It’s been a busy and controversial week at Latics towers, but time is at a premium so all that will have to be put on the shelf for the moment whilst we concentrate on the football. That’s what we’re here for (meaning that we’re a Latics fan site not that I’ve discovered the meaning of life) after all. And what with Portsmouth sat rock bottom and going for this season’s “Ooor Mike Ashley Farce of the Season Award” it’s got to be an easy game for the improving Latics and an easy match preview, right?
I hate games like this, because you can almost guarantee that the deeper the turmoil the greater the chance of Latics chucking things away. If Paul Hart can find a striker that hasn’t scored for the last season (well the longer the better really) then Pompey are almost a shoe-in. You think I’m joking? Think about how many times Latics have provided soft points to struggling teams ‘just at the right time’.
Even more seriously though, Portsmouth might not have won at home all season but comments from both inside and outside of the club suggest that they’ve not had much luck along the way. They’ll be looking for a result to get things rolling and with the boost of a Carling Cup win on Tuesday behind them, they’ll be looking at the visit of Latics and their reputation for inconsistency as an ideal opportunity.
Today’s probably the day that we’ll find the truth behind that reputation. Latics have been improving all season, but there have been times where things have been a little ‘two steps forward one step back’ and with good results against City and Burnley in their last few games there won’t be too many surprises if they make a grind of this one.
On the pitch, both sides will have a distinctly different look from the last time they met at Fratton Park. Latics have lost key players, but without a doubt Pompey have lost more. The significant difference is that Latics’ back four has been affected only by injury and that level of stability might prove exceedingly important both on the day and in the long run especially with the prospect of a transfer ban during January.
For Latics, that defensive change is likely to see N’Zogbia take the place of the injured Figueroa, giving Bobby a decision about his front line that he’d probably rather do without, whilst it seems likely that the Spaniard will get his chance the pressure for him to deliver on his early season promise is greater now than ever.
The rest of the team is probably a done deal. The Diame/Thomas pairing is getting better, and more important, by the game; Scotland is growing into his role at the head of the team and Rodallega is flowering now that he’s been released from the same position. Plan B-obby is really taking shape and both players and fans are becoming more comfortable with the formation and style of play.
Hopefully, it will be that comfort and the increasing confidence that will enable Latics to build on the performance at Burnley. The trick will be not falling into the over-confident trap that they did against Wolves and Hull. In this season of ‘learning our lessons’ that one might prove the most important.
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