x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Premier League best and worst: Wigan do a colour analysis

Believing their poor performances are tied to the cut of their kit, Latics revert to basic black, writes Paul Radley.

Wigan, who lost to Tottenham on their last visit to White Hart Lane, above, in November, find their orange away kit to be the anti-lucky charm.
Wigan, who lost to Tottenham on their last visit to White Hart Lane, above, in November, find their orange away kit to be the anti-lucky charm.

Wigan Athletic v Tottenham Hotspur: The portents were especially ominous. First there were the successive thrashings: 4-0 by modest Blackpool then 6-0 to Chelsea, the champions. Then there was the fact the last time Wigan had visited White Hart Lane, they were trounced 9-1. Add to that the fact their opponents were riding a wave of euphoria after sealing their entry into the Champions League, and Roberto Martinez's side had reason to be fearful.

What to do to prevent more devastation? Change the colour of the kit, of course. "We always blame the orange kit for our away performances last season," Martinez, the manager, said. "We never won a game with that kit." So the Latics reverted to black and, hey presto, the jinx was lifted. They could even afford a glaring miss from Antolin Alcaraz, the captain, who then nearly gave away a penalty, too, after appearing to handle the ball in his area. They finally ran out winners when Hugo Rodallega's powder-puff shot found a way through Carlo Cudicini, the Spurs goalkeeper, And it was all thanks to the magic black kit.

Karl Henry (Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United): Not content with leaving the combustible Joey Barton in a heap on the floor, Henry, the Wolves captain, then ploughed straight into the no-less-robust Alan Smith - and came out the other side smiling.

Why pick a fight with one notorious hothead when there is a whole team to start on? "Did Barton do well to keep his cool?" asked Chris Hughton, the Newcastle coach, which he answered himself with the unique response of "Yes". A Wigan away win and Barton keeping a lid on it - all in the same day: wonders never cease. Henry should be advised, however, that he is likely to have a target on his back when he leads his side out for the return fixture later this season. Probably not a day to be handing out the cigars.

Luke Varney (Blackpool v Fulham): Blackpool now have four more points than many observers might have predicted by this point in their maiden Premier League campaign. Ironically, they have two players who did not feature in their unexpected promotion run last season to thank for their bright start. First, Marlon Harewood fired in a brace on his Blackpool debut to down Wigan on the opening day. Now Luke Varney has become the latest to shine on his first day in tangerine.

Having been recruited on loan from Derby County, the Championship side, Varney made a goalscoring start to life at Bloomfield Road against Fulham on Saturday. His effort gave the home side a 2-1 advantage, but Dickson Etuhu's late leveller meant he would have to be satisfied with just a point.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea v Stoke City): Chelsea's Mr Dependable has had a few moments from the spot lately. He may have to cede penalty responsibilities to Didier Drogba for good after his latest botched effort. When Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke captain, felled Florent Malouda in the box, it seemed the floodgates were about to open. Memories of the 7-0 capitulation last time they visited Stamford Bridge were still fresh in Stoke minds, but Lampard spared them. Thomas Sorensen, the Stoke goalkeeper, will have tougher back-passes to deal with than the England midfielder could muster from the spot. It was the third consecutive penalty Lampard has missed for club and country. He received a lesson in how to take them in the second half, when Drogba blasted his own effort into the top corner of Sorensen's net.

Ryan Shawcross (Stoke): Everyone at the Britannia Stadium was miffed when Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, accused the Stoke players of being a bunch of hoodlums last week. Wenger had said they had turned football into rugby in their previous Premier League fixture against Tottenham, and that Shawcross, the captain, had kicked Heurelho Gomes, the goalkeeper. "You don't expect it from a person of Wenger's esteem," Tony Pulis, the fed-up Stoke manager, said. Shawcross did his best to prove Wenger was out of order -and promptly gave away a blatant penalty by felling Florent Malouda in front of the Matthew Harding Stand. That will show him.

pradley@thenational.ae