Wigan Athletic vs AFC Wimbledon Match Preview

Wigan Athletic look ahead to their third consecutive home game as they take on AFC Wimbledon in League 1 this weekend. Off the back of their midweek triumph over Fleetwood Town, Latics will be keen to carry that momentum into the weekend and claim another three points in the hunt for promotion.

With table toppers Rotherham United facing off against 3rd place MK Dons on Saturday afternoon Leam Richardson’s side know that a win will either extend the gap between themselves and 3rd, close the gap to 1st or do a bit of both depending on the result at the New York Stadium.

But regardless of what happens there it’s imperative that Latics focus on the things they can control, and that’s putting in a professional performance and getting 3 points of their own.

Latics Team News

Whilst Tuesday’s game ended in a positive result for Latics it came at a cost. Tendayi Darikwa, Graeme Shinnie both face two game bans after picking up their 10th yellow cards of the campaign, and James McClean’s last minute red card has ruled him out for the next three league games. This has certainly thrown a spanner in the works for Leam and his staff.

Ben Amos kept his 11th clean sheet of the season on Tuesday and will be looking to add another to the tally against a Wimbledon side struggling for goals as of late. The defence in front of him will see some change this weekend, with both a back 4 and 5 possible given injuries/suspensions.

If Latics favour the back 5 Curtis Tilt will join Kell Watts and Jack Watmough in the side, with Jason Kerr likely to miss out through injury. The right wing back slot will presumably go to Gavin Massey, who’s performance in that position against Rotherham received heaps of praise from all that watched it. At left wing back the absence of McClean and Darikwa means one of Joe Bennett and Tom Pearce will have to accelerate their return from injury to feature again for Latics.

If a back 4 is favoured, Max Power will likely remain at full back with one of Bennett or Pearce occupying the LB spot. However, Kell Watts could be deployed as a temporary left back as he occasionally was at Plymouth last season. The decision really rests on the fitness of Latics’ left back pair; Pearce played a full 90 minutes for the Under 23s this week and Bennett has featured on the bench for the first team in recent weeks but has been an unused sub every time.

Further forward, assuming Max Power is used at right back, someone will have to come in and partner Tom Naylor in central midfield. The obvious option is Luton Town loanee Glen Rea who has featured occasionally since his deadline day move. Another loanee Tom Bayliss could feature but given his lack of game time in recent weeks it seems risky to throw him in immediately.

The front 4 will have to be changed too given McClean’s suspension. Gwion Edwards seems the most likely to come into the side in a like for like swap, and this is what I expect to happen if a 4-2-3-1 system is picked. If a 5-2-1-2 system is chosen don’t be surprised if Josh Magennis AND Stephen Humphrys feature from the start together, with one of Keane and Lang behind them similarly to Rotherham.

The Opposition

AFC Wimbledon are another side entrenched deep in a relegation scrap in League 1, sitting just 2 points above the bottom 4. The Wombles are winless in 2022 and manager Mark Robinson is under increasing pressure heading into the ‘business end’ of the season.

Despite their disappointing league position their squad has some exciting talent, many of whom could earn the club some good money in transfer fees in years to come. Jack Rudoni, Ayoub Assal and Luke McCormick are all talents that have attracted praise for their abilities this season, with Rudoni being named in Sky Sports ’21 below 21′ list of EFL talents.

There is clearly talent within the side, which begs the question what is going wrong at Plough Lane?

They will likely line up similarly to Latics in a 4-2-3-1 shape, but with a few stylistic differences. Their 3 attacking midfielders play relatively narrow and the majority of their width comes from overlapping full backs. This works well if the delivery from wide areas is accurate as there are usually at least 3 players in the box in goal scoring positions. However, if the ball is cleared Wimbledon can be left extremely exposed in wide areas with both full backs caught high up the pitch.

If Latics are brave and leave 2 men up top when the away side have the ball it will bring them opportunities on the counter attack. They will also be able to make use of ‘in to out’ runs from their wingers, something we used to good effect in the reverse fixture.

Again Max Power passes into the space behind the advanced Dons Left Back
Max Power and Callum Lang exploiting space outside Wimbledon’s narrow back 4

This will be a key area of interest for Leam Richardson’s side. If we do manage to exploit this space it could force their full backs to hold back slightly, which makes them far less dangerous going forward. If they decide to take the risk and we are able to deal with it there will be opportunities for us to score so this battle will be vital.

Another key battle will be that between both sides midfield 2’s. Whichever side is able to dominate the ball will have the perfect benchmark from which to build attacks and take a grip on the game. The performance of Latics’ midfield 2 on Tuesday night was what allowed us to gain the upper hand on Fleetwood in transition and this will likely be the same again on Saturday.

AFC Wimbledon also have a poor record from defensive set piece situations, conceding 13 times so far this season. This is surprising for a side with a good amount of height in all areas of the pitch, picking just 3 players shorter than 6 foot in their last match (Wigan picked 4 against Fleetwood and we have a pretty tall team compared to many!)

So they’re two key ways Latics can hurt this Wimbledon side but it’s worth noting they’re capable of doing the same to us. They will probably turn up with a ‘don’t lose’ mentality and attempt to frustrate us from the off. When they get the chance they’ll get the ball into their dynamic 3 attacking midfielders and out wide to overlapping full backs. Leading the line will likely be former Latics youngster Sam Cosgrove so watch out for him too!

Player to Watch

As previously mentioned AFC Wimbledon possess a lot of talent in attacking areas, particularly in the attacking midfield spots. The pick of the bunch for me is Jack Rudoni, a 20 year old attacking midfielder with a keen eye for goal. The Dons academy graduate has netted 8 times this season at a rate of 0.31 goals per 90, whilst also chipping in with 3 assists. He has already made headlines this season when he was named in Sky Sports ’21 under 21′ list in February.

Rudoni tends to play on the right of what is, as previously mentioned, a narrow attacking quartet and uses his off the ball movement and anticipation to get into dangerous areas of the pitch. At 6’2 he also offers a threat in the air which saw him score his 3rd headed goal of the season against Doncaster last weekend.

Rudoni has attracted interest from various Premier League clubs this season including Wolves and Leeds United

He will likely pop up in awkward and dangerous areas of the pitch and Latics’ defenders will need to be aware of his whereabouts at all time. He isn’t the most creative player so if we can stop the supply line into him it will make his job much harder which can only be a good thing for the home side.

My Prediction

This is about as must win as it gets for Latics this season. At least 1 of our promotion rivals are guaranteed to drop points and we’re at home to a side that hasn’t won a game in 3 months. This isn’t to suggest it will be light work for our lads but there is a certain level of expectation amongst supporters going into this game.

Wimbledon will be keen to leave with a point and I have no doubt the opening stages will be pretty frustrating, but we should have enough to secure the 3 points.

Latics 1-0 AFC Wimbledon

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