Well. Have we missed anything?!
For the first time I’m writing a Match Preview in which I can’t write ‘Leam Richardson’s Wigan Athletic’ anymore. It feels extremely weird as I probably never thought this day would come, and I definitely never thought it would be before the World Cup break. We’ve got a huge game on Saturday afternoon against fellow strugglers Blackpool, but it won’t be Leam leading us into battle this time.
Latics announced they had parted company with Leam on Thursday morning, so his former assistant Rob Kelly will be in charge for this game against Blackpool. At the time of writing we haven’t appointed a new manager, in fact we’ve not been linked with anyone, so it looks like we’re waiting for the World Cup break to make our move.
Opponents Blackpool brought in a new manager Micheal Appleton in the summer and he’s not yet been able to make things click at the Tangerine’s. They sit 21st, 2 points ahead of Latics and the relegation zone. It is a HUGE game for both sides and feels almost season defining if its not too early for clichés like that!
Latics Team News
It feels like a season has gone by since the Coventry game but unfortunately its still fresh in the memory. Tuesday night’s result really hurt and it ultimately cost Leam his job so you’d like to think the players available will be itching to put things right. Its also our last game for over a month which makes it vital that we end this period of games on a high.
In terms of injury news we were all pleased to see Callum Lang start against Coventry and he lasted a respectable 73 minutes. Hopefully, he’ll get be available today for his first start back at the DW in over a month and we know he loves putting on a show for our supporters. His absence really hurt us so having him back should lift everyone’s spirits.
As we all know its not going to be Leam picking the squad anymore so its quite hard to predict who might be picked and who might be dropped. Rob Kelly and James Beattie are in temporary charge of the team and given the fact they were Leam’s right hand men I’d assume it’ll be a very similar selection.
I hate to pile on the negative stuff but as many of you will have heard Jason Kerr will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. He picked it up in the Swansea game and unfortunately we won’t see anymore of him before the summer which is an absolute hammer blow to us and our survival chances. It opens the door for Ramani Edmonds-Green though which is a positive.
Kerr’s injury may make a move to a back 4 slightly more tempting, especially until January when we can try and sign a replacement. The lack of a natural LB remains a problem but I don’t see any harm putting McClean there for this game just to be slightly more adventurous. After all, we can’t really do much worse than our last 10 games can we?!
Going forward, and I think I speak for every Latics fan here, we just want to be excited. We failed to register a shot on target on Tuesday night, in fact we’ve only had 4 in our last 4 games which is ridiculously low! For context, we’ve conceded 4 or more shots on target in 3 of our last 6 games! Its something that needs to change, and a huge task for our new manager to fix.
The job for Rob Kelly is to get us something from this game. We need a win but a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world if it came after a positive performance. But one thing’s for certain, if we continue to play how we did under Leam it’ll frustrate fans greatly. The theory is he lost his job because of how poorly we were playing, so we HAVE to see something different.
Its well documented that Leam had a couple of players that he favoured with his team selection. It’ll be interesting to see if those same players retain their spots or if a couple of the lads that’ve been basically forgotten this season finally get their chance. Time will tell…
As I’ve already touched upon its probably not worth speculating exactly how Latics will play under Rob Kelly, but for the purpose of this section I’m just going to assume we stick with the same system as we’ve been using for the last few games, a 5-2-3.
Opponents Blackpool have tended to set up in a 4-3-3 system this year with an emphasis on getting the ball forward quickly with bodies in the box. Its led to them averaging over a goal a game themselves whilst also conceding an average of 1.5, so you’d like to think we’ll have chances against them. They will also fancy their chances against us too though!
The main danger man for ‘Pool is Jerry Yates, who has just been awarded the Championship Player of the Month award for October. He’s a versatile forward who’s played LW, RW as well as through the middle so depending on other availabilities in the Blackpool squad we could see him in any of those spots. He’s undoubtedly the danger man for this game.
Yates’ biggest quality is his off the ball movement. He always seems to find himself in space and his versatility/ability to swap wings or play through the middle makes him a real challenge to mark out of the game. One minute he could be Darikwa’s man, the next Tilt’s and the next McClean’s. He’ll float around at the top of the pitch looking for space, and when he gets the ball in front of goal he’s usually deadly.
So Yates is the man to stop but the service into him needs limiting too. Arsenal loanee Charlie Patino has impressed in the midfield alongside ball winner Kenny Dougall. Its cliché I know but the midfield battle really will be important in this game, if we can impose our physicality on them we’ll be better off but if we allow them to play they have the ability to play through us.
I’d like to see us try a back 4 again and really go for it this game but that feels unlikely. A back 5 should hopefully keep us more solid defensively but we really really need to be more creative going forward. I don’t think supporters can handle another toothless performance so lets hope they aren’t given one!
Latics have to get something from this game. That’s pretty much the long and short of it. Blackpool are the kind of team we’ll look back at the end of the season and think ‘winning those points kept us up’ or ‘that game cost us survival’. Unfortunately, that’s the position we’re now in.
Everyone at the club needs a lift after what has been a tough week and this feel like the perfect opportunity to give us one. We’re heading into the break, a potential new manager will probably be watching, or at least paying attention to the game so it’s also a time for the players to impress.
This is a season like no other and I really think it’s vital that we get something from our final game of the first half of the campaign. In some ways it is a season like every other though, because it’s going crazy at Wigan again!