Bristol City (H) Match Preview

After consecutive away games against Norwich and Fleetwood it’s back to the DW Stadium for Latics as we host Bristol City in the Championship. We’ve started the season well but with 2 draws and a loss in all competitions Leam Richardson will be desperate to get a big 3 points on the board this weekend.

It’s the manager’s 100th game in charge of the club so what better way to mark such an achievement than with our first league win of the season. We looked really good at times against Preston and Norwich but lacked a clinical edge, but with new signing Nathan Broadhead available for selection it’ll be interesting to see if he features to help bolster our front line.

Opponents Bristol City have had a poor start to their league campaign with defeats to Hull and Sunderland, but bounced back in midweek with a thumping 4-1 victory over Coventry in the EFL Cup. They’ve taken the lead in all 3 games though so they’re not a team to be taken lightly and I’m confident in saying we’ll need to score at least twice if we want to leave the DW with all 3 points.

Latics Team News

Tuesday night’s EFL Cup game allowed Leam the chance to make 11 changes to his side and field a mixture of fringe first teamers and youth prospects. Therefore its a pretty fair bet that the team that drew 1-1 with Norwich will be the team that starts tomorrow.

Ben Amos has started the season really well and has all but squashed any rumours of us bringing in a new keeper this summer. He’ll be tested by an impressive Bristol City front line, particularly Andi Weimann, so we’ll need Amos to keep up the good form he’s showed so far this season.

Jason Kerr and Curtis Tilt were unbelievably good at Carrow Road last Saturday and will probably keep their places in the side. Jack Watmough might be back fit (Leam keeps his cards very close to his chest regarding injuries so we don’t actually know!) but given the aforementioned duo’s performances I’d give them another runout together.

Tendayi Darikwa did better than many, including myself, would’ve expected against Norwich’s Premier League forward line last weekend and proved that he can still belong at this level. His fellow full back Joe Bennett has also started the season pretty well but I do feel as though both have a lot more to offer us at both ends of the pitch.

Tom Naylor and Max Power will have the task of nullifying former Latics man Joe Williams in the midfield. Both have started the season well as their partnership continues to blossom, hopefully it becomes as iconic a duo as Williams and Sam Morsy were in our last Championship campaign.

Out wide it’s good to see James McClean continue his fine form from last season, the Latics legend netted his first of the season against Norwich with a tidy finish. On the opposite flank Callum Lang is still searching for his first Championship goal but has still shown a lot of promise already this season.

Another man searching for his first goal of the season is last seasons top scorer Will Keane. He’s impressed me a lot with his off the ball work so far this season and was pivotal in our two best chances last week with his smart pressing work. Against a team with a leaky defence like Bristol City you’d imagine he’ll be given chances tomorrow, he just needs to take them which I’m sure he will.

The striker position is an interesting one. Josh Magennis has looked industrious if not overly threatening in his two games so far, and has been replaced by Stephen Humphrys on the hour mark in both. You’d imagine he’d get the start but with Broadhead in, Humphrys looking decent in midweek and rumours circulating of another No9 he could be running out of time to add to his goal tally.

An Opposition View

To give an insight into where our opponents are at leading into Saturday’s fixture I’ve called in the help of someone far more knowledgeable on Bristol City than myself!

1) It’s been a mixed start to the season for Bristol City but you bounced back from 2 league defeats with an impressive victory over Coventry in midweek. What’ve you made of your start to the season?

“I’m not too disheartened by our first two losses of the season. From all accounts at Hull, we were incredibly unlucky to not come away with anything. We’ve conceded so many last minute goals of late that it was no shock when it happened on the first game of the season – all be it thanks to a horrendous deflection and controversial penalty call! Sunderland at home was a sell out crowd and unfortunately we couldn’t get the win there either – we showed some really promising attacking football but got caught out very early on with some lazy control playing the ball out from the back and unfortunately got punished by it. We are actually seeing some really nice football this season – and we are managing to score. Unfortunately though, when always seem to have to compensate for goals that we will undoubtedly concede hence making the attacking football twice as hard. It’s always nice to get a win in the cup – especially against a team in the same division. Conway who scored two had a good preseason so it’s great to see him on the scoresheet too.” [@everalphx]

2) I was really impressed with some of the business you did early in the window. What’ve you made of Kal Naismith and Mark Sykes so far?

