Judging by his post-match comments earlier this week, Roberto is ready to give his first team a good week and a half of rest and relaxation. They did, after all, face the traditional top four in back-to-back matches, the most physical team in the Premier League away, and Sunderland in heavy rain and swirling winds. Two of those were played with 10 men, and at least one against 12, it could be argued.
All of which means we are likely to see a few of the younger players in the squad, and a few older faces that have been on the fringe of the squad this season. Here are some of the lads I’ll be looking out for tomorrow:
Callum McManaman: the 20-year-old is fresh from a successful loan spell at Blackpool, who judging by fan forums were sad to lose him. He scored a couple goals and looked quite confident. Scored for Latics almost exactly a year ago in last season’s FA Cup 3rd round, so he’ll be hoping to repeat the feat. It was cracker (40 secs in).
Nouha Dicko: Signed on the cheap from a club in financial trouble, just like Victor Moses, Dicko may well eventually be the man to replace him when Victor inevitably moves onward and upward. Lightning quick, the former Strasbourg man can play on the wing or as a striker, and has been the main attacking threat in the reserves for much of the season.
Shaun Maloney: When he joined towards the end of the summer transfer window, along with Albert Crusat and Patrick Van Aanholt (on loan), many felt he was Martinez’s biggest coup. One of the few players signed in the Martinez era with Premier League experience, Maloney is clever passer of the ball and dead ball specialist. He has, however, struggled with injuries down the years. This match should be a chance to assess his fitness levels.
Hendry Thomas: The Honduran hard man has been neither on the bench with the first team, or in the reserves regularly — and yet reports said he was due to have his contract renewed. The authors of this blog appreciate his no nonsense approach in midfield, it will be nice to see the old fella if he gets the call.
James McArthur: Almost certain to start, James has frequently featured for the first team in the last 10 minutes of Premier League matches, but hasn’t showed quite enough to jump Ben Watson, James McCarthy or Momo Diame in the pecking order. Probably one of the big reasons Hendry Thomas has fallen out of the reckoning, Martinez clearly has faith in the Scot. He’ll be looking forward to a full 90 minutes.
Emmerson Boyce: A favourite on this blog, Boycey is the ultimate professional, the most dependable player at the club. Unfortunately, he hasn’t featured since the away loss at Wolves, in which he skilfully earned the team a penalty. First, his young son was seriously ill, in hospital. And then he and his wife welcomed another baby into the family over the festive period. We understand his son’s health has improved — Latics fans will be grateful to see him back in the squad.
Michael Pollitt: Assuming Al-Habsi gets a rest, and the unfortunate Chris Kirkland has not recovered from his latest bout of injuries, it will be great to see Polly make an appearance. What an excellent professional, the only Latics players to have been with the club since their first Premier League season.