Wigan Athletic travelled to Hillsborough on December 18th last year, only their second ever visit to that famous ground that hosted FA Cup semi-finals for so many years. Wigan were on a high. After a miserable run of defeats under Owen Coyle and caretaker management they had welcomed the charismatic Uwe Rosler. Just three days before the German had won his first game in charge, with a 3-2 victory over arch-rivals Bolton.
Almost a year on, Wigan Athletic find themselves with another new manager in his second game in charge, once again hoping to turn back a tide of bad results. With all the media hype about emails and racism the mood in Wigan is not as bright as it was a year ago, although there exists a significant faction of supporters who have faith in the ability of new manager, Malky Mackay, to turn things around.
Latics were playing well at Hillsborough a year ago, being 1-0 up through a goal from James McClean, only for the match to be abandoned after 59 minutes because of the torrential rain. They were to return to Hillsborough on February 11th to claim a 3-0 victory with two goals from Nicky Maynard and one from Marc-Antoine Fortune. It signaled the beginning of an eight game unbeaten run in the league with seven wins and a draw.
How times have changed. Latics currently lie in 23rd place in the Championship table, with Wednesday five points above them in 13th place. Strangely enough Wednesday have won only one out of nine home games this season, scoring just three goals. However, their defensive record is strong with only 14 goals conceded in 18 matches.
Latics put up a good performance in Mackay’s first game as manager, drawing 1-1 with high flyers Middlesbrough last Saturday, thanks to a superb free kick from Shaun Maloney. Mackay will be looking at building upon that performance to get a good result at Hillsborough.
One of the main criticisms levelled against Rosler was his constant rotation of the team. It will be therefore be revealing to see if Mackay sticks with the lineup that was a shade unfortunate not to beat Middlesbrough last weekend.
However, a lack of firepower upfront remains a huge concern for Latics. There are plenty of fans who would like to see a frontline pairing of Andy Delort and Oriel Riera. The two played together in midweek for the development squad, Delort scoring two and Riera hitting the post for Jordan Flores to tap in. Would Mackay be willing to vary his tactical formation to allow this to happen?
The big question is whether Mackay’s arrival can lift Latics in the same way that Rosler’s lifted them just over a year ago.
The performance on Saturday will give us at least an indication of whether Latics really can turn around a hugely disappointing start to the season.
Development squad beats Morecambe 4-0.