after left-back Luke Garbutt and centre-back Craig Morgan were forced off during the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle.

Ipswich have five absentees themselves. Jonas Knudsen is available again after a hamstring injury, but fellow left-back Myles Kenlock was excellent at Birmingham in midweek and does not deserve to be dropped. Mick McCarthy should pick the youngster again, partly for his ability, but also for political reasons. Some supporters are becoming disillusioned and picking a dynamic, energetic academy graduate may re-instil some positivity. In a meeting between the two lowest scorers in the Championship, that commodity will be in short supply.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-0

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