Wigan Athletic travel to the south coast on Saturday to take on newly promoted Bournemouth.
The two clubs have a significant history of encounters, of which Bournemouth have won 13 times and Wigan 14, with 10 draws.
Last season’s FA Cup run started with a 1-1 draw against the Cherries at the DW Stadium, Latics being saved by a Jordi Gomez penalty. A Mauro Boselli goal helped Latics to a narrow 1-0 win in the replay at Dean Court. League 1 Bournemouth provided stiff opposition to the mixed lineups that Wigan put forward in those games. They were to go on to reach second place in their division, getting back into the second tier of English football for the first time in 23 years. Bournemouth’s league attendances averaged 6,852 last season, in a ground with a capacity of 9,300.
Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic – trade name Bournemouth AFC – was formed in 1899. They have played at Dean Court – currently called Goldsands Stadium after their sponsor – since 1910. In 2001 the stadium was completely remodeled, with the original pitch being turned by 90 degrees. In 2008 debt forced them into administration, a subsequent 10 point deduction dragging them into relegation to League 2.
Both clubs suffered defeat in their previous match. Latics went down 2-0 to Manchester United in the Community Shield. The Cherries’ run of 11 matches without defeat came to an abrupt end when they lost 6-1 at Watford. They had won their first league match, beating Charlton 2-1 at Dean Court. Wigan will be hoping to keep up the form they showed in their first league game, when they had an emphatic 4-0 win at Barnsley.
Owen Coyle is likely to name the same lineup that started at Wembley last week. Jean Beausejour was ruled out of the Community Shield match with a thigh injury, but is likely to return to the squad. The winger scored two goals in midweek for Chile in a 6-0 routing of Iraq , the match being played in Denmark. There have been rumours of an impending departure of the Chilean – with Everton and Bordeaux being mentioned – but this may well prove to be mere media speculation.
Latics are going to need players of Beausejour’s calibre if they are going to push for promotion. James McClean excited Latics supporters at Wembley with his willingness to run at defenders. This is not Beausejour’s style – his key strengths are in his excellent control when receiving the ball in wide positions and in his ability to put in inch-perfect crosses. Both McClean and Beausejour have important roles to play this season and if the two remain available it will allow Coyle to vary his approach.
In midweek James McCarthy completed 90 minutes for Ireland in their 0-0 draw with Wales, James McClean also making a second half appearance for the Irish. Shaun Maloney played 86 minutes for Scotland at Wembley. This season Latics players are going to have to get used to playing three matches in a week and it is expected that McCarthy and Maloney will complete close to the full 90 minutes at Bournemouth.
In the Martinez era so many players would come back jaded and jet-lagged from long journeys during international breaks and performances would dip. Latics now have a minimum of overseas players likely to go off on such journeys.
Getting back into the Premier League is the expectation for Wigan Athletic. The bookmakers currently rate QPR and Watford as being the favourites for winning the Championship this year. Wigan and Reading currently vie for third place at odds at and around 8/1. Owen Coyle will be looking at a positive result at Dean Court in an effort to build up momentum for the promotion push.
If Coyle’s squad has a clear competitive advantage over those of promotion rivals then it is in the area of central midfield. The current trio of James McArthur, James McCarthy and Ben Watson is as good as you will get in the Championship. The likes of Roger Espinoza, Fraser Fyvie, Jordi Gomez and Chris McCann are also competing for places. However, none of them are going to be potential match winners unless they have the ball.
During the Steve Bruce era one recalls Denny Landzaat making a comment to the effect that it was hard to do his job as a central midfielder when the ball so often flew over his head. Landzaat was a class act, but we rarely saw the best of him at Wigan.
Coyle’s team is capable of varying its approach as needed. They have a high quality midfield that can dominate the game through possession football, but then they have central strikers who are adept at chasing long balls and holding them up.
Bournemouth will be keen to win this match. They will be backed by a vocal crowd in a small ground and Latics can expect an initial barrage from the home side. Wigan will need to win the physical tussles in order to play the kind of football that can destroy teams like the Cherries.
Providing Wigan show sufficient resolve for the physical side of play there is no reason why they should not come away with three points.