Club Focus – Wigan Athletic – N’Zogbia France call-up lifts the disappointment of pre-season Real Zaragoza defeat

Wigan’s penultimate pre-season friendly ended in defeat as Real Zaragoza beat a spirited Latics team. Wigan played sharp and precise football that helped them unlock the Zaragoza defence without being able to apply the finishing touches. New signing Mauro Boselli instantly linked up with Hugo Rodallega and showed awareness and was instinctive throughout the match. Defensive signing Ronnie Stam started and delighted fans with his runs up and down the wing and dangerous crossing. New boy James McArthur also had a good game winning possession both in front of his defence and high up the field as well as being effective when he had the ball.

However the game also showed Wigan’s weaknesses. Balls over the top of the defence undid Wigan twice, leading to the first two goals. Failure to clear the ball led to the third goal proving that old habits die hard from last season. The Latics also couldn’t apply any decisive touches when they had broken through the Zaragoza back line.

Jorge Lopez fired the Spanish into the lead from the spot after Chris Kirkland brought down Marco Perez in the area. Just before half time Charles N’Zogbia levelled the scores after racing through to collect Ben Watson’s pass and rounded goalkeeper Leo Franco. But in the second half Braulio Nobrega was played in over the top before slotting in the far post past Kirkland. Zaragoza wrapped the game up late on when Gabriel Fernandez’s rocket shot curled away from Kirkland and bounced in off the bar.

With the start of the Premier League season just over a week away, Roberto Martinez was pleased with the workout, irrespective of the result. “It was a very good exercise, Zaragoza are a side that bring you something different, I felt we coped with it really well,” he said. The Wigan manager did admit that the team could improve. “We’ve got good talent there but we need to improve in certain areas and we need to learn our lessons and games like today really help us to progress,” admitted Martinez, adding, “There were a couple of mistakes in the build up [for Zaragoza’s third goal] and that’s something that we need to avoid.”

Martinez also praised the way the new faces fitted in: “You’ve got the new players coming in and bringing something different so the competition for places is really high, and that’s what we need to progress.”

Wigan will now look towards the final pre-season match against Dundee United. Martinez is looking forward to preparing his side for a different type of test then what they faced against Zaragoza. “The way Dundee United play is a completely different situation to the one we found tonight and that’s exactly what we need, different dimensions. We’re really getting close now to being ready for the start of the season.”

One player not featuring in the Zaragoza friendly, as he indeed has not since January, was Jason Koumas. He has signed a season long loan deal with Championship Cardiff City, rejoining the team on loan. The playmaker spent the 05-06 season at Cardiff playing 44 games and scoring 12 goals – a loan spell which reinvigorated his career and earned the Latics interest. Koumas has struggled to get into the first team at the DW Stadium, playing only 10 times last season. Koumas said: “It’s great to be back and it feels a long time coming – I just can’t wait to get started now. I told Wigan there was only one place for me and that was back to Cardiff City.” Despite his willingness to depart, Koumas is a talented player – quick, direct and a dribbler. Players of such creative talent are rare, especially in the lower reaches of the Premeir League, and his departure leaves Wigan short of back-up in a vital area.

On a sweeter note, Charles N’Zogbia has been called up into Laurent Blanc’s provisional France squad for a friendly against Norway next Wednesday. The winger earned his call up after a very impressive season last year, with his goals and assists helping Wigan survive at the end of the season.

N’Zogbia played 13 times for the French U-21 between 2007-2009 without scoring for the team. In 2008 he declined an invitation to join the Congo DR as he was still thinking about his international future. With thoughts pessimistic as to Wigan’s chances this season, N’Zogbia’s call-up gives the club a fillip going into the final stages of pre-season and offsetting the defeat to Real Zaragoza to an extent.

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