Thursday, August 7, 2008

EPL Previews: Wigan - More Midfield, Same Defense

Wigan Athletic F.C. is will begin its fourth successive season in England’s top division. It is also only their fourth season ever in the top flight. Wigan has finished 10th, 17th and 14th in its first three seasons and will likely stay up again for several reasons.

First and foremost is that they have a huge homefield advantage. It’s not because the fan support is great, rather it is the fact that come mid-winter the pitch is a giant mudbog. The JJB Stadium is shared with the Wigan Warriors rugby team. The resulting doubled activity slows the pitch and takes away some of the speed and skill advantages of the bigger clubs.

Second, the club has a very talented midfield. Last year’s signings Wilson Palacios and Antonio Valencia played quite well. Welsh winger Jason Koumas also had a great season until, for some unknown reason, new manager Steve Bruce decided to sit him on the pine. My fantasy team hated him for this, but even when Koumas came on as a sub he was dangerous. This offseason the Latics have also signed Olivier Kapo for additional midfield support from Bruce’s last squad Birmingham City. Bolstering an already good midfield.

Up front, and I’m not sure this counts for a reason why they will stay up but, Wigan will likely put out old standby Emile Heskey, who is serviceable, and Amr Zaky, on loan from Egypt, who has already put two in the net for Wigan in the preseason. Zaky has scored 27 goals in 48 international appearances and scored 22 goals for club in 54 club appearances. He is there to score goals and he is already off to a good start.

Third, manager Steve Bruce has proven a good manager for the lower level clubs. He should continue his shrewd gameplans and signings.

There are reasons why Wigan may go down. Foremost is my prediction they will stay up. I’m bound to jinx the club. Second, is Titus Bramble. I know the man helped Wigan tie Liverpool last season, but he really isn’t very good or at least he is mistake prone. Bramble is emblematic of Wigan’s defense, i.e. not very good. Wigan had a -23 goal differential last season, while not Derby County bad, it puts them 18th place for the league. The only way that improves is if the offense can pick up the scoring since the defense isn’t getting any better.

Overall, I predict Wigan stays up with a 15th place showing.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Yes, their whole "lets play good teams in a mud bog" strategy is really quite good. I can't believe the EPL lets clubs pull that shit. If this were the NFL, you bet Rog Rog would be brining the pain.

/still very bitter about the Arsenal game last year.