After over a week of absence Wigan Athletic return to Championship football with a trip to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night. After all the weekends matches were postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II squads have had time to rest up and work on things, but with an international break around the corner everyone will be desperate to get some more points on the board early doors.
Latics have done a good job of accruing points so far this season and long may that continue. Our last match against Luton Town summed up this squad perfectly; overcoming adversity, riding our luck at times slightly but showing all the character in the world to secure points despite not being at our best. It should have filled everyone at and around the club with huge amounts of confidence.
Huddersfield on the other hand have had a more difficult start to the new campaign amidst a time of change at their club. After last seasons play off final loss, which should still be classed as a huge achievement, they’ve lost their manager and 2 key players and with just 1 win from their opening 7 games its been a real crash back down to earth for the Terriers.
Latics Team News
The 10 day gap between matches will have been met with positivity in the physio room at Christopher Park as we’ll almost have a clean bill of health. Leam Richardson confirmed to the press this week that the only player not back on the grass is club captain Tendayi Daikwa who’s shoulder injury looks to be keeping out for a while despite not being as serious as first feared.
Jordan Cousins and Gwion Edwards have been absent all season but both featured in an U23s game last week. I feel like Cousins will be a really big addition to our side given the lack of depth in centre midfield, and his skillset is different to the other 3 regulars in that spot. Edwards has fallen well down the pecking order given some of the summer additions but it’ll be nice to hvae him back nonetheless.
Ben Amos has started the season pretty well and will keep his place in the side after returning from injury. I had doubts about him coming into this season as he conceded considerably more goals than what the data suggested he should’ve in league 1. This graph shows that this time around he’s doing much better, albeit still conceding slightly more than expected.
Ryan Nyambe was brilliant against Luton in our last match and looked far more comfortable when we changed to a back 4. I’m hoping that the difference in performance levels after the change means we revert to a 4-2-3-1 and if we do that it’ll really benefit the Namibian.
On the other side it seems that Leam still doesn’t have a preferred choice at LB. Joe Bennett started the season there but seems to have disappeared following his red card at Birmingham. Tom Pearce just doesn’t seem to be able to get a run in the side and James McClean probably isn’t strong enough defensively to play in a back 4 for the whole season.
Jack Watmough and Jason Kerr would be my chosen CB partnership meaning Curtis Tilt would drop to the bench. All 3 have been good so far but I genuinely believe that Kerr X Watmough is one of the best pairings in the league and even though they’re both right footed I’d still go with them. Rarmani Edmonds-Green is on loan from Huddersfield and therefore won’t be involved.
Our midfield pairing is another area that’s being debated by supporters on social media so far. Tom Naylor and Max Power were so good together last year but Graeme Shinnie has been so good when he’s played this year that for many he’s now the undroppable one of the three. He was left out against Luton but his introduction catalysed our comeback and I really think he needs to play.
Speaking of fans debating team selection, lets talk about our attack! Thelo Aasgaard and Nathan Broadhead are yet to start a match this season but have both made unbelievable impacts in their substitute appearances. Aasgaard’s winner at Kenilworth Road showed what a wonderful technician he is but he needs to be given the opportunity to showcase his talent.
Will Keane and Callum Lang however have both had tricky starts to the season after all the success they enjoyed in League 1. If I’m being honest I think Will Keane is 1 or 2 more ineffectual performances away from being dropped, especially if Broadhead and Aasgaard keep impressing. When you add new signing Anthony Scully into the mix the pressure is on for last seasons star men to perform.
Josh Magennis’ role will remain the same if he starts, as a human battering ram tiring out the opposition CBs. Charlie Wyke and Ashley Fletcher are both fit and raring to go so the Northern Irishman will be looking to put in the kind of performance that makes him ‘undroppable’, and so far this season he has been pretty impressive.
An Opposition View
To give an insight into where our opponents are at leading into Tuesday’s fixture I’ve called in the help of someone far more knowledgeable on Huddersfield Town than myself!
1) It’s been a poor start for Huddersfield Town with just 4 points from your opening 7 games. How would you sum up your sides first month or so of the season?
“Severely underwhelming. To say that Town were one game away from the Premier League last season and to be 4 points on the relegation zone is by no means expected. Pressure is really starting to build on Danny Schofield and the feeling is starting to build that this game could decide his future.” [@HTAFC_STATTO]
2) Considering your success last year many people might be surprised at the poor start you’ve had. In your opinion what’s the reason behind this stark contrast in form.
