LIVERPOOL-WIGAN ATHLETIC PREVIEW

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                        Wigan Athletic travel to Anfield this afternoon to face a Liverpool team in transition. The statistics tell us that Liverpool have won only 3 of their last 15  matches at home in 2012, a far cry from the days when Anfield was a fortress where teams feared to go. Latics 2-1 win there in April was one of their most notable performances, catalytic in helping maintain their Premier League status. Moreover Wigan have not lost to the Reds in their last five meetings.

The optimistic Liverpool supporter would rightly say that the club comes into this fixture on an unbeaten run of 6 league games, including a 1-1 draw at Chelsea last week. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool are playing better football and have some exciting young talent coming through. The controversial Luis Suarez has been playing really well, scoring 8 league goals so far. Liverpool are clearly on the ascendancy and this is a game they dearly want to win.

Much has been said in the press this week of the confrontation between the two young managers – Rodgers and Martinez – both being lauded for their teams’ style of football. The cynic might say that Rodgers takes undue credit from his success as manager of Swansea, following unimpressive stats in his previous posts at Reading and Watford, where his teams were not renowned for playing good football. Martinez supporters would suggest that it was he, more than Rodgers, who recrafted the brand of football during his era at the Welsh club.

Rodgers still has a lot to do to prove himself on Merseyside, but his insistence on Liverpool playing quality football is to be commended. He has also had the courage to throw a handful of young players in at the deep end. Liverpool still retain players of proven quality to complement their youthful component. Steven Gerrard may be past his best but still has a lot to offer. They might well come into this match with a backline of three central defenders – Skrtel, Agger and Carragher – a rugged and experienced barrier to penetrate.

Wigan Athletic’s season so far has been disappointing, but these days one never knows what they will do next. When they first got into the Premier League a confrontation with Liverpool was one to be feared. Since then Liverpool’s strength has waned and Wigan have shown themselves capable of beating any one of those big clubs on their day. Wigan will go into the match anxious not to concede an early goal. So far this season they have not been able to get a result in a match where they have conceded the first goal.

Latics still have Alcaraz , McArthur and Crusat ruled out by injury. However, Ryo Miyaichi might be fit enough to take a place on the bench. It remains to be seen whether Shaun Maloney will make it after a recent injury. Jordi Gomez would be the most likely replacement. Ben Watson is likely to continue in midfield following his much improved performance against West Bromwich last weekend. Other than the doubt about Maloney the starting lineup is likely to remain unchanged from last week.

With fair refereeing and a little bit of luck Wigan Athletic can get a good result today. They need to avoid giving away any soft goals – particularly penalties – and Gary Caldwell and his defensive unit need to neutralize the threat of Luis Suarez. It seems like Latics play best when Caldwell is at his best. Let’s hope that today is one of his better days.

Swansea vs. Wigan Athletic: Goals guaranteed

Of all the clubs that voluntarily or otherwise replaced their managers over the summer break, the Swansea revolution has been the most intriguing. Steve Clarke’s positive start at West Brom has been surprising in its results, but not in approach or style. Norwich’s decline had been gloomily predictable, while their old boss Paul Lambert is going to need years and quite possibly a magic wand to steady Villa’s sinking ship. Andre Villas-Boas endured a rocky start but has started to show signs of the fast-paced attacking football that won him a treble with Porto a year and a half ago. All four of them were relatively known quantities or familiar faces.

Enter Michael Laudrup, and Swansea.

When Brendan Rodgers left to pursue a career in corny one-liners on “Being Liverpool,” many wondered if the style of play would go with him. It is often overlooked that it was not Rodgers, but our very own Roberto Martinez, that instilled such a style of play at Swansea long before Mr. Ok came along. That said, Rodgers deserves enormous credit for an excellent season brimming with possession-based, continental-style football. Until that magical final stretch for the Latics, watching Swansea last season had been like watching Wigan 2.0 — a new and improved version of our team with goals and clean sheets added.

In appointing Laudrup, they made a real statement. As successful as Brendan Rodgers was in Wales, he was never a big name. Appointing the Dane, such a stylish and well-travelled player, brings an air of prestige to the Liberty Stadium. And it opens up markets.

New signings Jonathan De Guzman, Michu and Chico admitted the Dane was the main draw in their respective moves to the Liberty Stadium, while Pablo Hernandez said he was his childhood idol. All four are proven performers in the Spanish league and Michu already looks like the signing of the season at 2 million pounds. Ki Sung-Yeung, signed from Celtic, has been described by the Swansea writer on ESPN FC network as “being able to do everything Joe Allen does at a third of the price.” Tidy business indeed.

And the style has changed. And not necessarily for the worse, from an entertainment perspective. They look a more potent threat in attack, committing more men forward, which in turn renders them a bit more susceptible at the back. Their results are extreme to say the least — starting with 5-0 and 3-0 wins before a 2-2 draw, then a three match losing streak, and another 2-2 draw. At home, they’ve won 3-0, lost 3-0, and drawn 2-2 twice. There appears to be a bit less tikki-takka and more direct attacking play. Still skillful and on the ground, but less patient, and more adventurous. The result is possibly an even more entertaining brand of football, but less reliable.

All of which should contribute to a mouthwatering fixture tomorrow. Wigan’s front three of Koné, Di Santo and Maloney showed tremendous movement and understanding against Everton and were unlucky not to win it for their teammates on the day. If Swansea take the initiative as one would expect playing at home, there should be space on the counter. The key will be who scores first. When Everton visited Liberty Park several weeks ago, Swansea were vulnerable on the break and conceded two more. Reading put two past them before a spirited second half fightback that rescued a point.

Wigan should expect to start with the same XI that faced Everton — unless anyone returns from international duties with injury or severe jet-lag. Maynor Figueroa will be buzzing after Honduras thumped Canada 8-1 to advance to the final phase of CONCACAF qualification. Jean Beausejour fared less well, with Chile losing both of their qualifiers. Ali Al-Habsi’s Oman beat Jordan to keep their dream alive, though Australia’s late winner against Iraq pegged them back on goal difference. James McArthur, Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney all featured for Scotland, while James McCarthy played two matches for the Republic of Ireland. Comparatively, Swansea lost few of their starters to international travel and may have an advantage there.

A difficult one to predict, but all signs point to goals galore. 2-2, anyone?