There was a lot to like about Wigan’s display at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday. They did a lot of things right and with more composure in front of goal and a slice of luck, could have come away with a point that may prove crucial in the fight for survival. If ever a team needed their goalkeeper to do the basics right, it was when David Silva hit a tame shot towards Ali Al-Habsi and the full repercussions of the error will only be known shortly before 5 o’clock on the final day of the season.
It’s the exception rather than the rule, because I’ve been impressed with Al Hamsi this season. Technically he’s a nightmare and too often needs a couple of bites at the cherry to hold on to seemingly straightforward shots, but he’s supremely agile and his lightning quick reflexes – arguably his biggest strength – help him pull off some amazing saves. All in all, he’s certainly a Premier League standard goalkeeper, but what level of the Premier League will depend on how much he comes along for his first full season of English football and the other options available. He’ll return to Bolton in the summer and depending on the career plans of Jussi Jaaskelainen. As youthful as he looks, the Finn will turn 36 next month and although Al Hamsi was initially taken to the Reebok as an insurance policy for a big club swooping for their first choice, he has hung in there long enough to be his eventual successor. For their part, Wigan have been linked heavily to Keiren Westwood of Coventry as Chris Kirkland struggles to convince. With his 40th birthday on the way, Mike Pollitt is little more than an emergency option and it leaves the Latics’ goalkeeping cupboard looking quite bare.
When his time with Wigan comes to an end, Al-Habsi will be remembered for his dreadful error, but he has been a good performer for them this season and will be for someone else in future.