“For as much as it looks like it is all on Danny Schofield, it is a problem much deeper than that. Losing a manager on the second day of pre season, followed by the loss of 4/5 keys players. It’s just been a culmination of factors.” [@HTAFC_STATTO]
3) New manager Danny Schofield is having a real baptism of fire in first team football management. What do you make of him and his style of play from what you’ve seen so far?
“So far he has played his own twist on a continuation of Carlos Corberan’s style, and while he stated that he wanted to take more shots in the box, it hasn’t quite transpired so far. I think tactically he has been quite poor, he has been dealt a poor hand, but he made some quite interesting team selections. If you are going to do that then you need the results to back it off, but they haven’t either. It’s even as simple as REG who has just joined you on loan for the year, he had started 3/6 of Huddersfield’s games at the time he was loaned out. It just doesn’t make sense a lot of his decision making.” [@HTAFC_STATTO]
4) Finally, who should Wigan fans be worried about tomorrow evening. Have their been any stand out performers this season?
“Jack Rudoni has been a shining light in what has been a dismal start to the season, he has taken the step up to the championship effortlessly. Sorba Thomas and Lee Nicholls both had very good seasons last year and while they haven’t been up to the high standards they set last year, they still have been impressive.”
“I’m expecting a tight game, and from my perspective, I hope it’s a Town win, but if Wigan get in front early, I worry to see the reaction of the Town faithful. A must win game for Town, so I’m going to have to predict a 2-1 win – but I’ve predicted that for the last 3 games, and they haven’t ended well!” [@HTAFC_STATTO]
For months now I’ve been convinced that Latics are best off playing with a 5 at the back, but I think I’ve finally changed my mind. The way we played in the last 30 minutes against Luton in a 4-2-3-1 system showed me that not only does it allow us to play our best players, those players look like they feel far more comfortable and confident when playing in it too.
You’d think that playing 1 less defender makes us more vulnerable defensively but the stats tell a different and rather surprising story. We average twice as much xG as our opponents (1.6 vs 0.8) when using a 4-2-3-1 for 30+ minutes, scoring 4 times and conceding just once. We average 3 more shots and slightly more possession too.
When you consider that the only game we didn’t score in was against the league’s meanest defence in Preston and the only game we conceded in was against 2nd place Norwich it makes these numbers even more impressive. Whilst we haven’t been awful when playing with a 5 we’re clearly better at both ends of the pitch when lining up in our classic 4-2-3-1.
For context last weekend Luton accrued 1.19 xG against our back 5 and just 0.13 when we moved to a 4. We’re more productive on the ball and by having 4 forward players it allows us to retain the ball in advanced areas, thus making us more defensively sound as its considerably harder to score against a team from your own half!
This average position map from the Luton game makes interesting viewing too. A few positions that stand out for me are those of Curtis Tilt, Ryan Nyambe and Will Keane.
Tilt’s position is almost equivalent to a left back, especially when you compare it to Jason Kerr. Tilt is considerably wider and that’s down to a couple of things. Firstly, James McClean is a forward thinking player and pushes higher up the pitch, and secondly Ryan Nyambe is a defensive player who prefers to stay back. Despite the formation being 5-2-3 on paper it did slip in to 4-4-2 at times.
That being said Will Keane’s position here is really worrying. He’s unbelievably deep for a forward player and clearly wasn’t getting himself into enough threatening areas. Nathan Broadhead (20) replaced him and found himself in much more advanced areas when introduced into a 4-2-3-1.
Huddersfield will probably line up in a 5-4-1 / 3-4-3 formation and look to play on the counter attack initially. They do sometimes change to a 4 if they’re chasing the game, and I do wonder if because of how badly they’ve started the season Danny Schofield might make some more drastic tactical changes tonight.
They’ve really struggled in attacking areas this season, in fact no team have taken fewer shots in open play than the Terriers. On the other hand they’ve conceded the most shots per 90 with 13.48 per 90 too. If we can continue to limit them chances whilst also making the most of the opportunities they afford I reckon we’ll have a great chance in this game.
This is probably the first game that Latics have gone into as the on paper favourites this season, surprising considering its away at last season’s play off finalists! We’ve been better away from home for a while now and I think Latics fans can be quietly confident about this game, especially with a brilliant turn out in the away end.
That being said the only victory Huddersfield have had this season came at the John Smith Stadium against Stoke City. It feels like Danny Schofield is running out of time to impress his supporters and if we can gain the upper hand early doors it could create a toxic environment that will make things even more tough for the home side.
We need a good start so can’t afford to start with the 5 at the back systems that have set us off so poorly in recent weeks. Go with 4-2-3-1 from the start, look for an early goal and then remain defensively solid as we have done in all but 1 game this season. It should be an interesting game and one we have a real chance in!