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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Wigan dominated by visitors in Swansea stalemate

Paul Cook's men are starting to slow down

Wigan goalkeeper Christian Walton
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship

Wigan 0 Swansea 0

The story of the match
Swansea controlled most of this Sky Bet Championship contest and Wigan were fortunate to claim a point, although they did muster the best opportunity of an entertaining 90 minutes when Will Grigg was denied in a one-on-one situation by the foot of visiting goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt.

It would have been a travesty had the substitute won the match for Wigan. Grigg's effort was Athletic's only shot on target and came about from a sloppy back pass from Matt Grimes rather than outstanding creative play from the Latics.

Swansea dominated possession (60 per cent to 40), shots (17-10), shots on target (5-1) and corners (9-4) but were denied by some excellent goalkeeping, last-ditch defending, poor finishing and some rotten luck.

Barrie McKay's effort was saved after excellent work by Jay Fulton and then the midfielder set up Connor Roberts who was also frustrated by Latics keeper Christian Walton, although the second half was a more even contest.

The closest Swansea came to breaking the deadlock was when Martin Olsson's shot was deflected inches wide of the post.   

Tactics
Wigan were ambitious as they tried to push high up to engage Swansea but the Welsh club often beat the press and in the second period Cook's men seemed to get to grips better with the possession-based game of their opponents.

It's commonly seen as a 4-2-3-1 formation but Nick Powell played much closer to lone striker Joe Garner, making it almost 4-4-2 at times.

Full-backs Reece James and Antonee Robinson, young Premier League full-backs on loan from Chelsea and Everton respectively, are encouraged forward and given that commitment it is surprising to note six of Wigan's last seven matches have featured under 2.5 goals.

Five of those Sky Bet Championship fixtures landed for under 1.5-goal backers too.  

Strengths
Wigan, unbeaten at the DW Stadium since February, clearly usually make the most of home advantage but on this occasion they were almost forced into playing in the style of an away team.

Walton was Wigan's man of the match after making a number of key saves, while centre-back Chey Dunkley also made important interventions and despite Chelsea's poor reputation for giving academy players opportunities, James has the potential to make a Stamford Bridge breakthrough.

He is strong going in both directions, but this was a tough match for Wigan's forward players and the usually influential Nick Powell showed only glimpses of his unquestionable talent.  

Weaknesses
Garner barely got a kick before being replaced by Grigg early in the second period.

Josh Windass failed to make much of an impression either and any goal threat from the wing came from Michael Jacobs on the opposite flank. Sam Morsy, ruled out through a minor injury, was missed in midfield too as Wigan completed 392 passes to Swansea's 602. 

Goalscorer notebook
Without wishing to be too obvious, Grigg was the man who seemed most likely to net for Wigan. He should have scored when through against Nordfeldt and almost connected with a header from Callum McManaman's cross. 

View from the camp
Wigan assistant manager Leam Richardson said: "Swansea are a very good team and on reflection we are pleased with a point. It was a very, very good 0-0."

Prospects
It has been a fantastic start to the campaign for Wigan since their promotion from League One, but on the evidence of this game at least, Athletic are unlikely to maintain their current lofty status.

Wigan could fall somewhere back towards mid-table, still a decent achievement in itself, and the next few weeks will tell us plenty as they tackle West Brom (home), Sheffield United (away), Leeds (home) and Middlesbrough (away) in their next six matches.

Cook's men have collected the same points as Swansea after 11 matches, although the superior Swans should finish comfortably above Wigan if this 90 minutes is a true reflection.

Opposition
Swansea are possibly the most fascinating team I have seen this season and pound for pound Graham Potter should be considered as doing one of the finest coaching jobs anywhere, particularly considering the summer fire sale following relegation from the Premier League.

The players are constantly rotating positions, with the ball, like the players, always on the move. It's a bit similar to watching Manchester City without the devastating quality in the final third.

Right-back Kyle Naughton takes up unusual positions, sometimes popping up centrally like Kyle Walker, and Fulton is in the Kevin De Bruyne role, trying to find space in the inside-right channel.

Fulton was the best player on the pitch for an hour, although Swansea lost some control when midfield pivot Tom Carroll went off injured and they need to be more clinical having failed to score in four of their last five matches.

However, with four clean sheets in five and a classy coach, Swansea are a good team who could be top-six material.

Teams
Wigan 4-2-3-1: Walton; James, Dunkley, Kipre, Robinson; Gibson (Connolly 77), Evans; Windass, Powell (McManaman 83), Jacobs; Garner (Grigg 54).

Swansea 4-1-4-1: Nordfeldt; Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Rodon, Grimes; Carroll (Olsson 52); Roberts, Fulton (Routledge 73), Celina, McKay (Fer 65); McBurnie. 

Next three league fixtures
Wigan: Preston (a), West Brom (h), Millwall (a).

Swansea: Ipswich (h), Aston Villa (a), Blackburn (h).


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Walton was Wigan's man of the match after making a number of key saves
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