Could Wigan's left-sided trio help put another nail in QPR's coffin?
ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses FourFourTwo's StatsZone app Ã¢ÂÂ FREE and now featuring data from the UEFA Champions League Ã¢ÂÂ to explain how Wigan's left side is helping them out of yet another sticky spot...
The British weather might not reflect it, but we have now reached Spring Ã¢ÂÂ which inevitably means Wigan Athletic are making a late, desperate bid for survival.
Never relegated from the Premier League since their first appearance in 2005/06, Roberto MartinezÃ¢ÂÂs side have won three of their last four matches Ã¢ÂÂ and whereas they made a habit of defeating big sides in last season's run-in, this time around the victories have been against Newcastle, Reading and Norwich Ã¢ÂÂ sides themselves not yet safe from the drop.
Since switching to a 3-4-3 formation midway through last season, MartinezÃ¢ÂÂs side offer great width down both sides Ã¢ÂÂ sometimes, you find Wigan have three players (a centre-back, a wing-back and a winger) wider than any opponents. Ã¢ÂÂWe are organised defensively and we are creating opportunities,Ã¢ÂÂ says Martinez. Ã¢ÂÂIt's not a case of the players adapting to a system. It's adapting to a system that suits our players.
Last weekendÃ¢ÂÂs victory over Norwich was particularly notable for WiganÃ¢ÂÂs effectiveness down the left flank. The vast majority of their Ã¢ÂÂfinal thirdÃ¢ÂÂ entries came down that side, which was inevitably the zone where most of their chances originated.
So what caused WiganÃ¢ÂÂs dominance down that side? First, their left-sided centre-back, Maynor Figueroa, is more of a left-back than a centre-back. Widely known for his excellent left foot rather than his defensive abilities, Figueroa pushes up significantly more than Paul Scharner, who plays on the right of the back three.
Figueroa frequently receives possession close to the touchline, and although his forward distribution is often wayward, the Honduran certainly offers an attacking presence down that side.
Second, Jean Beausejour is a truly excellent wing-back. Naturally a winger, Beausejour became an adaptable player when playing in Marcelo BielsaÃ¢ÂÂs famously attack-minded Chile side, and stretches the play expertly on the left. He collects the ball in advanced positions Ã¢ÂÂ again, heÃ¢ÂÂs more adventurous than his equivalent on the right, Emmerson Boyce, and is a frequent crosser. Only Leighton Baines and Gareth Bale have crossed the ball more in 2012/13.
On the left of attack, thereÃ¢ÂÂs Shaun Maloney. HeÃ¢ÂÂs an interesting player Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs not a natural wide man, and the nature of his roaming role means Wigan often look more like a 3-4-2-1 than a 3-4-3. But against Norwich, a side that defend narrow and pack the centre of the pitch, Maloney moved out wide to combine with Beausejour, linking the play with neat, clever passing triangles, allowing Beausejour to get into crossing position. It was notable how many of his passes were played forwards, despite Ã¢ÂÂ on paper Ã¢ÂÂ only Arouna Kone, WiganÃ¢ÂÂs centre-forward, starting in a more advanced position.
This meant WiganÃ¢ÂÂs most frequent passing combinations were down the left, with Maloney and BeausejourÃ¢ÂÂs one-twos particularly dangerous.
This weekend, Wigan travel to Queens Park Rangers. Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs side must be attack-minded Ã¢ÂÂ draws are of no use in their position rÃ¢ÂÂ but despite a couple of clean sheets at the start of his reign, QPR have struggled to find the right balance between defence and attack under Redknapp. When they score goals, they generally concede too.
Their right flank will be tested defensively. Right-back Jose Bosingwa has endured a difficult campaign Ã¢ÂÂ it appeared he would be leaving the club in the January transfer window, but was surprisingly reinstated by Redknapp Ã¢ÂÂ while youngster Andros Townsend has impressed going forward, but offers little defensive protection.
Therefore, Martinez will be encouraging his side to attack predominantly down their favoured left wide. Wigan will be more cautious than in their previous three matches, which have all been at the DW Stadium, but the Maloney-Beausejour combination could be highly effective on the break.#
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