Roberto Martinez is trying to create a team in his own image, but DW Stadium is no place to build a unit that plays a stylish and fluid brand of soccer. Rugby matches tear up the grass field, making it nearly impossible to play that kind of game, as Liverpool learned the hard way Wednesday.
For the first 30 minutes of Wednesday's scoreless draw, it looked like Liverpool would dominate Wigan and deliver the hammering that it's promised supporters is on the way. But it found it harder to create scoring chances as the game progressed.
Rugby League's Wigan Warriors also call the DW Stadium home. The effect that sport has on the grass field was is similar to that of NFL games. A large brownish streak runs down the center of the field.
Wigan did a good job of masking it, but the turf came loose in clumps all over the field. It slowed the ball down, made for awkward bounces and limited the advantage in technique Liverpool's players had over their opponents. Manager Kenny Dalglish allude to this after the game.
"As I said, the first 20 minutes, when the pitch wasn't too bad, was when we played our best football," he said. "The longer the game went on, the more difficult it was for us to play the way we like to play."
Choppy turf at DW stadium is nothing new. Since Wigan's rise to the English Premier League in 2005, fans have grown accustomed to the minefield of clumps and muddy goal-mouths that games at the venue produce. And it's not going away either. The Wigan Warriors have a 50-year lease at the stadium that runs until 2059.
Martinez may want to look to Stoke City as a model for how his teams should play. Liverpool may want to reassess its second half approach in its next trip to Wigan. The Reds haven't won there since 2007.
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