A Review of Wigan vs. Reading: Attacking Flair or Just very Bad Defending?
You could have been mistaken for watching an El Classico given the openness and end-to-end action in the Wigan vs. Reading game. With Wigan heading into the game after back-to-back defeats and missing key players – most notably their captain Gary Caldwell- an open game was on the cards, particularly as Wigan stuck to their infamous 3-4-3 formation.
Being at home, the onus was on Wigan to dictate the flow of the game. And dictate they did, having 66.7% of possession. Reading set up to counter attack in numbers, with Jason Roberts an effective outlet down the channels. The midfield was often bypassed by both sides, as the game became stretched and open. If there was ever a game to demonstrate the importance of final third passing, this was it. Reading completed just 58.9% of their final third passes, compared to 76% of final third passes completed by Wigan. This is perhaps the most significant statistic of the game and emphasises Reading’s inability to take advantage of what was a weak Wigan defence. Too often were Reading outnumbering Wigan at the far post, only for the final ball to lack the required quality. The absence of Gary Caldwell was evident, as free kicks and corners exposed Wigan’s aerial frailties. Wigan’s ability to cut through the middle of the Reading defence with ease and create goal scoring opportunities was a key difference in the game, with the introduction of Franco Di Santo at half time fundamental in this. Despite Wigan creating only 2 more chances (15) than Reading (13), Wigan created at least 4 clear goal scoring opportunities, with Kone in particular, guilty of some poor finishing. 9 out of Wigan’s 18 attempts were on target, of which 17 were from inside the area. Compare this to Reading, who managed just 6 attempts on target out of their 16. 11 of their shots were from inside the area, which highlights Wigan’s inability to cope with crosses. The 3-4-3 formation adopted by Wigan allowed Reading to expose the space in the channels, only for them to lack the final ball.
Credit to Reading for adopting an attacking mentality and playing their part in what was an exciting match, but Brian McDermott was quick to point out that his side need to be “more ruthless”. Reading will struggle to avoid relegation this season if they allow a home side that much time and space in the 93rd minute of a game. The square ball across the penalty area to Gomez was all too simple. It is also has to be noted that it was a rare mistake from Wigan goalkeeper Al Habsi that gifted Reading the lead. Twice failing to keep the lead against a Wigan side that had lost all 7 games after falling behind this season is a concern for Reading. McDermott wants his side to be “more ruthless” and take a point, but can you rely on a defence that has conceded the (joint) fifth most goals despite playing a game less? Based on this performance and the opportunities that Wigan created, the 7-5 defeat that Reading endured against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup may not be a one-off. That said, Reading’s inability to play the final ball and punish Wigan’s defence does hide what was a very poor defensive display from Wigan. This would have been a worry for Martinez, especially with Manchester City up next.