This time last year Wigan Athletic travelled to Barnsley for the opening game of the season. The 4-0 triumph appeared to be the beginning of a successful campaign, as Latics’ class was too much for the Yorkshire side. The next match away at Bournemouth was eagerly anticipated by the fans, but was to be a damp squib, with Latics going down 1-0. Coyle’s side went on to take just 8 points from the first 6 matches.
Ten years ago Paul Jewell’s side made a much brighter start. Despite a disappointing 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest they went on to take 14 points from their first six matches. They were to go through their first 17 league matches unbeaten and despite a slump in November and December they went on to win promotion to the Premier League.
Over the years Latics teams have tended to disappoint in the opening matches. That start in 2004 was an exception and one that Uwe Rosler would love to replicate a decade later. Rosler’s team faces home games against Reading, Blackpool and Birmingham and away at Charlton, Cardiff and Blackburn. Can they emulate the record of Jewell’s side in their first 6 matches?
Away matches at places like Cardiff and Blackburn are going to be tricky, as is the home game tomorrow with Reading. Moreover last season’s team often struggled against lower placed opposition. Rosler’s oft stated target of picking up an average of 2 points per game would seem more realistic – can Latics get those 12 points from the first 6 matches?
Reading finished 7th in the Championship last season, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Latics’ high pressing game undid them twice last year with 2-1 result at the Madejski and a 3-0 scoreline at the DW. Manager Nigel Adkins will no doubt have done his homework for tomorrow’s match and might well resort to a long ball approach to counteract the high pressing. Over thesummer Reading lost or released a swath of senior players including former captain Jobi McAnuff, who went to Leyton Orient, and Adam Le Fondre who went to Cardiff. Adkins expects the majority of the players on the pitch and on the bench tomorrow to have graduated from the club’s academy. Reading have a category 1 academy status and play in the Professional Development League 1.
Providing there have been no further injuries following the Paderborn game, Uwe Rosler will have a strong squad available. It is anybody’s guess which of Ali Al Habsi or Scott Carson will start in goal. He is likely to go with an experienced defence of James Perch, Emmerson Boyce, Ivan Ramis and Andrew Taylor. Don Cowie and James McArthur will probably be joined by either James Tavernier or Roger Espinoza in midfield. Oriel Riera will play the target man role, with Callum McManaman and Martyn Waghorn completing the front three. Should Rosler decide to opt for a 3-5-2 formation another centre back will come in and Waghorn could take that third midfield place.
Wigan have more than enough quality to see off a young Reading side. Rosler will be keen to get the season off to a winning start.