With Manchester United facing Wigan on Saturday, I posed several questions to forum members of the Vital Football’s Wigan Forum Section. Read the Stretford End Arising match preview here: Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester United.
Stretford End Arising: What are your thoughts on Saturday’s game? What team is Roberto Martinez likely to select and what formation will he adopt? Where will the game be won or lost?
J_Mo: After the 12 previous defeats, it’s a big opportunity to get our first result against Man Utd considering they’ll probably have the upcoming Chelsea and Liverpools games in mind.
The lineup will most likely be unchanged from the draw at Anfield so: Al-Habsi, Gohouri, G.Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Watson, Diame, McCarthy, N’Zogbia, Moses, Rodallega – pretty much our strongest team minus Cleverley who’s obviously ineligible.
As for the formation, Martinez rarely deviates much from his 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 system, but there’s plenty going forward with N’Zogbia, Moses and McCarthy supporting Hugo in the lone striker role. If they’re all on song then they could cause real problems on Saturday.
Injebreck: I expect a very tight game. Man United are starting to show some nerves and their performances away haven’t been great. Most people will expect this to be a banker away win, but we’re coming into a bit of decent form. We will play the usual 4-5-1 of, probably, al Habsi, Stam, G.Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, N’Zogbia, McCarthy, Diame, Watson, Moses, Rodallega. We need Rodallega to take the chances that the wingers and McCarthy will provide and for the defence to be solid in front of another good display from al Habsi.
SEA: Wigan have a tough set of remaining fixtures; Martinez believes Wigan will need to secure forty points to avoid relegation. Do you believe this to be the case? Do you fancy your chances of avoiding relegation? How will relegation affect Wigan? If Wigan are relegated will Martinez remain at the helm?
J_Mo: Less than forty might be enough, but it’d be nice to get that many to make sure of it. I’m still confident we’ll stay up, although in fairness not all Latics fans share this optimism. We’ve still plenty of winnable games remaining after this tough patch of fixtures, although a win on Saturday would solve a lot of our problems!
I know it’s a bit cliche, but relegation is unthinkable. We would probably retain most of our core group of young players, and Whelan has stated in the past that Martinez would stay even if we went down. Whether we would ever return to the Premier League again is another matter.
Injebreck: Yes, we’ll need to target 40 points and we can do it, but, with the run of games coming up, this could go down to the wire again. Of course, the three points tomorrow will help! Relegation will see three or four players sold in the summer, though whatever happens, N’Zogbia will probably go. If we do go down, it will give the younger players a chance to gel together in a less high pressure atmosphere and we can come back up much better. The only way Martinez will leave is if Whelan sells the club. A lot of us have been expecting that for a while, but it’s not happened yet.
SEA: Which of Wigan’s players have disappointed and which have exceeded expectations this season? The last time we spoke summer signings Ronnie Stam, Antolin Alcaraz, Franco Di Santo and Ali Al-Habsi were impressing. Is this still the case? What area of the team requires further improvement?
J_Mo: It’s only February, but most Latics fans will agree that Al-Habsi will almost certainly win our Player of the Season award. He’s been that good, and we’ll have a tough task signing him permanently even if we do stay up. McCarthy and Cleverley have also been excellent, but injuries have limited their impact in the side this season, and is part of the reason we’re so deep in a relegation battle.
As for the others, Alcaraz has been a great signing, probably our best defender this season. Stam has a been a solid, if unspectacular squad player who hasn’t featured much in recent weeks. Di Santo won over the fans initially with his hard work, but like Boselli, he’s not been the answer to our goalscoring problems that we’d hoped (you can probably guess which part of the team requires improvement now), and as a result we’re still too reliant on Rodallega to score goals.
Injebreck: Quite a few have disappointed. Boselli came with a big reputation as a goalscorer, but hasn’t. di Santo puts in a lot of effort, but, similarly, doesn’t look a goalscorer. Figueroa looks a shadow of the player of last year and is fragile defending and the entire defensive unit rely too much on the continuous excellent performances from al Habsi. Star players are McCarthy and N’Zogbia while Moses starting on the other wing takes the pressure off Charlie. We need to score goals more consistently, so we either need another forward up with Hugo, or a creative attacking midfielder to support him.
SEA: Thank you very much for participating in feature. Good luck for the remainder of season.
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