“ Beam me up Scottie” said Captain Kirk. Scottie was an Aberdonian with the skill of beaming people out of difficult situations in the original iconic “Startrek” series. One only wishes that Kirk and Scottie were here to help us now. As a Latic fanatic I would like to be beamed out of the upcoming fixtures. How unfortunate to be playing Chelsea after their high of defeating previously unbeaten Man City, on the back of qualifying for the next stage of the Champions League with their victory over Valencia .
To be frank I am worried about Wigan Athletic going down this season. We have better players than many of the teams near the bottom, but our luck leaves something to be desired. What is “luck”? Is it when the ball hits the woodwork and bounces out? Or is it a defensive inability to cope as a unit? Or is it the bizarre refereeing decision such as the one that killed us in the Blackburn match? Or is it meeting other teams at the wrong time? Look at our fixture list. Having to play the three newly promoted teams in the first three games, then getting this stuff that is coming up? Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U and away at Stoke?
Sometimes it is the timing that you need on your side. The timing was right for Norwich City last weekend. A potential challenger for relegation they gained an invaluable three points against a Newcastle team “in a bad moment”, as a familiar Spanish football manager might put it. This was not the same Newcastle team brimming with confidence that we were unlucky to lose to in October. The Norwich victory came through traditional English football, by scoring from crosses. This was aided by the lack of any genuine centre half in the injury-hit Newcastle defence. You could say that Norwich played to Newcastle’s weaknesses, but to be honest, that is all you usually get from them. They are a typically English side – albeit with a Scottish manager – playing on the confidence of success in the Championship. Their play is simple: get wide and put crosses in. They don’t play the passing game of Latics, but they are above us in the league. Let’s hope that will not be the case at the end of the season.
Let’s try to be positive about the Chelsea game. A couple of years ago Latics beat Chelsea 3-1. It was their first win against a top four team in 34 attempts in the Premier League. Chelsea had Petr Cech sent off that day, but the consensus was that Wigan deserved their victory. On paper the current Wigan Athletic team is at least as strong as the one of two seasons ago. Chelsea can be beaten! However, we are going to have to be at our best against a team who have scored 15 goals without reply against us the last three times we have played them.
What a pity Antolin Alcaraz had to go off with a rib injury against West Brom. He played an excellent role in the position of right-sided centre back in a block of three. When Latics were playing with an orthodox back four it was Alcaraz who had to play on the left of centre. Being a right footed player he looks more comfortable on the right hand side. Besides Maynor Figueroa, naturally left footed, has regained his form and is currently playing well in his new role of left hand centre back. If Alcaraz is unable to play Steve Gohouri will probably take his place, although Emmerson Boyce might be fit enough to step in after six weeks out through injury. A good understanding between those three centre halves is going to be crucial if we are to keep Chelsea out. I expect that the rest of the team will remain unchanged from the West Brom lineup.
Whatever happens I just hope we won’t get into the capitulation mode against Chelsea. Let’s go in with a positive team lineup and show some steel. So will it be capitulation or surprise? The latter is by no means impossible – go for it Wigan! Let’s give them an unpleasant surprise!