The new era at Wigan Athletic begins tomorrow with a trip to Middlesbrough who are looking to arrest a run of three straight draws and just one win in their last five. The Boro still sit 4th in the table though and could go top if they add to our poor run of away results where we have won just one of eight on the road and have lost our last six.
As bad as we have been on the road this season both results wise and performance wise, we have actually scored the same number of goals away from The DW as Tony Pulis’s side have managed at home. Despite being 4th in the table they do struggle for goals but have only conceded three at home and actually have the best defence in the division conceding just eight in total. Forgetting the league positions of the two sides for a minute, if we cut out the stupid mistakes that have seen us leak goals recently then this could actually be a game where we come away with a positive result albeit against the odds.
I actually think that that is what we need on the road at the moment. A game where we are completely up against it, expected to lose, second best throughout but somehow come away with a win. I’m not expecting us to go to many sides this season and play them off the park winning by three or four goals and think that most wins will be by the odd goal where we have grabbed a chance on the break. Tomorrow is possibly that day. They will undoubtedly come at us but do struggle to score goals as I say so if we can cut out the errors then there is no reason why we can’t add to their woes in front of goal. We did keep the free scoring West Brom pretty quiet only a few weeks ago don’t forget so our defence hasn’t completely fallen apart as some would have you believe. The goals we conceded on Sunday were poor whichever way you look at them and we are contributing to our own downfall at times which must be really infuriating for Paul Cook and the rest of the staff.
Team selection yet again was the big talking point from last weekend with some questioning the selections of Darron Gibson and Kal Naismith. It’s pretty evident with the way we setup that we were trying to stop Leeds from playing but with Naismith pretty much a passenger throughout it didn’t quite go to plan and once they got their equaliser they seemed to grow in confidence and got better and better. Their goals were poor goals to concede though especially the second one which again came right after half time (literally) so completely nullified any plans we had made during the break and put us on the back foot straight away. That’s four of the last five games by my reckoning where we have conceded inside 10 minutes (usually a soft goal as well) and completely changed the game plan we would have discussed. At Sheffield a fortnight ago we of course conceded right on half time and then again straight after to kill a game that we were very much a part of. At this level I don’t think we are good enough at the moment to completely turn a game around as we saw a few times last season so we need to be in control of the game as opposed to trying to chase it. Basically I don’t see us coming from behind to win many this season especially away from home.
Naismith I would expect was only signed as a squad player but the current injury crisis we have means that we are relying on these players and so obviously our performances will suffer slightly as any sides would minus three or four of their starting players. We don’t have the budget currently to hold a squad of 25 star players so once we lose players from our main 12 or 13 say then there is a chance that these players “won’t be good enough”. In this situation though you need the key players to stand up and I don’t think enough of them did that. Dan Burn needs to control the defence which he didn’t and I would expect Gibson to take the game by the scruff of the neck and dictate the pace with his passing game. Again, he didn’t do that and actually got ran ragged as our entire midfield did.
New owners IEC have said that there will be funds available for Paul Cook to strengthen his squad but they want to build a team from what we have already and rely heavily on our youth program. That’s fine with me as our youth sides at the moment are doing very well and have for a number of years. Personally however I wouldn’t be rushing to give players like Jensen Weir and Joe Gelhardt their debuts. I think we need to ensure that we survive this season first and foremost and then once that is achieved we can look to bring some players into the first team and gradually improve that next season. If things don’t go to plan and we get relegated then we can look to build the side around these players in order to come up and give them that regular game time at a lower level. I would expect our business in January to therefore be bringing in players to try and improve on what we have at the minute and one key area where I believe we need to do that is in attack. Josh Windass would seemingly be the perfect replacement for Nick Powell in an attacking midfield position supporting the striker but he seems to be playing more on the right hand side which is leaving him ineffective in a few games.
Ideally I would like to see us bring someone in who can offer some service to Grigg, Garner or Vaughan because I do feel as though we have strikers that can score goals at this level if they are given the service but with Powell out of the side and nobody really replacing him in that role that service has dried up and we are struggling to create chances from open play. We have the right pieces of the puzzle the problem is putting them in the right place.
“Chey Dunkley has been in an had an operation on his knee on Thursday and Nick Powell has been suffering with tendonitis. When you add that to the other injuries and you’re facing matches like we have recently, you have to be careful in terms of heightening your problems in the pursuit of being successful.
“The key for me is keeping our lads very focused and believing in what they’re doing.
“The important thing for us is believing in the players we’ve got available and getting the players who are out injured back as soon as we can.
“If you go back to our last away win the front four at Stoke haven’t been fit for a long time.”