The arrival of a new manager so often spurs a team in to playing better. With the improved performances come better results.
Malky Mackay will be hoping that is the case when Latics face Norwich tomorrow. He had a positive start when he recalled the old guard against Middlesbrough, who did well but could not quite get the win they hoped for. But his second match saw two defensive errors give away three points against a mediocre Sheffield Wednesday side.
Like Latics, Norwich come off a run of bad results. In fact their records over the last six games are identical W1 D2 L3. The Canaries started the season well and new signings Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban were banging the goals in. However, since then they have found the Championship division harder than perhaps they had anticipated.
As Callum McManaman and Shaun Maloney will testify, referees in this division do not protect skillful players like they do in the Premier League. The Norwich playmaker, Wes Hoolahan, has only played 12 games this season and is still carrying an ankle injury. However, given his importance to the team, manager Neil Adams might risk the little Irishman tomorrow despite not being fully fit. Norwich can be expected to field an attacking lineup with winger Nathan Redmond joining Grabban and Jerome up front.
Ben Watson made his first start in nine months at Sheffield and looked understandably rusty. However, Mackay is likely to continue with him and Chris McCann in central midfield. Shaun Maloney is expected to return following illness. Should he be given a central midfield role then Adam Forshaw will find himself on the bench. However, Maloney could be played wide on the left with Forshaw continuing. Don Cowie is fit again and will challenge for a place, either in central or right midfield.
Mackay fielded two wingers- Callum McManaman and James McClean – at Sheffield. But he will surely have found, as did Uwe Rosler and Owen Coyle previously, that playing the two wide men at the same time just does not work.
Emmerson Boyce moved into the centre of defence in the second half at Sheffield with Leon Barnett. The lack of form of central defenders in recent games is a cause for concern, but Mackay will most likely stick with the two Bs, with James Perch and Andrew Taylor at full back.
The performance at Sheffield once again highlighted the need for a goalscoring centre forward, who receives the necessary support. McManaman and McClean ended up putting in crosses that were too often uncontested.
Mackay’s preferred formation at Cardiff was based on a version of 4-5-1 that was close to the 4-3-3 preferred by Rosler. Like Rosler, it has not been his wont to play with twin strikers. However, given the repeated failure of Latics to put the ball into the back of the net, will he is willing to change his formation? The exciting McManaman is much more effective in a free role than marooned out on the right wing where he it is easier for opposition defenders to pick him off.
Various combinations exist for a twin strike force – choose any two from Delort/Fortune/McClean/ McManaman/Riera/Waghorn. A switch to 4-4-2 would certainly be worth a try.
Once again this is a match that Latics can certainly win. Perhaps Lady Luck might be on Wigan’s side this time? There have been so many times this season when Latics have been within a whisker of getting a crucial goal.
Perhaps the tide will turn tomorrow?