Wigan Athletic go to Charlton tomorrow following four successive league defeats away from home, not having scored a goal in any of them.
However, Latics come into the game following a fine performance, drawing 1-1 at home against a strong Rubin Kazan side in the Europa League. Charlton occupy 19th place but are unbeaten in their last three league games, with two home draws being followed by a 1-0 win at Blackburn.
Why have Latics had such poor away results this season? One could say they have been unlucky, with shots almost going in and some crucial refereeing decisions going against them.
However, the recipe for being a successful away team is based on a sound defence, with a capability for a goal on counterattack. Latics have not met these criteria in the last four away matches.
The defence has given away soft goals, albeit involving some dubious refereeing decisions. There have been few effective counterattacks. Too often a Wigan defence under pressure has hoofed the ball away rather than looking to pass the ball out of defence to launch a counterattack.
Latics have the quality to be a very good counterattacking team away from home. Tomorrow Owen Coyle might well field his pacy wingers Callum McManaman and James McClean. With decent service either one is capable of outpacing the Charlton defence. But much will depend on the ability to play the ball out of defence under pressure.
This is a game Latics can win, or at least get a draw. Charlton have won only one home game so far. Much will depend on Coyle’s initial lineup and his tactical nous.
Regular league starters Thomas Rogne, James Perch and James McArthur are likely to return. Leon Barnett has played a lot of games recently, but is likely to continue in the centre of defence, where he has been building up a good understanding with the excellent young Norwegian, Thomas Rogne. The alternative would be to move Perch across for Barnett and play Stephen Crainey at left back, following his improved performance on Thursday.
In midfield Ben Watson is likely to start, but could well give way to Roger Espinoza at some stage. It would be a revelation if the Honduran/American were given a chance to start. Chris McCann played really well against Rubin, but will probably find himself rested.
McManaman and McClean are likely to play on the wings. At centre forward Coyle will have to choose between the combative Grant Holt or the more mobile Marc-Antoine Fortune. The former is more dangerous from crosses and set pieces, the latter more pacy and more suited to the counterattacking game.
What tactical formation Coyle is going to put forward remains to be seen. One never knows what is coming next. However, playing away from home it is likely to be more conservative and he has the option of playing Nick Powell or Jordi Gomez in the advanced midfield role behind the central striker. Alternatives remain of playing a more defensive-minded midfielder – such as Espinoza – in that role or playing two central strikers with one less wide player.
Let’s hope Latics can get an early goal to calm their nerves. They have been unlucky so far in the first half away from home, with a number of close calls. If they do fall behind one hopes that they do not revert to the ‘Bolton style’, as they have too often as late.
Wigan Athletic have a superior squad to Charlton and are capable of beating the south London team tomorrow. Despite playing a game on Thursday Latics have sufficient strength in depth to be good enough to beat the Addicks.