Taking Premier League Scalps
I had the pleasure of watching my first live Wigan game of this season, this weekend. It’s been a fantastic season for the Tics so far, and now that we get closer to the business end of each competition it’s great to see that confidence is sky high.
Wigan are now 15 games without defeat, sitting at the top of League One and through to the 5th round of the FA Cup having lost only five games all season in all competitions. And on top of that the boys have conceded just 13 goals in 27 league games (less than 0.5 per game).
This weekend’s game against West Ham shows you just how focused the club is on moving forward and getting back to the Premier League. I was really impressed with how they still stick to the way of playing that I experienced during my days at the club. They kept their cool knowing they are facing a Premier League, which on paper should have been much better.
I know people will say West Ham were down to 10-men (that incident was very disrespectful by Masuaku and thoroughly deserved a red) and that did make it easier for Wigan, but they had already done the hard work of going 1-0 up. They got pushed back sometimes but never really looked like they were in real trouble. West Ham didn’t even manage a shot on target as Christian Walton earned his 10th clean sheet in 14 games.
Will Grigg was the star of the show, grabbing both goals, but Nick Powell was also excellent and the whole team put in performances to be proud of.
“We don’t mind who we get next. Obviously, it would be nice to get one of the big boys but we’ll play anyone,” said Grigg in his post-match interview. And as it turns out the Tics do have one of the big boys as they welcome Pep Guardiola’s Man City in the 5th round.
It will be the third time the two sides have met in five years, after beating City in the final in 2013 to lift the FA Cup trophy and then beating them again the following year in the quarter-final. Wigan have the opportunity to make it a hat-trick in February. This Man City side is one of the best to ever play in the Premier League, but Wigan have to look at it like any other game and not be daunted by their task.
Grigg said they don’t mind who they face, and they will need to take that fearlessness with them into the game. They’ve already knocked out two Premier League teams, and beaten Man City twice in their last two meetings – it just comes down to 90 minutes of football.
Paul Cook’s philosophy as manager has had a big impact on how they set up and take the game to their opponents, whoever they are. “As a fan, I don’t really enjoy seeing people sit off and park the bus. We didn’t do it. For a Wigan fan you want to see your team have a go. Our lads deserve a lot of credit for how they’ve played,” he said after beating West Ham.
“We’ll always engage in a good game, whoever we play.”
They have nothing to lose in the FA Cup, so that’s exactly the kind of spirit they need and fans want to see.
Guardiola is still chasing a quadruple this season, but next he has to get past a Wigan side that doesn’t fear anyone. And history shows that can be a nightmare for Premier League giants.