The furore that has surrounded Malky Mackay’s appointment has overshadowed everything else happening at Wigan Athletic this week. However, there is a fascinating contest coming up on Saturday with the team third from the bottom of the Championship playing the team third from top. Can a Latics team that has been down on its knees lift itself to defeat a team riding high?
Ex-Real Madrid centre half Aitor Karanka took over at Middlesbrough a year ago this month. Karanka had been Jose Mourinho’s assistant during his time in the Spanish capital. It seems that the Basque learned from his time working with the ‘Special One’. Boro are a physical team with a high workrate. They have the best defensive record in the Championship with only 12 goals conceded in 17 matches. They will prove a hard nut to crack.
Mackay has confirmed that assistant manager, Graham Barrow, and first team coach, Eric Black, will be continuing in their positions. He will most likely to consult with the two of them regarding Saturday’s lineup. For the first time in years a Latics manager will have the luxury of choosing from a full squad, with the return of players from short and long-term injury. Two players Mackay will know are Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor, who were not key members of his squad that won the Championship a couple of years ago, but also played under him previously at Watford.
Despite their league positions few could argue that Wigan do not have at least as strong a squad as Boro. Mackay’s task will be dealing with the egos in the dressing room and getting the best out his players. He has some six weeks before the transfer window opens – time to assess not only his players’ capabilities, but their commitment to the club. It would not be a surprise to see some high profile names leaving the club in the next couple of months.
It so often happens that a new manager breathes new life into a club – at least in the short term. Dave Whelan will be hoping Mackay can do that, despite the huge pressure of media and public opinion surrounding him at the moment.
As an ex-centre half, Mackay can be expected to build a team based on solid defence. He might well opt for experience with a back four of James Perch, Emmerson Boyce, Ivan Ramis and Maynor Figueroa. He might well opt for a conservative midfield with Don Cowie and William Kvist bolstering the defence, with Adam Forshaw pushed a little further forward. It will be fascinating to see how Mackay will deal with Andy Delort and Oriel Riera, two capable strikers who had a rough time under Uwe Rosler.
It is hard to predict what will happen on Saturday. But a Wigan Athletic win is by no means impossible.