Dire defending puts Latics in trouble

Posted by Ned Brown

Press Association/AP ImagesWigan's defence was powerless to stop Sunderland in the first half, when Craig Gardner (center) got things going by converting a penalty kick

Three neatly finished but gift-wrapped Sunderland goals in 20 minutes Saturday settled Wigan's 3-2 home loss before it had even really started. A second-half siege which at one point saw Wigan control 90 percent of possession, hit the bar, the crossbar, and produce an amazing low save from Simon Mignolet, failed to materialize in points. Make no mistake, this was a costly loss and Roberto Martinez has some serious thinking to do to patch up an injury- and morale-hit defence.

- Randall: Fletcher double gives Sunderland hope of tastier morsels to come

The Good:

Encouraging debuts from Roger Espinoza and Angelo Henriquez, who both look like they will be contributors. The team's second-half response was good. But only the excellent Shaun Maloney showed the bravery and skill to create real opportunities and must be wondering what else he has to do to score. Otherwise, a lot of tippy-tappy and not much punch.

The Bad:

The defending that allowed Sunderland three goals was very poor. You can't concede three goals at home to a relegation rival and expect to win.

Roberto's tactics did not inspire confidence. Jordi Gomez offered little in his centre-right midfield position. Franco Di Santo was far too isolated and wasted in a lone centre-forward role. In the second half, it was hard to tell what shape the team was playing in, although they did dominate and created enough chances to merit at least a point.

This was a very damaging result, particularly in light of Reading's recent wins and QPR's revival under Harry Redknapp and their millions. Wigan are very much embroiled in another relegation battle.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 6 -- Not at fault for the goals, but the keeper is no longer inspiring confidence in his defence either.

Emmerson Boyce: 6 -- On several occasions had to cover for Ronnie Stam's mistakes ahead of him, earning a yellow card in the process early in the match that made him more hesitant in his tackling.

Gary Caldwell: 6 -- Hard to tell if he made a mess of the buildup to Steven Fletcher's second goal, or if it was just bad luck. Had a very good second half despite the all-out attack approach that gave him little cover. Prevented further damage by holding up Stephane Sessegnon on a dangerous breakaway.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 -- Not assertive enough for Fletcher's second goal. Tried hard though, and urged the team forward at times. Brilliant shot in second half went just wide but could easily have been the equaliser.

Ronnie Stam: 5 -- Frustrating. Some nice shimmies in attacking play, but very poor defensively. His unfortunate slip let in Adam Johnson in the build-up to the first goal.

Jean Beausejour: 5 -- What has happened to the Chilean? So instrumental in Latics' excellent form last season, his passing was slack and influence limited.

James McArthur: 5 -- Lost the midfield battle in the first half, emphatically won it in the second. Ended up as right back. Gets in decent shooting positions but needs to improve his final product.

James McCarthy: 5 -- Similar to McArthur, lost the battle in those key opening 30 minutes but improved. The team needs more from a player of his ability.

Jordi Gomez: 5 -- Poor. Hit the crossbar via a deflected free-kick but his finishing was generally substandard.

Shaun Maloney: 9 -- Deserved at least a goal for his tireless invention, positivity and all-round excellent play. On his own though. Hit the post and kept out by an inspired Mignolet save. Provided a wonderful cross for the second goal.

Franco Di Santo: 5 -- Anonymous.

Subs:

Roger Espinoza: 7 -- An encouraging debut. A few dodgy touches but grew as the match went on, and put in a couple lovely crosses/passes. Looks a useful player.

Angelo Henriquez: Took his 79th-minute goal very well and showed no lack of effort, but spent part of his time on the field in an unfamiliar right-wing position.

Mauro Boselli: Thrown on late, didn't have any real chances.

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