“Although Naismith was to blame for the early goal last week and has made a couple of mistakes – I am still really impressed with him. He shows such calmness on the ball in either end of the pitch – and although has been caught out, his confidence will continue to strengthen and I’m sure Bentley/the rest of the team will get used to how he plays and perhaps becomes more predictable. He scored against Coventry midweek too which is always nice for defenders to get goals! Mark Sykes had a good preseason and it was good to see him start against Sunderland. That said – most of Sunderland’s attack came from our right side which Sykes was defending – even though he’s not typically a right wing back.” [@everalphx]

3) What team do you expect Nigel Pearson to pick on Saturday afternoon? Who should Wigan fans be looking out for?

“I think it will be very similar to the last few games 3-5-2 – Perhaps Klose in for Vyner and Scott/Weimman and Martin up top to be replaced by Wells. Alex Scott is our star player (…who we hope goes under the radar for as long as possible as we’ll be very lucky to keep him). Massengo came in for James last week after he got injured in the warm up – on his day, Massengo can be class. Weimann has currently scored 3 in 3 and is absolutely flying!”

Tactical Talk

It’s been an interesting start to the season from a tactical perspective with Leam reverting to a 4-2-3-1 system after using a 3-4-1-2 for the majority of the run in in League 1. It’s a brave move to go less defensive against stronger sides and with the second highest xG conceded in the league (3.26) you could argue that we’ve been lucky not to concede more than we have.

However, we’ve created the highest xG in the division (3.46) so we can count ourselves extremely unlucky to have only scored once. We also have the second highest xG per shot which suggests we’re taking shots in good areas that have a good chance of going in so it all comes back to the lack of clinical edge we’ve shown so far. Logic suggests our fortunes in front of goal should change, but so should our opponents.

Opponents Bristol City will be hoping to punish Latics in front of goal and definitely have the players to do so in attacking areas. They’ll sit in a mid block 3-4-1-2 and look to hit Latics on the counter attack with their quick wing backs and front three, likely to be wonderkid Alex Scott in behind Target Man Chris Martin and Poacher Andi Weimann.

Defensively they’ve looked shaky and have been the masters of their own downfall more often than not. Against Sunderland they conceded a goal from their own goal kick after Kal Naismith overplayed and gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of his box. Sunderland employed a pretty simple pressing trap that ultimately paid dividends and I expect Latics to do the same.

When the GK is in possession on the right of his box Sunderland’s strikers occupied the RCB and CB. Their midfielders cut passing lanes into midfield and the LCB (off screen) is marked by the Sunderland wide player.
Naismith drops off to receive the ball and the striker presses him. The midfielders squeeze higher up the pitch to nullify any easy pass up the pitch.
There’s no option for Naismith to pass to. Every player within 30 yards of him has a Sunderland player no further than 10 yards away from them. The lack of an obvious option causes Naismith to panic and run out of defence but he’s tackles and Sunderland score.

As you can see their aggressive positioning can back fire and if Latics get their press right we could catch them out. Keane and Magennis will need to occupy CBs whilst Naylor and Power step onto their opposite numbers with the aggression we know they possess. If we’re smart and don’t expose ourselves by being overly aggressive I fancy our chances.

A 4-2-3-1 system makes sense, particularly with Keane playing as a second striker. The space in behind their wing backs can be exploited by our wing backs and if we can gain an upper hand in the midfield battle it’ll make things really tricky for Bristol City to deal with. It’ll be a good tactical test for Leam Richardson against an experienced manager like Nigel Pearson but I’m confident our man will get it done.

Final Thoughts

After a tricky couple of games that we navigated really well I’m quietly confident coming into this game. I think it’s a really good match up for us and if we can keep their main man Andi Weimann quiet we’ll have a great chance of picking up our first win of the season.

They’re not to be taken lightly though and I must stress they have the ability to blow us away if we get things wrong with our press. Controlled aggression is what’s required in this match and you’d like to think with players like Tilt, Naylor, Power and McClean we have the players to employ that kind of style.

After throwing away the EFL Cup by resting players for this game I’m hoping we make the most of it. It would also be nice to mark Leam’s 100th game with a victory, so lets do it for him!

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