The Big Match Preview – Wigan (H)

After a difficult start to the season against teams expecting to be challenging at the top end of the table, a visit from newly promoted Wigan has become a must win as we look to get the promotion ball rolling at last. On the face of it, this is by far the easiest game of the season so far and in my opinion, a far better matchup for us tactically. That being said, some of the arrogance that crept in before the season started needs to be avoided when we play the easier games on paper.

Wigan have had a very mixed start to the season with a win, a draw and two losses with both of the defeats coming away from home at Aston Villa and Rotherham. So far this season they have favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation, switching to a 4-5-1 when defending to stay compact and hard to play through, with pace coming from the wingers and fullbacks which is where the danger lies as we repeatedly fail to cope with pace.

After viewing the first couple of Wigan games this season, their goals will either come from pace or set pieces which have been the main contributor to their 8 goals so far this season. The way they can be beat is by being far more positive than we have been so far this season and try to play on the front foot considerably more than the first three games.

Defensively, Wigan will try to sit deep and absorb the pressure but do leave themselves exposed when counter attacking and trying to move the ball out from the back. A higher press and higher intensity is needed to put their players under pressure individually because quite simply they don’t have the quality to play out from the back and break our lines when under pressure from the front.

There needs to be significant changes from the Preston game in terms of performance and personnel. First things first, more pace is needed from us in both attack and defence. Tom Edwards had a fairly solid game at the weekend but Bauer provides an extra dimension, particularly when trying a high press and coping with Wigan’s attack down their favoured left hand side.

Continuing with the increased mobility in the team, Fletcher has to be dropped too. His purpose as a number 4 is to dictate play from deep whilst screening the defence but he just doesn’t have the legs to play that role anymore, even in the Championship as teams repeatedly create chances against us from central areas. That brings us onto Joe Allen, who was his partner on Saturday and has had an equally poor season thus far.

These two just don’t compliment each other in the slightest which is something that can’t be addressed until a natural number 4 is brought in, perhaps Ryan Woods of Brentford who has been touted since the weekend who could work well with Etebo behind Bojan to retain possession better and hold a better midfield structure whilst breaking the opposition lines. This is a game made for Bojan. He is one of the only players in the squad who can provide that x-factor in the final third and the only one who can take out opposition players with simple passes and really

shouldn’t have been dropped at Preston. Bringing him in for Berahino and giving him a free role to play alongside Afobe and drop deep to pick up possession. This is a very good opportunity to pick up our first win of the season and to finally settle upon a favoured style and formation which have so far been lacking but individual quality could tell in this game and I can see a 3-1 Stoke win with Afobe (2) and Ince getting the goals.

Written by George Eltringham

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