A rather untraumatic November so far leads us to our last home game for four matches. Wigan have lost seven games in a row, including such formidable opposition as Reading, Birmingham and Spurs. They’ve managed one point from the last nine games, and are yet to win away from home. As far as home bankers go, this is up there with Derby, and a win is essential. However, eleven men behind the ball from the off, with time wasting from the first minute, is a certainty. Hopefully the curse of playing a team with a new manager won’t strike. On the off chance that Bolton get a result against Manchester United, we could increase the gap.
This is the last relatively straight forward game we play in the league before we take on Aston Villa away, Middlesbrough away, Newcastle away, Chelsea at home, Spurs at home, Portsmouth away, Everton away and West Ham at home, taking us into the new year. With Champions League and Carling Cup fixtures dotted around to fill in the few gaps. If we come out of this period still top of the league then I think we’ll all start to believe we’re capable of staying the course.
We’ve played Wigan six times in recent years, winning every game apart from the away tie of the Carling Cup semi final in 2006, which we went on to lose on away goals.
As expected we return from the international break with a hospital full of injured players. Hleb is the worst casualty, who will miss the next month. Which wouldn’t be too bad, if we didn’t play Wigan, Sevilla, Villa, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Steau Bucharest and Chelsea in that period. Diaby is out for a similar time period, which means our flanks will be Rosicky and Walcott/Eboue for all those games mentioned. We need Rosicky to manage three games in a row without getting injured more than ever. I’d rather see Walcott starting most of these games. This is the first proper chance he’s had to get a run in the team, and after two excellent performances for the England U21s, he seems ready for it. Mathieu Flamini is the other casualty of the internationals, but he should be back for the Villa game next weekend. Van Persie hasn’t yet recovered from his injury, he also might be in the squad next weekend. Fabregas is suspended for one game after his comedy yellow card against Reading. Senderos is back fit, will probably be on the bench.
We simply don’t have the personnel to continue playing 4-5-1. With just the two central midfielders available to play (Song doesn’t count), and not being able to move Rosicky into the middle because he’s the only fit left sided player we have (Eduardo isn’t a left winger), we’re forced back to 4-4-2, which against a team like Wigan will be necessary anyway. Only two possible lineups for this match, the one below, or the same but with Walcott upfront and Eboue on the right.
Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Song, Eboue, Bendtner.