Blackpool (A) Preview

Where do I even start with a match preview for this game? I’m pretty sure we can say with confidence that both these teams will be getting relegated this season and that the victor of this game won’t be able to use it to spring a survival bid. But equally it’s a game of football with three points at stake so it’s still a big game.

Latics couldn’t quite match Jesus Christ’s achievements of rising from the dead over the Easter weekend and we’re all but relegated now. Defeats to Sheffield United and Swansea, two tough games admittedly, have pretty much decided our fate for us and you’d forgive any fan for accepting relegation. However, we may as well use it as an opportunity to prepare for next season.

It’s a similar story at Bloomfield Road for Blackpool. They’ve actually had a worse season than us points wise and had it not been for our points deduction they’d be at the foot of the table. As sad as it sounds this is pretty much a battle for who doesn’t finish bottom and although it’s not what we wanted to be fighting for at this stage of the season it’s still a target worth aiming for. I’m sure Blackpool will feel the same.

Latics Team News

We’re in a difficult position right now because technically speaking we’re not relegated yet, and whilst it’s almost certain we’re not just going to roll over. What we did see though is the beginning of the integration of youth players into the first team as Wiganner Scott Smith made his league debut against Swansea. I’d like to see more of that.

Let’s face it, the academy is going to have to be the club’s shining light moving forward so starting the process of getting youngsters into the first team makes sense, especially as there’s seemingly nothing to play for anymore. It’ll be interesting to see if any other players get the nod, the likes of Luke Brennan, Baba Adeeko and Abdi Sharif.

Sam Tickle is a goalkeeper I’d like to see get a chance although that seems hugely unlikely given the situation. My assumption is that Ben Amos will be kept on next season as a result of a contract clause and that Jamie Jones will be released at the end of his contract, so there’s a spot up for grabs. Why not see if Tickle can fill it?

We’ve seen how useful an academy player can be at the heart of defence with young Charlie Hughes. He had his first real shocker against Swansea but that’s part and parcel of development and it’ll only improve him. Playing alongside Whatmough and hopefully Rekik, who should come in for Ryan Nyambe who also looked out of his depth on Monday, will do Hughes the world of good.

Two players at the other end of their careers to the youngsters in question are wingbacks Darikwa and McClean. The pair of them will probably see out their Latics careers this season given the fact both are OOC in the summer and may well move on, and despite a fair amount of criticism they’ve been two of the better performers during the Maloney era. Two more youngsters Jack Reilly and Luke Brennan are waiting in the wings (literally) to take over.

In midfield I can’t see us going for the three man set up against a team, with all due respect, as weak as Blackpool. We’ve got to start with Power and Christ as the duo with three attackers ahead of them as I believe this is the game we can really show our attacking talent. We won’t be able to do that with three DMs though so someone’s got to go…

I’d be replacing Tom Naylor with Thelo Aasgaard and give him the freedom of Bloomfield Road. Let him get on the ball and show us what he’s capable of as he’s not been able to show it enough. With Lang and, in an ideal world for me at least, Josh Magennis as a front three that could do some damage.

I thank Ashley Fletcher for his efforts at the club but long term planning means we should be prioritising the players contracted to us rather than ones on loan. I’d look at bringing Magennis into the starting XI, maybe bringing Chris Sze and Anthony Scully – who has returned from a hernia operation – into the squad to let them express themselves too.

Tactical Talk

It appears that the way Shaun Maloney wants us to play is massively hindered by the personnel he’s got at his disposal. We probably lack a capable ball playing keeper, a left footed ball-playing centre back, pacey and direct wingbacks, a more creative deep lying midfielder and a fast and clinical striker. When you’re missing that much you’re in trouble.

For me the biggest miss is a fast striker. We play some really good passes in behind the opposition’s defence but all of our 9s are target men with little pace who make these kind of passes extremely easy to defend against. Team’s can hold a much higher defensive line safe in the knowledge that we don’t have anyone to make them pay for it.

The addition of a quick striker would push our opposition back more OR it would give us more opportunities on the break. Either way it would benefit us far more than what we currently have to deal with which is very little. It makes me feel sorry for our strikers somewhat because they’re being asked to do things they literally cannot do.

I’d suggest the forwards we have aren’t good enough to make Maloney compromise his style at this point in order to try and get the best out of them. Therefore the alternative is to pick players in that position that do have the necessary attributes. I’d say pace wise we’re struggling, maybe someone like Lang would be the best option.

But then we lose his dynamism behind the striker, albeit less dynamism than we’ve been used to from him. Because I believe this system will be brilliant to watch next season, and because the plan seems to be to use several youngsters, I wouldn’t mind seeing Sze get the nod. However in a game like this that seems unlikely so it’ll be between Fletcher and Magennis.

To be honest I’ve never been a big fan of either, mainly down to my own personal bias and preference of what I like a striker to be, which is essentially a quick, clinical poacher rather than a physical battering ram! With that in mind I accept that I may not be best placed to analyse their performances as they’ll never be ‘what I’m looking for’, but for me it’s time to give Magennis a go.

For me he offers more in the build up and is a better threat in the air. Ashley Fletcher huffs and puffs but never really feels threatening whereas at least Magennis lets defenders know they’re in a game. Against a physical Blackpool side having Magennis as the 9 with two players playing very close to him could work nicely.

Other than that it’s same old for me. Take more shots, get more bodies in goal scoring areas and just express yourselves. Hell, some of the players might be putting themselves in the shop window for the summer…

Final Thoughts

This could be a brilliant game. Not for the talent on show, not for what’s on the line but for how ridiculously out of form both teams are! It could be 0-0 or it could be 5-5 and I for one can’t wait!

Forgive me if I sound like I’ve already accepted relegation but that’s exactly what I’ve done. I just think we may as well look ahead to next season right away because we don’t want to experience what we have this season, and the best way to avoid that is to plan ahead and plan properly.

Up the Tics, as always!

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