Latics look to put an end to away day hoodoo.
Despite having the best home record in the division, Latics have struggled on their travels this season losing their last five in a row and winning just once at Stoke City back in August. Whilst results have been poor away from The DW, performances have perhaps been even worse with displays at Norwich, Preston and Millwall recently being well below what would be expected of Paul Cook’s side especially after the level of performances of home.
As we have seen in our last two seasons in the Championship it is a very unforgiving league and is quite possibly the most competitive league in England. It certainly is in my opinion with anyone literally capable of beating anyone on the day, and so any poor performance either home or away is usually capitalised on by the opposition. Thankfully so far our home form has been solid with 5 wins and 2 draws from our opening 7 games which has kept us in a strong position in the table.
I can understand the worries around our away form at the moment because that home form isn’t going to last forever but there is no knowing whether an improvement in our away form will come at a similar time to a dip in our home form. If home form takes a hit and our poor away form continues then yes we may have cause for concern, but we still have 20 points on the board already with 48 the realistic target needed to stay up which as I have said time and time again is literally our only target this season.
What is the reason for the difference in our results and performances? Team selection seems to be a major talking point on our message boards at the moment with Paul Cook making changes to his side when we play away from The DW and perhaps we are showing too much respect to opposing sides on our travels. Forget the years 2003-2013 for a moment, we are not and probably never will be a big fish in this division so despite what the league table may suggest visits to places like Norwich and QPR are a big deal for us and a draw would be seen as a good result. However, I don’t think we can go into games with that attitude and ‘play for a draw’ as such and should be letting teams worry about us as we did so well on our travels last season. If we go to these places, try to take the game to them and come off second best then I don’t think there would be too many complaints but to go to these places and come away without registering a real shot on goal or limping to a 4-0 defeat at one of our local rivals doesn’t sit well with fans no matter how good our home form is.
Personally, whilst our results away from home are a worry I prefer to look at the fact that had we been offered 20 points at this stage of the season we would most definitely have taken it and I have seen enough in some away performances to know that we will turn things around and will start to win the odd game on the road or even pick up the odd draw which coupled with wins at home would be more than enough to survive and I am certainly not one of those questioning Paul Cook’s ability which I find astounding considering what we have achieved under his guidance so far but then again nothing surprises me with Wiganers.
With our form as it is, the last thing we would probably want would be a trip to Bramall Lane to face a Sheffield United side who are relatively strong at home with 16 wins, 7 draws and 7 defeats from their last 30 at home but then again when our last two defeats have come against sides in the bottom three of the table with an aggregate score of 6-1 I don’t think it really matters who we play and perhaps a game against an apparently stronger side could well work in our favour as the pressure is off somewhat. Not many of us are expecting us to go there and get the win so perhaps we can be a little more open in our play than we have been in recent weeks.
“From the teams I’ve seen this year they’re the best side in the division for me. They have all the right fits in all the right places and Chris has put together a team without being extravagant and spending the money other teams have spent, but they’re good, they’re very, very good. It’s a massive challenge for us because they’re a strong team with very good players.
I watched them at Blackburn the other week and they were excellent. They’ve got strength in depth and the squad put together by Chris Wilder is very good and their style is very good. We’ve got to go there and believe we can win though and impose our style and create chances and score goals.”