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5 Things: Wigan v Bolton

After a brave yet disappointing derby day defeat at Dave Whelan’s Flatpack Arena, we will now take a look at some of the things learnt in the clash both on the pitch and off it.

Bolton struggle to deal with the pace of Callum McManaman
Bolton struggle to deal with the pace of Callum McManaman
Clint Hughes

1) Wigan Are Our Main Rivals

For the most part of the last decade we have staunchly defended and maintained our rivalries lie elsewhere, in particular with Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United.

The anticipation for Sundays game in the weeks prior was palpable and somewhat more intense that of the fixtures of Blackpool, Burnley or even Blackburn Rovers. If twitter and various blogs were to go by, this was without question the biggest game of the season. The Wigan rivalry has undeniably been stronger on their part up until now but perhaps the move of Owen Coyle to Wigan pushed this over the edge.

The rivalry makes sense, many of the other North-West clubs are paired off with an ‘Arch-rival' for example, Preston and Blackpool, Liverpool and Everton as well as Burnley and Blackburn.

For one, I rather enjoyed the atmosphere and buzz around Wigan and both sets of fans were clearly up for it so why not, I hope we have many other enjoyable derby days like it!

2) Moritz Can be Effective Away From Home

It has been suggested that Brazilian Andre Moritz is a luxury ill-afforded in away games which are likely to be tightly contested in the middle of the park, Sunday was certainly a case against this theory. Moritz was absolutely key as Bolton tried to get a grip on a game which was slipping away from them.

The Brazilian showed excellent ball retention skills as he exploited the rigidity of the Wigan midfield by drifting into different areas in the pitch and creating a marking dilemma for midfielders Ben Watson and James McArthur.

With Moritz it is also encouraging to see concerns about his fitness, including myself, may have been premature as his impact on the game did not relent up until the final whistle, although I would suspect this is aided by the willing running of Neil Danns, Darren Pratley and Joe Mason, who all seemed available for the ball every time the Wanderers had possession.

With the return of Mark Davies it will be interesting to see where the Wanderers midfield lines up but with so many games in a Championship season it is encouraging to see that we have quality in some depth in that department.

3) The Good and The Bad of Jay Spearing

For a central defensive midfielder there are two aspects of your game, when your team is possession and when it is not in possession and Jay Spearing is like two different players where these are concerned.

Out of possession, Jay Spearing is quite possibly the best player in the Wanderers team. Spearing's tackling is fierce and accurate and his unrecognised pace allows him to hound the opposition in possession to make a challenge or force a distribution error.

Added to this his positioning is fantastic and he has made countless (for me anyway) blocks of longer range efforts throughout the season. All these aspects of Spearing's defensive game where on show on Sunday where he provided a platform for the forwards to express themselves on.

Jay Spearing's problems arise when Bolton are in possession and this has been scrutinised more now we have paid a six-figure fee for our captain. Spearing can become invisible when Bolton are in possession, this is particular prevalent when the ball is with our defensive line, he makes little effort to make himself available for the short ball and often this leads to Wanderers often looking to long or a lofted pass out wide which both come with a high risk of surrendering possession.

When in possession, Spearing will constantly drive a pass to the wider areas on the pitch but then make no effort to go and receive the ball, leaving the winger isolated and having to conjure or create themselves while exposed, this I believe is why Chung-Yong is struggling so much.

Spearing is the best defensive midfielder we have, but this aspect of his game must improve.

4) When is a Good Time to Make a Substitution?

Let's set the scene for this question. On the 64th minute, Bolton Wanderers drew level. We had been rewarded with 2 goals for 20 minutes of sustained pressure and with the crowd lifted and the wind in the sails, the game seemed to be swinging in their favour.

Bolton had options on the bench at this stage to go for the kill, top goal scorer Jermaine Beckford was on the sidelines and it was the opinion of many that he should have been introduced at this stage and go in for the kill whilst Wigan were wounded.

Freedman did not react and 4 minutes later, Bolton were behind. I'm not suggesting that the goal conceded was a direct result of the decision not to act but the results could be visible from the opposition.

Wigan Manager Uwe Rosler had reacted Wanderers first goal by introducing Stephen Crainey and James McLean and Wigan eventually found their feet in the second half and were able to restrict Bolton's chances to a minimum.

Dougie Freedman eventually introduced Jermaine Beckford, Mark Davies and Rob Hall all within the final 12 minutes with very little time in the game to make an impact.

5) Is Alex Baptiste a full-back?

Make no small terms about it, Alex Baptiste was taken apart on Sunday, from the first minute to the last. This was the one area Wigan were able to exploit and the pie-eaters relentless attack Wanderers; faltering full-back Baptiste. Callum McManaman is a gifted player who has a bright future ahead of him, but he was made to look like Arjen Robben by Baptiste who seemed to encourage the scouser to keep running at him by relentlessly diving into tackles.

Everyone has a bad game or can be exploited by a certain players skill set (think Torres/Vidic). Perhaps Freedman could have broken his substitution taboo by introducing a CB and pushing Ream out wide and putting Baptiste out of his misery, which by his body language before half time was quite visible.

It has been suggested to me by many that Baptiste is not a full-back but is a much better centre back, my Blackpool knowledge is not very high and I will only judge off what I have seen from Baptiste and for me, I'm not quite sure he warrants a place in the starting line-up.