Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fulham v Wigan Preview

Well I've enjoyed watching England this week. It was a breath of fresh air to see an England side actually gell as a team and I really hope Steve McLaren actually takes on board what he's seen. Gareth Barry was superb in both games and deserves to retain his place ahead of Hargreaves or Carrick. If SM even considers trying to play Lampard and Gerrard together again he deserves to lose his job on the spot. It does, however, feel like a very long time since we had a Premier League game to worry about and so I am looking forward to Wigan with renewed vigour.

Pre-season and most people, me included, were expecting Wigan to struggle this year. I have a high regard for Paul Jewell and, despite not doing so well last season, I enjoyed watching his Wigan team. I also expected Chris Hutchings to suffer the fate of so many football men who are successful "number twos". Instead the Latics have been pretty impressive so far. They have won both home game's (Middlesbrough & Sunderland) without conceding, grabbed a good draw at West Ham and narrowly lost at Everton and Newcastle. We've not got yet won at the JJB in the Prem and of course are on the longest current PL run (19 games) without an away victory, so Wigan will fancy their chances. We may also get to meet Michael Brown for the first time since he moved on. Hope our boys have got their extra thick shin pads ready!

We'll have missed our International players this week but like Wigan have probably been less affected than most Premier League teams. The two week break may also have given our newest players a chance to settle in. I suspect Sanchez will stick fairly close to the side that started against Spurs, and he was quoted on the Offal saying just that. Aaron Hughes is nearing full fitness and could start ahead of Bocanegra. Niemi was worryingly shakey against Spurs but can hopefully put in a more assured performance this time out. Dempsey was outstanding as the hold-up man so I hope to see him continue in that role. My predicted team is; Niemi, Baird, Stefanovic, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Davis, Smertin, Bouazza, Dempsey, Kamara, Subs: Keller, Bocanegra, Ki-Hyeon, Healy, Kuqi.

If we are going to be better this year though, this is exactly the sort of game we need to win. It is never easy to win away from home in the Premier League so you have to make the most of your opportunities and, with all due respect to Wigan, this is an opportunity. Last season's fixture at the JJB was probably a turning point in the fan's reaction to Coleman's team. We might have got a draw, but it was clear that no one was happy with our lack of ambition. At the time I talked about us being the new Coventry City. A team that just did what it needed to to stay in the league. I felt then that if that was as good as it got I'd rather we went down. Despite the subsequent panic of near relegation I still feel that way. I really want to stay in the Prem but if we're not playing good football, or at least exciting football, then I really don't think it's worth it. So whatever the score today I hope we turn up and have a go. If we give it our best shot I'll be happy.


Brian said...

I would expect your pretty close on your lineup but don't understand your reasoning in that Boc's would get benched and Hughes and Stefanovic play.

Yes, Stefanovic is an experienced defender but didn't look all that good in his last outing, primarily because he didn't have a lot of training time with the team. But nothing has really changed in that regard. The team just got back together on Tues and for some Wed. Bocanegra was given the captains arm band which is not something you do to a guy who you don't have confidence in. Plus Boc's and Konchesky have been playing well together. So I would think you will see Hughes and Bocanegra as center backs with Konchesky on the left and probably Baird on the right but you might just see Sanchez give Baird a breather. He's not had a lot of rest as of late.

But we will find out in an hour or two.

Chopper said...

Spot on Brian - well done. I figured Sanchez saw Stefanovic as a starting centre back, and would be keen to pair him with Hughes as soon as he could. You're right though about the captaincy thing, and also that Boca's not really done anything to deserve being dropped. Not a bad result today, shame we didn't get all 3 points, nice to see Clinton on the score sheet again.