x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hardly any degree of separation between Wigan and Blackburn

Similar situation and similar location: Richard Jolly examines what is wrong with the neighbouring Premier League clubs' flagging fortunes this season.

Separated by 20 miles, one point and one place, Wigan against Blackburn is the Premier League's desperation derby. The local rivals are adrift at the foot of the division and, early as it is, the expression "relegation six-pointer" has rarely seemed more appropriate; between them, the clubs have 11 points. The clubs are united by more than geography, as the Lancastrian sides' struggles show:

Late deals

Arguably neither side was fully ready for the start of the season. Both conducted much of their summer business in the last few days of the window, which has made integrating their new signings harder. Blackburn began with a midfielder, Steven Nzonzi, playing centre-back before a specialist, Scott Dann was signed. Between them, they made five signings in the final two days of August, which begs the question of what they did in the rest of the summer.

Porous defences

Or poor defences, for short. Wigan, who let in only 51 goals in their last 36 league games last season, have sieved 20 in 11 this time around. Blackburn's record is worse, with 24 concessions and no clean sheets. Individual errors have been compounded by a lack of organisation.

Suspensions

Wigan will be without their captain and best defender, Antolin Alcaraz, for the next three games after he was caught on camera spitting at Wolves' Richard Stearman. Less reprehensible but hardly helpful is the absence of Blackburn's right-back Jason Lowe, who has been banned for getting booked as many as five times in six games. It is likely to leave Rovers with a centre-back playing out of position on Saturday.

Missed chances

Neither side has a clinical finisher. The mercurial Hugo Rodallega was the closest Wigan had to a goalscorer but he was guilty of a glaring miss against Wolves 13 days ago and has not struck since he kept Athletic up with a winner at Stoke in May. Blackburn's main striker, Yakubu, has a better recent record but spurned two presentable chances in the defeat to Chelsea last time out.

Missed penalties

Nothing says profligacy quite like an inability to score from 12 yards. Wigan's penalty-taker, Ben Watson, has succeeded with only one of his three attempts this season. Blackburn topped that, missing twice in 45 minutes against Everton in August.

Late goals

At the wrong end, of course. Blackburn have already lost three points in injury time, with Everton scoring a late winner and Norwich coming back from 3-1 down to draw. Wigan, meanwhile, were on course for a point against both Everton and Newcastle until the last 10 minutes.

Losing runs

Wigan's sequence of eight successive defeats is much the worst in the division this season. Blackburn, however, started off with three straight losses and have been beaten in five of their six games at Ewood Park.

Naive tactics

Both Steve Kean and Roberto Martinez are trying to implement a passing game, but it leads to accusations of naivety when more pragmatic sides beat them. Essentially, it is easier to stop other sides playing the beautiful game than to turn on the style yourself.

Cost-cutting

Thanks to the sales of Charles N'Zogbia and Phil Jones, respectively, both made a transfer-market profit. But the consequence is that they have weaker teams, as the league table illustrates.

Injuries

Alcaraz and Maynor Figueroa, two of Wigan's key men, have been bit-part players. Captain Ryan Nelsen has made only one appearance for Blackburn, and Dann and David Dunn have been other absentees.

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