Wigan Athletic secured their first victory of the season last weekend with a heroic 1-0 victory over Birmingham City, despite Latics having 10 men for almost 90 minutes. The result extended our unbeaten start to the season and demonstrated the bucketful’s of fighting spirit, togetherness and heart we have in the squad; it truly was a remarkable performance.
It should give us lots of confidence coming into Saturday’s game, but we’ll need to be at our best yet again as we welcome Burnley to the DW Stadium. The Clarets returned to the second tier this season after last years relegation put an end to their 6 year stay in the Premier League, and there’s still a heck of a lot of talent in their squad.
Vincent Kompany’s side have picked up 6 points so far this season, an opening day win over Huddersfield has been followed by 3 draws and a defeat. They’re undergoing somewhat of an identity change under the Man City legend’s leadership, but Latics fans will be hoping to see a repeat of our FA Cup antics against the big Belgian!
Latics Team News
Saturday’s game was brilliant in a lot of ways but undoubtedly the most heart warming, inspirational and wonderful story was the return of Charlie Wyke to competitive action. The fact Charlie returned after 10 months out following a cardiac arrest is impressive in itself, but his performance was ace. An assist and a piece of control Lionel Messi would’ve been proud of topped off last weeks win and it’s great to have him back available for selection.
Another boost is that Joe Bennett’s red card has been successfully overturned after we lodged an appeal, and Birmingham City diver Lukas Jutkiewicz has since been banned for 2 games for deceiving an official. It means we should have everyone that was available last weekend available again.
The severity of Ben Amos’ injury hasn’t been confirmed but I’d imagine Jamie Jones will remain in goal, especially after his excellent clean sheet last week. Both of them could find themselves under pressure if the recent rumours surrounding the imminent introduction of Egyptian keeper Mahmood Gad are correct.
Curtis Tilt was at the game last week but perhaps in more unfamiliar surroundings. ‘Tilty’ was in the away end, much to the joy of everyone around him, but again it’s unknown how long he’ll be out for. He seems to be back involved in training though so hopefully a return isn’t too far away. That being said he’s going to have a tough job replacing Kerr and Watmough, they’ve looked brilliant together so far.
Tendayi Darikwa and Ryan Nyambe will continue to battle it out for the RB spot, but for now our captain and former Burnley man Darikwa should keep his spot. He’s started the season better than most people would’ve expected and whilst that’s the case he definitely deserves to stay in the side. Nyambe’s best bet of first team football at the moment is on the right of a back 3, but I’ll discuss that more later…
All of a sudden we seem spoilt for choice in attacking areas which is nice, and it’s expected that we’ll bring in another wide forward before the window closes too. Nathan Broadhead’s winner announced his arrival at the club with a bang, he’s going to be a serious player for us this season and I fancy his chances for a goal this weekend too.
Ashley Fletcher hasn’t featured just yet as he works his way up to fitness, he could make the bench this week. Charlie Wyke probably isn’t ready for a start yet and Josh Magennis will likely start and play a key role in spearheading our attack. Stephen Humphrys, as unfortunate and arguably harsh as it is, seems to be tumbling down the pecking order somewhat.
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 the Clarets than myself!
1) Burnley have had an interesting start to life back in the Championship under Vincent Kompany. What’ve you made of the Clarets’ first month of the season?
“I think it’s a relatively ok start to say we have completely changed everything about the club – not just personnel but the entire ethos throughout the club has changed. We’re not a possession based side who try and play football rather than long ball and getting crosses in type of team. Definitely would have liked more win than one at stage in truth but the positive signs are there and there is a feeling that it will click into gear eventually.”
2) No club has had more ball possession than Burnley this season, shaking off the ‘anti football’ tag opposition fans put on you in the Sean Dyche era. Are you enjoying this new brand of football or are you yet to be convinced by it?
“Enjoying it so far yes, the first 20 minutes or so against Blackpool we looked sensational and it was incredible to watch. Unfortunately we gifted them a way back in to it though sloppy passes and defending. Although before that we had struggled to break sides down – and that side of it can be frustrating – but when it works it looks very very good.”
3) There’s been a huge turnover of players this summer at Turf Moor. Which of the new boys should Wigan fans be worried about on Saturday afternoon?
“Stand out incoming player at this stage would probably be Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Ian Maatsen has looked brilliant too but his moment of stupidity against Blackpool has unfortunately let him down. Nathan Tella looks like a brilliant player too, as does Scott Twine but we’re yet to really see him yet as he picked up an injury very early in his time here. Josh Cullen has had a couple of excellent games too.”
Last Saturday’s victory over Birmingham was very interesting from a tactical point of view. We used 4 formations, made several personnel changes and showed a level of flexibility that should come in very handy as the season goes on. This weekend’s game with Burnley offers up the kind of challenge we haven’t really faced since returning to the Championship so it’ll be intriguing to see how we line up.
It hasn’t taken long for Vincent Kompany to implement his philosophy at Burnley. With an average of 68.9% possession a game the Belgian is keen to see his side dominate the ball and attack in a dynamic but patient manner, and when they get it right they can be a very difficult team to defend against. Some teams choose to press Burnley high and look to force mistakes whilst others have looked to sit off, wait for someone to play a loose ball before hitting them on the counter attack.
From a Latics point of view I can see us playing in a similar way to how we did against Norwich a few weeks ago. At Carrow Road we sat off Norwich for large parts of the game but set clever pressing traps high up the pitch that earnt us a couple of scoring opportunities, one of which we took. Burnley have already been caught in a similar manner this season by Blackpool, just take a look at the pressing trap similarities here.
At times they will play through whatever kind of press we employ, and that’s to be expected as they have a lot of quality in their side. They’ve also used a long ball in behind at times to spring a surprise on the opposition and with players like Nathan Tella and Jay Rodriguez in attacking areas we’ll need to be aware of the possibility of them going direct too. They’re a side that can cause us problems from all over the pitch.
When we have the ball they’ll be press aggressively, no team has a lower PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action), meaning they don’t allow the opposition much time on the ball before engaging with them. In short this means we’ll have to be smart and clinical when we do get the ball, similarly to how we were last weekend with 10 men.
With that in mind I’m expecting Nathan Broadhead to play a part tomorrow although I’m expecting it to be off the bench. Only Sheffield United have conceded fewer shots on goal than Burnley so we’re going to have to take the chances we do get. Callum Lang has been poor in that regard so if he doesn’t get any joy in front of goal I can see Broadhead replacing him at some point in the second half.
I fully expect us to remain in a 4-2-3-1 system but there is something to be said for a switch to a back 5. We arguably looked better playing with a 5 back after going down to 10 men than we did playing a 4 in the opening 10 minutes, so it’s good to know we have that option should we need it. Luton used a back 5 well against Burnley earlier on in the season and it would make us harder to break down, but I doubt we’ll make that switch at the DW.
Our second North West derby of the season looks set to be a really interesting match between two sides very different in almost every way. There can be no doubts about the visitors quality and I’m personally expecting them to dominate most of the game, but if Latics carry out our game plan and ride our luck at times we’ll have a real chance of getting something from the game.
We’re on a high from last weekend and there should be a decent crowd in which will only add to the excitement on the pitch. Similarly to the Birmingham game expect Leam to utilise his bench as much as possible and look to bring several different problems to the table for Vincent Kompany’s side.
The Belgian hasn’t been back to the DW since the famous 1-0 win in the FA Cup in 2018, lets hope we get a similar outcome tomorrow…!