Wigan 0 Liverpool 4: Lessons learned as Luis Suárez treble stuns Latics
Wigan 0 Liverpool 4: What lessons did we learn as Luis Suarez's hat-trick heaped misery on Roberto Martinez's struggling side?
Smiling Suárez emulates Fowler and Torres
What a difference a season can make. Liverpool’s last visit to Wigan was overshadowed by the infamous Luis Suárez T-shirts widely condemned and ridiculed. The Uruguayan was in the midst of a racism saga involving Patrice Evra (he was later found guilty and banned for eight games by the FA) while also misfiring in the Premier League. Fast forward 14 months and the former Ajax man is the top scorer in the English top flight with 21 goals to his name, edging past Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (19), while also becoming just the third Reds player to reach 20 Premier League goals in a season. Philippe Coutinho was the chief architect for Suárez’s opening strike as the forward effortlessly controlled the Brazilian’s pass and slotted his finish past Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. The 26-year-old scored two free-kicks in a 3-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg in his last outing and Suárez notched his third in successive set-piece in the 34th minute. The Liverpool talisman saw his effort take a slight deflection off Shaun Maloney to leave Al-Habsi powerless to deny the South American his 20th league goal of the season, emulating Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. While he may have left DW Stadium with a bundle of T-shirts last season, Suárez ensured it would be the match ball on this occasion as he completed a sweeping counter-attack to give his side a commanding 48th-minute lead and polish off his third away hat-trick – only Michael Owen (5) and Wayne Rooney (4) have more on their travels.
Cunning Coutinho carves Wigan apart
Liverpool’s new boy Coutinho received the backing of fellow Brazilians Lucas Leiva and Júlio Cesar ahead of the trip to Wigan Athletic. The playmaker, who arrived in a £8.5m deal from Inter Milan in January, is undoubtedly a talented youngster, highlighted by his superb solo goal in a 5-0 victory over Swansea, but doubts remain over how he will adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. A trip to Wigan Athletic provided Coutinho with his first taste of an away day in the English top flight, and the slight midfielder passed with flying colours, albeit against a very poor side. The 20-year-old cut open the Latics rearguard inside 101 seconds as he jinked past Emmerson Boyce and crossed for Stewart Downing, who headed past Al-Habsi. If Coutinho’s opening assist was about persistence and a quick turn of pace, his second highlighted the South American’s reading of the game and eye for an incisive pass. He spun away from an opponent before sliding a perfectly-weighted ball into Suárez, with the Uruguayan tucking his finish past Al-Habsi. James McArthur gave Coutinho his formal Premier League induction with a crunching tackle in the second half but the Reds starlet hopped back on his feet, unfazed. He could be the final piece of the jigsaw in Brendan Rodgers’s attacking quartet of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Suárez.
Di Santo reflects Jekyll and Hyde nature of Wigan
Wigan’s erratic form is best reflected in their frustrating striker Franco Di Santo. The Argentine is a talented marksman with an eye for the spectacular – like his stunning equaliser against Fulham in January – but fails to produce match-winning performances on a regular basis. He has managed an underwhelming five goals in 27 appearances this term, which isn’t enough for a struggling side such as Wigan. In recent weeks, Roberto Martínez’s side have benefited from Arouna Kone’s six goals in six appearance but the Ivory Coast international was well-marshalled by the visitors on Saturday. Daniel Agger has struggled against mobile and muscular forwards this season, with Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku both getting one over the Dane at Anfield. But Di Santo failed to trouble Agger or Jamie Carragher with his predictable movement and a relaxed work-rate. Santo’s miserable afternoon was prematurely ended in the 51st minute and with it, Wigan’s chances of salvaging a result. Martínez needs to get his big Argentine ticking if the Latics are to move clear of danger.
Whelan’s Wigan in deep trouble
With Tony Fernandes celebrating Queens Park Rangers’s 2-1 victory in style in Kuala Lumpur, Wigan owner Dave Whelan will have rued ending his Barbados holiday to watch Liverpool thump the Latics. Bottom-of-the-table QPR moved to within four points of 17th-placed Wigan courtesy of their St Mary’s triumph and the west London side have a chance to reduce the gap even further with games against Sunderland and Aston Villa on the horizon. Last season, Martínez’s side went on a stunning run of results to move out of the bottom three in style, including victories against Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United. And the Latics will need to replicate that run in their coming games, with Martínez’s men travelling to Everton and Manchester City before welcoming Newcastle to the DW Stadium. QPR and Wigan could well have traded places by the end of March, with Reading and Villa also desperate to escape the danger zone.