Holding back – Chelsea preview

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After being sooooo cross on Saturday and Sunday it only took until Monday lunchtime for me to get over losing to Blackpool (around about the same time I realised that the only crap I was going to get was from people who I’m sure were Liverpool or United fans back in May, it’s not just Latics you see).  Normally that would give me the chance to pull together some sparkling, incisive analysis of the game, but all-in-all it’s been a fairly uninspiring week.  Certainly there’s not been anything new to write about.

‘Latics fans in turmoil after defeat’ is hardly a headline is it?  Not when all it takes for all out cyber-war to break out is for someone to suggest that it might be ok for a manager to stand on the touchline thinking and watching rather than jumping up and down (I’ve not actually seen that one, but I bet it would, wouldn’t it?).  The only bigger non-story of the week was that some clubs might, or might not, be interested in signing some of our players and the might or might not, be interested in leaving.  We understand why we’re such easy targets for this sort of speculation, but even the Daily Mail must be bored of running essentially the same N’Zogbia story five days on the bounce.

But it’s Friday now and time drag my brain out of the box I keep it in at times like these and write a match preview.   It’s only Chelsea at the DW this Saturday tea-time so it will be dead easy to be positive about it right?  What’s that?  Oh, shut up you miserable bugger, of course you can be positive about it.  Write it off as a heavy defeat, have a pie and a pint and shout the lads, it can’t be any worse than you’re expecting anyway.

And if it’s better then there’s a chance that Charlie boy will be back in the line up, so you’ll still have something to boo. 

Should he play?  Of course he should.  Like it or not, N’Zogbia is still our most dangerous player and it’s for him to prove that his heart isn’t in it and he can only do that on the pitch.  The rest appears to be speculation and until he appears on TV telling us how he hates Wigan Athletic and all who sail in her or runs on the pitch against Sunderland performing their equivalent of the Ayatollah then he’s a Latics player, put the shirt on and put some effort in and I’ll be behind him.  The rest of you can get on with driving him out of the club if you’d like.

Not only is N’Zogbia our most dangerous player, he’s just about the only one not tarnished with last week’s result, rather than asking whether the eleven lads who started against Blackpool deserve the same privilege on Saturday.  Mostly, the answer will be yes, partly because there are so few other options but more so because you don’t get anywhere by chopping and changing in the face of defeat.  Could you really say that any individual played that much worse than another?  It was a poor team performance and it’s the team as a whole that needs to be looked at.

One defeat might draw Martinez into his shell and getting to play more defensively but my initial reaction is that he won’t.  I’d expect the same formation with perhaps some tweaking.  Thomas’s second half performance was enough to remind us of the role he can play and, although I’d be tempted to try McArthur there to find out if he really is anything like the Cattermole type figure we’ve been missing, think we’ll see the Honduran shielding the back four. 

The defence might also see a re-jig.  Gohouri has been making noises about shutting out his International mucker Drogba, but the back line was far from steady last week and as much as Thomas holding might bring some stability Mr Steady himself, Emerson Boyce could be moved one over.  The fact that Bobby didn’t choose to that at half time against Blackpool suggests that he might not go that way again, but Stam’s impressive shuttle running as Boyce’s replacement could see him come in anyway.

If Thomas does come in then someone has to miss out.  Assuming N’Zogbia replaces the injured Moses and Rodallega and Boselli will fill the front positions then you’re left with Watson, Diame and McCarthy to fill the remaining two midfield positions.  Diame may have had his worse game in a Latics shirt last week, but he and McCarthy are still our best two central positions.  Watson has done alright since he came back from West Brom but faced with one of the best teams in the league you have to go with your best players, plus he looked as lost as anyone in the face of the tangerine tide.

That’s the outfield sorted then, but there’s still the keeper.  Bobby has refused to say out right that Kirkland will keep his place and faced with the champions he may well take the chance to see just how good Al-Habsi is.  I know that not everyone is a fan of Kirkland anyway, but I don’t know.  He’s not perfect but he has kept us in games in the past and surely he can’t have as much of a howler again, so soon (or all season given just how much of a howler it was).  It’s a coin toss, but slightly weighted by the players decision to give Chris the vice-captain’s armband.  Either way it’s not an easy chance for the manager.

So that’s the team, sort of, sorted so what’s the chances.  You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d be better off assessing Chelsea’s chances of beating last season’s closing score or Drogba’s chances of a hat-trick of hat-tricks.  You might even be right, there’s certainly no confidence from this end that Latics will get anything out of the game but it’s all about the performance.  Blood and thunder?  Maybe not, but a confidence boosting, tight game, with a few chances for Latics through out will do a lot for them team and maybe more for the fans.

Especially those sat in the pubs of Wigan, gawping with pints in their hand, waiting for another chance to gloat come seven o’clock, who’ll probably outnumber those of us actually in the ground.  But it’s understandable right, they can get it in 3D now, can’t they?

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