It has been a difficult week for Wigan Athletic and Owen Coyle. There has been a torrent of anger vented towards the manager following consecutive home defeats, with fans getting frustrated by a mediocre league position and a probable exit from Europe.
Coyle will be looking for an emphatic performance against Derby County this afternoon to halt the slide.
Derby stand just 3 points above Wigan in 8th place, Latics having a game in hand. A win for Latics is a distinct possibility providing they show the kind of movement and cohesion that was evident in the first half of the Zulte Waregem match on Thursday.
Derby will be no pushovers. They have an excellent away record of W5 D1 L2, winning at Watford and Bournemouth in their last two games on the road. The arrival of Steve McLaren in October has turned Derby’s season around. After the first 9 games they had only 11 points, but they have since picked up 14 points from the last 7.
It will be an opportunity for Latics supporters to watch the elegant 18 year old Derby playmaker, Will Hughes. Hughes is likely to go to a big club in the January sales, giving McLaren the resources to bolster weaker areas of his squad.
Latics might well go into this match with a youthful front line. The 20 year old Will Keane has been signed on a short term loan from Manchester United and he could go straight in at centre forward with the excellent Nick Powell playing just behind him. Wingers Callum McManaman and James McClean were a real force in the first half on Thursday and offer a potent threat.
Ryan Shotton will almost certainly come back in. It remains to be seen whether Emmerson Boyce will be rested. If so he could be replaced by Shotton, but the possibility exists for James Perch to move to right back with Stephen Crainey retaining his place on the left.
Ben Watson is likely to return in central midfield to be partnered by one of James McArthur, Chris McCann or Roger Espinoza. Given Coyle’s previous preferences it will probably be the tall Irishman McCann who once again gets the call.
Although unlikely there is an outside chance that Ivan Ramis might make a surprise return following a ten month absence through injury. Having someone who can pass the ball out of defence would make a big difference for the midfield, given the tendency of the centre backs to launch hopeful long balls or to pass the buck with a ball back to the ‘keeper.
It promises to be an interesting encounter. A win for Wigan will push them back into contention. They are only 5 points away from the play-off zone with a match in hand.
Hopefully they can shake off the disappointments of the past week and play with spirit and determination.