Seaside Strategy: Wigan Athletic away

When I set up this blog, I said that one of my main motivations was to offer something different from the other sites dedicated to Blackpool FC. While they all do their jobs well in different ways, one area often overlooked is a detailed insight into tactics.

Inspired by the previously mentioned blog Ghostgoal, I have turned to the Guardian’s excellent Chalkboards feature, which records all sorts of statistics on each and every Premier League game. Chalkboards allows you to view information on a range of things including passes, tackles, shots, blocks, clearances and so on – for both entire teams and individual players.

In this first Seaside Strategy blog, I have decided to take a look at Matt Gilks’ use of the short ball. Both goalkeepers last season sought to play the short ball when available, and I suspect that Holloway’s decision to favour Gilks is down in part to the Rochdale-born keeper’s better use of this tactic. In the games Rachubka played in 2009/10, he would often opt to kick long sooner, whereas Gilks was happier to delay until a short pass opportunity arose.

Let’s take a look at how Gilks employed this tactic at the DW Stadium on Saturday:

by Guardian Chalkboards

From this graphic it is easy to see just why Holloway prefers his ‘keeper to avoid the long ball. The majority of the goal kicks hit long resulted in possession being lost, whereas any pass within his own half attempted by Gilks saw ‘Pool keep hold of the ball.

In one shaky spell before Taylor-Fletcher’s 16th minute goal, it was evident how quickly Premier League sides can come at you when you give the ball away. At this level, ‘Pool need to retain possession as often as they can, and so it is up to the defenders to create even more room and better angles to give Gilks the chance to play the short ball.