Wycombe Wanderers vs Wigan Athletic Match Preview

Latics travel to Adams Park on Tuesday night for the 2nd match of a 3 game week against some of League 1’s most difficult sides. Leam Richardson’s side come into the game off the back of a fantastic performance away at table topping Rotherham, whilst Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe side slugged out a 5-5 draw with Cheltenham at the weekend.

Both sides will be desperate for a victory; Wigan know a win will maintain the gap between themselves and 3rd, whilst Wycombe need to end a run of 5 games without a win if they want to sustain a play off push.

Here are my thoughts on how things will play out…

Latics Team News

I’m yet to get one of these team predictions correct but I got pretty close at Rotherham. Leam Richardson is on his way to taking the ‘tinker man’ nickname away from Claudio Ranieri with his tendency to change systems and personnel from game to game.

In the reverse fixture at the DW Latics lined up in their classic 4-2-3-1 system, but for this game I’m anticipating a similar system to the one put out at Rotherham. If this is the case I expect to see the same back 3 that performed so well on Friday night, Jason Kerr, Jack Watmough and Curtis Tilt.

Gavin Massey starred at RWB but as part of squad rotation I wouldn’t be surprised to see club captain Tendayi Darikwa return to the starting 11. On the left James McClean is starting to cement his place as the first choice LWB, albeit he hasn’t had much competition given Joe Bennett and Tom Pearce’s unlucky run with injuries.

In midfield Max Power and Tom Naylor should keep their places, but January signings Glen Rea and Graeme Shinnie will be chomping at the bit for a chance. Shinnie hasn’t featured from the start since the defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, whilst Glen Rea’s only start for Latics came in the FA Cup against Stoke City.

Stephen Humphrys scored a screamer on Friday night, but will it be enough to keep his place?

The biggest surprise sprung by Leam on Friday was the decision to drop top scorer Will Keane in favour of a front 3 of Callum Lang, Stephen Humphrys and Josh Magennis. The plan definitely worked and given the similarities with Rotherham and Wycombe in terms of system and defences the same could happen on Tuesday.

Jamie McGrath’s absence from recent squads has worried Latics fans but its believed he picked up a knock at Hillsborough 2 weeks ago. Long term absentees Thelo Aasgaard, Jordan Cousins and Charlie Wyke remain unavailable, and Tom Pearce, Joe Bennett and the aforementioned Jamie McGrath’s injury statuses remain unknown.

The Opposition

On paper Wycombe Wanderers look as though they’re in a rut. 0 wins in 5, dropped points against some of the league’s weakest sides and uncharacteristically poor defensive showings. However, when you look more closely at these matches the fact the Chairboys haven’t won since mid January is astounding.

In their last 3 matches Wycombe have registered 64 shots on goal, scoring just 6 times. In 2 matches against Lincoln and Shrewsbury they took 54 shots and scored just once. Latics however have registered just 58 shots in their last 6 matches and also scored 6 of them.

What this tells us is that in their match against Cheltenham on Saturday Wycombe were clinical, something they clearly struggled with in matches prior. This means Latics need to be wary that the home sides forward players may have inflated confidence coming into this game, and that any chances we do give up could well be punished.

In terms of playing style they favour going direct through the middle of the pitch as well as delivering plenty of crosses when the ball makes its way to their wing backs. They are also very competent from set piece situations, accumulating an xG of over 11 from set piece situations this season, scoring 13.

Striker Sam Vokes has spent the majority of his career in the top 2 tiers of English football and his experience and ability has been beneficial for Gareth Ainsworth’s side this season. The former Welsh international takes over 3 shots per 90 and hits the target with 1.22 of them. He has struck up a good partnership with Gareth McCleary, another veteran in the Wycombe front line.

Where Wycombe seem to struggle is against fast, skilful and technical players. They tend to sit off and defend their box in a compact shape, focusing on being hard to break down with passes and long balls. But when players run at them it appears they struggle, particularly with engaging the player in a proactive way.

Wycombe have registered the fewest amount of tackles in the league which highlights their intention to sit off and remain compact. This has seen them be vulnerable to pacey dribbling and shots from range as there is minimal pressure being applied to the opposition player. Players like Callum Lang, Gwion Edwards and Will Keane could have serious joy in this game if they are able to use their trickery to take on the defence.

Similarly, Max Power, James McClean and Stephen Humphrys will be licking their lips at the prospect of getting some shots from distance away. All 3 have scored from outside the box this season and will be hoping to do the same tonight.

Fast counter attacks and a limited amount of direct play seems the best way to beat this Wycombe side, lets see how Latics go about things.

Player to Watch

Joe Jacobson, AKA Mr Wycombe, is my pick for the Chairboys’ player to watch. The 35 year old club captain is in his 8th year at the club and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down, playing 30 matches already this season.

Originally a Left Back but playing mainly as a Left Centre Back nowadays Jacobson is important at both ends of the pitch for Gareth Ainsworth’s side. His set-piece delivery is vital and he also has the ability to score from penalties and free kicks, something Latics must be wary of.

Club Captain Joe Jacobson is a key man in Wycombe’s side

Defensively he averages over 1 tackle and 2 interceptions per 90, but can be vulnerable to players with pace and trickery. Callum Lang will definitely fancy this match up, but Jacobson’s skills and experience should not be underestimated.

My Prediction

The extra days rest for Latics could prove vital in what I’m sure will be another tight match in Buckinghamshire. If we adapt our style and reduce the amount of direct football we play I can see us securing the 3 points, but not without Wycombe putting up a hell of a fight.

Wycombe 1-2 Latics

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