Gaffer says tired legs made for difficult New Year’s opener
Roberto Martinez said that the demands of a fourth game in eleven days made for a challenge against Manchester United his players struggled to cope with.
Latics have been able to welcome back certain players from injury lately, but have been largely unchanged over the festive period and the gaffer told of how the stresses and strains of the last few weeks caught up with his team:
“Frustratingly, I don’t think we were able to compete with a side with the quality that Manchester United has.
“There was a lack of energy in the players which is understandable given that this is our fourth game in eleven days and in many ways this was the wrong opposition to play against.
“They were able to make five changes at the start of the day and that freshness made a real difference.
“We started the game looking very positive and reaching good levels, but then a couple of second phases from set pieces led to the opening goals which highlighted how tired we were in moments when you need to be completely concentrated.
“I thought the attitude and mentally of the players in the second-half was very good despite being two-goals behind.
“We tried to get a goal back and the one we did score was ruled offside but it showed the focus we had to get back in the game and perhaps would have been the trigger we needed to level things up.
“It’s a game we need to move on from quickly and accept that it was just the wrong time to play the league leaders with the size and fitness of their squad.
“It was an unfair match for us today but we’ll put it behind us and concentrate on getting everyone fit and healthy once more so that we can rotate the squad in the second-half of the season and share the demands of the game.
James McArthur replaced David Jones at the start of the day who had been suffering from a virus in recent weeks, whilst three substitutions during the second-half did their best to make an impact and inject some much needed energy into the team.
Martinez praised the efforts of his players to try and make as much difference as possible, and hopes that energy levels will be raised in the coming weeks:
“The players are all approaching these games with a very positive attitude and they want to make an impact to help the team.
“Ronnie (Stam), Jordi (Gomez) and Callum (McManaman) all showed good signs when they came on, but overall it was too much to ask of the squad to compete over 90 minutes with a Manchester United team full of quality and, more significantly, fresh legs.
“The midfield combination of James McCarthy, James McArthur and David Jones has been working very well lately and we’ve been able to take the opportunity to freshen them up in the last week.
“James (McArthur) was rested at Villa Park and David was given a break today suffering with a virus and had to take antibiotics this week so he wasn’t 100%. We needed to share the demands of that midfield partnership and over the next few weeks hopefully we can keep refreshing players in a big point in our season.”