Wigan Athletic: ready to bounce back against West Bromwich

Following a promising start to the season Wigan Athletic’s 5-1 defeat to Burnley provided them with a real wake-up call. Although the visitors lost key players over the summer they recruited well and looked a fine side on the day. The 5-1 scoreline was flattering to the visitors, the stats showing that Wigan had 18 shots (with 4 on target) compared with Burnley’s 8 (4 on target).

Leam Richardson chose to pack the midfield in a 3-5-2 formation, without a central target man. The tactic backfired and a clinical Burnley side proved too much to handle.

Will the manager persist with that 3-5-2 tomorrow when West Bromwich Albion are the visitors? Or will it be the more attacking 3-4-3 that has been the norm on previous occasions when playing with three central defenders? Another alternative is the 4-2-3-1 formation that is Richardson’s most favoured.

West Bromwich have had a disappointing start to the season by their standards. They have 7 points from 6 matches with a record not dissimilar to that of Latics:  W1D4L1. Last season they finished in 10th position.

A remarkable trait of Richardson’s team last season was in being able to bounce back after an adverse result. They lost eight league games in total but won seven and drew once in the games immediately following those reverses. The most traumatic of defeats was a 3-0 home drubbing by Sunderland, but Latics went the next nine games undefeated.

There was a train of thought that Wigan showed too much respect to Burnley on the field of play. Moreover, they left three central strikers and two attacking midfielders on the bench. Richardson will most likely approach this match in a different fashion, bringing back a target man, most likely Josh Magennis, and pushing Will Keane back to his best position behind the central striker. The manager has consistently showed loyalty to the players who have been his mainstays in the past. He will be forced to bring in a right back to replace the injured Tendayi Darikwa. The defensively solid, but less attack-minded, Ryan Nyambe would be an obvious choice in a 4-2-3-1. Should it be 3-4-3 he might employ Max Power as an attacking full back.

Steve Bruce’s teams are typically physically strong and well organised and Latics will have to work hard to beat them. It promises to be a tough encounter.

The transfer window closes at 11 pm on Thursday, September 1. We can expect activity from Latics, particularly in the acquisition of loan players. To make room for new players we can expect some departures from the current squad.

Leam Richardson was quoted today as saying:

“I always say as a manager of a football club, if you get enough transfer windows right, to make those steps you want to make, to mould what you want to mould, you’ll do all right. I still think we’re two or three of them off, partly because of where we’ve come from, and having to work a hundred miles an hour last year, to make that happen. We’re still very much a progress.

The transfer window closes at 11 pm on Thursday, September 1. We can expect particular activity from Latics in the acquisition of loan players. To make room for new players there may be some departures from the current squad.

Tom Pearce signed a new contract over summer but has made only one league appearance this season, as an 89th minute substitute against Preston. Stephen Humphrys was used as a late substitute in the first two league games but has not appeared since. There have been rumours about Graeme Shinnie leaving the club, possibly back to Scotland. But with Jordan Cousins out with a long-term injury the club are unlikely to release Shinnie unless they can find a couple of new holding midfielders.

There has been lots of speculation about Latics signing players from Egypt, with a bid for goalkeeper Mahmoud Gad having been made. If Gad were to be signed, he would initially be sent out on loan to another country to get the experience needed for a working visa in the UK. Ahmed Sayed, commonly known as “Zizo”, of Zamalek, is the leading scorer in the Egyptian league this season, although a winger. Were Latics to be serious about signing him they could expect to pay a fee of around £3m. With 23 appearances under his belt for Egypt a working visa would not be a problem.

Thinking of Steve Bruce coming to Wigan tomorrow and the possibility of an Egyptian joining Latics brings memories of Amr Zaki. Most of us had never heard of him when Latics signed him on loan from Zamalek in 2008 for a fee of £1.5m. He made a sensational start, scoring 5 goals in his first six games, before falling foul of Bruce in January. Sadly Zaki could never live up to his early promise and returned to Egypt at the end of the season.

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