The week that saw Wigan drop back into the relegation zone ends with a trip to Carrow Road for a tricky away fixture against new-look Norwich City.
I was among those who suspected the wheels would come of for the Canaries this season after their impressive campaign last time around. The replacement of outgoing manager Paul Lambert with Chris Hughton, plus the additions of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner hardly said “we’re taking this team to the next level”.
But Hughton has done magnificent work and Norwich’s football has progressed. After a dismal start to the campaign, he has put together a tremendous run of form not dissimilar to Latics’ stylish end to the 2011-2012 season, claiming the famous scalps of Arsenal and Manchester United. The aforementioned defensive signings have returned to their best form and developed a solid partnership after years of bench-warming or team-hopping. And the conversion of Wes Hoolahan into a second striker, behind Grant Holt, has been a masterstroke. His role is similar to that of Shaun Maloney at Wigan, and has been hugely successful. The team whose success under Lambert was largely based on energy and getting the ball into the box early is now playing some lovely stuff.
That said, Latics’ not only need something from this match, but will feel they can get it. Victor Moses’ equaliser last season should have been followed by a winner. It was the game Shaun Maloney announced himself in Wigan colours, and he will be hoping to make his first start since returning from injury. Also returning is Maynor Figueroa — and despite the absence of the club’s three preferred centre halves — the defence now feels balanced with the Honduran lining up alongside Adrian Lopez and Emmerson Boyce.
It will be interesting to see if Maloney indeed starts, or if Jordi Gomez is given further opportunity to extend his run of matches in the starting lineup. Franco Di Santo may be sacrificed if Roberto employs a more conservative approach and uses both playmakers. Otherwise, one can only hope James McCarthy starts right where he left off against QPR, with marauding runs from midfield and a real desire to get into the box and score.
Norwich lost to Aston Villa in midweek and have a few knocks of their own. I think Latics will edge this one. Prediction: 2-1