Wigan Athletic have gotten another boost to their quest to survive relegation in the Premier League, as they convincingly beat 4th place Newcastle United 4-0 Saturday on the strength of first half goals from Victor Moses (2), Shaun Maloney, and Franco Di Santo. Wigan have gained a reputation for being "giant killers"* down the stretch, with each felled team walking away shaking their heads and wondering how they dropped points against a relegation candidate. That's a bit unfair to the Latics - at some point they deserve some respect in their own right - but the fact remains that of the Toon's remaining fixtures, this one certainly seemed the most winnable.
*I'll leave the distinction of whether or not Newcastle are really a giant to you, dear reader.
Respect was most definitely part of the equation in this loss. The Magpies took the pitch today with a cloud of hubris smothering them, as if they felt they would grab three points simply by showing up. Surely they were looking forward to the week ahead, with Chelsea and Manchester City looming on the horizon, and the result was sluggish play. Newcastle were content to show Wigan the ball, and to their credit, the Latics took advantage, executing crisp passes and using the entire width of the pitch.
Even after the opening goal by Victor Moses, one got the feeling, both from the away supporters and from the players on the pitch, that this deficit not only could be overcome, but that it would be. That kind of confidence is reassuring, but it means nothing if the problems are not corrected. Alan Pardew switched the formation after Moses scored a second time, playing 3 at the back, but it turns out that playing Mike Williamson by himself in the middle of the pitch has its own disadvantages. Not that he was the sole problem - Danny Simpson was constantly out of position and Tim Krul failed to take charge of the ball on several occasions.
The second half was better for Newcastle, as Hatem Ben Arfa came alive and Papiss Cisse rattled the woodwork on more than one occasion, but it wasn't enough, obviously. The best thing one can say about this match is that Newcastle held Wigan to a scoreless draw in the second half, and they'll need to do better than that at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.